‘I didn’t save crazy Crufts hero Kratu – he saved me from addiction and abuse’

Tess Swan, 58, whose book, Incredible Kratu, was published this week, credits her dog with helping her recover after she fell into a spiral of addiction and abuse

Tess Swan with Kratu

When Kratu the Romanian rescue dog went rogue during an agility trial at Crufts in 2018 he ended up the star of the show, delighting everyone who watched with his hilarious performance.

Chased by owner Tess Swan, Kratu bounded gleefully around the course, missing jumps, ignoring obstacles and even running over to say hello to a group of volunteers mid-way through.

Then he ran into a plastic tunnel and failed to come out the other side, finally emerging from the end he had gone in.

Commentator Peter Purvis said: “I love it. That’s the real trick, to turn around in there. How did he do that?”

The joyful display won Kratu, a fluffy Carpathian-Mioritic mix, fans around the world and invites back to Crufts for the next two years.

Tess said her dog saved her


Little Pip Photography)

His 2020 agility performance, his last before retiring, was just as show-stopping, the mischievous Kratu even making off with a pole from one of the hurdles.

But while Kratu and Tess’s Crufts appearances never fail to amuse, the story of how they found each other – and rescued each other – is truly heartwarming.

Tess, 58, whose book, Incredible Kratu, was published this week, credits him with helping her recover after she fell into a spiral of addiction and abuse.

She says: “He saved my life. I was very tired of life. Some of my memories are horrific. I saved Kratu’s life, and he’s saved mine many times.

“He’s the reason I get up every morning.”

The story of how they found each other – and rescued each other – is truly heartwarming


Little Pip Photography)

Incredible Kratu is out now


Little Pip Photography)

Undiagnosed autistic Tess’s life began to fall apart at the age of 16 after her father died and she found herself living in a filthy squat in a block of flats in Lambeth, south London.

After her boyfriend died of a drugs overdose, Tess turned to heroin as “a respite from the pain”. She says: “I’d tried to take my own life a couple of times. Living was so painful. I was lost in a world I could not understand or navigate. I encountered much abuse and violence, I learned to survive.” Tess, who had a daughter in this time, got deeply involved in London’s criminal world.

But contracting hepatitis C was a “wake-up call” and she moved to Cambridgeshire, where she got clean, but still struggled with PTSD.

Then a dog rescuer friend, Celia, found a “frightened pup” in a Roma camp in Romania. Tess says: “She told me she knew he was the one for me. I soon fell in love with him, I knew he was going to be my best friend.”

But he was a handful – “like having the Honey Monster on a lead” – so she got help from dog trainer Wendy Kruger at Wood Green Animal Shelter in Godmanchester, Cambs.

Kratu came on so well she entered him into some agility courses at dog shows.

Tess recalls his first, saying: “We were just coming up to the last jump and he turned around and did the entire course backwards, with me chasing him in astonishment.

“It was hilarious.”

Tess said Kratu saved her from addiction and abuse


Dion Gallichan photography)

Tess and Kratu entered Crufts in 2017, when he completed the course without many mishaps. It was on their return the next year that he stole the show.

Tess says: “When he went into that tunnel and didn’t come out the other end, I was like a rabbit in the headlights. It was like, ‘Where the b****y hell has my dog ​​gone?’

“Afterwards I gave him a big hug. I realized what he did was far better, he was a free spirit. That ticked all my boxes. I just embraced him for the rebel and the rascal that he is.

Puppy Kratu when he was rescued

“He makes me laugh so much and that’s one of the biggest gifts for me, to laugh, after a lifetime of crying and pain and sadness and despair.

“We look at each other, I laugh and he woofs. We have the deepest animal human bond.”

Incredible Kratu by Tess Eagle Swan and Lynne Barrett-Lee is available now (John Blake Publishing).

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