Eighteen months ago Bruce Crowther saved the lives of two tiny, worm-ridden puppies that were dumped behind his home in Kaikohe.

He and his wife Jean cared for them, trained them and socialised them with people and other dogs.

Now one, Meg, is dead. She was euthanased at Bruce's request, because she had been turned into a potential danger - not by irresponsible owners but by what he describes as "feral street kids".

Meg's brother has been surrendered to the SPCA for re-homing.

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The Crowthers farmed outside Manurewa before retiring to Kaikohe three years ago, so they know dogs. And they enjoy life in their new home town, but losing two pets that had become part of their family has left a sour taste in their mouths.

It took Bruce two days to find the course of the whimpering he was hearing from over his back fence. He and Jean nursed the puppies (possibly a mix of shar pei, American bull terrier, Staffordshire terrier and more) back to health, and, against his better judgement, fell in love with them, so they stayed.

As they grew stronger Meg began showing signs of wanting to be the boss. Her brother had learned simple commands but Meg, described by Bruce as very pig-headed but well trained, needed constant reminders that she was not in charge.

Both dogs were taken on daily walks through Kaikohe, including the main street too, a time-consuming exercise given that young children always liked to see and pat them.

Then it all began to change.

At about a year old Meg became a victim of "feral street kids," youths who should have been at school and did not know how to behave around animals. They would throw stones at her and make loud banging noises to get her barking, and eventually jumping at the fence.

Bruce thought about re-homing both dogs but did not want to take the risk of someone "making the wrong move with them". So, a couple of weeks ago, he made the heart-wrenching decision to put Meg down (although both dogs were still taken on walks and were well behaved in Bruce's care).

Meg had reached the point where she would jump at the fence when she heard anyone she didn't like, and the last thing Bruce wanted was for her to clear the fence and bite someone, even if they were the cause of her agitation. Her brother had to go in case he too became a victim of children's taunts.

Having to destroy a healthy young dog was still "very raw," but he saw no other option. He would always miss them both, but had had to save them from themselves.

He did not want Meg's story to be "muddied" with recent stories of attacks and and roaming dogs. Both had been well trained, and both had become victims.

"We don't have a dog problem, we have a human problem - feral humans not knowing how to look after, respect and train their animals," he said.