HE’S just a friendly little Kelpie pup with lovely brown eyes, but he is set to make a huge difference.
Twelve-week-old Hawkesbury Finley is already showing interest in sheep, and according to Kelpie breeders Anthony Attard and Jenny Sant, he is a very special pup.
The couple from Hawkesbury Working Kelpie Stud, Prunevale, are donating Finley to be auctioned at the Sydney Royal Show to raise funds for Friendly Faces Helping Hands Foundation.
This foundation aims to link rural people to health services across the country, and came about due to the determination and devotion of founder and CEO Kelly Foran.
The long journey to this wonderful creation began in 2002 when Kelly was diagnosed with a massive brain tumour while pregnant with her first child.
She was rushed to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney for an emergency caesarean and to have the tumour removed, but she then found out she would have to undergo steroid treatment to reduce the tumour.
Two weeks later Kelly’s son Jake was born via a caesarean, weighing a whopping 12.5 pounds.
“They didn’t have scales that would fit him,” she said.
Kelly said Jake was born with a hole in the lung, hyper insulin anaemia, jaundice and could not drink or suck unaided. Kelly said at that time he was the only baby born in Australia with hyper insulin anaemia.
After three weeks, Kelly and her husband David were finally able to take Jake home, but their battles were only beginning.
The massive doses of steroids did not shrink Kelly’s tumour, and she returned two months later to have surgery. It was then Kelly was told her blood sugar levels were critically high and the surgery could not go ahead until they were under control.
After learning to inject herself with insulin four times a day, Kelly’s blood sugar levels were back to normal and she faced 16 hours of surgery.
She awoke from the surgery with a slight stroke in her right side. After three weeks in intensive care and a week in the neurology ward, she finally went home.
“I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk,” she said. “I was a commodity trader before this. I was a thinker, and then I was reduced back to not being able to talk. I couldn’t even count.”
Kelly said she began reducing the amount of steroids she was taking, but then was found to have meningitis on the brain.
She underwent another six-hour operation, but the worst part for her was being away from her baby, who had to be left at home with David’s parents.
“Not having my baby was pretty hard,” she said.
Kelly also had muscular dystrophy and went through a long and hard nine months of learning to walk again.
“It was slow but it was good. I got to be with my little man,” she said.
She said they made the move to Toobeah in Queensland and were just getting on top of life again when tragedy struck.
“One day I was laying Jake down to change his nappy when I saw his eye looked weird, like a cat’s eye. I could see a blood vessel right at the back of his eye,” she said.
Kelly said she took Jake to the optometrist.
“The day they said “your son has a tumour”, I just lost it,” she said.
Two days later Jake’s right eye was removed. Thankfully, the cancer had not spread to his other eye.
Kelly said despite the tough times they endured, there were still moments of joy, such as when she found out she was pregnant a second time, despite being told she was sterile from the steroids.
“That to me was amazing and exciting,” she said.
Their baby girl Layne was born in 2004, also with hyper insulin anaemia, which she got over in about 10 hours.
Kelly said she received so much support from friends and family, but that she found it tough navigating her way through the health system.
Kelly said she began Friendly Faces Helping Hands to help rural people find information about health services, as well as accommodation, parking and so on while in cities for medical treatment.
“We link people to health services across Australia,” she said. “We try to make it less daunting. We hold people’s hands.”
Kelly said it began as a website, but has grown to include a 24-hour hotline as well as hosting empowerment days, which have been held in Queensland, NSW and Victoria in the past five years. Friendly Faces Helping Hands has 50 volunteers across the country.
Kelly has also been invited to speak at a number of events.
It was at a Agricultural Societies Council of NSW dinner in November last year that Anthony and Jenny first heard Kelly’s story.
“It was heartbreaking,” Jenny said. “We decided to donate a pup, with the proceeds to go to Friendly Faces Helping Hands.”
Jenny said she had a similar experience when her brother Joe was waiting for a lung transplant.
“It was very close to my heart, because you get caught out and you don’t know where to stay. It’s very daunting to be in the city,” she said.
“I think it is great to have this for country people.”
Anthony and Jenny, who have been breeding Kelpies for 15 years, also train their dogs as well as doing demonstrations at field days and shows.
Finley is sired by Backnbark Buck the second and Hawkesbury Jessi.
“He’s a very friendly pup. He has a beautiful nature, and he wants to be with you,” Anthony said. “We hope the money he raises will help other people.”
Finley will be auctioned at the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW AGM at Sydney Olympic Park on March 18.