You might remember Kratu as the happy go lucky rescue dog who decided to go his own way around the agility course at Crufts last year.
But there’s much more to 5-year-old Kratu than one viral video.
He has visited care homes in his role as a therapy dog and as an assistance dog, he made history as the first Romanian rescue assistance dog in the world to return home - flying in the cabin with his owner Tess Eagle Swan - to help raise awareness in Romania.
He even attended the European Parliament for a showing of Maria Slough’s documentary about what life is like for stray dogs in Romania.
Tess shares her incredible bond with Kratu with us and tells us how he helps her cope with autism, easing the pressures and stresses of everyday life as her constant companion.
Tess and Kratu / Photo Credit: My Furry Dog Mother Photography
Hi Tess, have you always owned dogs?
“I have had dogs for quite a few years now. It’s been a very interesting and educational journey. I didn't plan on how I ended up and rescuing dogs. It just happened and it’s the best thing I ever did.”
What led you to Kratu?
“I have a Wolfdog so was looking to adopt a larger breed puppy that I could train and socialise. I did try a few rescues over here but for various reasons, it didn't work out. I adopted another dog called Paqo from abroad who much preferred Maia my Wolfdog to me so I decided to try one last time to find the right dog for me.
Kratu as a puppy
“My friend in Transylvania heard about an unwanted litter of puppies. It was a dangerous situation and the dogs at this camp were beaten and starved mostly so she went and found the puppies, picked out a little grey puppy who came to be named as Kratu and two of his siblings.
“Kratu went into private foster with her and his training and socialising started from then. On a follow-up trip, I went to the camp he was rescued from to find out more about his breeds and history and I found his mother, Tutty, with another litter. So I rescued his mum and two of the last puppies she will ever have. One of those puppies came to us to be fostered and is still here. He’s a big gentle dog called Raffy, the younger brother of Kratu.”
We've all seen his videos from Crufts in the agility ring. Does he enjoy training?
“Kratu and the other Romanian boys I have all started behavioural work at Wood Green charity. I had three large breed teenagers and I wanted to learn as much as possible to have well behaved and sociable dogs in my house and out and about.
“Kratu started to show a natural aptitude for training, he was the first dog in UK to pass his " Do as I Do" exam. He went through bronze, silver and gold Kennel Club Good Citizens awards and he started to show a great love for trick training.”
Tess and Kratu in the agility ring / Photo Credit: Little Pip Photography
Is it for this reason you decided to train him as an assistance dog?
“I was diagnosed as being autistic just over a year ago. Kratu became my assistance dog as he helps me with specific tasks when I go anywhere and find it overwhelming, especially when it’s a massive sensory overload, having him there to calm and ground me is an incredible support.
“We have been to visit care homes for older people with dementia and Kratu is incredibly loving and brings great joy to people when they meet him. We are waiting to arrange to go to Cambridge University to help with the students.
Tess and Kratu at University
“There is so much more to Kratu. He is the first Romanian rescue dog in the world to fly back to Romania as an assistance dog in the cabin with me. While we were there we attended a lecture at the Cluj University in Romania for animal psychology students to show the incredible bond we have and we were on two TV news channels too.
"We went back because we wanted to help try and change perceptions and I think a lot of people saw what can be achieved with kind reward-based training and a rescue dog.
Kratu making history in the cabin flying back to Romania with Tess
“He has also attended the European Parliament with me for a film screening about the Stray dogs of Romania by Maria Slough and he has been to Westminster for a dog advisory welfare meeting and will be back to support them again.”
Kratu at the European Parliament
What advice would you give to anyone considering adopting from abroad?
“Please be careful if rescuing from abroad that's it is with a good and well-known rescuer, there is sadly a lot of corruption. Please research the breeds. The Shepherds have strong guarding ways and as adults mostly don't get on with other dogs. Some dogs need more care with a traumatic past and some dogs have never been in a house before. There can be a lot of issues so be prepared first and make sure you have rescue back up if it all goes wrong.”
What's next for Kratu?
“We have the ‘Autism’s Got Talent’ show coming up to show that an autistic owner can have fun trick training with her dog. He is doing some film work and I hope we can do something to raise money for some dog charities. I am also writing a short book about how we connect to a dog's soul and how they come into our lives.
“We will see what we can do to raise awareness for rescue dogs, kind reward-based training, autism and dogs.”
And finally, if you could sum it up, what does life with Kratu mean to you?
“It means that I live with unconditional love and acceptance, all I have ever wanted my entire life and never found with people. I struggle greatly with understanding people and communication. Kratu and I speak the same language.
“Having him in my life means peace and freedom to find the happiness in my life that has come from rescuing him. All that we have achieved is such a gift.
Photo Credit: Dion Gallichan Photography
“The ability to be able to help others is very important to me and something I wouldn’t be able to do without him. He is the reason I get up every day.
“Sometimes life is very hard for me and I struggle, but with Kratu in my life I know I can get through it. He is the sunshine who chases away my grey skies and storms.”