A Balham dog owner has raised more that £400 for Blue Cross after asking for donations over gifts for 90th birthday

Widow Irena Slomnicka, who is almost completely blind, asked her friends to donate instead of giving her presents this year after the pet charity helped her to keep her much-loved Chihuahua, when her eye sight and mobility deteriorated.

The friends honoured Irena’s request and raised a total of £430 for the national pet charity.

Blue Cross provides veterinary treatment for Irena’s seven year old Chihuahua Maja at its hospital in Victoria, and since 2016 has also provided volunteer dog walkers who visit her home and help to walk her dog since Irena’s eye sight and mobility have declined.

Irena with said: “It’s getting difficult for me to take Maja out for a walk but the Blue Cross has provided me with a number of kind people who visit me and take Maja out.

“The charity also provides Maja with any medical treatment and make sure she stays healthy. Although I have friends and family who visit, Maja is my constant companion and brings such joy to my life and means I don’t get lonely. I don’t know where I would be without her.”

Irena’s daughter Barbara Clark brought the donation into the charity’s animal hospital in Victoria.

Mrs Clark said: “Blue Cross has helped my mother so much, from treating her much loved Chihuahua Maja to volunteers helping to come and walk the dog when she is not up to it.

“She’s had dogs for 40 years and Maja means the world to her and is such a special companion.

“We can’t thank the team at Blue Cross enough for all their help and support.”

Irena, who was born in Poland, moved to England in 1947 after surviving a Siberian concentration camp during the Second World War.

Her husband of nearly 50 years died in 1998.

Nick Badham, Manager at Blue Cross Victoria animal hospital, said: “We’re so touched by Irena’s kindness; it’s such a sweet and thoughtful idea.

“Pets really do make fantastic companions and are part of their family. They help us and change our lives in so many ways and depend entirely on us.

“Blue Cross is totally reliant on public donations, so support like this goes a long way in helping the thousands of sick, injured and homeless pets that come through our doors every year.

“My team and I would like to say a big thank you to Irena on their behalf.”

Blue Cross is a national charity which provides contribution-based veterinary treatment for owners who are in receipt of means-tested benefits. It also provides a range of services including rehoming, education and a pet bereavement support service which this year is marking its 25th anniversary.

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