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Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs

Television presenter Paul O'Grady's lifelong love of animals has shaped his career and indeed, it has led to his most current role helping to rehome abandoned dogs. The Birkenhead-born entertainer is the host of Paul O'Grady: For the Love of Dogs, which is a moving documentary that publicises the good work of Battersea Dogs' Home.

During the show, O'Grady meets many dogs who are being cared for temporarily at the charity's three centres: London Battersea, the Brands Hatch Centre in Kent and the Old Windsor Centre in Berkshire. Thanks to the high profile of the show and its presenter, the publicity gives the dogs a better chance of finding permanent new homes.

He follows their progress over a period of several weeks, meeting potential new owners and in some cases, he sees the dogs successfully adopted and living happily with their new families.

The show is the ideal vehicle for O'Grady, thanks to his own love of all animals, particularly, of course, his love of dogs. The 62-year-old enjoyed a long and successful TV career before he won the hosting spot on his current show, which has run for six series since 2012.


Early career

After leaving school at 16, initially he worked for the Department of Health and Social Security in their Liverpool office as a clerical assistant. He had several other jobs in his youth, including bar work and clerical work at Liverpool Magistrates' Court.

However, at the age of 23 (having moved to London to work for Camden Social Services) O'Grady entered the world of showbusiness, putting together a drag act, after having worked in a number of gay bars, meeting drag artists and recognising his homosexuality.

His now famous character, Lily Savage, whom he described as "more cartoon than human", debuted on 7th October 1978 at The Black Cap - a bar in Camden. After many years performing on the gay circuit, including overseas tours to countries such as Finland and Israel, O'Grady finally achieved mainstream success.


Television breakthrough

He broke into TV when he appeared in ITV drama, The Bill, making several guest appearances as a police informant between 1988 and 1990 under his stage name, Paul Savage - his mother's maiden name. This led to further TV work, including Rik Mayall's comedy series, The New Statesman, on ITV.

He was narrator for the BBC2 series Life Swaps and had his own late-night TV show, Live from the Lilydrome, on Channel 4, followed by a stint presenting The Big Breakfast. He put his blossoming television career on ice to appear in a musical version of the drama series, Prisoner in Cell Block H, in London's West End in 1995.

During the show's run, he revealed he took his Shih Tzu puppy, Buster, to the theatre with him. O'Grady described him as a "smashing dog", who was fussed over by the theatre staff. Sadly, Buster died in 2009, after losing his battle with cancer.


Primetime TV

After returning to television, O'Grady hosted his own show, The Lily Savage Show, in 1998. He interviewed famous guests, including singing superstar Elton John. The BBC commissioned him to revive the game show, Blankety Blank, which was also a huge hit.

His success enabled him to move to a country house in Kent in 1999, where he opened a smallholding and took in various animals, including goats. By 2000, he was tired of appearing as Lily Savage and re-launched his career as himself.

He received the Television Personality of the Year Award 2002 and went on to present one of his most popular shows, The Paul O'Grady Show, from 2004 to 2005.

After surviving two heart attacks (in 2002 and 2006), he refused to let health fears slow down his career and he appeared in many other shows, including GMTV with Lorraine, Most Haunted Live, Death in Venice and more. His Friday night chat show, Paul O'Grady Live, ran from 2010 to 2012.


Love of dogs

O'Grady's well-documented love for dogs meant he had found his niche in 2012, when he was commissioned to present the first series of the aptly-titled, For the Love of Dogs. He has helped to rehome hundreds of dogs over the past six years by highlighting their plight and boosting the rescue's public profile.

O’Grady has taken in several dogs himself and they have often made TV appearances on his shows. His cairn terrier, Olga, often appeared on television with the star, who told viewers she was nicknamed "Ma Baker" because she bossed around his other pets!

He even launched his own production company, Olga TV, named after his dog, in 2005. Sadly, Olga died in April this year, at the age of 14. The heartbroken star revealed she had died in his arms and was buried in his orchard.

He was also devastated when his other 14-year-old dog, a Shih Tzu named Louis, died late last year, following a stroke. He said he was "never, ever getting a dog again" because of the heartache when you lose one.

However, O'Grady rescued Eddie, a Jack Russell crossed with a Chihuahua, from Battersea Dogs' Home. Eddie was the runt of the litter and had been hand-reared by a veterinary nurse at the shelter. Eddie had grown into a feisty little dog and O'Grady just couldn't resist him.

He has also taken in Dot the cow, Squealer the pig, Christine the sheep, various barn owls and other waifs and strays, who live at his Kent home.

Recently, the TV star has been filming For the Love of Dogs in India, where he has been publicising the plight of the 400,000 street dogs of Delhi and meeting the volunteers who care for them.

Animal rescue centres and kennels, such as Battersea Dogs' Home, need the best environment to keep their inhabitants safe and healthy. Coruba's range of animal rubber matting products are hygienic and add an extra layer of comfort and insulation to the floor in animals' living quarters. Please contact us for further information.

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