The huge dog has been trained by the charity Young Pioneers to support the young people in its care, helping them to get their lives back on track.
Among the youngsters whose lives have been transformed by Gandalf is 18-year-old Katie, who was sexually abused by her own father aged three before being sold into a paedophile ring. After enduring eight years of unspeakable abuse, Katie was rescued by the police and placed with a foster family. She was so traumatised by her experience, she couldn’t leave the house, be around adults or lead any kind of normal life.
But then Katie met Gandalf. The adoring dog gave her unconditional affection and made her feel safe again. With Gandalf at her side, she had the confidence to eventually leave the house and take him for a walk. Thanks to Gandalf, the teenager finally feels able to face the world and has even started going to college.
Gandalf has also been a life-saver for 15-year-old Jonathan, who was excluded from school after attacking a teacher with a chisel. Jonathan, whose father is a drug addict, had been struggling to cope since his mother took her own life in front of him. The troubled boy spends time with Gandalf one day a week and, helped by the dog’s calming influence, is slowly rebuilding his confidence.
Young Pioneers was set up by Luke Lancaster seven years ago when he was just 12, after being badly bullied at school. Luke, now 19, wanted to show that it was “Cool to Care” and, with the help of a team, developed training programmes to help the victims of bullying and abuse be successful in life.