Dog-loving Cats’ star is new Support Dogs’ patron

Dog lover Elaine Paige, recently announced as the new patron of Support Dogs, fondly remembers her former pet ,Tugger, and the day he memorably bit Des O’Connor’s nose live on TV.

“I was never allowed a dog when I was growing up, unfortunately, which is why I’ve got a bit of a penchant for dogs.  I always wanted a dog, and in fact I did have one once, a West Highland Terrier called Tugger.

I named him after a cat which not sure he appreciated; Rum Tum Tugger from Cats. Whenever I said to him: “Oh look, cats!’ he would go completely mad and he do this strange stop and look thing. Then he’d charge off and these poor cats would often take refuge under cars and things, and he’d get down and eye ball them. He had a thing about cats. I think it’s because he didn’t appreciate his name.

I tried to train him but he was he was very wilful and very stubborn so it was hard. I’d throw sticks for him and he’d run after it and just look at it and leave it; he’d never bring anything back!

Whenever I took him to the theatre – I think I was doing Anything Goes at the time – he would get in the car and be fine until we got near Soho close to the theatre. He hated going into the theatre because he knew that was the time when I couldn’t devote my attention to him, as he loved being the centre of attention.

His tail would drop and he would look miserable as sin.  He would know, and when we turned into Old Compton Street for the stage door he wouldn’t get out of the car, and he’d do that whole emotional blackmail thing on me. He’d get out of the car and stand on the pavement with his tail down.

He had all his toys, his blanket and his bed in the dressing room, and I’d go off and do the first act. When I came back in the interval he’d jump up at me and the door and go berserk in the dressing room as if I’d not seen him for years. Then when I went down for the second act he’d do the same thing. It was awful; I’m far too soft to have a dog! He was taken out for a walk in the interval, it wasn’t like he was mistreated or anything. He was absolutely mollycoddled, and could wrap me round his little finger …

When he was a cute puppy we went on the Des O’Connor and he sat on the sofa with Des to do the interview. He was sitting on my lap, as if I was doing a double act. Des asked me some question and then bent down to the dog and said something, and as he bent down the dog waited –  the timing was absolutely brilliant – and then went for his nose. It was as if it was rehearsed. It was the most brilliant timing, the funniest thing you’ve ever seen! He was quite a character and a bit of a diva!

I used to take Tugger to the Children’s Trust in Surrey, Tadworth Court at Christmas time. The little kiddies would see the dog and stroke and pat him and you would see the reaction how soothing it was, and how helpful. So that was my own experience of owning a dog. It was wonderful and I loved him so much.

You have a strong bond with a dog, and they do become like a member of the family. They are great companions. When I lost him it was just awful.

I’m thrilled to become a patron of the Support Dogs as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. Helping to raise the charity’s profile so it can help many more families affected by autism, epilepsy and disability is so important.

As a dog lover, I adore the fact that many of the dogs they train come from rescue centres. This means that some special dogs, who perhaps haven’t had the easiest of starts to life, get a second chance to truly shine. Unlike Tugger!”