Friday 23 March 2018

The secret life of Irish celebrities and their pets

Ireland's best known dogs feature in a photo exhibition to raise funds for the ISPCA. Our reporter meets the pooches and their owners

Kathryn Thomas and her puggles Peter and Poppy, 7 years.
Kathryn Thomas and her puggles Peter and Poppy, 7 years.
Roz Purcell and Miniature Jack Russell Wilko, 5 months
Kathryn Thomas and her puggles Peter and Poppy, 7 years.
Holly Carpenter and Jack Russell Toby
Vicki Notaro

Vicki Notaro

Do you ever wonder what your pets get up to when you're not at home, and if they have a whole secret doggy or cat life behind your back?

Well, that's the premise of the latest animated adventure from the humans behind 'Despicable Me', and to celebrate the release of 'The Secret Life Of Pets' in cinemas on June 24, Universal Pictures have organised an extra special  doggy-themed display in association with the ISPCA.

A photography exhibition starring some of Ireland's most well-known celebrity pets will be on display from today until June 28 in Filmbase, Temple Bar, Dublin, and at the end of the exhibit the photos will be auctioned off to aid the animal charity.

But famous or not, the celebrities taking part are just pet lovers at heart like anyone else - and perhaps as tempted as the rest of us to install a 'nanny-cam' to keep an eye on their furry friends when they're not home.

To celebrate the exhibit, we spoke to some of the famous faces taking part - Rozanna Purcell, Kathryn Thomas and Holly Carpenter - to find out all about their relationship with the canines in their lives.

Kathryn Thomas & puggles Peter and Poppy, age 7

Kathryn Thomas and her puggles Peter and Poppy, 7 years.

I was actually given Peter and Poppy. A friend of a friend of my parents bred beagles, and these guys just sort of appeared randomly - they're a beagle and pug cross - so they were giving them away. I went out to get one and there were about seven or eight in the litter, and I just couldn't choose. I didn't know if I wanted a dog or a bitch, and I was out there for about an hour when I felt like the poor woman might be about to turf me!

So I picked one and just said 'look, if there are any left when I come back to get her, let me know'. So when I did a few weeks later, the two of them had made really good friends and they were the last two left together - I couldn't separate them - so all of a sudden I had two pups.

God, I really wasn't prepared for it. We'd had cats as kids, but never dogs so I wasn't sure what to expect. But sure enough, the house was destroyed, skirting boards gone, Louboutins eaten and hair everywhere right from the start. But still, I'd never be without them, even though I'm on my 15th hoover in seven years.

Their names come from the fact that I just love human names for animals - we have a cat called Arthur too. And I know full well what they get up to when I'm not around, because Peter manages to walk around on his hind legs like a human and use his paw like a claw hook - he has the ability to destroy everything. You can't leave anything edible out on the counter, and as well as food he loves shoe heels, knickers and bras.

I trained the dogs myself, but quickly realised I'd left it all too late. I'm now that one woman in the park giving up on the shouting at them after a few minutes and just waiting for them to come back - or hiding behind a tree and pretending they're not mine!

I have become so besotted with them though. My friends are all having kids, and sharing pictures of them, while I'm posting pictures of the dogs. I love meeting dog people so I can show them years of dog photos and they won't mind. Peter and Poppy are special because they've always just been there, they know my mood and pick up on when I'm stressed.

Because I'm on the go so much they're very socialised, and great at being in and out of the car and hotels. When they see a suitcase, they know something is going on, and are either delighted to be coming with me on the road or depressed they're being left at home to be minded!"

Roz Purcell's Miniature Jack Russell Wilko, 5 months

Roz Purcell and Miniature Jack Russell Wilko, 5 months

When my sister Rachel was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia earlier this year, one of the things she was advised to do was to keep her stress levels down, and it was suggested to us that we get a dog. Rachel and I live together in Dublin, so it made sense because we love dogs and had wanted one for a while.

We chose to rescue a pup because there are so many dogs out there that need really good homes, and because I've done lots of work with animal charities, I always said I'd go to one when the time came to get my own dog.

We'd always really wanted a Jack Russell because we had one growing up and he was like a brother to us. They're so smart with really great personalities. Then when Pawsitivity in the City was on a few months ago, the organisers told me that they just got a litter of little Jack Russells in, and it was perfect timing. We wanted a boy for no reason really, other than we had the name picked. It turned out though that all the other pups died in that litter, so Wilko was the only survivor.

I feel like he's my child and I'm very protective of him. If someone didn't like him, or dogs in general, I would definitely judge them.

Having Wilko has helped Rachel so much because having a pet there really encourages you to go out every day walking. CML is a long term illness, but Rachel is very positive about it and has been reaching health milestones since her diagnosis in January. Wilko is such good company, so full of energy and always so happy which is contagious. It's the ultimate distraction and de-stresser.

We're toilet training him at the moment, and I won't lie, it's horrendous. But it will be worth it. Wilko's secret life seems to revolve around getting in to my knickers and sock drawer, sleeping in there and tearing everything apart.

Having a puppy means I'm not as free as I used to be in terms of popping away for the weekend or going on holiday, but our family have taken him to Tipperary recently and it worked out well. Still, I don't like leaving him. People are very receptive to him both in ordinary life and in work on shoots so I can take him pretty much everywhere with me. I struggle to remember what life was like BW - Before Wilko!"

Holly Carpenter's rescue dogs Toby, 2, and Gus, 5

Holly Carpenter and Jack Russell Toby

I got my first dog Molly when I was seven and she was a rescue, so my family have always tried to stick to the adopt, don't shop, mentality with pets. She set the tone, because she was such a great dog. Then we got Gus in 2011, and he was great as well.

We were thinking of getting a third when Molly was 12 and on her last legs because we didn't want Gus to be alone, so we decided to look at Dogs Trust and saw on Facebook that they'd rescued a litter of pups still covered in placenta. Dad went out for a look and came back having signed the papers.

When we first got Toby (pictured), I could hold him in one hand, but not anymore. He's still small and whenever we bring him out people stop us and say how gorgeous he is. He has a big personality and always takes on the biggest dogs in the park, like a mouse chasing an elephant.

Thousands of people watch my Snapchat videos of them nearly every day, so sometimes people recognise them first. Gus has also been the victim of body shaming on Snapchat - people give out whenever I give him treats because he's overweight. Toby is more of a showman for the camera, and has even been known to flare his gums and smile. I see Toby as my dog really, but my dad really loves him. Since my brother Ben and I have grown up, they're like the new versions of us - Toby is loud and attention-seeking like me, and Gus is laid back like Ben. But Toby doesn't like being separated from his big brother at all, so I tend to leave them together more than apart."

Irish Independent

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