An escaped companion dog called Miss Lilly has been freed from the pound and reunited with a seven-year-old Warilla boy with special needs, after a rousing community fund-raising effort.
The little dog was returned to Jack Podesta on Tuesday afternoon, almost two weeks after she escaped and was impounded by local government authorities.
Jack's mum, Carol-Lee Carroll, founder of area food charity Great Illawarra Food Train, received a letter from Shellharbour City Council advising the Maltese terrier would be destroyed if she wasn't collected.
Unable to raise the $350 in required fees, the single mum took to social media seeking someone to adopt the dog so it wouldn't be destroyed.
"It was difficult enough not having her, but the guilt of her being put down would be too much to bear," Ms Carroll told the Mercury.
Jack has Down syndrome, a terminal heart condition and several other health complications; Miss Lilly is his trusted companion.
A supporter of Ms Carroll's charity efforts, Danielle Mansell, saw the appeal and instead launched a fund-raising effort so the dog would be returned to the family.
The pound fees grew bigger each day, owing to a $25 daily maintenance fee.
In all, the community raised more than $1000, covering the pound fees as well as the cost of desexing the dog in the hope it will curb her escape attempts.
As well, Dapto business Auzzie Home Maintenance, cleared part of the family's yard to allow for fencing to be installed, and Kenwalls agreed to provide more than $2000 worth of fencing, to be installed on Thursday. The fencing company made the offer after sales manager Michael Abreu, of Horsley, found his heavily pregnant wife Natalie Abreu in tears over Jack's situation.
"We've got animals as well - I can only imagine what Jack was going through," Mrs Abreu said.
"Being 36 weeks' pregnant doesn't help - hormones."
Ms Carroll collected the dog on Tuesday afternoon, surprising Jack when he came home from school.
In greeting, Jack clenched Miss Lilly's fur a little too tight, and placed his hand in her open mouth.
"She's the only dog that would take that without attacking him," Ms Carroll said.