As soon as Sue Barker saw the darling little face of Baiatu – or Batty as he’s now known – she knew that she had to give him a second chance at life. Batty had lived on the streets of Romania for almost five years, barely surviving off scraps and the rare kindness of a passing stranger, when he was hunted down by the country’s ‘dog catchers’ and put in a pound. Luckily for him, the UK-based charity K-9 Angels stepped in and rescued him from almost-certain death, placing him in a shelter to be rehomed by animal lovers in the UK.
But while Batty’s friends were rehomed, one after the other, three years later Batty was still unwanted. That is until Sue Barker and her husband, Lance, spotted him on the K-9 Angels website and immediately fell in love.
“We’ve had rescue dogs in the past and having heard about the incredible work of K-9 Angels, we wanted to support them. Then we saw Batty and thought he looked so sweet. We were also told that in six months he would probably be too old to make the journey to Britain, so it was really his last chance,” says Sue.
So in 2015, Sue and Lance welcomed this shy little black-and-brown crossbreed into their Cotswolds home and have never looked back.
“He’s absolutely adorable and so gentle, well-behaved and quiet,” says Sue.
“On the second day we had him, I found him curled up inside my husband’s sports bag, thinking that was his bed. He sat there looking so worried as if to say, have I done the right thing? Is this my bed? Because he didn’t really know what the rules were, bless his socks. So we had to show him that he had a much comfier bed than the sports bag.
“He loved that so much that, when it came to going for walks, he didn’t want to leave the house and I ended up dragging him down the driveway! Luckily, he later learned to love his walks,” Sue laughs.
Sue’s other rescue dog, Charlie, was a big help in showing Batty what to do and the two quickly became close friends. “Charlie and Batty are besotted with each other, which has really helped Batty fit in to the family. Charlie is a typical cocker spaniel, in that he thinks everybody loves him and goes running up to people with his tail wagging. So, of course, when Charlie approaches life in that way, thinking everything is wonderful, Batty just follows him without any fear. Charlie’s taught him how to be a dog again, rather than just a survivor.”
While Sue has always been a dog lover, a terrifying incident in 1980 almost changed this for good when she had to have 26 stitches and nearly lost her nose and sight when she was bitten on the face by a friend’s dog. “It was completely my fault as I hadn’t owned dogs at that point and didn’t realise this dog didn’t want to be petted, but it was scary as I was still playing tennis professionally at that time.
“Luckily I was fine, although I was scared of dogs for a long time after that. It was actually an Irish wolfhound called Murphy, who lived in the pub where my brother worked, who pinned me against a wall and licked me to death shortly after the attack who taught me how to love dogs again.”
And ever since, she’s been a passionate ambassador for having rescue dogs.
“They always say rescue dogs are more grateful and I really don’t think any dog could be more grateful than Batty. After what he’s been through, he probably can’t believe where he is now. He may not have any front teeth – I have to soak his biscuits for him overnight – but I couldn’t have hoped for a better-natured, calm, lovely dog.
“Batty is now ten and while he may have had a bad start to life, I’m so pleased we’ve been able to give him the chance of a better ending. I so applaud the tireless work of K-9 Angels for helping rescue dogs like him.”
For more details about K-9 Angels visit www.K-9angels.org
- 2017 marks 90 years since the first radio broadcast from Wimbledon, 80 years since the first TV transmission and 50 years since the first colour programme of the Championships.
- During her tennis career, Sue Barker won 11 WTA Tour singles titles, 12 doubles titles and the 1976 French Open. She reached a career-high singles ranking of World No 3. She started commentating on Wimbledon in 1993.
- Yellow balls were first used in 1986; 54,250 are used during the tournament. At the start of day, 48 tins are taken onto Centre and No1 Courts and 24 on all outside courts.
- Around 250 ball girls and boys are in action over the fortnight.
- More than 140,000 servings of English strawberries are dished up during the tournament and 25,000 scones.
- This year Wimbledon runs until July 16
Words and interview by Katharine Wootton