When Tess Eagle Swan stumbled into the world of dog rescue in 2013, her life was no fairytale. More a hybrid of all the bad bits of every fairy story ever told, but without the obligatory happy ending, as her autism (which had often led to her making dangerous impulsive choices) remained undiagnosed. By her late twenties, she’d already survived heroin addiction and sexual violence, and though the hedonism of her thirties and forties were now behind her, she was still lost and lonely in a world she didn’t understand.
Tess had, however, always found solace in nature, particularly animals. So when she saw a post on Facebook, detailing the plight of the homeless dogs in Romania, she wasn’t just moved, she was moved to take action.
Tess’s involvement in Romanian dog rescue would open her eyes to an increasingly corrupt world; a rapidly growing business that had begun to mushroom across eastern Europe. And during a period in which she rescued, and found homes for, eighteen dogs and puppies, Tess would also find the dog who would go on to become her best friend; the canine soul-mate who would help make her whole again.
Kratu is a Carpathian Shepherd/Mioritic cross, one of several breeds known as Livestock Guard Dogs (or LGDs), bred to protect flocks from wolves and bears. Building a relationship with such a dog is a challenging business: they are physically strong, fiercely independent, and instinctively mistrustful of strangers. But such was the unique connection between Kratu and Tess that an incredible (some would say ‘impossible’) transformation took place: Kratu broke the mould and grew into a kind and gentle dog who loves everyone – and in return is loved by everyone who meets him.
Since meeting Tess, Kratu has come an astonishing distance. Now seven, he’s won countless rosettes and trophies, been seen on advertising billboards, appeared in television documentaries, featured on news programmes, acted in movies, performed on stage, and made four hilarious – and now legendary - appearances at Cruft’s. He was the first rescue dog to have been allowed into the European Parliament, and in March 2020, he became the first and only canine ambassador for APDAWG, the All Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group.
But there is another aspect to Tess and Kratu’s story; the central role he played in guiding Tess to heal herself. After a lifetime of feeling lonely, misunderstood, and often suicidal, she formed a bond with him which led her to question all the ‘truths’ she had accepted; that she was broken, a misfit, condemned to be an outsider. And, after years struggling with her mental health, in 2017 she received the life-changing news that the root of her pain had been undiagnosed autism, putting the final piece of jigsaw into place.
Incredible Kratu is a story like no other, about how a semi-feral puppy healed a broken autistic woman, and how, together, they helped the world remember how to smile.
Lynne Barrett-Lee was born in London and became a fulltime writer shortly after moving to Cardiff in 1994. She is the author of ten novels, including her acclaimed debut, Julia Gets a Life, and Barefoot in the Dark, which was shortlisted for the 2007 Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance. Her novels have been translated into several languages and she has also contributed two titles (one ghostwritten for television presenter Fiona Phillips) to the UK’s Quick Reads Campaign, which provides easy-to-read books for adult emergent readers.
Most recently, Lynne has returned to h...
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Raised in a small Hertfordshire village, Tess was a solitary child who found it difficult to relate to people. When she was sixteen her father died of cancer and she left home, going on to spend a number of years living in punk squats in London, where she became addicted to heroin. In 1986, she found herself pregnant, and though her son’s birth was a catalyst for her getting clean, she was too emotionally unwell to look after him, and he ended up being brought up by her mother.
Tess finally found what she thought was love in her twenties. She was married briefly in 1990, and ...
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