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Oliver is Rescue Dog of the Year 2007

A blind dog that was dumped when he was just five-months-old has been voted the nation's RSPCA Rescue Dog of the Year 2007.

Oliver, a bullmastiff from Houghton-Le-Spring, fought off stiff competition in the final from five other rescue dogs, stealing an impressive 23 percent of people's votes.

Oliver had a difficult start in life. When he was just a pup, he was found on the streets with an eye infection. A dog warden found him just before Christmas 2005 - thin and distressed, with his eye causing him severe pain.

Despite urgent veterinary treatment, the infection spread - Oliver lost his sight and one eye had to be removed altogether. But his spirits were soon to brighten when Julie Harkess and her family decided to offer him a home after reading his story in the local paper.

At two years old, Oliver has now learnt to manage his disability, and leads a fulfilling life with the Harkess family and their other dog, Simba. He has been given a special artificial eye, which, though he cannot see through it, improves his appearance.

Julie said: "I can't believe that Oliver has won the competition! He is a true inspiration and clearly the rest of the country think he is too. Oliver has made so much progress that we forget he's blind. No matter how down we might feel, Oliver always lifts our spirits.

RSPCA chief vet, Mark Evans said: "All of the finalists are winners, but Oliver's story particularly captured the heart of the nation. He had such a tough start to life, but despite everything he's been through - even losing his sight - he's now such a happy dog."