Dogs: Thai rescue pup on brink of death finds Welsh home

When Rodney was found malnourished on the side of the road on a Thai island the puppy was just hours from death, his rescuer said.

The week-old stray was rescued in Koh Samui by Niall Harbison, an Irishman who is on a mission to feed, sterilise and treat street dogs.

He documents these rescue dogs on social media.

Rodney's new owners from south Wales followed his journey on Instagram and "fell in love".

Mr Harbison retired to Thailand but struggled with his mental health and addiction and said he "wanted to do something meaningful".

He started by "feeding a few dogs on the street", but it quickly grew from there.

Mr Harbison, who has 588,000 followers on Instagram, is on a mission to save 10,000 dogs a month.

"I don't want to log into social media and see sad news, so I try and make the dogs little characters and make it a bit happier," he said.

One of those characters was Rodney, who was "oozing", "raw" and "barely looked like a dog" when he found him.

"He was within an hour of dying."

After seven months of intensive care, Rodney recovered and Mr Harbison was inundated with adoption applications.

Carys Hawkey and Cameron Clarke with Rodney in Carys' arms and their other dog Khabib
Carys Hawkey and Cameron Clarke competed with 500 other applicants for Rodney

After multiple interviews by the team at Mr Harbison's newly founded charity, Happy Doggo, Rodney's new home was found.

Carys Hawkey and Cameron Clarke, from Church Village, Rhondda Cynon Taf, watched Rodney's transformation on Instagram.

"When I found Niall's account, I was just obsessed," said Ms Hawkey, a teacher.

While Ms Hawkey was "desperate" for a second dog to join their New Zealand huntaway Khabib, Mr Clarke took a little more persuasion.

However, as soon as he saw Rodney, Mr Clarke said he knew he was the dog for them.

Ms Hawkey said the adoption process was "important" to ensure dogs are safely rehomed.

Once the couple knew for certain that they could become Rodney's owners, Mr Clarke booked a trip to Thailand.

Carys Hawkey holding Rodney
Carys Hawkey said she was "obsessed" with Rodney when she saw him on Instagram

It took Rodney two flights, 24 hours and a pet taxi from Paris to London before he reached his new home, more than 6,200 miles away from Thailand.

"It's like he's always been here," said Ms Hawkey. "He doesn't realise how happy he makes me."

However, she said the attention on social media was "overwhelming".

There are more than 20,000 followers of Rodney and Khabib's daily adventures on Instagram.

"As soon as we post a photo, we get 400-500 comments on it," Ms Hawkey said.

But transporting rescue dogs is not always a happy story - when Rory Cellan-Jones and his wife Diane rehomed their dog Sophie from Romania, she was left traumatised by the journey.

According to the World Health Organization, there are an estimated 200 million street dogs in the world.

While it may be a happy ending for Rodney and the handful of other dogs who have been rehomed, Mr Harbison admitted that flying street dogs to forever homes abroad was not the solution.

Besides sterilising, he said one answer was to help provide locals with knowledge about food and medicine.

"I've nearly got a Thai foundation set up and now confirmation of a UK charity, so I will be able to hire people to help," Mr Harbison said.

Niall Harbison with several of the dogs he has rescued at his home in Thailand
Niall Harbison began his journey by feeding two street dogs, now he aims to save 10,000 dogs a month

At the moment he relies on volunteers but is planning to "put structures in place and find solutions all over the world".

The next step in his mission is to build a hospital for sick dogs on Koh Samui which will be named after another of Mr Harbison's rescues to have captured the hearts of people around the world.

Golden retriever Tina, who was kept on a chain and used for breeding, became a feel-good story of hope for many who followed her journey.

"I have a feeling Tina has helped a lot more people than I even realised," Mr Harbison said.

"Her life will definitely not have been in vain."

Watch on iPlayer banner
Watch on iPlayer banner
Watch on iPlayer footer
Watch on iPlayer footer