A miracle puppy who sought out his owner at a petrol station just ten days after the pensioner had been diagnosed with cancer has now undergone rare complex surgery to save his own life.
Owner Neil Milliner, 71, who lives in Brill had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer when he and a friend decided to take a trip to Cambridge on November 11 last year.
The pair stopped for a comfort break at the Shell Garage in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire - and while waiting for the toilet to become free Neil spotted the young puppy walking towards him.
He said: “Suddenly there’s a little puppy bouncing around my feet, and he didn’t want to talk to anyone else.”
Neil asked a petrol station employee if he knew anything about the puppy, and left his name and number with them in case anyone got in touch to claim him. With the Cambridge trip abandoned and with newly named ‘Shellby’ in tow - the pair set about calling the dog warden, the police and Central Beds Council - all of who were unaware of a missing dog.
Neil then took Shellby to Vets 4 Pets in Buckingham - where he was checked for a microchip and nothing was found - vet Maggie Doherty also gave him his vaccinations and a chip - and Shellby and Neil were official.
And the new friend arrived at the perfect time - Neil was due to begin rounds of gruelling radiotherapy at the Churchill Hospital in Headington near Oxford - and Shellby was by his side every step of the way.
Retired counselling practitioner Neil said: “I have cancer and met Shellby within ten days of the diagnosis.
“Throughout this process, going to the Churchill every day, Shellby was amazing, it was like he knew. Sometimes I would take him with me because the radiotherapy sessions were quite short, and he had extraordinary empathy.”
But a second health drama was soon to emerge - when Shellby was rushed into Vets 4 Pets again after losing weight.
Maggie conducted an ultrasound scan and found that Shellby was suffering with a diaphragmatic hernia - which was later found to be have been caused by an abusive trauma - possibly a hard kick from a former owner.
The injury meant that Shellby’s diaphragm had ruptured and his spleen, stomach and most of his liver had relocated into his chest cavity. Vets could not believe that Shellby had survived so long with the injury - and urgent complex surgery was needed to save his life.
This week specialists at Davies in Higham Gobion Bedfordshire carried out highly dangerous and complex surgery on Shellby to correct the problem - a procedure so rare that as a gesture of goodwill the practice agreed to half the £6,000 fee.
Neil’s precious dog is still in intensive care but is doing well - but the pensioner still faces diagnostic vets bills that he cannot afford.
To help fund this he set up a crowdfunding account www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/neil-milliner and used the Twitter hashtag #saveshellby to spread the word.
He said: “Maggie and Michael from Vets 4 Pets have been very generous, and Davies have agreed to halve the £6,000 bill.
“It has been amazing - total strangers have donated, and I would really like to express my gratitude to Vets 4 Pets, Davies and the general public for all their wonderful support.
“At one end of the spectrum you’ve got a person who would kick a little puppy - but on the other end you have people who don’t even know us who want Shellby to get better.”