A former teacher is celebrating the publication of her second book which was inspired by a Ukrainian street dog who helped her through her battle with cancer.

Fiona Curlew, 60, from Musselburgh, was heartbroken when her beloved canine companion Dan died at the age of 14 after spending his last three years enjoying walks in the Honest Toun.

She said: “He was saved from being squashed by a car as a stray pup by my daughter and her boyfriend who ran in front of it to get him and brought him home. We called him Dan after the song ‘Danny Boy’ which had a Celtic connection and we were living abroad.”

Although she did not know exactly what breed Dan was, he looked like a Jack Russell/Parson Russell terrier. Fiona, who was teaching at the international school in Kiev at the time, said: “Dan lived with me in six countries: Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia, England, Portugal and Scotland.”

It was when Fiona returned home she was diagnosed with oral cancer after a visit to the dentist. She is now five years clear but the result of the treatment is that her saliva glands no longer produce saliva and it makes talking for long periods difficult.

During that difficult time Dan was a great comfort to her as she explained: “He saved my life because he was utterly devoted to me and was miserable without me. I swore that I would hang on for him and make sure he went first. It gave me another reason to fight the cancer.”

After being unable to return to the job she loved, she drew on her experiences to write her thriller To Retribution, about a trio of young journalists battling to spread the truth against a military regime which is trying to censor them.

Fiona used her first-hand experience of teaching in Eastern Europe during the break-up of the Soviet Union and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine to create a futuristic world where security forces rule by fear and re-education camps handle the troublemakers.

Her second book ‘Dan Knew’ is a fictionalised account of her travels told through the eyes of Dan who died a year ago after he jumped off Fiona’s bed where he slept and shattered his hip.

“He loved his walks in Musselburgh which started at the harbour, then went along the beach, across the river, on the coastal trail, and to the lagoons. I was heartbroken when he died and writing his story has kept him with me, there by my side,” she added.

Fiona had trained to become a teacher as a mature student in her early thirties and spent 15 years teaching at international schools.

She returned to Britain after her daughter graduated from university in Estonia and wanted to pursue a career in law.

She continues to enjoy walks with her Scottish rescue dogs Jake, a 13-year-old black Labrador who was Dan’s pal, and 18-month-old Springer Spaniel Brockie.

‘Dan Knew’ is available on Amazon and Fiona is now writing her third book about a couple of street kids in Kiev who fall foul of the mafia.