Spaniel Millie's lifesaving op after wolfing down 149 garden pebbles
This is truly a "tail" with a happy ending - Millie the dog ate 149 decorative garden pebbles weighing three pounds in weight and survived.
The seven-year-old Springer Spaniel is now back to her old self after her life was saved in dramatic circumstances by vets who had to perform emergency surgery to prevent her "gravel pit" of a stomach from rupturing.
They believe Millie mistook the stones for treats.
Millie's owner Hilary Stewart (53), from Bendooragh near Ballymoney, said her pet started being sick, and after she felt the pebbles in her tummy rushed her for treatment.
Malcolm Faulkner of Riada Veterinary Clinic said he'd never before heard of a dog eating so many stones.
The battle to save the animal was of particular significance to him, as Millie is the mother of his own dog.
Hilary explained that as a pup Millie ate small bits of gravel from her driveway, but the dog took a fancy to the larger decorative stones in her garden when a seven-year-old relative visited.
"The child was out playing with Millie and another dog," she said.
"We only put the big pebbles down last summer and she was out playing with the dogs.
"She told my daughter she was 'throwing rocks at the dogs'.
"Then, in the morning, I let the dogs out but I happened to see Millie had been sick and had brought up about six stones and then wouldn't eat her breakfast.
"I felt her tummy and it was just like a gravel pit.
"I could feel all the stones and I just phoned the vet and they told me to bring her in straight away.
"They were going to give her an injection to try and make her sick, but I said she had been sick in the car and didn't bring any up.
"And then she started heaving again in the vets and he realised she couldn't do it and they said she needed an operation.
"They opened her tummy up and took an X-ray and happened to see one stuck in her bowels.
"It was very touch and go for a couple of days. I had to give her antibiotics and painkillers and take her back. She went in and out to the vets for about three weeks.
"Thankfully she has made a great recovery, but we have to keep a very close eye because if she does it again she'll not be as lucky."
Hilary added she thought with the little girl throwing the stones that the dog was enjoying the fun and eating them, and the child was so young she didn't realise what was happening.
She now checks Millie regularly to ensure she has not eaten any more.
"When I rub her tummy, thankfully there is no gravel pit any more."
Mr Faulkner added: "It was extremely unusual. I had never seen anything like that before, especially not that quantity of stones.
"You would maybe get the odd dog that would eat one or two stones and they would cause a complete obstruction but it was just the fact there were so many - 149 - over a short space of time.
"I think the child had fed the dog with stones as if they were treats. In this case I think the dog saw that as a game.
"The wee child was throwing the stones as if they were treats and then it just swallowed them."
He said the fact that the owner knew what had happened and got the dog to them straight away saved Millie's life as her stomach would have ruptured.
"We didn't take an X-ray at the start because what was wrong was self-explanatory but we took one later to double check no stones had passed further down the bowel and then there was one.
"All the stones apart from that one were in the stomach.
"Dogs can do this as part of their inquisitive nature, maybe just a habit they pick up as a pup and then they maybe continue it, but certainly it is a very dangerous hobby.
"I'm glad to see Millie is doing well because she is the mother of my dog Herbie here at home, so this case had extra significance for me."
He said, thankfully, Herbie did not eat stones - and he hoped Millie had given up on her unusual diet.