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.
Bruno was a rescue dog from a family who couldn't give him the love and time he needed. He was born with only one eye – he doesn't let that hold him back though, and he can run as fast as any other dog. He's wary of strangers and new environments, but once he gains your trust, he's the sweetest, most lovable dog I know.
He loves to play games like hide-and-seek and chase. And he loves to learn new tricks, too. He loves to crunch on all fruits and vegetables. As soon as hears the vegetable drawer in the fridge open, he dashes to get a treat!
He's the sweetest, most lovable dog I know
The most amazing thing about him is that if you spill or drop something edible in the kitchen, you just need to shout "clean up team". No matter where he is in the house or garden, he will come dashing in to find you and will lick it up immediately. If he can't see it straight away, just point and he will find it.
He is the most amazing dog I have ever met and my family and I would be lost without him.
Charlie came into our lives unexpectedly, after a text came through from a family member who knew how upset I was after losing my dog Bella. Lockdown was tough enough and without my sidekick, I was struggling.
Cute and cheeky Charlie
A change of circumstances meant Charlie faced the prospect of going back to the kennels, which was unideal seeing as he’d been through rescue centre twice already. He came for a visit one Friday night, just for a trial run – and he hasn't left since!
Initially we didn’t feel ready for another dog, but as soon as we saw him, we knew instantly that cute and cheeky Charlie was meant to be a part of our family. He’s so full of love and character, and such a happy dog.
Skye is the best thing to ever come into my life. I have suffered with depression since I was 14, I am now 28 but the past four years with her have been a game changer.
Because of my dog, I wake up with a smile on my face every day. She understands when I'm down, comes and gives me a comforting paw and then gives me all of the loose socks around the house. As its socks that make her the happiest, I assume she thinks they will make me happy too. Along with her beaming and infectious smile, they’re enough to turn even the hardest person into a melted puddle.
Skye has changed my life
Skye has changed my perspective so much that I'm able to see the positive side to life nowadays. I can see the simple things that make a dog happy and that has changed the way I think about things. I'm now a happy person who enjoys going out and socializing. I went through periods where I wouldn't leave the house for weeks on end, struggling to deal with my thoughts. Having Skye has given me the strength to be able to leave the house and also engage with people.
She doesn't allow me to avoid people as she is the most sociable dog anyone has ever seen. She loves people so much that it’s rubbed off onto me. Skye has done more for me than I will ever be able to express in words. She is everything to me. Every moment I get to spend with such a beautiful creature is a moment cherished.
We rescued Piper from Bosnia. It took months of stress and heartache to get her and we really thought she was never going to get here.
Since she arrived the day before my birthday (perhaps that was fate) she has brought so much joy into our lives. She's so much fun, so cheeky and compassionate. We could never imagine life without her.
She's too clever for her own good, or ours more to the point!
She's too clever for her own good, or ours more to the point! She's learnt so much since she has been with us. She didn't know how to sit, but now she can sit pretty, as well as roll over and play dead. The list goes on and she absolutely loves training and learning.
"Find it" is her favourite game. Well, almost. I think her real favourite is playing victim and being chased around the house. We always know when she wants to play this – we get a slap from both paws on the backside, then it's game on. I may be very biased, but she's the most amazing puppy in the world!
Ellie has been with us since she was nine weeks old. She was an RSPCA rescue dog. She is a Staffie Cross, the smallest of five puppies who we fell in love with on first seeing. She isn’t a pet to us, she is our family member.
She is our family member
She has helped me personally through many difficult times — on bad days after losing my precious dad, and when I was diagnosed with breast cancer she never left my side from start to finish of my treatment. She understands our every thought and makes us laugh every day. We always say that she doesn’t think she is a dog!
She has many medical problems herself to overcome but we have always been there for her, like she has us. Life would just not be the same without her.