Belfast Telegraph

New home for Alsatian left in limbo by death of owner Stephen McGarrell

By Brett Campbell

A loyal dog who frantically attempted to save her master's life has found a new home following a heartbreaking appeal from her owner's elderly mother.

Stephen McGarrell (47) dropped dead after suffering a heart attack while out walking his beloved Alsatian Ziva at lunchtime on October 2.

His devastated mum Sheila (72) said the entire family, who have "a lot of love" for Ziva, were delighted after securing a new home for her yesterday.

"Ziva has found a new home and it's a good home, we are all really grateful," she said.

"She was such a great friend to Stephen and they were inseparable - they went everywhere together and she always sat in the front seat beside him when he was driving.

"He loved her, she was his life."

The father-of-two had let four-year-old Ziva off her lead at Cranagh Bridge, a beauty spot near Aghagallon where he walked every day, just before he collapsed.

The distressed dog ran on to the road to attract attention and led two men to find Stephen lying in the grass - they contacted police as she circled his body and cried.

A neighbour had been caring for the dog until Sheila, who suffers from arthritis, found a new owner.

"A lot of people contacted us but we wanted to be sure she went to a suitable home, to someone who could give her the attention she deserves," she said.

The grieving mother said no-one in the family was able to devote enough time to properly care for Ziva, but she also described the agony the family feel when they think about the dog who reminds them so vividly of Stephen.

"We have the option of seeing her, but at the minute we don't want to - it's just too painful," said Sheila.

Stephen's daughter Louise (24) and son James (19) are too busy to care for Ziva, but Sheila said the constant reminder of their father would be too much.

"That dog loves them both and they love her - it's a relationship, Ziva knows them - but it hurts too much," she added. "Maybe some day we'll be able to see her again, but not yet - it's too soon."

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