The journey of Nero the dog

Last updated 15:15 25/02/2016
Kirsty Quested

Nero has been without a doubt the easiest dog we've ever owned.

Giving an animal in need new life

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It's been a year since Second Chance Dog Rescue gave us the opportunity to adopt Nero, so I thought I'd pen a follow-up, in case anyone's wondering what the journey with a rescue dog has been like.

As mentioned in last year's piece, we'd previously only owned German Shepherds.

A wee mutt like Nero was a first for us and has given us a whole new appreciation for cross-breeds.

Literally from the first day, Nero has been without a doubt the easiest dog we've ever owned.

His intelligence easily matches those of our shepherds, so he's been a dream to train.

But he's also very relaxed.

The first year with a German Shepherd is usually anything but.

Saved from a rubbish bin death
An unloved gentle giant
Saved from being shot
A much-needed home for Nero 

He's much more chilled out than his pedigree predecessors - he doesn't nag for attention, he's never even chewed anything he's not supposed to.

As trite as it may sound, Nero also overflows with love. He rejoices in meeting new people, he's wonderful with children and as far as he's concerned, every dog he meets is an instant best friend forever. He oozes affection, making the most of any opportunity for a cuddle.

His character is nothing short of hilarious. His long, lean body contorts into a wide variety of positions, especially while sleeping, as these photos show. His favourite is flat on his back, with all four legs in the air - the 'splay' behaviour - or as we call it, 'wheels up'.

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Nero has a goofy sense of humour that will never fail to put us in a good mood, no matter how rotten a day we might have had.

When I wrote about Nero a year ago, we wondered what his heritage might be. Eventually, we grew tired of speculating and decided to have a DNA test done, just to satisfy our own curiosity. The test is called BITSA (Breed Identification Through Scientific Analysis) and is carried out by sending a cheek swab to a testing laboratory in Australia.

While we waited for the results, our speculation reached fever pitch, but we had no idea of what a true 'BITSA' he'd turn out to be. Over 40 different species were identified, ranging from Great Dane down to Chihuahua. Seriously!

So, Nero doesn't really have a dominant ancestor in his lineage, but he does have all of the breeds that make up the New Zealand Huntaway (a breed not recognised by the test in Australia), so if we're asked, he's now officially a Huntaway-cross, which is what people assume naturally on seeing him.

Whatever his heritage, it seems a large amount of water-loving DNA has seeped through. Nero adores the water, and will take himself off for a swim at any time of the year.

This summer, I've discovered the joys of swimming with him in a nearby lake, where he continually circles me like a friendly shark as I meander across the lake.

I think it would be fair to say that Nero has not caused us a moment's serious concern in the year that we've had him. He radiates a desire to please, he's super-affectionate and highly intelligent. His mixed lineage means he's blessed with a glorious hybrid vigour, and he loves people and fellow dogs in equal measure.

It hardly needs to be said that we feel very lucky that he's come into our lives, but I did want to write this follow-up piece to emphasise how glad we are that we decided to rescue a dog rather than purchase another pure-bred. I would encourage anyone who's thinking of getting a dog to seriously consider this option.

Reputable rescue operations will carefully match you with the dog they think is best suited for you and your family. And it's an exceptionally rewarding experience, one I can't recommend enough.

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