P￼eering through the trees, I saw a tiny black puppy limping and whimpering in pain. He looked so frightened.
‘We have to help,’ I said to my husband Darren, 36.
We were on our honeymoon in Ko Chang, Thailand, and had met a local lady, Duen, who fed stray dogs on the island. The plight of the poor pooches tugged at our heartstrings. Seeing this helpless stray in particular, I was distraught. His right front leg was bent at a terrible angle and his tummy was swollen.
Duen told us he’d been hit by a scooter a week earlier, but she couldn’t afford to take him to a vet. I couldn’t just leave him by the side of the road to die. Bundling the pup into my arms, we decided to take him to our holiday rental to decide what to do.
Cleaning him up, we picked 26 ticks out of his fur. We created a splint for his leg too, and made a bed of blankets so the pup could rest.
‘We’ll call him Ozzie,’ I said. ‘Because he’s like a real Aussie battler.’
The next day we took Ozzie to the local vet practice. It was very basic, with no x-ray equipment. We felt helpless.
Does anyone know a vet near Ko Chang? I pleaded on social media.
A group called Pattaya Animal Coalition recommended one in Pattaya. Looking on a map, I saw it was six hours away! We were due to travel to Cambodia in two days to carry on our honeymoon.
‘We can’t just leave Ozzie here to die,’ I cried to Darren.
So we agreed to stay on longer to help our boy. Jumping in a taxi the next day, we started the long journey. Ozzie slept on my knee, barely moving the whole way.
Hold on little one, I pleaded.
When we arrived, it was a grim diagnosis. Ozzie’s leg had severe nerve damage and he had a life-threatening tick-borne disease. While Ozzie went in for surgery to get a metal rod in his leg, we examined our finances. We’d already maxed-out our credit cards
to pay for the honeymoon. So we posted a few photos of Ozzie on Facebook, asking for help.
Our amazing friends and family gave us $2000 towards Ozzie’s vet bills. But now we faced another problem – our visas were about to expire. We had no choice but to leave Ozzie.
‘Promise you’ll look after him until he finds a home,’ I begged the vet.
In Cambodia, I tried to make the best of our honeymoon, but my thoughts were consumed by our pup. Instead of sightseeing, I spent most of my days online trying to find him an owner.
Two months later, we were back home but Ozzie still didn’t have a family. Due to Australian quarantine laws, he couldn’t fly straight here, but could be taken to the USA until he was fully recovered.
Spreading the word through social media, I asked if there was anyone who could help. That’s when Geoff from Chicago got in touch. I’m going to Thailand. I might be able to help you, he wrote. By Christmas Day last year, Geoff was on a plane back to the USA with Ozzie.
But once there, Ozzie went downhill again. He had a deadly staph infection and mange, which saw his lovely black fur replaced by angry scabs.
The vet bills were amounting to thousands of dollars. We’d fallen behind on our mortgage repayments to pay for Ozzie’s flight.
‘We might have to sell our wedding rings,’ I told Darren.
‘Whatever it takes,’ he said.
Then a friend suggested we try the crowdfunding website GoFundMe. I shared Ozzie’s story and incredibly, people started sending money from all around the world! We could now pay for Ozzie’s treatment!
While recuperating, Ozzie shared his time between Geoff and Geoff’s parents, Rod and Marie.
They sent us daily photographs and video updates, but Ozzie still needed a permanent home. Could we take Ozzie on as our own? We’d originally just wanted to save his life, but now we couldn’t bear the thought of never seeing him again.
So with the help of generous donors, we started the process of bringing him to Australia. After two months in Thailand, seven months in the USA, and 10 days in Australian quarantine, we were finally reunited. As he bounded up to us, I was sure he remembered our faces!
One month on, Ozzie has settled in and loves lying in the Aussie sunshine. Finding him changed our lives for the better.
Along with Geoff, we’ve now set up a charity, Medical and Mobility for Animals Worldwide (MMAW), in order to help other disabled dogs get treatment overseas.
It cost $25,000 to save Ozzie’s life and bring him home, but having him in our arms again is priceless!
When I first saw Ozzie, I knew he was suffering. His cries were desperate and terrified. Our honeymoon changed the moment we found him. Finding medical attention for Ozzie was the right thing to do. We were committed to fight for him and he battled so hard. Ozzie is proof that the will to survive can beat the toughest odds.
Originally published in Issue 36 of that's life! magazine - September 8, 2016.