Shaggy dog tale of love gone right
Holly, a mongrel dog that had to be left with a new family in Dubai this summer, has been flown to England to be reunited with her original owners after being rescued an hour from being put down.
Holly's remarkable tale and her emotional reunion a week ago with Alyssa Smith, 11, have become an internet hit. More than 50,000 people have so far viewed the video of the moment the little girl sobbed with joy to see her pet again.
"I want to spend every moment with her," Alyssa said yesterday. "She just makes my life happy."
Holly, who was rescued by an animal shelter in Sharjah shortly after birth, was adopted by Darren Smith, his wife Claudia and their daughter Alyssa in January 2009 when the dog was 12 weeks old.
The family lived in Dubai and had planned to return to the UK this December. With this is mind, Mrs Smith in May began the process of health checks and injections necessary for Holly to avoid six months in quarantine in Britain.
But the family's plans were turned upside-down in July when Mr Smith lost his job. It meant the health checks, which take six months, could not be completed in time and so the family decided they had to put Holly up for adoption.
"It was a heartbreaking decision but if we'd brought Holly back with us, it meant we'd have to put her in quarantine," said Mrs Smith. "And the truth of the matter was, we were coming back to no jobs and we really could not afford the thousands of pounds it would cost us."
A couple with two children answered the Smiths' advertisement seeking a new home for Holly.
"They seemed very nice and very caring," said Mrs Smith. "We were all devastated to part with Holly but she seemed to be going to a good home.
"After we returned to England in August, I gave the family a call and they assured me Holly was fine. Then, late one night in September, I was bored and was going through some old websites.
"I happened to click on the pet section of Dubizzle, which we frequently used to look at in Dubai. And to my astonishment, there was Holly. I couldn't believe it.
"She had been saved by Montserrat Martin from Friends of Animals that day - an hour before she was due to be destroyed.
"She had ended up in the municipal pound after being picked up on the streets, covered in lice and fleas and severely undernourished. I was distraught."
But what happened from there renewed the Smiths' faith in the kindness of strangers.
"I emailed straight away saying she was our dog Holly and explaining what had happened," Mrs Smith said.
"She was then fostered to a wonderful Syrian lady in Dubai who nursed her back to health while we made arrangements for Holly to be brought to England.
"It cost us £1,300 (Dh7,417) but there were so many people in Dubai who treated us and Holly with such kindness and generosity.
"One of the vets did about Dh2,000 worth of health checks and injections to complete the process I had started in May, and he didn't charge us a penny."
Ms Martin said she had received the call from Mrs Smith five weeks after posting the advertisement.
"This lady, she could hardly speak because she was crying," Ms Martin said. "It was a very sad story but there was a happy ending. It was incredible to see the girl reunited with her dog."
She said the Smiths' case was a fluke and in most cases abandoned dogs were destroyed.
"The family were lucky. Many dogs are put down when they are abandoned," Ms Martin said.
"I've been doing this for four years and it's not getting any better. There are a lot of abandoned animals and most are abandoned by British families."
The Smiths were later told the family who had adopted Holly lost her when they went for a walk along a beach, but had not done anything to find her.
As the family and animal lovers in Dubai made exhaustive preparations for Holly's flight to her new home in Andover, about 70 kilometres southwest of London, little Alyssa was oblivious to it all.
"We decided not to tell her in case something went wrong," said Mrs Smith. "As far as she was concerned, Holly was still living happily in Dubai with the family who had taken her from us.
"She missed her dreadfully. Then last week, we picked up Holly from the airport and took her home.
"When Alyssa came home, we told her to go into the lounge. I videoed it because I wanted to show all the wonderful people in Dubai who had helped us what joy they had brought."
The moving footage shows Alyssa's look of wonderment as she first sets eyes on the dog. She then asks her parents if it is really Holly and when told it is, she breaks down into tears of joy.
For her part, Holly smothers Alyssa with kisses.
"Our family is complete now," said Mrs Smith. "We could not be happier."
The video can be seen at bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-15820860
* With additional reporting by Martin Croucher