Rescued greyhound Norman who had ears hacked off dies leaving owner heartbroken
Norman the greyhound won a place in hearts far and wide when his horrific ordeal made headlines.
When he was just 18 months old he had his ears hacked off before being dumped and left to die in Newtownabbey in 2013.
It's thought the harrowing mutilation was to remove tattoo marks that could have identified his owners.
He was found by the roadside and was initially taken to Farm Hill Veterinary Clinic before being transferred to Mid-Antrim Animal Sanctuary. And it was here he met his forever home with George Anderson - the sanctuary's chairman.
There was a huge outpouring of love and support for him and hundreds of pounds were donated towards veterinary bills.
But over the years he had suffered a number of epileptic fits as a result of brain damage and this has taken its toll on Norman. And on Sunday night he passed away aged eight, with his family around him telling them how much they loved him - in his favourite spot.
Heartbroken George (72) reflected on the joy that Norman brought into his Carrickfergus home over the past six years: "He was such a gentle big boy. He always lay behind my armchair in the living room, that was his place when he came in. That's where he passed away on Sunday night, in his usual place. It's going to leave such a big hole in our lives."
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He also recalled that, in all the time Norman was with him, he never saw him run.
"He's been a joy to have with us. The funny thing is in all the years we had him, I never saw him run. Even when we got him into a field with the other two dogs, he would have paddled about, he never showed any interest in running. Whether he was afraid to run or what, I just don't know."
But for George, the hardest thing was watching the fits Norman suffered, as he would hold him through them.
"The fits were taking so much out of him. As well as cutting his ears off, they also bashed him over the head with something like a hammer, fractured his skull and actually caused him brain damage, which was the cause of his fits with the epilepsy."
George continued: "He would have a fit and it would take him a while to come round, but they don't know what's happening - that's the only good thing. It was much more distressing for me, because I would have sat with him and held him and stroked him and talked gently to him all the time he was fitting. The worst time was when he had 14 fits over 36 hours - I didn't sleep for two days with him.
"That was horrendous, but the fits are what has drained him in the end, it took all his strength away."
But regardless of the cruelty he suffered before, Norman never lost his trust in humans.
George said: "He never seemed to show any fear of people, he would have went up to you and he would love to be petted and stroked. Dogs are so much more forgiving than humans, there's no two ways about it.
"And he certainly was a forgiving big dog. He just loved everybody and he was brilliant with children."
On Sunday, they noticed he wasn't eating or drinking, his breathing had deteriorated and he was very ill - so they had to call the vet.
"I sat and stroked him and talked to him for a while and he was dying. And at 11.05pm he passed away. It was horrific. He's been taken now to the Cranmore Pet Crematorium, and I'll be getting his ashes back in a casket and he'll be coming home with us."
George said that over the years they received so much support and would always be stopped in the street with people coming over to meet Norman. He says he'll miss "everything" about him. He would often feel a mixture of anger and sadness when he looked at Norman's injuries and feels it's so cruel that his life was cut short because of those who hurt him.
"If they had just left him alone, even threw him out and he had been found, and he was in decent health he would have had quite a few years left to live.
"His life was cut short because of what was done to him. He could have had another five or six years."
And now George and his family are cherishing their happy memories of the "gentle giant".
"That's what he was: a gentle giant, who just loved everybody," Norman added.