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Kent celebrities and their pets

PUBLISHED: 19:50 16 January 2016 | UPDATED: 19:50 16 January 2016

Dame Kelly loves her alpacas

Dame Kelly loves her alpacas

Manu Palomeque

Three famous faces from Kent talk about their passion and dedication to their pets and reveal a deep-seated love and affection for their furry friends

DJ Dave Cash and Mr BeeselEYVeteran DJ Dave Cash positively beams from ear to ear when discussing his little dog Mr Beeseley. The Jack Russell has undoubtedly brought a huge dose of fun and joy into the lives of Dave and wife Sara since he unexpectedly joined them at their Hollingbourne home three years ago.

The 12-year-old dog is central to most aspects of their lives and accompanies the couple to the BBC Radio Kent studios in Tunbridge Wells for Dave’s country music show every Sunday night.

Mr Beeseley is also the subject of a children’s book written by Sara and is set to enjoy an increasingly busy public life and digital presence, thanks to the engagement of a personal agent.

The pampered pooch spends a happy existence with Dave and Sara at their home on a private estate near Leeds Castle. It’s all a far cry from this little dog’s less-than-perfect start in life. Dave explains: “He was abandoned by his original owner and ended up in a dog rescue centre in Florida. My wife’s sister (Becky) became Mr Beeseley’s new owner or ‘mum.’

“Sadly, Becky was diagnosed with cancer and when Sara went over to visit her, when Becky became worse and could no longer walk him, the one thing she asked was if we could look after Mr Beeseley and make sure he would be alright.

“By this time Sara had fallen in love with the little dog and wondered what she could do, then Becky sadly died. She found out that the quarantine rules in the UK were going to be relaxed and so he became the second dog to step off the plane from the US to the UK without having to be quarantined. Mr Beeseley and I have become friends and we now have a perfect relationship, but it took us a while,” he jokes, adding that his dog definitely prefers female company.

Dave’s late sister-in-law’s other wish was for him and Sara to get married, which they did on a beach in Florida, with Mr Beeseley as best ‘man’. After the loss of Becky, having the dog in their lives provides a comfort for Sara and a special kind of connection to her sister.

The broadcaster’s career spans more than half a century, having been a pirate radio DJ in the 1960s, one of the first to present on BBC Radio 1 and a popular personality at Capital Radio for more than 20 years. He enjoyed huge success alongside the late Kenny Everett on the Kenny and Cash show.

Dave is now very happy playing his favourite hits on his nostalgic Saturday night chart show as well as country music on a Sunday night for BBC Radio Kent and has done so for three years.

He admits he only allows Mr Beeseley to join him at the microphone for his Sunday evening programme because there are fewer people walking past the studio window for the dog to bark at. Regular listeners to the show have been known to wait outside the studio door to meet Dave’s famous pet after coming off air.

Family friend and now Mr Beeseley’s agent, Ian Hutchinson, has been brought on board to help with the little dog’s website (www.mrbeeseleysuperdog.com), his growing public life (he has his own Beeseley branded vehicles to transport him to events) and the publicity of Sara’s children’s book, The Amazing adventures of Mr Beeseley Superdog.

The story is aimed at children aged four to eight and it was Becky’s wish before she died to create a dog character with magical powers who could help children tackle bullying issues.

The book, which is Beeseley’s story about coming over from America and trying to fit into English society, explores the theme of accents and features a colourful collection of canine characters, The Beeseley bunch.They are based on real-life dogs, some of whom belong to Dave’s regular radio show listeners and the dogs of family friends, most notably Ian’s Dalmatians, who are the mischief makers in the book and known as Two Spots.

Sara hopes to find a publisher for the book as soon as she has four more books lined up, each tackling different social problems.

When he isn’t in the studio Mr Beeseley can be found in his garden idyll chasing squirrels, rabbits and foxes. He also enjoys being taken on his favourite Kentish walks beside Leeds castle and the house or snoozing on his owners’ bed.

The couple’s utter devotion to Mr Beeseley is endearing but this dog has not always lived in the lap of luxury and has brought with him many good things: companionship, an additional career direction for Sara and help in finding happiness after a family bereavement.

Mr Beeseley’s 5 favourite things

1 Treat: Chicken munchie strips and beef jerky

2 Game: Catch the skunk

3 Garden activity: Chasing squirrels

4 Place to sleep: Dave and Sara’s bed

5 Person: Sara – ‘he’s a ladies’ dog’

Athlete Dame Kelly Holmes and her Alpacas

Of the many benefits that Dame Kelly Holmes enjoyed following her historic two gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games, one of the more prosaic yet practical was the gift of a ride-on lawnmower from a local Kent supplier. Little did she know then quite where her newly-acquired piece of agricultural machinery would lead her.

