Ne­glected dogs take lead roles

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By CARYN WIG­MORE

An­i­mal behaviour ex­pert Mark Vette turns dogs on death row into stars in a new tele­vi­sion show.

The renowned an­i­mal psy­chol­o­gist res­cues doomed ca­nines from the pound in the New Zealand se­ries Pu­rina Pound Pups to Dog Stars.

Vette and his team of train­ers re­ha­bil­i­tate the dogs and see them rise from rags to riches. The show fol­lows the es­capades of ne­glected dogs which are nur­tured and trained to be­come stars of movies and tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials.

Vette also finds them lov­ing, new homes in the pro­gramme which kicked off this week. The show re­veals that res­cue dogs are smart crea­tures which sim­ply need a sec­ond chance.

View­ers will gain train­ing tips and tricks for pets and learn how to cope with dif­fer­ent be­havioural prob­lems.

Se­nior trainer Rosie Miles has worked with res­cue dog Ralphy, a beardie cross which was left on a chain, mal­nour­ished and mis­treated.

The pair fea­tured on the de­but episode of the show on Mon­day night.

Ralphy is now hap­pily set­tled with his new fam­ily in Muri­wai and gets walked on the beach ev­ery day.

But the road to re­cov­ery has proved tough.

‘‘He was one of the most dif­fi­cult chal­lenges be­cause he didn’t want to open his trust box again,’’ Miles says, a trainer for film and tele­vi­sion for 20 years.

‘‘It took a long time for Ralphy to want food again and to find some­thing he liked.’’

Miles had to en­tice the ema­ci­ated puppy to eat be­fore any spe­cialised train­ing could be­gin.

Miles dis­cov­ered the 18-month-old fan­cied pork sausage and cooked chicken.

It took an­other two weeks to in­tro­duce nor­mal dog food and the beardie cross even­tu­ally gained five ki­los.

The dog was suf­fer­ing from learned help­less­ness af­ter be­ing mis­treated and pos­si­bly abused phys­i­cally, she says.

‘‘It’s where they switch off and go to a lit­tle place in their head where no­body can touch them or hurt them.

‘‘His spirit was bro­ken.’’ When Miles picked up her hand­bag the an­i­mal would drop to the floor and cower.

It was so dif­fi­cult to gain his trust, she says.

‘‘I won­dered if we were go­ing to win that one but when it started to hap­pen it was beau­ti­ful to watch.

‘‘His eyes sud­denly got this flicker in them and he showed a lit­tle bit of per­son­al­ity.’’

Miles has worked as a horse wran­gler and co-or­di­na­tor for the TV se­ries Xena, and The Young Her­cules. The 54-year-old was born in East Africa, Kenya, to English par­ents.

She grew up sur­rounded by crea­tures and learned to ride a ze­bra when she was only 4 years old.

One of her favourite jobs was work­ing on the set of The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe movie.

Miles worked with the mice which chewed through the ropes bind­ing As­lan the lion to the sac­ri­fi­cial ta­ble.

She also loved train­ing the movie’s wolves which had come from Los An­ge­les to the New Zealand lo­ca­tion.

‘‘I’ve adopted the clos­est thing to a wolf which I res­cued only two days ago.’’ Miles has brought home a grey husky cross from Husky Res­cue in Christchurch.

‘‘He’s mag­nif­i­cent. He’s go­ing to be a star.’’

Ca­nine carer: Rosie Miles with beardie cross Ralphy, the res­cue dog she trained for the show’s de­but episode.

Top trainer: An­i­mal be­havioural ex­pert Mark Vette.

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