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TV show on canine charity close to star’s heart

Around IrelandBy Eugene Masterson
Andrea and her dog Dash who helped save her
Andrea and her dog Dash who helped save her

TV star Andrea Hayes is the perfect fit to present a new series about dogs being rescued – as her own pet dog once tried to save her life when she collapsed at home.

The TV3 star suffers from a number of conditions which cause chronic pain and during her first massive attack she was literally floored and could not move.

Andrea has a young daughter, Brooke, who was four at the time of the attack, which was before she was diagnosed.

Her husband David was away at the time, but also in the house was her 11-year-old Labrador, Dash.

“I was calling on my daughter to get out of bed and I was saying ‘Brooke help me, I will give you chocolate’,” she recalls.

“She was four at the time, but she didn’t understand and my dog Dash kept licking my face, and trying to push me.

“He was trying to help me get up and even save me. He’s a fantastic dog and I think animals really feel your pain.”

Andrea is now on medication and recently released a book, Pain-free Life: My Journey to Wellness.

She is well known to TV3 viewers for presenting Animal A&E and filling in on Midday, but her new show, Dog Tales, is a labour of love for her.

Vogue with Andrea doing publicity shoot for skydive

The 37-year-old spent three months working to become a trainer with Dogs Trust, which has a centre near Finglas in north Dublin and caters for 200 dogs.

One of the dogs Andrea initially fell in love with was a Shih Tzu called Skittles, who was rescued from a puppy breeding farm.

Sunday World columnist Vogue Williams visited the centre and ended up using Skittles for promotional pictures to publicise her upcoming charity skydive for Dogs Trust.

“It was one of the biggest seizures this year and they took over 30 dogs while I was actually working there,” explains Andrea.

“Unfortunately her body was in a bad way, these mothers are just constantly breeding. She was a gorgeous little thing and I kind of fell in love with her.

“She was actually the first dog on my first day as a canine carer and I saw her transformation.”

“She wasn’t even used to contact with people . She was almost robotic in her way, but her coat came back beautiful.

“She met loads of other friends and some of her other friends got adopted before her, so I was feeling very sorry for her.

“Vogue was doing a parachute to raise money for Dogs Trust and Skittles was chosen.

“Thanks to the promotional pictures one family saw them and fell in love with her and she’s now living in a lovely home.”

Founded in 1891 in the UK, Dogs Trust is the largest dog welfare charity in the UK and Ireland.

 “They really have all the facilities to really care for the rehabilitation and the rehoming of dogs alone, so they have their own vet suite, they have their own kennels, they are quite an impressive outfit,” Andrea stresses.

“The main thing for me is Dogs Trust believe no healthy dog should ever be destroyed.

Vogue, Andrea and Skittles

“They believe every dog should have a chance to lead a healthy life so therefore they don’t put down any dogs.

“They keep them for the rest of their lives and they’ve got dogs there that may be perceived to be breeds that just won’t be rehomed because maybe they have a bit history, and they might have dogs there that are very sick.

“It’s an incredible place to work. I wanted to get my hands dirty and I was fearful of some of the dogs, particularly the bull breeds, the restricted breeds and any dogs that need certain restrictions and need to have muzzles.

“Certain types of dogs I had a fear of and I wanted to really look at the rehabilitation of an animal, to see if any animal can be rehabilitated.”

Another dog Andrea fell in love with was a Jack Russell called Alex, who was abandoned after being tied a lamppost right outside the centre.

“Dogs Trust is open 24/7, I did the night shift myself when somebody brought a dog over at 12 o’clock at night,” she notes. 

“You wouldn’t believe it. I just thought ‘they can’t have people working here 24/7’, but there’s three houses on site and when you’re a canine carer sometimes you get the overnight shift because there’s so many dogs that are sick.”

Dog Tales is on TV3 on Fridays at 8.30pm