By Julie Hill
Things are hotting up on the great new show for dog lovers on UK television. The Underdog Show currently running hidden away on BBC2 on Tuesday evenings is presented by Julian Clary, and will hopefully do a lot of good for dogs. The show is now reaching its climax - with only three teams left. The remaining pairs who all have a shot at winning are Huey and high-spirited Casper, Julia and feisty Cookie, Selina and enthusiastic Chump.
Week five proved difficult for all the participants, with dogs expected to perform obedience tasks and ignore the tasty food distractions on offer. As might have been predicted all the dogs found the food irresistible. When Huey removed two of the plates, his partner Casper jumped on the single remaining plate which held a large slab of cheese, and made his displeasure very clear when he was removed from the cheese. Selina found her dog Chump was drawn to the food, while Staffie Cookie found something to bark at in the wings, which she would not leave alone. At the end of the night, it was Michal and Robson's turn to leave. Due to the fact that Michal has young children she does not have the time to devote to rehoming Robson - so the public has the opportunity to take this clever dog into their family.
Taking on a rescue dog is both rewarding and challenging, but as Theo, Kirsty and Clive have already found, rescue dogs can make great companions. In episode twelve of DogCast Radio you can discover more about the benefits of offering a home to a rescue dog. Even if you are not in a position to welcome a dog into your home, you can still help. You can sponsor a dog, and there are lots of practical ways to support dog charities - listen to out interview with Dogs Trust to find out how you could help.
The format of The Underdog Show is that eight celebrities have been paired up with rescue dogs, which they train and then compete against each other in a variety of events. How well the competitors fare is judged by dog experts Peter Purves, Kay Lawrence, and Annie Clayton. Each week a celebrity is eliminated from the show by being put to the public vote. The original idea of the show was that as each celebrity dog handler was voted off, the public would be able to adopt the dog leaving the show. So far this has not always been the case!
In the first week Theo Paphitis, who chose three year old Afghan Hound Claudia as his partner, attracted the least amount of votes, and had to leave the show. He couldn't bring himself to leave Claudia though, and she is now happily ensconced in the lap of luxury with Theo. In the second week it was Kirsty Gallacher's turn to bid the show farewell, and little Bruno, a very young Dachshund / Shih Tzu cross went with her.
Other celebrities taking part include Anton du Beke paired with Ginger a young red Collie cross, Clive Anderson who chose Albert a two year old terrier as his partner, and Huey Morgan who canine friend Casper a Jack Russell/ Collie Cross takes gleeful delight in ignoring almost all commands and doing just what he wants - which is usually to run off and explore the studio. Julia Sawalha is clearly smitten with her choice of dog Cookie a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, while Mishal Husain is usually top of the class with her rangy Tan and white crossbreed called Robson. The tallest dog in the competition, Chump a German Shepherd/Wolfhound crossbreed is handled by Selina Scott.
How well the dogs actually perform in competition is more or less irrelevant, as Casper's anarchical antics attract as many if not more votes as clever Robson. The real message of the show is that many dogs who could make wonderful companions are currently languishing in dogs' homes around the country, and indeed the world. All the dogs in the show were waiting in Dogs Trust shelters when they were chosen for the show. Without fail these dogs have shown themselves to be loving, affectionate creatures, who are surprisingly eager to give us fickle humans another chance.
It will be no surprise if instead of being offered for adoption by the public, the rescue dogs involved in the show all end up going home with the celebrities who have come to know and love them. This is the important thing that the program has highlighted - that every rescue dog waiting for his chance to be loved again has the potential to become just as wonderful a friend. All the dogs featured have made improvements in their training, and all have bonded with their handlers which has been joyous to watch. It has also been wonderful, in this age of endless reality television, with many celebrity reality shows on offer, to witness a program that actually has a worthwhile message, and will inspire many to consider choosing a rescue dog.
Alongside the main Underdog show, there is also a junior version - The Underdog Show on CBBC. There's nothing like getting them while they're young, and in this show children train rescue dogs and compete against one another. The message to watching children is clear - rescue dogs can be a lot of fun and make great family pets.
For more information check out the Dogs Trust site. Here's a warning though, don't set your heart on any of the dogs participating in The Underdog Show, I have a strong feeling they are all off to be the best friend of a celebrity!