Companionship has the power to transform lives and in the case of Flora and her owner, that couldn’t be any truer.

The eight-year-old jack russell was found in an appalling state wandering the streets as a stray, with fur so heavily matted she struggled to walk, a lump the size of her head on her side and a chain of masses on her belly.

Then she found herself in the council pound, lost and alone. Thankfully, our Suffolk rehoming centre was there to step in and give her the love and care she so desperately needed.

Getting the sweet girl back on her paws took three months of TLC and included several operations to remove the huge, but thankfully non-cancerous, lump protruding from her rib cage and the mammary masses on her tummy which were the result of Flora not being neutered.

Flora sits on new owner Mike Elliston's lap
Flora with new owner Mike Elliston. The pair are inseparable.

After everything she had been through, nobody could have blamed her if she had struggled to trust people again – but her tail never stopped wagging as she put her life in our hands.

Flora simply wanted to be loved. And when she was ready to go to a new home, that’s exactly what she found in new owner Mike Elliston. But friendship works both ways and Flora has helped fill a void in her owner’s life, too.

“She’s brought me companionship and some joy back into my life,“ said Mike, who lost his beloved wife in March last year and their rescue dog Molly just five months later.

“It was a double blow, losing Molly. She had been a big part of our lives. I was obviously feeling quite lonely and lost, but I couldn’t bring myself to get another pet straight away,” he said.

It took some time, but Mike missed the company of a dog and in May this year he clicked on the Blue Cross website rehoming page to see Flora’s big brown eyes staring out at him.

“I started looking and there she was; she looked very cute. I went on three visits in total and she was a lovely little thing. She took to me straight away,” Mike said.

Flora’s health issues meant that there was a lot to consider when taking her on – she requires daily painkillers for a joint problem and will need more surgery to remove the remaining mammary masses – but it didn’t put him off.

Mike said: “What she went through before made me feel very sorry for her. When I was told about all her health problems I just said that it didn’t really matter; the main thing was to give her a nice home for the rest of her life.  You can overcome the medical problems.”

Flora with her teddy on a walk
Flora out on a walk with her teddy, which gives her confidence when she is nervous.

Flora settled into her new life in rural Essex right away, but in a cruel twist of fate she fell seriously ill again soon after – and Mike feared his time with Flora would be cut heartbreakingly short.

She had developed a life-threatening form of anaemia in which the immune system turns on the red blood cells, and she needed an urgent blood transfusion.

“They said that had it been left a few more hours she would have died,” explained Mike. “She was in the specialist centre for 10 days, which was hard. I really didn’t expect her to pull through, but she did – she’s a fighter.”

Flora returned home, and in the past six months she and Mike have developed an unbreakable bond that’s clear for anyone to see.

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Whether it’s spending time outside in the garden, going for a walk in the countryside surrounding their home, visiting relatives up and down the country or relaxing on the sofa, Flora is rarely away from Mike’s side.

“Recently I’ve been doing a lot of work in the garden so sometimes we spend all day out in there together and she follows me around and helps me with digging in the vegetable patch,” he said. “She’ll come and sit down right in front of me. She follows me around when I’m doing housework and sits in front of the vacuum and so on.

“She’s brought so much to my life. I’m smiling and laughing all day long, really, because she’s a real little character. She is a tinker; when we’re out for walks I do have to watch very carefully as she’s a real scavenger.

Flora takes a break with Mike on one of the walks through the countryside close to their home.

“And she’s always getting in amongst the bushes in the garden and coming out covered in twigs. She’s like a mischievous child; she always makes me laugh like that. Then she looks at me with those big brown eyes and thinks she can get away with it – it’s not supposed to work, but it does.”

“She’s very inquisitive, very knowing and very intelligent; she’s a clever little girl. I can take her most places, she’s so well behaved. She is absolutely gorgeous, she just makes me happy”, added Mike.

She’s brought so much to my life. I’m smiling and laughing all day long, really, because she’s a real little character." Mike Elliston

As she was during her time at Blue Cross, Flora remains wary around other dogs. We’re not sure why, but our Behaviour Team continues to work with Mike to help her overcome this, as we do for any pet we rehome.

“Flora is very good with people, but not so good with other dogs. I’ve been back to the centre to learn a distraction technique. It works to a certain extent and when another dog approaches I distract her, either with her favourite teddy or a treat.

"And, actually, I tend to take her out for walks when there are not many other dogs around. She loves a late night walk anyway.”

Flora playing out in her garden

Flora’s toy Teddy was given to her by Blue Cross to help her feel more confident, especially around other dogs, and she doesn’t leave the house without him.

“She takes him on the walk and runs along with him in her mouth. Sometimes we’re walking along and she stops and looks at me, and I say: ‘Do you want little Ted?’ And she jumps up and takes him and carries on with her walk.”

Flora and Mike will always be grateful to Blue Cross for bringing them together, and they travel back to the centre in Ipswich every month for a visit. Flora is especially fond of Animal Welfare Assistant Susie Winship, who fostered her for the duration of her time at Blue Cross to spare her the added stress of being in kennels.

Flora lounges on the sofa next to Mike
Flora relaxes on the sofa with Mike after a walk.

​​​​​Mike said: “I’m so grateful Blue Cross gave her another chance in life and she loves going back to the centre to see everyone. She dragged me straight through the door last time we went. She loves Susie; her tail just doesn’t stop wagging when she sees her.”

The feeling is mutual, said Susie. “Flora had a lovely character from the moment she arrived. Her tail was always wagging, she was very affectionate from the very start – she never faltered even with all she’d been through.

“It was very hard to say goodbye to Flora but it’s so heartwarming to see her in such a lovely home and so happy. “We love her visits – she does a lap around the office to say hello to all her old friends, tail wagging and getting loads of fuss!

Mike, who is now preparing to spend his first Christmas with Flora and plans to “spoil her rotten”, added: “I’m very very lucky; she’s the perfect companion.”

Flora sits on an armchair in her home

— Page last updated 1/12/2017