I decided to get Meric Belle when we lost a previous German Shepherd and it left a massive hole in the family. My dad wanted to call her Belle, but then my grandad Michael Eric passed away. We shortened his name to ‘Meric’ and she became Meric Belle.
Meric was my first puppy and she was forever biting everyone’s ankles. Then my sister Ellie moved out and she was a bit sad not have Meric there all the time, so she went back to the kennels where we got Meric. They had a couple of dogs that they had planned to show at Crufts, but apparently Robin was too big! It turned out Meric Belle and Robin had the same dad and different mums, so they’re half brother and sister. Ellie saw Robin and he melted her heart – she didn’t even ask her boyfriend before taking Robin home!
Since then they’ve grown up together, had Christmas together, gone camping and got up to all sorts of mischief. It’s a beautiful thing that has brought us closer as a family. We’re quite an active bunch anyway, so I’ll just say to Ellie, “Shall we go and walk the dogs?” These dogs can walk up to eight miles so it’s great to go and find a woodland walk. Our dogs just make everything special. Whenever it's my birthday, she always wants to open my presents!
Meric Belle has been my shadow during lockdown, and really helped reset me whenever it all got too much
I was obviously pretty upset when the Paralympics got postponed due to Covid-19, because I was where I wanted to be, training-wise; I was getting really strong, in a really good rhythm. But in general I’m in a group of athletes who embraced lockdown and turned it into a positive. I left home and went to boarding school at 14 and haven’t had more than two weeks at home since then, so I took the opportunity to move in with my parents. It’s been so nice to spend six months of quality family time with them. Plus, I was able to keep training in my dad’s gym.
Meric Belle has been my shadow during lockdown, and really helped reset me whenever it all got too much. I’ll be working on something at the computer and she’ll just look up at me and we’ll go for a walk. She just wants to be near me – she’s always there for a cuddle with totally unconditional love. And if she really wants to get your attention, she’ll find something of yours, parade it in front of you and then run off!
When they set the Alsatians on us on SAS: Who Dares Wins, I thought 'well I’ve got two bigger German Shepherds at home!'
These past two years have been a whirlwind of amazing opportunities. Strictly was life-changing in many ways. It was great going from being really athletic to being a girly girl with lots of fake eye lashes and glitz and glamour and did great things for my body confidence.
And then with SAS: Who Dares Wins it was back to full-on athlete mode. The one thing an athlete is taught from a young age is: whatever’s going on at home, it cannot be there on the start line. So I found it quite easy on SAS to say: “Suck it up, Buttercup, and get on with it!”
When they set the Alsatians on us on SAS: Who Dares Wins, I thought, “Well, I’ve got two bigger German Shepherds at home!” I had so much to draw on and it gave me a bit of confidence to do something outside of my sport. I was running down cliff faces and had Ant Middleton pushing me out of helicopters into the sea; it challenged me more than ever before.
I would love to bring home the gold next year in Tokyo
I can’t wait to get back to a really solid schedule of training with my coach. Hopefully the race schedule will start up next year, and I would love to bring home the gold next year in Tokyo. After five years of hard work, that would be amazing. Beyond that, I’d like to do a PhD in Psychology and Behaviour Change, and this year would love to buy my first house. I like having these things outside of training to keep me happy and motivated.
Whether I'm training or doing a TV show, I love thinking, “Oh, I can’t wait to get home and see Meric Belle for a big hairy cuddle!” Nobody loves me more than Meric Belle. I’ve never seen a human react to anyone the way she reacts when she sees me, whether I’ve been away for a couple of days or a number of weeks.
We got Keeva in November after a very tough few months in lockdown. Both my son and I suffer from heart problems, and Keeva really helped us to stay positive during the uncertainty of last year.
Keeva has really helped us to stay positive
Dogs were already a part of our family, as we have two Chihuahuas as well as Keeva. We adore them but they’re getting old and can’t walk far anymore. That just makes training Keeva the puppy all the more exciting. Taking her out for fresh air has kept us going and brought us closer together, and we have so many funny stories we can’t wait to share with our wider family when we can see them again.
