Thursday 19 July 2018

This Irish woman recounts her unlikely friendship with Meghan Markle as a dogwalker in Toronto

How a desperate need to make money abroad had me walking into the life of a British royal, writes Sarah Blake Knox

Meghan Markle with her dogs Guy and Bogart. Picture: Instagram
Meghan Markle with her dogs Guy and Bogart. Picture: Instagram
Meghan Markle with her dogs Guy and Bogart. Picture: Instagram
Britain's Prince Harry (L), his US fiancee Meghan Markle (C), and Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, attend a service of commemoration and thanksgiving to mark Anzac Day in Westminster Abbey in London on April 25, 2018
Sarah Rafferty with co-star Meghan Markle in Suits
Britain's Prince Harry and his girlfriend actress Markle watch the wheelchair tennis event during the Invictus Games in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
USA. Meghan Markle as Rachel Zane in Suits
Meghan Markle
Suits you: Meghan dons a wedding dress in Suits
Meghan in her 'husband shirt'

Sarah Blake Knox

It was 2013 and I had just moved to the Big Smoke of Toronto.

Having spent a fair chunk of my twenties going from unpaid internships to waiting tables, to more unpaid internships, I decided it was time to move abroad.

However, after nearly a month in the city I was no closer to a dream job in TV.

So I set myself a goal; find other work in a week or spend my last few toonies on a flight home.

Britain's Prince Harry and his girlfriend actress Markle watch the wheelchair tennis event during the Invictus Games in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
Britain's Prince Harry and his girlfriend actress Markle watch the wheelchair tennis event during the Invictus Games in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

It was in this stressful week, that a friend suggested I give dog walking a go. After having lived off French fries for four weeks, I sorely needed exercise.

As a bonus, I loved both dogs and money. I handed in my resume the following day.

‘A Leg Up’, was a dog walking service which provided an extravagant range of services including training classes, doggy day care and puppy visits. Over six months, I would visit over 50 different dogs, as well as a dozen or so cats and one flatulent iguana.

I spent the rest of that summer and autumn working as a dog walker. It was tough going at times. I often had people shout at me as many of the dogs I walked seemed to have an insatiable desire to run out into traffic. I received the odd nip; shih tzus proved particularly keen on this habit. Another memorable moment was when I went on a date, only to discover a massive dog vomit stain on my pants afterwards. Reader, he did not call me again.

On the other side, it was a really fun job. I got to explore a new city, got to nosey through strangers’ homes and could not have asked for nicer co-workers. There weren’t the stresses that come with most jobs like hitting targets or looming deadlines. As long as I brought those goofy furballs back home with wagging tails, I was the ‘good girl’ who had done her job right.

Within a few weeks, I already had my favourite clients.

Sarah Rafferty with co-star Meghan Markle in Suits
Sarah Rafferty with co-star Meghan Markle in Suits

One of whom was a lovable character called Bogart. Much like his namesake, Bogart was very charming and a real ladies’ man. All the bitches loved him. 

It was only after a few weeks, that I was first notified that Bogart’s owner was famous and I immediately knew that was not to be sniffed at.

Unbeknownst to me, by 2013, Meghan Markle was already a big deal. Suits was in its third season by then and had given Meghan her big break.

I had not heard of it. So when I was told that I would be Meghan Markle’s dog walker, I wasn’t that excited.

However, once I mentioned her name to some of my Canadian friends, they all had the same reaction; fuming jealousy. In person, Meghan was nothing like I expected.

There have been reams of articles written about how much of a mystery she remains, and interviews with family members lambasting her.

Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle with her dogs Guy and Bogart. Picture: Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Image: Instagram/MeghanMarkle
Image: Instagram/MeghanMarkle
Image: Instagram/MeghanMarkle
Rory McIlroy and Meghan Markle. Picture: Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Image: Instagram/MeghanMarkle
Image: Instagram/MeghanMarkle
Image: Instagram/MeghanMarkle
Image: Instagram/MeghanMarkle
Image: Instagram/MeghanMarkle
Image: Instagram/MeghanMarkle
Image: Instagram/MeghanMarkle
Image: Instagram/MeghanMarkle
Image: Instagram/MeghanMarkle

But in our interactions I found her open and down to earth, warm with a dry sense of humour.

She was always extremely friendly when I arrived to collect Bogart and would welcome me into the house.

This stood out for me as the majority of owners wouldn’t even say hello. Meghan was different; she was one of the few people to treat me like, well, a human being.

When I found out last year that she was going out with Prince Harry, I went hysterical.

This was the closest connection I will probably ever have to the royal family.

I was delighted but not surprised to hear that one of their connections was over their love of dogs.

As most know, the British royal family is obsessed with pups. Last month, a pall fell over Buckingham Palace when Willow, the Queen’s last remaining corgi died after a battle with cancer.

Queen Elizabeth has had 30 corgis; Willow was the 14th generation descended from a bitch named Susan, a gift to the then Princess Elizabeth on her 18th birthday in 1944. The British monarch still has two dogs — corgi-dachshund crosses — named Vulcan and Candy.

The family dogs are according to Vogue and Tatler “the hardest members of the royal family to win over” as they have a reputation of being pernickety. During their engagement announcement Harry told reporters that Meghan immediately clicked with the pooches.

“For the last 33 years, I’ve been barked at. This one walks in, and absolutely nothing!” he said. “Just wagging tails.”

I really hope Bogart and his beagle friend Guy, Meghan’s other dog, get a part in the wedding and see their beloved Meghan and Harry commit to each other in the celebration of ‘muttrimony’.

Also, Guy has had a ruff time of late, having broken two of his legs last year and this may be the pick-me-up that he sorely needs.

Weddings are a time for celebration and cute displays of affection. What is cuter than a dog in a tuxedo?

The answer: nothing.

Online Editors

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