She explains: “I was fortunate enough to buy a house after my Golds. I had lived in Hildenborough before, but I moved and the new property had a field at the front and a field at the back. It was ideal for privacy but then I realised the grass needed cutting, and I was lucky enough to get a ride-on mower from a company in Sevenoaks.

“To start with, it was really quite exciting. I’d go round the fields with my headset on and listen to my music and ride round in circles which was good fun and actually quite therapeutic.

“However, after a while I thought, ‘hang on, I’m wasting three hours of my life doing this every weekend’, so I decided I needed something else to help.”

And it was while out on a run in the rural West Kent village that she stumbled across the answer to her gardening challenge.

She adds: “I was running up Riding Lane and there was a field with all these weird-looking things looking over the fence. I had seen llamas before but when I saw these other animals I thought I had to stop and ask what they were and the answer was alpacas.

“When I got home all I could think about was the alpacas. So I went back and asked if any were for sale and ended up buying two.”

The animals duly arrived but were not an immediate success, preferring to occupy just the corner of the field without venturing any further.

Dame Kelly says: “They were very aloof at first and I really hoped they would come down to me so I could feed them. However, after speaking with another farmer who owns hundreds of them in Hawkhurst, he explained they are pack animals and prefer living in a group. So I went to see the farmer with the aim of buying just another two but came away with another four.”

Several years on and the animals - Polo, Liquorice, Toffee, Fudge, Crème Caramel and Truffle (the Olympian has a very sweet tooth!) – are now very much part of the furniture and doing a pretty good job in keeping the grass and hedges under control.

It seems the alpacas’ needs are basic enough, as Dame Kelly explains: “In the summer you don’t really need to feed them as the grass is always growing and that’s enough, but they also have a special feed which has got different vitamins and minerals in it. In the winter they eat hay and they sleep on straw in the open shed I have for them in the field. To be honest they only go in there if it’s snowing - they are out in all weathers.”

So do they make good pets? The former Army sergeant says: “In reality, they don’t do an awful lot but in general they are very good, especially with my nieces and nephews who love them.

“I sometimes look at them out of the window and can’t decide whether their lives are brilliant because they love munching all day or just a bit boring.

“One of their favourite things is if I get the hosepipe out – ban permitting. They will come straight down and literally put their heads into the spray as they can get quite hot with their coats. They absolutely love the water. They will kneel down in front of me so they can get a good soaking and then they will turn around so I can get their bums and sides.

“I don’t have time to go down the route of breeding them so I thought I’d get all boys. When I first got them they were especially cute and we would have them sheared in the summer as their coats are so thick.”

She says the alpacas have different characters, adding that Liquorice has become rather boisterous. “Perhaps with them all being boys he’s trying to be the Alpha male, he has become slightly confrontational and they say that sometimes you will get one who tries to be the boss.”

Alpacas originate from South America and are known for their thick coats and although Dame Kelly says she won’t personally use their fleeces for anything in the past, she has given them to people who spin wool.

Fudge and Liquorice are the first of the six Dame Kelly took home – Fudge being her favourite. “Fudge is quite alert, he knows his name and he is lovely looking, but him and Toffee are the ones that won’t come up to you – they will approach you for their food but they are quite shy and they won’t let you stroke them.

“Truffle and Polo will always eat out of your hand and Crème Caramel will too - they’re probably the friendliest.”

Dame Kelly has had a lifelong love for animals, even if her army and athletics career meant it wasn’t always easy to fit in.

“We have always had dogs in our family growing up. My mum used to have a dog, who used to be one of my first training partners when I was a kid and he used to come running with me. Later, although it was more difficult being in the army and running I did have two rescue dogs, Whitney and Barney,” she says.

She freely admits that being so busy with her many commitments including her local success story, Café 1809, which has just celebrated its first anniversary, it is quite often her dad Mick, who steps in to do a lot of the alpacas’ day-to-day care.

Her year-old 80-seater café in Hildenborough has already seen huge success having scooped two awards, namely the 2014 Tonbridge Civic Society Award and 2015 Kent Independent Traders Hospitality Award.

“I’ve lived in Hildenborough all my life and I saw there was nothing here, this café used to be a sweet shop where I had a paper round when I was 13. I always wanted to own a building and I eventually got this about three and a half years ago and I wanted to turn it into a meeting hub.

“It’s become a destination and a venue and what’s great about it is that we have such a mix of age groups and people who come here - mums and babies, business people, OAPS, cyclists, everyone and it’s such a great atmosphere. We still have a lot to work on, we have only been open a year and it’s quite a big entity. We employ 23 people.”

The entrepreneur is also dedicated to her charity the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, which has helped more than 200,000 young and disadvantaged people in the past eight years.

Dame Kelly says: “I am driven, I am very creative and I work hard. I am motivated to be successful in my own life but also to have a bit of impact on others too.”

