When lifelong animal nut Paul O’Grady agreed to present his new programme (ITV1) he insisted a clause was inserted in his contract, writes Cathy Spencer.
Under no circumstances was he allowed to take home a dog.
For his latest show, Paul takes a look at the work that goes on at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in south London.
The comedian already has three rescue dogs on his Kent farm, not to mention 18 sheep, 12 pigs, two goats, “a load of ducks”, several chickens and four barn owls.
Anyone who watched his teatime chat show will know that when his dog Buster, who was featured on the evening programme, died in 2009 his anguish was so obvious he received letters of condolence from everyone from Roger Moore to Lauren Bacall.
So, though he had never been to Battersea before, he had an inkling of what might happen when you put a dog lover in with three floors of intensely loveable dogs – he described it as like putting an ex-drug addict in a cocaine factory.
When we see Paul arrive at the home there are so many cute dogs, looking up at the camera with their big dark eyes, that it is enough to make anyone want to head down to south London and snap up one of the loveable pooches.
The series follows individual dogs through what Paul calls their “Cinderella stories” – arriving downtrodden and sometimes abused.
Then they go through recovery and the search for a new owner to take them home.
One of the first stories we see is of a litter of gorgeous lurcher cross puppies who are brought in to the dog’s home by a pensioner in a small cat box.
It is hard to believe that he managed to fit the five dogs in the tiny box, and it is no wonder that they all look scared to come out into the open.
The pensioner who brought them in says they don’t like noise and says his daughter, who owns the puppies, has a voice like a ‘foghorn’ – sounds like a lovely lady, I think those pups have had a lucky escape.
One of the main stories was about Sparkle, a young Staffie who was found in a south London park next to a suitcase.
The poor pup had been nearly starved to death and it is clear to see that Paul is struggling to hold back the tears as he hears Sparkle’s story.
Even the vet says it is one of the worst cases of starvation he has seen and Sparkle is put on a fluid drip and given a meal.
You can’t help but agree with Paul when he shakes his head and says “we are supposed to be a nation of animal lovers.”
Battersea has around 450 dogs and 150 cats in its care at any one time and last year it took in 8,904 animals across three sites. Thankfully by the end of the programme it shows Sparkle fit and well after three weeks in the home, and he goes off into the sunset with new owners.
Paul also assists in the interview of DJ and presenter Neil Fox and his family, who adopt a young Jack Russell. It is great to see the look of happiness on Neil’s face as he watches his three children cuddling the little dog – and the youngsters unanimously agree to take the cute Jack Russell home.
The show’s a great advert for the work of Battersea in a similar vein to Animal Hospital, and is expected to run for seven editions. If, like me, you love a bit of ‘Ahhh TV’, then this will be right up your street.