When animal lover Frances Heatlie heard about Greek puppy Smee who was facing death if he couldn’t have surgery in the UK she adopted him and paid for the life saving operation herself.
The stricken dog had a rocky start in life – his mum Nikki gave birth to him and his seven brothers and sisters on a deserted fishing boat in the middle of a storm off Zante last October.
Rescue workers from Zante Strays, a charity that cares for dogs on the Greek Island and finds them new homes in the UK, had been following the pregnant stray and took her and her puppies in to foster care.
But Smee was struggling to gain weight and started fitting and vomiting and vets found he had a liver shut, meaning it couldn’t function and he needed an operation to survive.
Frances, 53, from Henley-on-Thames, read about his plight nearly 2500 miles away on her crowdfunding site WildCrowd.org where the charity were trying to raise money for the surgery.
She said: “I was so moved by his story so we did all we could to raise the £1500. Smee had an Intrahepatic Liver Shunt, meaning blood was being diverted out of the liver by a blood vessel.
“They were close the target, and took him to the vets in Greece. But they examined him and found the shunt was inside the liver, not outside as they originally thought, and said they were unable to help.”
He needed to come to the UK for an operation that would cost up to £7,000 so Frances decided she would adopt Smee, who was named after the pirate in Peter Pan, and paid for him to have the operation on Thursday July 6.
Two surgeons worked to mend his liver in a three hour operation and he is now recovering well at home.
Frances said: “They say rescue dogs find you. I fell in love with him and as soon as I heard the news, I researched for vets who could carry out the surgery. The Langford Vet School in Bristol said they would help.
“I’d been left money when my father, also a huge animal lover, died and I thought it was fitting that some would be used to help Smee and the money that had been raised was used by the charity to help other dogs.”
Smee, a Collie, Retriever and Spaniel cross, travelled for three days to his new home and came bounding out of the van when Frances collected him and has settled well into his new life.
He adores children and other dogs and is loving and affectionate and Frances hopes his story will inspire other dog lovers to think of rescuing a Zante stray.
Last year, 30,000 dogs were rehomed here from the EU, according to government figures and Zante Strays take in 20 dogs a week on average during the summer.
The charity is raising funds to build a new holding shelter and quarantine area for abandoned dogs and puppies waiting for foster homes.
Helen Lai, UK co-ordinator for Zante Strays, said: “Thanks to Frances we can help another dog like him, but we are currently full to capacity and are struggling so donations are vital.”