FIVE WOMEN who had planned a staycation in Connemara are being hailed as heroes by animal lovers for putting their trip on hold to rescue an abandoned dog.
Like thousands of others before them, Izzy, Cassie, Maeve, Julie and Jackie had set off on a day trip to the picturesque Letterfrack, home to the Diamond Hill walking trail and Kylemore Abbey-- but they didn't reach their destination.
Instead, travelling through the deserted rural Galway roads, they noticed a dog.
Left all alone, lying on the side of the road at the entrance to a car park in the blistering heat.
Realising something was wrong, the girls stopped the car and went to help the collie, and were brought to tears when they saw the state he had been left in: "Totally emaciated, weak, dehydrated, scared and totally ravenous."
They soothed him, picked him up and brought him to the safety of the car where they immediately turned around and headed back home.
Galway's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA) soon got a call from the heartbroken tourists, and an inspector came to meet them and the collie-- now named Clifford-- in Galway city.
Clifford the collie, a bag of bones and with barely enough energy to stand, was rushed to a vet for emergency treatment, and spent a week there, slowly regaining his strength before he was well enough to join other rescued dogs in Heathlawn.
"It was so obvious to see the extent of the cruelty and neglect inflicted upon him", a spokesperson for the GSPCA wrote on Facebook.
"It’s clear to see he has never been truly loved or cared for, as he has no understanding of us wanting to show him love and affection.
"He is still nervous,especially around people he has never met before, so we are taking things nice and slowly with him."
"We cannot express enough our utter disgust and contempt to the person who allowed Clifford to come so close to starvation as he did."
"Clifford didn’t walk to where he was found as he was in no physical condition to do so", the GSPCA continued.
"Nobody else saw him walking along the roads that day in that area,so it is most likely that at some stage earlier that morning,Clifford was driven to this car park area and left.... To die."
"But along came five wonderful,young ladies... who without a doubt are the only reason Clifford is alive today."
Praising the tourists "who were so looking forward to exploring the hills of Connemara but who didn’t hesitate for a second in abandoning their plans to help get Clifford back to Galway City and to us", the animal charity urged Izzy, Cassie, Maeve, Julie and Jackie to "take a bow and we hope you know what an amazing group of young ladies you truly are".
"We salute you all for your empathy and kindness and for not ignoring an animal in need.
"Walk proud knowing that your actions that day, have changed Clifford's life for ever."
You can keep up with Clifford's story, and the stories of the GSPCA's other rescued animals, via their Facebook page here.