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Vets and pet lovers are pulling together to help save the life of a rescue dog belonging to cancer-stricken owner, Neil Milliner.

Rescue dog, Harry Shellby, who was abandoned at a petrol station in Bedfordshire, helped comfort his new owner through cancer treatment last year, but now the hound is gravely ill himself. His devastated owner Neil is hoping to raise the money for his urgent treatment and vets at Davies Veterinary Specialists have also stepped in to provide the complex surgery at half the cost.

Neil, a retired counselling practitioner, had been on his way to a Remembrance Day memorial service last November and had stopped off for fuel when he spotted the terrified mixed breed puppy.

Harry Shellby the day he was found

Remembers Neil, “Despite the service station being packed with people the little guy only had eyes for me and, to be honest, I found him irresistible. Somehow we just seemed to ‘click’ and I offered to take him home.”

The pup’s owner could not be traced and no one came forward so Neil adopted him, naming him in part after his old dog who shared a striking resemblance.

Around the same time, Neil had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and his new companion helped support his rescuer through 37 gruelling sessions of radiotherapy.

“Having Harry Shellby during this period was amazing,” says Neil. “Perhaps he had sensed I needed him during this difficult stage in my life. He was so gentle and empathetic and was always there with a wagging tail after each treatment. When I was at my lowest ebb he carried me through the fatigue, the sleepless nights and the constant trips to the loo, ever present with his wagging tail and beseeching eyes.”

Serious illness

Then last month Neil noticed that Harry Shellby was not himself. “He had lost his appetite and his energy and he had stiflingly bad breath,” Neil recalls.

After rushing him to his local practice Vets4Pets an ultrasound scan revealed a diaphragmatic hernia where his intestines, spleen and most of his liver had pushed through a tear in the diaphragm and were sitting in the chest cavity. It is thought that the injury was caused by abusive trauma sustained as a young puppy, such as a kick.

When we conducted investigations into young Harry Shellby we were shocked at the extent of his internal complications,” says Maggie Doherty at Vets4Pets. “Outwardly, Harry Shellby was seemingly a bouncy and healthy puppy but he wasn’t thriving. I knew immediately that I needed to call on the expertise of the multi-disciplinary team at Davies Veterinary Specialists to ensure a positive outcome for this special rescue dog. The collaborative relationship we have with Davies provides a seamless interface between first opinion and referral veterinary medicine to deliver the first class treatment we strive to achieve for our clients.”

Neil continues, “It’s a testament to his courage and remarkable energy that he had managed his condition from November, when I found him, to June. I had him checked over when I had him chipped and vaccinated in December and nothing untoward was spotted then.”

Harry Shellby and Neil

Unfortunately, the cost to treat Harry Shellby’s condition would be high and much of his insurance had already been used to diagnose the problem.

“Harry Shellby is my best friend,” says Neil. “He undoubtedly helped to save my life so I vowed to do all I could to help save his.”

With the support of friends, family and animal lovers, Neil soon raised £2,000. Davies’ Soft Tissue Surgeon Carolyn Burton performed two phases of intricate surgery to move Harry Shellby’s major organs from the chest cavity and pet them back into the abdominal cavity. She also had to repair the tear in the diaphragm.

Dr Carolyn Burton says, “Harry Shellby’s procedure was both complicated and high risk and involved a whole team of people here at Davies. But he has gone on to make a remarkable recovery and it should hopefully be the end of his problems now. We are all so pleased and proud to have been able to help save this heroic dog who has been such a support to his owner through very difficult times.”

Neil adds, “I will be forever in the debt of Carolyn Burton for her incredible surgical skills and of the financial directors at Davies for halving their fees. I am just so stunned and grateful for the support everyone has shown for Harry Shellby and me. Without their kindness there is no way I would have been able to afford the operation he needed. Such generosity lies in total contrast to the extreme cruelty that may have caused Harry Shellby’s injuries in the first instance.”

Two weeks on Harry Shellby is full of beans and eating well and Neil just can’t stop smiling.

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