An animal-lover from Suffolk says her life-changing adventure caring for stray dogs in South America has inspired a passion to travel the world helping abandoned pets.

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Melissa Ilston, 21, of Saxmundham, has recently returned from five weeks’ working with the Peru Street Dogs charity on the edge of the Amazon rainforest nurturing poorly pooches back to health.

After a 39-hour journey to the Peruvian city of Puerto Madonado, Miss Ilston was left in charge of the charity’s collection of stray dogs, which she cared for amid searing heat and basic facilities.

Rising each morning at 6am in the basic shack provided for her accommodation, the aspiring animal health worker,would feed her canine companions, take them for walks and provide medication to those in need.

Sadly, three of the 11 dogs under her care either escaped or needed to be put down, posing difficult decisions for the young animal-lover.

“It was really difficult at times and sad when the dogs didn’t make it but I’m quite proud of myself for doing it because I’d never been on holiday by myself, let alone to a country that far away,” she said.

“I think I’ve got the bug for travelling now and I’d like to go all around the world helping out at other animal rescue centres.”

Miss Ilston, who works with her father’s IT company MelBek, and has volunteered with the RSPCA rescue shelter in Martlesham, is planning her next foreign visit to work with Pepi’s Rescue in Spain later this year.

This time, however, she has promised Amber, her three-year-old cavalier King Charles spaniel, she won’t be gone for quite so long.

“She was so excited when I came back – I’ve never had a welcome like it,” Miss Ilston said.

Visit www.perustreetdogs.co.uk for information.

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