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By SHELLEY TOPP

A female border collie who escaped death twice in Uruguay, including a broken back, is now enjoying North Canterbury life in her specialist canince wheelchair.

Chicha, aged 7, is owned by doctoral student Martin Garcia Cartagena who came to New Zealand 18 months ago to study community resilience in earthquakes, at Massey University in Palmerston North.

“She is pretty special,” he says. “I just couldn’t leave her behind.”

Martin, now based in Rangiora, first met Chicha at a hostel in Punta del Este in Uruguay.

“She was a street dog who turned up at the hostel very sick.”

The young pup was close to death, hiding under parked cars for shelter.

A young vet working at the hostel doing laundry work examined her but said she was dying and could not be saved.

Some hostel residents refused to accept the prognosis and began caring for the sweet-natured puppy, giving her fresh water to drink and food to eat.

Slowly, she returned to health, making many friends at the hostel. However, late that summer, she once again faced the prospect of life on the streets when the hostel closed.

Martin decided to adopt Chicha and took her to his home in La Paloma on Uruguay’s southeast coast.

She settled in well at her new forever home. Everything was going well until the summer of 2012, which brought the annual influx of tourists and their cars to La Paloma.

She was hit by a truck. The first vet to examine her told Martin she would have to be put down.

“She was in pretty bad shape,” he recalls.

But he wanted to give her every chance, so instead of ending her life, Chicha was sedated and with the help of Martin’s friends, she was taken to Montevideo, a three and a half hour drive, for a second opinion from Uruguay’s only canine veterinary neurosurgeon.

He had better news. Chicha’s back was broken, but with spinal surgery and the help of a special canine wheel chair she could still have a good life.

Chicha’s recovery was slow, requiring 24-hour nursing care for the first month.

Once again, his friends helped.

“We organised shifts to look after her.

“What you see today is not just about her and me.

“A huge network of kind-hearted people have helped us over the past four years.

“Having that support has been hugely important.”

After three months she got up and has not looked back since.

“She is pretty special, so resilient and wonderful to be around,” Martin says.

“I seriously can’t imagine what my life would be like without her.

“If anything, she has taught me to enjoy life. She is so happy all the time.”