Book success for cave-dwelling dog rescuer from the Borders

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It’s a long way from Jedburgh to sharing a Spanish cave house with 12 rescue dogs, but that’s the adventure described in a new book.

A Butterfly in December is the debut book by former Jedburgh Grammar School pupil and ex-journalistic contributor to The Southern, Megan Johnstone-Fairbairn.

Born in Edinburgh in 1981, Megan grew up in Jedburgh. After dabbling in journalism, she spent a short spell at Abertay University in Dundee, before she says she “accidentally” moved to Spain in April 2005, where she still resides.

“Initially I just intended to visit my parents for the summer, but ended up falling in love – with a Spaniard and the country – and staying,” Megan told us.

“As for the dogs, I originally rescued Shiloh in 2005 – she’s the scruff I sent you a photo of and is still going strong – and the others have just been poor little abandoned souls I’ve found wandering the streets and countryside.

“I keep saying I won’t rescue any more, but I can’t ignore the ones who are really suffering. Fortunately, the strays wandering the streets are few and far between, nowadays.

“The last one I rescued was at the end of March, and she’s called Sally. She was a bag of bones, her skin was flaking off, her eyes were so infected she could barely see, and she was so emaciated that she could barely support herself on her back legs.

“It turned out she has a horrible disease called leishmaniosis, so had been thrown out by her owners. Four months later, she’s a different dog.”

Megan, who makes a living teaching Spanish, as well as organising food and music events, was originally living in the southern Spanish region of Almeria, but now resides in Granada.

“I moved to north-east Granada province three-and-a-half years ago, which is known as Granada’s lake district and must be one of the most beautiful places in the world.

“We’re surrounded by turquoise lakes, huge mountains and Granada city itself is only an hour’s drive from my house.

“So how did a girl from Jedburgh end up living in a cave house in the south of Spain with 12 rescue dogs? I ask myself this frequently!

“All the way through school, I was convinced I would be the next Kate Adie. I then grew up and realised that I’m a complete wimp who faints at the sight of blood, so would never cut it in a war zone.

“Instead, I turned my attention to rescuing and caring for the many stray dogs here in Spain. Fortunately, over the past 10 years, there has been a huge leap forward in animal welfare and education here, so that’s just great.

“My lifestyle certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s incredibly hard work, but my dogs, most of whom are 10 and older now, have been worth it.”

Megan says the inspiration for her book came from real life: “The best thing about it is that there was really no inspiration needed. Everything that happens in the book actually happened to me and my family.

“I just sat down one day and decided that my life has been far too bizarre, unlucky and funny not to write it all down.”

Megan is aiming for the sequel to a Butterfly in December to be released this December and says she hopes it receives as positive a reaction as her first book .

“I’m so stunned by how well my wee book has done so far, and by all the amazing reviews it’s received.

“ To publish a novel has always been one of my main ambitions, and the fact that people are enjoying it and getting a good laugh is amazing.”

Megan, who is currently four months pregnant with her first child, admits she seldom get the chance to return to the Borders, due to having so many dogs.

“However, one of my closest friends, Louise, is getting married in Kelso next May, so I’ll definitely be over for that and I can’t wait.

“ Being pregnant has made me realise how much I miss home, so I would imagine that within the next four or five years, once the hairy bairn numbers diminish, I’ll probably head back to Scotland for good.”