Since rehoming her nine years ago, the previously ‘not that fussed about pets’ Eamonn has become as soft as butter when it comes to all things dog.
He even becomes emotional several times during our chat. The couple also admit they not only take Maggie to work with them, but they now only go on dog-friendly holidays, so they never have to be without her.
As ambassadors for the Dogs Trust, the pair joined forces for our Notebook magazine’s campaign with the charity, to prevent dog abandonment after lockdown.
The famous ‘A Dog Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas,’ has been changed to ‘Not Just For Lockdown,’ to make dog owners aware that their furry friends are expecting a forever home, not just to act as a distraction during Covid 19. And these two know all about the love a dog can bring to a family.
During our chat Maggie jumps up on Eamonn’s lap and licks him a lot as he tells her lovingly, ‘This is all about you! Our little celebrity dog!’ and the pair squeal in utter delight every single time little Maggie showers them with attention. They’re absolutely smitten.
Eamonn has even had a bronze life-size statue of her made in tribute. Their 18-year-old son Jack is also besotted with Maggie, and we’re assured he gets his cuddles when he gets out of bed – usually around two in the afternoon.
Have you always been dog people?
Eamonn: Not at all. I was a bit selfish before we had her. I thought I didn’t want the doggie smell, the hairs, the fact I’d have to walk one.
Ruth: It was our son Jack who was mad on having a dog, but Eamonn would hear these stories of people jumping in rivers to save their dogs and think it was mad!
E: And here I am nine years later with Maggie, and I would absolutely do that.
How did you find her?
E: I was asked to cut the ribbon at our local Dogs Trust Centre to celebrate 10 years. They persuaded me to do it, and while I was there I saw a lovely little dog and sent a video of it to Ruth.
R: He wanted me and Jack to go and see it, but we were off on holiday so went when we got back. But it seemed she had been rehomed.
E: Then who comes bounding over? She jumped on Jack and started licking him and cuddling with him. After a while I left them there to go to Wembley to watch the football, and when I called Ruth saying what time I’d be home she was still there with the dog!
R: It was decided that day that if we met the criteria, which luckily we did, she was coming home with us. The rest is history.
So Eamonn, you must have been won over straight away?
E: I just wanted to protect her. She was so frightened at first, and I was angry thinking that she may have been mistreated when they found her. She is a beautiful creature.
Whenever I’ve had a lousy day and want to kick the sofa at 9pm when I come home, the thing that makes it better is the dog! She jumps on me, licks me, is excited to see me and brings me something as a present.
I just forget what I was worried about. I’m a better person because of my dog. And I’m more caring and considerate because my dog loves me and I love her back.
Did Maggie make lockdown more manageable?
R: Yes she’s always here for us. I can’t visit my mother in a care home and Eamonn can’t see his mum, who’s 92 and in Belfast. It’s been hard. But she gives us focus.
E: A positive about the lockdown was family time. And Maggie is part of the family. On Father’s Day I had a card from each one of my five children. Maggie’s card to me was signed with a paw print.
R: Maggie is loved as much as any of our children.
E: I know that makes people who don’t get the dog experience want to vomit. But it’s a bond and an unconditional love. When Jack surfaces from his room late in the afternoon he seeks out Maggie.
When Ruth goes to bed, Maggie goes with her! And this is my wife who said there will never be a dog on that bed. Now it’s every day.
Any mishaps along the way?
R: Yes, but never her fault. It was done through love.
E: I fed her Wotsits that disagreed with her, basically. We have cream carpets and we had to have a professional cleaner in. I hadn’t told Ruth I’d given her them at this point as the poor guy is saying, ‘I just can’t get it out. It’s orange. It’s almost glowing!’.
R: I was furious when I found out. So the moral of this story is do not feed your dog Wotsits.
Does Maggie have a favourite?
R: Well I get a bit offended as I walk the dog more than anyone and she always gravitates towards Eamonn.
E: You say that but the other week when Ruth had been away for a few days filming her QVC programme, I thought Maggie was going to have a heart attack when she saw her. I’ve never seen excitement like it. She was yelping, going wild. She divides her love well.
We see Maggie likes a trip to the This Morning studio with you…
E: Ruth has been the same with Maggie as she was with the children. A cautious, anxious person. That’s why she’s so easy to play pranks on! She’s always worrying there might be another dog in the studio that Maggie will fight with despite her never fighting with anything!
R: You leave the window open in the car too. What if she jumps out?
E: She just likes the air on her face! So she’s great in the studio. She’s dim though. She won’t play fetch or follow commands.
R: We were filming Celebrity Gogglebox and trying to get her on the sofa and she was just staring at us blankly.
We hear you’ve been gardening to pass the time in lockdown Eamonn?
E: Well this is how much I love the dog…
R: Basically Eamonn is obsessive about the lawn and likes the stripes on it and all of that.
E: But when Maggie pees on the grass, it burns it. In previous times I’d have sent a dog to prison for that but I know she can’t help it.
R: He was trying to make Maggie a toilet in the garden but I said no to that one.
Are you thankful you met Maggie that day?
E : Yes. I see everything through her eyes. I sit in my armchair and watch nature programmes and see my Maggie’s eyes on the other creatures. She taught me the amazing bond we can have with animals.
R: A dog is the best medicine for so many. They get you out walking and keep you healthy. They’re never a burden, they’re your family.
E: There’s an extra special type of love you get from rehoming a dog that has been previously given up. Taking a chance on a beautiful animal. It’s special knowing you’ve given a dog a forever home.
And Maggie has completely changed me for the better. I’m eternally thankful to her.
For more information on adopting a dog or training your dog to cope with the end of lockdown, visit the Dogs Trust