A Cupar grandmother is celebrating a happy ending to an emotional journey that has seen her reunited with a little dog she fell in love with on a mercy mission to Thailand.
Marion MacDonald, who is well-known for her charity work with animals all over the world, was captivated by eight-month-old Starlette while volunteering at the Soi Dog Foundation in Phuket, which rescues dogs from unspeakable barbarity.
She couldn’t erase the image of her sad eyes and sweet, submissive nature.
So when she returned to Cupar she decided there was only one thing to do - she would bring Starlette to live with her in Fife. She even moved house so that she had a garden big enough.
Now, some four months later, Starlette has settled happily with Marion and her other dog, Skye, at her home in Castlefield, none the worse after her 6000-mile, 13-hour flight.
“Starlette must think she’s died and gone to heaven,” said Marion (62).
“Every month about six dogs are adopted from the Soi Dog Foundation by people in the UK, but there are so many more who aren’t so fortunate.
“It was heartbreaking to hear some of the dogs’ stories - some of them are rescued from the meat trade, whereby they’re illegally smuggled to Vietnam and tortured in the twisted belief that the more pain they suffer, the tastier their meat will be.”
Marion first set eyes on Starlette in the puppy enclosure, where she’d been taken after being found in a Burmese labour camp with a badly broken leg and so thin her ribs were protruding.
“She was quieter than the rest, and very submissive,” she said.
“But there was something about her that got inside my soul.”
Marion worked at the foundation for two weeks in searing heat and even had to be treated for severe gastro-enteritis - but she says it was an experience she would repeat if it meant helping to alleviate the animals’ suffering.
“Some of the abuse and cruelty I witnessed and the look in the eyes of the dogs and cats at the Foundation will stay with me forever,” she said.
“But the two weeks I spent there were awesome, and I feel very humbled to have been a part of the lives of the animals and the wonderful people there.”
Soi Dog - which means ‘alley’ or ‘street’ dog in Thai - was founded 10 years ago by a Dutch woman, Margot Homburg Park, and her friends Gill and John Dalley.
They were horrified by the growing stray population of dogs in Thailand and the terrible suffering of those destined for the meat trade.
Now the Foundation employs 32 staff, including four full-time vets, but it could not continue running without the help of kind-hearted volunteers like Marion.
As well as offering hands-on help, Marion also raises money for the charity and sends practical items like collars, leads and bandages donated by caring Cuparians.
Donations can be handed in at Wilson and Partners’ veterinary surgery in Bonnygate.