Keeva is an Irish name which means bold and beautiful. It reminds me of my other son and his young family. They live in Ireland, so I haven’t seen them in a while, but they’re always in my thoughts.
Luna is a very bouncy, barking-mad bundle of joy. I suffer from anxiety quite badly. Luna is my support and my comfort. She makes me smile with her antics, and having her around makes me go outside. When I walk with Luna, it relaxes me, improves my mood and my health. When she senses I'm upset – or even if I cough or stub my toe – she comes running, jumps up to me and licks my face to make sure I'm okay.
When I look at Luna, I feel so much love and happiness, my heart is full
She is a very quirky dog, as most Doodles are. She likes to sleep upside down a lot, she dashes around the house and jumps from sofa to sofa in wild excitement. She barks at animals on the telly even when they are cartoon ones. She will often bounce down the road on her back legs like a kangaroo, she wants to say hello to everyone and everything. She is incredibly nosy and watch people if they are painting their fence or gardening. She is loyal and loving. When I look at Luna, I feel so much love and happiness, my heart is full.
Our dog is a two-year-old Cocker Spaniel called Harry. He loves to be pampered, and will happily sit and let you groom him for hours at a time!
Harry is the first dog we’ve had in our family. We got him after my gran died, hoping that he would be a positive presence in our lives and give us something to focus on – and that’s exactly what he’s done. He keeps my mum company while we’re all at work, and is always so fun to be around. He really has transformed our lives.
He loves to be pampered
Despite being generally very easygoing, he can get stroppy when he wants to, and enjoys barking at strangers as they pass the house. I’m pretty sure he thinks it’s his castle, and that he’s protecting us! He has lots of little quirks, like running around in circles whenever someone he loves comes to the door, or bringing us treats – usually a dog biscuit – when we’ve been away for a while.
Harry loves to sleep on my parents’ bed, and even has his own spot on the sofa. He truly is our pampered pooch, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
My husband and I used to manage a private residence. It was a Tudor farmhouse set in almost 30 acres. We started working there when our dog Rocky was just 12 weeks old. At first, he would chase birds, squirrels and bunnies around the lawns, but on one particular occasion he actually followed a rabbit all the way into its warren. There I was, out in the pouring rain searching all over for him, only to see him clamber out of the rabbit hole like something out of Alice in Wonderland!
Rocky lives for adventure. He used to make it his mission to save the cockerels from foxes, who he would chase away from his feathery friends. Once, he even managed to pry a bird straight out of a fox’s mouth.
Rocky lives for adventure
Of course, Rocky is also extremely protective of his human companions. Last year, we were awoken really early one cold February morning by the sound of Rocky barking. We woke up and told him to stop, but within a moment he was at it again. Something didn’t feel right as this really wasn’t like him, so my husband got up and looked through the curtains. He realised the barn door was ajar, so I grabbed the phone and rang the police – it turns out we had intruders. Without Rocky to wake us up, who knows what could have happened that night.
In March we were made redundant and had to move back to our property in Wales. Losing my job and my ties to the cottage has been really hard for me, but thankfully, I have Rocky to keep me company and take me on long, relaxing walks along the beachfront.
Bramble is the most incredible dog in every sense. She has done TV and film work, performed in plays on stage, has achieved the highest level in agility class, was crowned a winner in dancing at Crufts and last but certainly not least, has made a huge difference to my life.
I suffer from depression and PTSD, and because of that I sometimes have dissociative episodes. When I do, Bramble will lie on my chest and lick my face, which can help stop the episodes from getting any worse. She is also trained as a hearing dog for my sister, who is deaf, and can alert her to noises, help her to cross the road and even bring her items.
She always stays positive
I’m a dog trainer and behaviourist and Bramble works with me as a ‘stooge dog’, which involves helping in the rehabilitation of anxious dogs and puppies. Her brilliant personality has helped build confidence in so many others. She also works with people who have severe dog phobias and has visited primary, secondary and special education schools to educate them about her fellow four-legged friends.
Recently, Bramble has been a bit poorly and is unable to do everything she normally loves – but she always stays positive, and makes the most of the things she can still do, like going for walks and snuggling on the sofa. She truly is an incredible dog.