When Sam wakes up from a bad dream, he knows he is now safe.
As a former mistreated pig-hunting dog, he often has nightmares about his past life which comprised of pain, hunger and entrapment.
The seven-year-old staffy-greyhound cross was seized from a Tasman farm last June.
At just 18kg, he was severely emaciated, covered in festering wounds and his teeth were damaged from biting at his cage.
Fast forward nine-months, Sam weighs 29kg and is a changed pup – thanks to the Nelson SPCA and his foster mum, Deb.
“He was so terribly thin,” says Deb, who has requested her surname isn’t published.
“We took him in because we were worried about him. He is the kind of dog that is going to have trouble.”
Sam spent a few months at the SPCA recovering before Deb and her husband took him into their home, where he is now enjoying a life of cuddles, playdates with his “girlfriends” and, of course, food.
“He hasn’t got many teeth. He’s lost all his canines and only one side of his back teeth match up.
“He loves bones but can only suck and slobber on them.”
But that hasn’t stopped him getting into the rubbish bin on several occasions.
“He got into a bag of old pies and some chop bones – we had to rush him off to the vet after that. But they dissolved so we were lucky,” Deb adds. “He’s got no control with food as he’s been too hungry for too long.”
Sam is still adjusting to his new life and, although his people skills are good now, he struggles in open spaces and has no spatial awareness.
“He walks on and over our other dogs, making himself unpopular. But we manage it. He is slowly but steadily improving week by week.”
Deb says when she first met Sam, he jumped up and knocked out the crown on her front tooth.
“It was just impulse control. He didn’t know how to be patted.”
Although the scars on his body will be a permanent reminder of his past life, Sam couldn’t be happier, and Deb will keep him until she finds him the perfect home.
Donna Walzl, manager of the Nelson SPCA says Sam’s transformation is remarkable.
“When he was picked up, Sam almost seemed like he was depressed. Now, he is barely recognisable from the dog who arrived.”
Unfortunately, Donna says they do see a number of dogs in light to poor body condition.
The help SPCA offers animals like Sam would be impossible without the support of the community and the charity’s annual appeal is now on until March 8.