A RESCUE dog so neglected that her paws would bleed when taken for a walk is set to star in a musical production of Oliver in Bournemouth.

Tessa Buckley, 59, of Burnaby Road, took in 10-year-old Poppy, an English Bull Terrier, four years ago, after she had been abused by her owners and used solely for breeding.

After years of rehabilitation in a loving home, Poppy has now been given a shot at stardom after Swish of the Curtain Theatre School spotted pictures of her on Facebook and thought she looked like the ideal candidate to play Bill Sikes’ battered dog Bullseye in their production of the Dickens classic.

Ms Buckley said it has been a long road back to health for her beloved pet and that, despite possessing the typically fearsome appearance of a bull terrier, is docile and affectionate.

“If a dog has a go at her she just lies back and takes it. I have even seen Chihuahuas walk all over her,” she added.

“In fact she is so relaxed that I am a bit worried she might fall asleep during the show!”

Performing on stage will be in stark contrast to the first six years of Poppy’s life, where a concerned neighbour in Oxford saw her trapped in a garden day and night in freezing conditions.

Such was the level of neglect, the first time Poppy’s new owner took her out on a walk, her paws bled and she still shakes when nervous and rarely barks.

Poppy will be appearing in Oliver at Bournemouth Pavilion on February 20, 21 and 22.