Published: 09/03/2018 09:12 - Updated: 09/03/2018 10:43

It's a dog's life for Helmsdale's war zone hero Scruffy

Scruffy and Ronnie Dunnett
Scruffy and Ronnie Dunnett in Kabul.

A DOG belonging to a Helmsdale resident has been hailed as a canine hero after overcoming the latest trauma in a life jam-packed full of trials and adventure.

Scruffy, an 11-year-old cross-breed, is recovering at home following a successful operation at Rogart Vets to remove a tumour from the back of her neck.

It is the latest instalment in Scruffy's life story which reads like a thriller from a best selling author.

Ex-Royal Marine Mr Dunnett, who hails from Wick originally and joined 45 Commandos at the age of 16, was working as a security expert in Afghanistan 11 years ago when he saved Scruffy from certain death.

He said: "We were in Kabul when I saw a large fighting dog with a small puppy in its mouth. The dog shook its head and threw the puppy onto the road and then a police officer kicked it down the street."

Dog lover Mr Dunnett saw red, left the security of his armoured vehicle and shouted at the officer who was about to boot the puppy again.

After a tense few minutes, during which the officer raised his rifle, he scooped up the floppy puppy and made it back to the safety of the gated compound in which he was staying.

Little Scruffy was allowed to live in the compound and became a big hit with those staying there and visitors. He grew up to be a reliable guard dog, alert to the potential of danger.

But things took a turn for the worse when Mr Dunnett was hospitalised with a kidney stone and told he should leave Kabul and seek treatment elsewhere.

Unable to take Scruffy with him, he left the dog in the care of an Afghan.

He was upset to learn later that the dog was being kept chained up, had lost weight and was covered in cuts and scars from regular beatings. The Afghan family in whose care she was, were demanding £5000 or she would be killed.

Mr Dunnett's then German girlfriend went to the rescue, donning a burkha, negotiating with Scruffy's captors and then boldly grabbing Scruffy from underneath their noses.

She took the dog to a local sanctuary but her treatment there was not much better – she was housed outside in a monkey cage in freezing conditions.

Mr Dunnett said: "We knew she wouldn't survive for long in that state so we set up a crowd funding page and raised £5000 to get her flown to Turkey where a vet checked her over.

"It turned out she had been poisoned with rat poison and needed two blood transfusions to save her life."

Scruffy's trials were not quite over yet. Mr Dunnett's girlfriend drove her back to London – a long distance route via the Balkan states. She stayed with friends of Mr Dunnett's in the capital until he was able to pick her up.

He said: "I had only seen her a couple of times in those last few years but she knew we were back together again. Her first trip in a car was for 12 hours."

That was two years ago and life has now calmed down a bit for Scruffy and daredevil Mr Dunnett, who as part of the Royal Marines Freefall team still holds the world record for a 24-stack parachute dive.

He has enjoyed an exciting varied career – after leaving the Marines he worked across the globe as a film stuntman with stars such as Memphis Bell, Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson.

Local people will recall that at one point Mr Dunnett and his then wife Lorraine, who hails from Malta, ran the Quiet Piggy restaurant in Brora and later at the Bridge Hotel, Helmsdale.

He is still involved in the security field, running an online site Armour Agent that connects companies operating in dangerous countries with security experts. He also has business interests in Yemen and Dubai.

Scruffy is now enjoying her retirement, lying in the garden and following the sun as it shifts round.

Mr Dunnett said: "I have Airbnb at my house and Scruffy is always the centre of attention with my guests, some of whom have even taken her out for walks.

"If only they knew her reputation – she was known as Scruffy the Wolf – and antics that she got up to in war torn Afghanistan!"

The medical team at Rogart Vets were astonished to be told about Scruffy's background when she was treated recently. They had no hesitation in hailing her as a doggy hero and awarding her their Pet of the Month title.

A Rogart Vets spokeswoman said: "We were all so fascinated with Scruffy and all that she has survived in her short life and it was great to see her back on her feet again so quickly."

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