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Thurso birthday boy's heartfelt help for homeless pets


By Will Clark

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Muireach Stephenson delivers pet food to the SSPCA centre at Balmore Centre to the delight of staff Christine Mackay and Mandy MacIntyre.
Muireach Stephenson delivers pet food to the SSPCA centre at Balmore Centre to the delight of staff Christine Mackay and Mandy MacIntyre.

ASK a boy what he wants for his fifth birthday and the most likely answer you would get is the latest superhero toy, electronic game or mini-scooter.

But when Muireach Stephenson invited his friends to his party, he didn’t want any presents, he just wanted to help the lives of animals which don’t have an owner as lucky as his cat Buster.

With the help of mum Kelly Miller, they raised £67 to go on a shopping spree to buy pet food for animals being cared for at the Balmore SSPCA centre, near Dounreay.

Thanks to the generosity shown by the Miller Academy pupil, homeless dogs and rabbits were also able to celebrate his birthday with a hearty meal of their own.

Kelly, (31), of Ormlie Road, Thurso is very proud of her son who wanted to help a good cause rather than think about getting lots of presents for himself. "We held a party at Thurso Youth Club where, instead of bringing gifts, Muireach only asked for donations," she said.

"Our family loves animals – my mother has a dog and we have a cat so we thought we would try and raise money for the local SSPCA centre.

"It was an idea between Muireach and me that we should raise money for a good cause and I am very proud of his generosity."

Instead of handing over a cheque, Muireach and his mum wanted to make sure their money would be spent on animals living in Caithness.

With the help of his great grandmother Dawn Milnes, who is secretary of Caithness and District SSPCA, they received a shopping list of dog and rabbit food which the centre required.

The family delivered the pet food on Sunday to grateful staff at Balmore, who showed them around the centre to show the work they do.

Balmore assistant manager Christine Mackay said donations from the public are vital to keep their work going in the far north and that they are lucky to have people like Muireach and Kelly supporting them.

"We receive no Government funding and on average we receive between £7000 to £9000 worth of donations in Caithness," she said.

"At the moment we are very busy as we have 10 dogs, seven cats and four rabbits looking for homes in the county and thanks to Muireach and his mum, we can ensure they have somewhere safe to stay."


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