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Waterford man says he would live in a tent rather than give up on dog who ‘saved’ his life

John believes his German Shepherd Micah “saved his life” after she alerted him to his heart issues

John Kelly and his dog Micah.

John Kelly and his dogs Max and Micah.


John Kelly and his German Shepherd Micah.

Maeve McTaggartSunday World

A Waterford man has vowed he would sooner “live in a tent” than give up on the dog who he says saved his life.

John Kelly has been told his German Shepherd Micah can no longer live at his council-owned home as she is a restricted breed.

However, John has insisted he is “not giving up on her”.

Waterford City and County Council have told John he must re-home Micah but he is doing all he can to keep the “gentle” dog.

The Kilmacthomas native spoke to from the hospital, where he is awaiting an angiogram of his heart.

It is the stress of the situation that has brought him there, he says.

John’s three-year-old dog Micah – who he describes as “a family member” – was the one who first alerted him to his heart issues last year.

John, believing the pain he was feeling was related to a decades-old car crash injury, recalled how Micah, “started whining and pushing into my chest one night, pushing and pushing with her paws.

"I must have fallen asleep on the couch, and when I woke up from Micah still pushing me into the chest, the pain was different. I knew something was wrong.”


John went to hospital, where he had “a widow-maker heart attack” shortly after arriving.

"I don’t think I’d have survived without her,” he says. “She saved my life.”

His heart function sat at just 15% of its full capacity, with an ICD defibrillator fitted to keep it pumping.

Shortly after his heart attack, John was offered a council house in his local town, where he then learned his two German Shepherds would have to go.

“It broke my heart,” he recalls, describing how he rehomed 10-month-old Max and his adored pet Micah.

John Kelly and his dogs Max and Micah.

“She was too stuck on me,” he said, revealing she wouldn’t eat and couldn’t fully warm to her new owners.

"I took her back,” John explained. “I told all the residents in the area, all the locals, asking them and letting them know that I would be bringing her home.

"No one had any issue. I am a responsible dog-owner and an animal lover, I follow the rules for keeping a restricted breed.

"I have her microchipped, I have a secure back garden and have a collar on her, I have her on a tight lead and have her muzzled whenever I walk her in a public place.”

John – who runs an animal welfare group on social media – says there was never any complaints about his dog until antisocial behaviour began to increase in his area.

John Kelly and his German Shepherd Micah.

John had his windscreen smashed a few months ago, and said concerns about drug-dealing and loud parties in the area prompted him to have a doorbell camera installed.

After that, he believes he has been the target of “intimidation,” as “silly complaints” about his dog were made to the council and later, the ISPCA.

John says that despite having a companionship letter from his GP, he has been told by the council that Micah has to go.

“She needs me as much as I need her,” he explained, describing how he was rushed to Cork University Hospital last weekend after receiving “worrying” ECG results.

Again, it was Micah’s concern that set off alarm bells for John.

"I was with my dad having a cup of tea when Micah started pushing her head into me and whinging,” he said, admitting he thought “surely” the same problem couldn’t be happening again.

"My dad was taking her on a walk, but she wouldn’t move from the driveway. She wouldn’t go without me.

"It was as if she was telling him that she needs to stay close to me.”

John has been in hospital since, having been moved to Waterford University Hospital after urgent concerns about his health were raised on Saturday.

He is waiting for an angiogram, and perhaps further stents in his heart.

"It is stress-related,” John said. “It is the stress of not knowing what to do, I am not giving up on her. She is part of the family and I will not back down.

"I would leave my home before I leave her. I would live in a tent before I leave that dog.”

A petition to support John currently has over 600 signatures.

A spokesperson for Waterford County Council told

"While Waterford City and County Council cannot comment on individual cases, the keeping of restricted breeds is strictly prohibited by the terms of any Tenancy Agreement, which all tenants must sign and is also contained within the Tenants Handbook.”

They added: "Those breeds listed in Control of Dogs (Restriction of Certain Dogs) Regulations 1998 are strictly prohibited and include American Pit Bull Terrier, English Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Mastiff, Ban dog (cross between American Pit Bull Terrier and Mastiff), Dobermann Pinscher, German Shepherd (Alsatian), Japanese Akita/ American Akita, Japanese Tosa, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Cross-breeds of these dogs or crosses of these dogs with any other breed are also banned.”

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