A Staffordshire bull terrier once dubbed the unluckiest dog in the UK has finally found a new home in the Borders after a near-five-year search.
Star, now seven years old, has spent most of his life at Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home after being found by police tied up behind a derelict building in July 2013.
His story captured the hearts of millions after an online appeal was launched to track down a new owner, and now, after 1,800 days, the Seafield Road East home believes it has found the perfect match for him.
Numerous prospective owners came forward offering to take Star, but they were not suitable as he needs a home free of other pets and children.
Graeme Webb, a photographer with a studio in Hawick High Street, was deemed to fit the bill, however.
The 40-year-old, of Denholm, said: “I’d seen on social media that Star was needing a home, and I went up and had a few visits with him at the cat and dog home and ended up deciding to take him.
“I was surprised that no one had taken him.
“I asked at the home why that was, and they told me he had been taken out a couple of times but that he had been returned because the home wasn’t suitable.
“Five years he had been in the cat and dog home, which I found very surprising because he is such a nice-natured dog, although he does have a reactive tendency to other dogs and young children.
“He usually barks and growls, so I guess for a lot of people, that would be enough to put them off, but it was just a case of managing him. We have really bonded.
“When he arrived home, he was a bit stressed, so that first night I slept on sofa and Star slept on his bed next to it.
“Since then, I’ve slept in my own bed and Star has claimed the sofa as his.
“He settled in quite quickly really. After a few days, he was more relaxed, but he is still reactive to other dogs, so we’ve been avoiding them as much as possible.
“The only real issue I had was in my gallery, where I have floor-to-ceiling windows.
“Star would react to dogs walking past and wouldn’t settle, so I bought some opaque window film and put it along the bottom of the windows.
“That instantly settled him down as he feels there is now a barrier between him and the other dogs.”
When he was first found abandoned, Star showed signs of significant neglect, being underweight and having nails so long they curled underneath the pads of his paws.
Staff at the home reckoned he was lucky to be alive, so they named him their lucky Star.
Whatever had happened to Star before he found sanctuary at the home had made him nervous around other dogs and children so, while other animals came and went at the rescue centre, he continued to be overlooked.
In February this year, the home launched an urgent appeal to find him a home and, after being shared on social media, it went viral, attracting celebrity support from former Hibernian footballer Marvin Bartley, and he offered a signed Hibs shirt to whoever took the dog home.
Graeme added: “Star is such a friendly, happy, loving dog who wants company and cuddles all the time.
“Yes, he’s strong and he does react to other dogs, but you just have to be aware of that and understand why.
“It’s a shame that whatever happened to him previously has caused him to react the way he does.
“It’s a case of understanding his needs and working with him.
“There’s nothing like the greeting I get when I walk down the stairs in the morning.
“Eating is his favourite thing to do. He also loves playing with a football, so we are either out in the back garden or we go to a freedom field close by, where he can run around as much as he wants off the lead.”
True to his word, Bartley, now playing for Livingston, returned to the home last week to hand over the promised shirt to Graeme and say hello to his old four-legged friend.
“It’s amazing that Star has been rehomed. He’s got a home with a lovely guy, someone who thinks the world of him and he deserves it because he’s a great dog,” said Berkshire-born Bartley, 32.
“It’s a fitting end to my time at Hibs. Everyone knows that I love dogs – I’ve got one myself – so I am really happy that he has got a home after spending so long here.”
While grateful for the shirt, Graeme isn’t a football fan and has donated it to the home to be auctioned at a later date.
Lindsay Fyffe-Jardine, the home’s director of operations, said: “Everyone at the home couldn’t be happier that Star has finally found his forever family.
“To see the way he looks at his new dad with such trust and love makes the long search for Star worth it.”
“Star has finally been given the loving home that he always deserved, but our work continues on with the many other dogs who are still waiting and yearning for their new family to walk through our doors.
“While they continue to need us, we will never give up.”