A GRATEFUL pooch is set to take the lead on a special challenge to thank an organisation that saved his life.

Rusty, a cross-breed griffon hound, is taking part in the virtual London Marathon with his owner Deb Smith.

Deb, of Bradfield, is a manager at Wrabness Community Shop and took on Rusty just before Christmas.

She said: “Rusty came from Spanish Griffon Rescue and we were delighted because we wanted a rescue dog.

“We lost our other dog, Molly in April this year which makes Rusty’s presence even more special.

“He’s great with other dogs but has had a rough time before he came here.”

Spanish Griffon Rescue is an organisation that takes on abandoned, neglected and abused dogs.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Relaxed - Rusty has been getting used to his new home.Relaxed - Rusty has been getting used to his new home.

Rusty’s breed is widely used for hunting in Spain and on the continent and before he was brought in, Rusty was wandering on the streets and subject to abuse.

Deb added: “Luckily they brought him in because he would have gone to a pound and been destroyed if no one came forward.”

Rusty has been training on the seafront on Saturday mornings as part of Harwich Parkrun and has also been traversing the Essex Way.

Deb ran the virtual marathon last year with her dog Molly to fundraise for Cancer Research UK.

Molly helped Rusty adjust to his new home and the two have walked with Deb since December to prepare for the marathon.

Molly sadly died in April and Rusty will replace her in this year’s run.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Grateful - Rusty representing Spanish Griffon RescueGrateful - Rusty representing Spanish Griffon Rescue

Deb said: “Now Rusty and I walk twice a day, he’s more or less following a training plan as if I was running.

“Rusty has covered more than 1000 miles this year in training and the vet has confirmed he is strong and healthy.

“We walk from Bradfield towards Dedham and around Flatford and come back through Manningtree.”

Rusty and Deb will be walking at about four miles an hour and hope to complete the marathon in between six and six and a half hours.

The London virtual marathon is set to take place on Sunday, October 2.

For more information on Rusty’s run and to donate visit bit.ly/3ceJvPN.