Leeds family raises more than £3k to fly blind stray dog from Mauritius to UK after falling in love on holiday
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The island is loved by tourists for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters and tropical weather, but for the homeless hounds of Mauritius, life is less than idyllic.
It was a chance encounter that led the Bottomley family, from Guiseley, to meet cross-breed Ronnie on one of the beaches of the East African country in July.
Tomorrow (August 8), he is set to be reunited with his friends in Leeds after a £3,000 fundraiser paid for his journey to the UK.
Mum Natalie, 48, had wanted to go on one last family holiday to celebrate daughters Taylor, 18, and Georgie, 16, finishing their exams.
But the island was not how they remembered it, having visited the country before the pandemic.
“It became very apparent within a few days of us being there that there was a huge animal welfare issue,” said Natalie, an ambassador for a skincare company.
“There were strays everywhere and a lot of them were in quite a bad state. We found it upsetting because we’d never seen it to that extent.
“You think of Mauritius as paradise, but for stray animals, it really isn’t.”
Among the homeless dogs was Ronnie, a characterful pup who stole the Bottomley family’s hearts within moments of meeting him.
Natalie explained: “He’s a punky little dog with his ears tilted down – and he’s the happiest dog I’ve ever met. He’s a bit like the dogs from Disney films.
“He’s blind and he struts around walking into things, but always picks himself up and carries on. He’s streetwise and sassy, he’s just the cutest little dog. But because of his condition, we knew he wouldn’t survive long in Mauritius.”
They contacted a rescue centre, who told the family that a Swedish couple had tried to adopt Ronnie earlier this year but declined when they realised the costs involved.
That prompted Natalie to call on the help of an unlikely source back in Leeds – the Aireborough Belters.
The women’s rounders team was set up in Yeadon just eight weeks ago, with Natalie as one of the founding members, alongside fans of the game Lisa Morosini and Cheryl Wells.
The ladies spread the word about young Ronnie, with members pledging to help bring the pup to the UK.
Samantha Brown, another member of the club, started a fundraiser which quickly amassed a huge amount of cash. The total currently stands at £3,300. After paying for Ronnie’s flight and vaccinations, the remaining funds will be spent on helping other dogs in similar plights. You can donate at the GoFundMe page here.
Natalie said: “The fundraiser went viral in Mauritius. We had people contacting us from as far away as Germany. I had one message saying that someone’s son had chipped in his £5 pocket money because he was so touched. We were absolutely flabbergasted.”
Scheduled to land at Heathrow Airport tomorrow (August 8), Ronnie – who has been affectionately nicknamed ‘Ronnie Rounders’ – will be a regular fixture at the Aireborough Belters’ future games.
The jet-setting pooch even has his own team bib waiting for him.