A BRUSH with death inspired a couple to take a remarkable journey across Europe prompting a book series.

The Northern Echo:

Esther Dingley and her partner Dan Colegate, from Durham, decided to experience van life following a horrific failed surgery.

In 2014, Mr Colegate was having an operation at the University Hospital of North Durham linked to a birth defect and contracted a life-threatening post-surgical infection.

At 3am, a fortnight away from their wedding day, the surgeon dropped a bombshell, and suggested that the family say ‘a proper goodbye’ just in case.

Four months on, lots of antibiotics and one cancelled wedding later, Mr Colegate recovered and the pair decided to make the life-changing decision to pack up and travel across Europe in a motor home.

In 2017, the couple crossed paths with a little ginger and white stray dog on the southern coast of Spain.

They found the cross breed dog sheltering from a storm and fell in love with her.

The pair were told shelters in the area were overrun with dogs and decided to keep the stray named Leela.

Ms Dingley said: "Someone else had found Leela but they couldn't keep her. It was awful there were lots of dogs some limping, some with three legs and some attacked by other dogs. We would of took them all if we could but decided there was room for three in our van."

The following week the pair took her to the vet to be chipped and vaccinated, and got far more than they bargained for.

Leela was pregnant with six puppies, already 40 – 45 days developed.

Despite the vet telling them that it was too late for a safe termination, she offered one anyway.

The pair objected to the proposal and committed to raising the puppies in their camper van.

Six puppies arrived a fortnight later and they were named George, Pati, Bella, Rose, Jess, and Teddy.

The pair committed to raising them and finding them good homes. Whilst Teddy and Jess found new homes with some family friends, Bella, George, Pati and Rose stayed and joined their travelling team for the next three years.

The five dogs had incredible adventures as they travelled through Europe, mostly in the campervan but sometimes house-sitting.

From the beautiful sandy beaches of Spain, to chasing butterflies through sunflower fields in rural France, to riding cable cars up into the snowy mountains of Switzerland, they toured the continent.

The dog's inspired Mr Colegate to write the first story, Awesome George Saves The Day as a gift to Ms Dingley when the puppies were just a few months old.

The pair have now produced five children's stories and a compilation about their travels with the dogs all with a heartwarming message, which the pair hope will touch both children and adults alike.

The Northern Echo:

The books are available online at amazon.co.uk/s?k=esther+dingley