LITTLE Bertie may have had a rough start to life, but he couldn’t have found himself a happier home than with the owner of five previous dachshunds.

Irene Hewlett, 83, of Wroughton, rescued Bertie, who is thought to be between three and four years old, in December.

“He’s my companion now,” she said.

“He keeps me going. Every where I go people want to hug and stroke him. Everybody falls in love with Bertie.

When Mrs Hewlett first saw him in Swindon and District Animal Haven, in Royal Wootton Bassett, he was in a very bad way.

She said: “He was covered in dirt in this little cage, and his hair was falling out. Someone had kicked him in the face and that broke his fang and the tooth next to it.

“But he’s got a good coat now, and he can breathe properly. I’m very proud of him. I’m quite surprised by the change.”

Mrs Hewlett, who lost her husband, Speedy, two years ago, originally did not want another dog after her old dachshund, Tigger, passed away just before Christmas after suffering with a brain tumour or meningitis.

A week after losing Tigger, she received a call from the Swindon dog warden service asking whether she would like to take on a new dachshund.

“I explained to them that my dog had just died and I didn’t really want to take on another one. But then I mentioned it to my neighbour, Emily, who was going to Animal Haven to rescue a cat, and she persuaded me to come down with her and have a look.

“Well that was it – as soon as I saw him, I knew he was my dog.”

After a couple of weeks, Rose Downie, of Elcombe, who is in charge of the south west branch of charity, Doglost, came to see how Bertie and Irene were getting on.

Mrs Hewlett said: “We didn’t know anything about him. We had to start from scratch with injections and things.

“He had to be put out twice to have his teeth out and he had to be castrated.

“I felt horrible leaving him there and couldn’t wait to get him home again. “He was a bit under the weather for a few days because of the anasthetic but he soon perked up and he was glad to be home.”

Since then Bertie has come on leaps and bounds, and goes everywhere with Mrs Hewlett.

She said: “Bertie makes a lot of friends everywhere we go.

“Last Friday we went down to Pet Shed, in Wroughton, and after we’d found him a new harness and name badge I asked the man what kind of food would he recommend for Bertie. “He came back with a 2kg bag of dog food for him, but when I took it to the counter to pay they said I could have it for free.

“I think it’s Bertie. Everybody loves Bertie. I wouldn’t have any problems finding a new home for him now.”