Pound pooch's star turn
Animal behaviour expert Mark Vette turns dogs on death row into stars in a new television show.
The renowned Waimauku 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 of Waimauku 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 said, 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 said.
"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 said.
"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."
The new show airs on TV One on Monday at 7.30pm.