If laughter is the best medicine, dogs are accomplished M.D.s! Funny pet videos are the lifeblood of the internet, helping to lift our spirits when we are feeling down.
No one knows this better than Tess Eagle Swan, dog mom to Crufts agility course darling, Kratu. The shaggy dog, whose name is a Sanskrit word meaning “strength,” came into her life in 2014. She hoped a special bond would form between them. Instead, she found something far greater: a lifeline to help her cope with past trauma, anxiety, and late-diagnosed autism.
Baron Kratu von Bearbum began life in Transylvania, where he was rescued from a “dangerous camp where the dogs were beaten and starved” when he was just a few weeks old.
Once adopted by Swan, Kratu began his agility training with the help of Woodgreen Pets Charity. In addition to treats, the happy-go-lucky pup also accepted laughter as a reward. So, it is no wonder he began “playing for laughs” while navigating the stunts.
He first began competing at Crufts in 2017. Rather than racing through the agility course, Kratu meandered about, sniffing the various obstacles as if he were on a Sunday stroll. The crowd loved it!
“Kratu clearly made an informed decision, and that was to have fun,” Swan told TODAY. “He loves people and to have fun. And the pull of the audience in the moment and in the arena was far greater than doing what he was told.”
Crufts’ video, “Krazy Kratu Kreates His Own Kourse” went viral, cementing Kratu’s reputation as the “Kourse Klown.”
Come the 2018 competition (and each subsequent year), Kratu did not disappoint. His antics have included turning around in the middle of tunnels, running to the sidelines to greet onlookers, and stealing hurdle poles instead of jumping over them. But according to Swan, Kratu is much more than just a silly sideshow.
“Kratu is the reason I get up every day.”
In Swan’s new book, “Incredible Kratu: The happy-go-lucky rescue dog who changed his owner’s life,” she describes how the dog has helped her come to terms with trauma from her childhood and early adulthood.
Swan is a survivor of abuse, kidnapping, rape, and drug addiction. As a result of her past, she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, bulimia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and self-hatred. She also has autism, which went undiscovered for five decades.
After being diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2011, Swan began to turn her life around. When Kratu came along, he filled her days with purpose, exercise, and laughter. She found that caring for him left her little time for negative thoughts.
Kratu helped Swan overcome another major obstacle by inspiring her to attend Crufts for the first time. Crowds are one of her triggers, but mental health treatment and Kratu’s companionship made it possible.
Spreading the Message
Together, Kratu and Swan visited university students in Romania to help change perceptions of rescue dogs as pets. They also appeared on Autism’s Got Talent, a video-based competition platform for autistic children and adults.
Kratu even volunteers as an ambassador for the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group, which seeks to improve the health and welfare of dogs and their people.
Swan hopes that her story can help others struggling with mental illness.
“Your dog doesn’t come and kick you out of bed and go, ‘Get up and go wash yourself.’ You decide to throw back the covers, go into the bathroom, brush your teeth. You make that decision,” she said. “If you are going to be empowered, healthy and whole, you have to say, ‘I do this for me, because I’m worth it and I want to do it.’ And to be present for your dog.”
RELATED: Rescue Dog Attempts One Final Agility Course Before Retirement. Fails Gloriously!
In addition to self-care, Swan advises people to consider the mental health needs of their dogs. She is a proponent of force-free/positive-reinforcement training. More forceful methods may have made Kratu into a fiercer competitor, but where’s the fun in that? We prefer our Kratu silly and carefree!
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