Flashback to May 2008


Simon Cowell gave them a standing ovation. So did Amanda Holden, who was wearing a Union Jack dress.

Piers Morgan didn't. But he did clap and he did love the act.

That act was Kate and Gin who were taking the ITV television show Britain's Got Talent by storm back in May 2008.

That is, 16-year-old Kate Nicholas, from Norbury, near Whitchurch, and her dancing collie dog Gin, who were picked by the judges as just one of 40 semi-final acts taking part in a series of live semi finals, with just two acts going through to the finals from each.

Their semi was on Monday, May 26, when they were put through with dance act Signature to the live final of the competition the following Saturday with the chance of picking up £100,000 in prize money and an appearance at the Royal Variety Performance.

After their semi final performance, to the Scissor Sisters' hit I Don't Feel Like Dancing, Morgan said: "I think Gin is the most talented dog in the world."

Kate had grown up around dogs, with parents Nigel and Tina both having shown Welsh Terriers at Crufts, and sister Laura was training to be a vet.

But success had come at a price, as she revealed in one interview.

“The bullies called me Pedigree and every time I walked past, they would shout ‘woof’. I would be in tears but I knew that I had Gin to come home to.

“Everything I have given to her, she has given back to me. School was hard but I always had this dream of becoming a dog handler and opening my own dog school to train animals for film and television.

“I had texts from the same people who shouted ‘woof’ saying ‘wow, I didn’t realise how good Gin was. I didn’t realise you were going to be on the show. You were amazing’.”

Kate, an animal management student at Reaseheath College, near Nantwich, told our reporter at the time that she put in two hours every day training Gin, and more when there was a show coming up, on top of walking Gin for six miles daily.

She even took Gin to college with her once a week to use the sports hall to cram in some extra training.

In that week before the live Britain's Got Talent final, presented by Ant and Dec, Kate and Gin were only able to squeeze in one day's practice.

"To be here in the final is the biggest moment in both of our lives," said Kate in the VT shown before their live performance.

"I'm naturally a shy person but with Gin she gives me that confidence to just go on stage and go for it and not worry about the judges and the audience."

Their display that night was the first routine they had ever learned together, with what Kate described as some "surprising" elements to it.

Gin rolled, she span, she jumped, she danced on her hind legs, she weaved in and out of Kate's legs...

The pair had been early favourites to win the competition – it was the second series of BGT – but despite rave comments from the judges, they did not win.

The winner scooping the most votes was breakdancer George Sampson. The dancers of Signature were runners-up, and singer Andrew Johnson, third.

It was reported afterwards that Gin had almost been hit by a car shortly before the show. She and Kate had been outside Fountain Studios in Wembley when a motorist came within inches of hitting Gin.

Despite missing out on the top prize, Kate and Gin gained a measure of celebrity, being in the public eye for four years before Gin "retired."

And after several years of pantomime and other performances, and a book about dog training, Kate joined the Royal Army Veterinary Corps in the puppy development section, even doing an operational tour as a military working dog handler in Afghanistan.

“I joined the Army because I wanted to use my skills in a practical sense, rather than performing up and down the country,” she said.

But Kate did get a further taste of showbusiness though when she appeared in Animal Heroes, an ITV documentary series about the work of the corps.

Less happily while walking her dogs Ice, Dash, and Zoom in a field in Waberthwaite, Cumbria, in April 2020 they were attacked by four lurchers and in trying to save her dogs Kate was repeatedly bitten. Dash and Ice were seriously injured.

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