(fashion) Many of us return from our holidays with a suntan and perhaps a few bottles of local vino.
Some, however, bring back an altogether different kind of souvenir — a stray dog.
After falling for these mutts, which were often malnourished or had suffered horrific abuse from foreign owners, kind-hearted Britons came to their rescue, and brought them home — despite the bureaucratic headaches and often eye-watering costs involved.
Bringing any animal home from abroad, particularly from outside the European Union, can be some task, especially as the law says up to four months in quarantine is needed for any dog coming from a country where rabies is present.
Yet thousands of us have done so, after becoming utterly enamoured by an abandoned pooch on holiday.
Although there are no official figures, according to the Animal and Plant Health Agency, 34,144 dogs were imported into the UK from the EU alone last year, which includes rescue dogs for rehoming.
Doing so is not without risk — such dogs may have health problems and could carry diseases into Britain.
As British Veterinary Association Junior Vice President Daniella Dos Santos says: ‘As a nation of animal lovers, the desire to rescue stray, neglected or abused animals from other countries and give them loving homes in the UK is completely understandable.
‘Unfortunately, “Trojan” rescue dogs with unknown health histories pose a significant disease risk to the UK’s pets as well as humans.’
Regardless of the problems involved, these five devoted pet-owners stopped at nothing to rescue a four-legged foreign friend — and have never regretted it …
Destined for a dinner plate in Hanoi
Alex MacDonald, 37, rescued Max, a Husky and German Shepherd mix, from Vietnam
The small black puppy was a pitiful sight. Just two months old, it had spent its short life with its back legs tied together to stop it running away while it was fattened up to be eaten.
Little wonder, then, that Alex MacDonald, 37, from Birmingham, felt he had to help. Just one thing stood in the way: the dog was in Hanoi, Vietnam, where Alex, who was taking a break from his aviation career, was travelling.
However, he was not deterred. Alex says: ‘I’d made some friends there and went to see one who had been caring for a badly abused puppy. Dogs are treated as food in Vietnam, so it was probably once kept in terrible conditions.
‘I knew I wanted to help this little dog. There was no life in him. His ears were down and he was just lying there with his legs splayed out. It was heartbreaking to see.
Alex spent £500 on blood tests to prove Max did not have rabies. Once he got the all-clear, he could bypass the four-month quarantine period
‘I gave him some food and water and for the first time, his tail started to wag.’
Over the coming weeks and months in summer 2017, Alex nursed the dog, which he named Max, until it could walk again, even getting the animal physio treatment. Only then did he begin the process of bringing him home to Britain.
Many hurdles stood in Max’s way — but a determined Alex spent £500 on blood tests to prove Max, who is a mixture of Husky and German Shepherd, did not have rabies. Once he got the all-clear, he could bypass the four-month quarantine period. After other vaccinations and microchipping, Max was ready to fly from Hanoi to Heathrow to begin his new life.
Despite spending almost £2,000, Alex says Max is worth every penny. ‘He’s a very different dog from when I found him. He loves to walk, to sit with me, and sleeps in my room. He does, however, suffer from separation anxiety and is like my shadow, but I don’t mind. I would be lost without him.’
Just two months old, Max had spent his short life with his back legs tied together to stop him running away while being fattened up to be eaten
My 4,600-mile flight of love to bring home stray
Amanda Williams bonded instantly with the little scruffy terrier who climbed onto her lap when she was on holiday with her family
The last night of a family holiday to Turkey brought an unexpected surprise to David and Amanda Williams.
While they waited for their hotel’s evening entertainment to begin, along with their two children, Tia, 13, and Leo, eight, a little scruffy terrier sauntered up to them — and climbed on 44-year-old Amanda’s lap.
The bond was instant — and the couple, from Bournemouth, knew they had to bring the pooch home.
David, 41, who works in financial services, says: ‘That was it. Sometimes it just happens, the dog chooses you.
‘She was just an adorable little thing, so calm and gentle. Thin, scruffy and clearly desperate for love.
‘I asked in the hotel if they knew who I should speak to about adopting a dog. Luckily, there was a man who knew an animal shelter.’
Due to fly home the next day, the couple left the two-year-old dog in the shelter. It would take 30 days for rabies injections and other jabs before she could come home.
Before they left, they christened her Sandy, after her fur.
A month later, in July 2017, David flew the 2,300 miles back to Dalaman in west Turkey to get Sandy, who now had her own pet passport. It was a real expedition of love.
‘The journey took three days and cost £1,000. But she’s just a joy, so full of affection.’
Amazingly, Sandy wasn’t to be the last dog the family would re-home from Turkey — they rescued another scruffy terrier they named Ashley, who is also an adored member of the family.