In a desperate, last ditch attempt to save their marriage, Laura Glanfield and her husband David went for counselling.
However, when David uttered the words: “I want Laura to stop bringing stray animals home” when asked what would salvage the relationship for him, Laura knew they had reached the point of no return.
Smiling ruefully, Laura explains: “I just told him I could not do that. I could never drive past an injured animal and do nothing.
“I realised we had reached a stalemate, and there was no going back from there.
“He hated animals and I loved them, so there was no middle ground.”
Laura, 44, who grew up in Fulwood, Preston, had a variety of pets as a child, from hedgehogs to rabbits, hamsters, fish, cats and dogs.
She was a pupil at the former St Cuthbert Mayne High School and left school at the age of 15 with eight O-levels and not a clue about what she wanted to do next.
“I hated school, and did not want to do anything academic,” Laura explains. “So I went to work for Thomas Cook travel agent and then in Manchester as an air stewardess.
“It was really good fun and on the back of that, I applied to work for Gulf Air and that’s how I ended up in the Middle East in 1996.”
Laura’s initial plan was to spend two years in the Middle East before returning to the UK.
However, 17 years on, she is still living in Dubai and has made a new life for herself in the country and loves it out there, although she and her two children still fly to Preston a few times a year to visit Laura’s mum Dee, who still lives in Fulwood.
Laura says: “There are a lot more opportunities in the Middle East than there are in the UK for work and setting up your own business.
“When I first went to Dubai, I worked as an air stewardess, but I only did that for a while and I did all sorts of things, from real estate to teaching.
“I ended up staying as I met my husband, then got married, had children and settled into life here.
“I have no plans to return to England, as there is still so much to do out here.”
Laura, who has a 10-year-old daughter Isabel, and a son Harry, five, was married to David for three years, and the couple divorced eight years ago when her daughter was two.
Laura, who lives near Mirdif, Dubai, says: “He was not an animal person at all. I loved animals and began rescuing them and bringing them into our home.
“It all started after I found a little black and white kitten on New Year’s Eve. I named her Eve and took her home and fed her up, and then found her a home.
“After discovering how easy and effective it was, I realised the animals of Dubai needed help, so I decided to go on providing it.”
Laura began taking in all sorts of waifs and strays, from cats and dogs to donkeys that had been hit by cars.
Laura was soon inundated with animals and loved it. But husband David didn’t.
Laura remembers: “One particular day, he drove into our drive, took one look at the number of puppies in the garden and he drove straight back out again.”
Laura’s animal businesses and the rescue sanctuary all began after she took her cocker spaniel Bertie for a haircut and was less than impressed with the results.
Chuckling, she recalls: “I had taken Bertie to a grooming place and the results were so bad, I thought, ‘I could do better myself’.
“It sowed the seeds of the idea, and I called my mum and told her to find a dog grooming course for me.
“She found one in Southport, so I came back to Preston and did the course before flying back to Dubai to set up a pet grooming company.
“Things escalated after that, and I started kennels and a cattery and then started rescuing animals again, and about five years ago, I set up the PoshPaws Animal Sanctuary in Sharjah, which is a non-profit venture, run by volunteers and animal lovers.”
Laura realised the attitude towards animals in Dubai was different from the UK, and there was a lot of animal neglect and cruelty. It was to tackle this that Laura came up with the idea of setting up a petting farm, basing the concept on the Wild Boar Park, near Chipping, which she loves visiting every time she returns to Preston.
She says: “There was nothing like it in Dubai and all there was was a not very good zoo, but it is getting better.
“Animal welfare in Dubai is not like in the UK, and there is a lot of cruelty.
“It all stems from ignorance and lack of education about animals, so I thought a petting farm would be a great way of educating people from a young age.
“Children are taught how to hold animals and care for them and we do school visits and birthday parties.
“They get the chance to learn about animals and, hopefully, develop a compassion for them.”
Laura now has more than 100 rescued animals including baboons, donkeys, ostrich, deer, emus, wallabies, ponies, ducks, rabbits, and a baby skunk.
Laura also has a parrot house filled with colourful birds, including parrots, macaws and cockatoos.
Laughing, Laura says: “My life is very much like the film We Bought A Zoo.
“And just like the film, everything is a learning curve and each time a new animal comes in, we have to research it and find out the best way to care for it.
“Dubai is not the best country for animals, as it can get as hot as 50 degrees.
“Funding is also a challenge and most of our funding comes from school trips where we ask the children to pay the equivalent of £2 and we also do birthday parties which we charge about £100 for.”
The huge variety of animals at PoshPaws Animal Sanctuary all have a tale behind them.
There’s the monkey with the funny leg who was taken in after other monkeys turned their back on him who has befriended a chicken and takes it to his nest and strokes his head.
Then there’s Arnie the armadillo who grew too big for his owner, the spotted deer with a broken leg and the baboon that got too boisterous for its owners.
Until recently, Laura also had a three-legged donkey called Wonkey, who was found on a road after being hit by a car. Laura had his mangled leg removed and Wonkey lived a happy life until having to be put to sleep because of old age.
Laura’s children are also animal lovers.
“They don’t really have a choice do they!” jokes Laura. “They both love helping out with the animals and Isabel is really into horses. Even though it can be very hard work with lots of challenges, I absolutely love what I do and it is my passion.
“I have never planned anything in my life and I am a firm believer in fate and this is what I was destined to do.”
Currently single, Laura says if she did meet someone new, it would have to be someone who likes animals.
She says: “They don’t have to be as obsessed by animals by I am, but they would definitely need to have an understanding of animals.
“But for now, I am perfectly happy with my children and my zoo!”