A FAMILY of animal lovers have thanked vets who continued operating on their dog for 30 minutes in a burning building.

Firefighters ventilated the ground floor of Medivet in Eastwood so vets could finish an operation on three-year-old Alsatian Tilly as colleagues fought a fire that gutted the upstairs of the surgery last Monday.

Owner Mandy Friedberg, 50, whose family also keeps another Alsatian, a cat, ducks and chickens at their Rochford home, said: “It’s beyond the call of duty.

“We really appreciate them looking after Tilly. I’m sure if she could say thank you she would.”

Practice partner Rachael Buckwell was already a few minutes into the operation, which usually takes 45 minutes to an hour, when the fire, which started in a dishwasher upstairs, set off the smoke alarm.

Tilly would be at risk of infection if taken outside and the vets would have had to put her down rather than let her suffer in the fire – something Miss Buckwell, 27, did not even consider.

Vet Carla Cruz scrubbed in to speed up the op and nurse Maria Anderson stayed to help.

The vet-of-four-years said: “It was just natural instinct really. It didn’t even really cross my mind to leave.

“It was just a case of get it done as quickly as possible and get her to safety.”

A firefighter was posted on the door to warn them if it became unsafe and the crew brought in emergency lighting as at one point they faced switching the surgery’s electricity off, but the operation went without a hitch.

Miss Buckwell said: “The fire brigade were fantastic. They did everything they possibly could so they didn’t have to interrupt us.”

Mrs Friedberg’s son, Will Shelmerdine, 19, saw the breaking news of the fire on the Echo website and, knowing Tilly was being spayed at the surgery, called his mother in a panic.

Mrs Friedberg could not reach the surgery but Medivet’s head office reassured them Tilly was safe and they picked her up from the chain’s Hockley surgery later.

The family were unaware of the modest vets’ heroic efforts until the Echo got in touch.

Mrs Friedberg said: “If she had died I would have been devastated. She was a Christmas present. She’s massively important to the family.”