Guard puppy finds new home

By Kiri Gillespie

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Squeezing out a baby "ruff" and barely directing his tiny legs into a waddly walk, the Somerville family's new guard dog has some growing to do before he officially keeps watch.

The young children of Michael and Joanie Somerville were so traumatised after a burglar crept around their Welcome Bay home while they slept, they were too afraid to go to sleep or use the bathroom alone.

But since the May 1 break-in the family have been overwhelmed with human kindness, including an offer of a puppy to become a guard dog.

"The neighbours banded together. We have been given food, money, baked stuff for the children. It has just been overwhelming," Mrs Somerville said.

"Now, with the puppy, I am just blown away. It is really, really awesome support. It's just heartfelt."

After reading about the family's plight in the Bay of Plenty Times, maremma sheep dog breeder Carol Gunn offered them a young guard dog in training free of charge.

The family were at the farm this week to choose which puppy they wanted.

While watching her 4, 6 and 8-year-old children cuddle the litter of four-week-old puppies, Mrs Somerville wept as she explained how the impact on the children (of being offered a puppy) was unlike anything she had experienced.

"I think about it every day, how lucky we are. It is just so wonderful," Mrs Somerville said, drying her eyes.

"She [Ms Gunn] just put a light on the kids' faces. I have never seen so much light in their faces. It's just fantastic."

The family were big animal lovers, Mrs Somerville said.

They already had five cats and always wanted a dog.

Mrs Gunn breeds dogs at Omanawa's Balagan Farm and Kennels. Puppies usually sell for $600-$800 but she wanted the Somervilles to have one for free.

"It just touched me. I know how hard it is when kids are scared in their own homes like that. I wanted to offer them a puppy, if they were in a position to have one," Ms Gunn said.

She said Maremma dogs had a temperament that worked well for them as a family dog.

"Their role was to guard and protect the sheep in Italy, where they are from but in New Zealand we tend to use them as guard dogs guarding the family."

By nature the dogs were gentle with lambs but fiercely protective of their flock.

The children eventually chose their new puppy "because its face was more fluffy", 6-year-old Jonelle Somerville said.

Their new and yet-to-be named puppy will be ready to go home with the Somervilles next month.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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