More than a decade on from the pinnacle of her sporting career, Dame Kelly’s life remains in the fast lane both here and abroad. Therefore, on returning home and observing her alpacas quietly grazing in their field must be a relaxing and reassuring sight – all wrapped up in wool.

Kelly’s alpacas’ 5 favourite things

1 Treat: The occasional carrot

2 Weather: Drizzly rain

3 Past time: Grass munching

4 Game: Being hosed down with water or standing in buckets of water to cool themselves

5 Person: Kelly’s dad, Mick

Tracey Crouch MP and her cats

When Tracey Crouch MP gives birth to her first child this month she is hoping her two beloved pet cats will take kindly to the new addition to the household.

The MP for Chatham and Aylesford says she has ‘no idea’ how her black cats, Mungo and Basil, who are brothers and have lived with her for nearly three years, will react when the baby makes an appearance, but she hopes their noses won’t be put out of joint – too much.

She explains: “I have been hearing contradictory experiences from others, for example some are saying that their previously serene cats have turned into absolute monsters, others are saying that their cats have become incredibly protective.

“Ideally I would quite like the protective option, the loving ‘big brothers.’ At the moment Mungo sits on my bump like he’s about to hatch an egg, which is quite funny to see,” The Minister for Sport adds.

Mungo and Basil, who will be five next month in March, have lived with Tracey and partner Steve in their Aylesford abode since they were rehomed by the couple and she believes that the cats’ personalities were very much formed by their shaky start to life.

Tracey says: “They were born in the home and nobody wanted them. When I first got them they weren’t very social cats.

Mungo is a little bit stupid but very loving and he’ll come and sit on your lap and let you stroke him. Basil is less sociable, he gets frightened quite a lot and isn’t a lap cat at all but he is the hunter of the two.

“Mungo reminds me of a Labrador, he just has those qualities and an unending enthusiasm for everything. He doesn’t just like being stroked, he loves being stroked, he doesn’t just like his food, he loves it, he has complete total enthusiasm for everything.”

The busy MP relishes the rare time she has at home with her pet cats and is delighted by their antics such as play fighting and ‘doing adorably brotherly things’.

“One will get up from where he’s been lying on the sofa and the other will immediately sit down there instead and quite clearly annoy the other one when he comes back and realises his space has gone,” she laughs.

Tracey, who has always had cats in her life apart from when she was at university and during a period of time while living in rented accommodation. She has an unwavering affection for her two, even when recounting tales of how they have killed something and brought it in as a present.

“Birds are their speciality! They quite often bring in rats. The rats are normally dead, the mice, less so.”

In Tracey’s eyes however, cats are clearly the best pets to own. “They are so giving in terms of their love, they all have completely different personalities and they do such funny things. Certainly my two love sitting in boxes and bags. I’ll quite often be doing my weekend work and they’ll be fast asleep in a miniscule box. They just make me laugh - they are a very calming influence in our lives.”

Tracey explains that for her and Steve the cats bring a wonderful companionship and the bond they have with them is extremely strong.

“They bring some sort of stability, they are very much like children they need feeding times and patterns and things like that and they form an incredibly important part of our lives. I think they’re very special.”

Mungo and Basil do have one other favourite pastime: sleeping. In fact, Tracey says the pair are asleep for most of the time, their preferred spot being on the back of the sofa.

In the winter they love nothing more than laying in front of her lit wood-burning stove. As for treats, the cats are tempted by Dreamies biscuits and the odd leftover from dinner. But it’s licking the gravy off the plates after a Sunday roast which they savour the most.

The honoury president of the RSPCA Medway and former chair of the pet advisory committee is clearly devoted to the protection of her own animals but also to those in the wider community.

She is vehemently against fox hunting, whaling, the badger cull as well as testing on domestic animals, especially cats and dogs. Tracey is also passionate about pet ownership education.

She says: “I don’t think people realise how hard it is to own a pet and that’s one reason why the (rescue) homes are so full. But also, I don’t like the fact that black cats are often the last to go from rehoming centres. We have a national black cat day to remind people about them because sadly there’s quite a lot of research and evidence to suggest that the reason black cats are the last to go in the pecking order is because they are so difficult to photograph.

“I think anyone who’s owned a black cat knows they are really beautiful and they have really strong, individual personalities but there is no doubt they are harder to photograph. Nevertheless that shouldn’t be reason not to have a black cat.”

Evidently her own black cats, captured in quirky and amusing photographs on their own Facebook page, have attracted the attention of many with more than 300 ‘likes’. Tracey says that at one stage this was a higher number of ‘likes’ than her own official Facebook page received. However, she quickly points out that thankfully this is no longer the case.

Mungo and Basil’s 5 favourite things

1 Treat: Licking the gravy from plates

2 Toy: Cardboard box/bag

3 Place to sleep: Back of the sofa

4 Game: Chase the laser pen (more for Tracey and Steve’s amusement).

5 Person: Steve – he’s at home the most

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