TV presenter Peter Purves tells us about ‘Blue Peter’, Dachshunds v Newfoundlands, and the calming influence of dogs…
Actor and TV presenter Peter Purves’ career spans 60 years, but he is probably best known for fronting BBC TV’s children’s programme ‘Blue Peter’ from 1967 to 1978, alongside his on-screen pet, Border Collie X German Shepherd Petra. As well as being in demand as a speaker and dog show host, Peter celebrated 40 consecutive years as a Crufts commentator and presenter in March 2018.
Q. Tell us about your first dog?
“When I was about 11 and away at boarding school, my parents moved to Derbyshire to run a pub, which came with a dog. My family thought the dog, Rusty, was a Cocker Spaniel but, looking back, he was most likely a Field Spaniel. Rusty became my pet when I was on holiday from school and we would go for long romps over the hills in the Peak District. I remember he was an exceptionally good ratter.”
Q. Tell us about your current dogs?
“My wife, Kathryn, and I currently have six dogs — seven if you count Lottie, a blind and deaf Cocker Spaniel we adopted from my mother-in-law.
“We used to have Newfoundlands due to their very gentle natures, but fell in love with Wire Haired Dachshunds because their temperament is similar. We have three of the standard size: Woody, a brindle 12-and-a half-year-old, and two of his progeny, 11-year-olds Teddy and Dottie, who are both woolly blondes — a sort of wheaten colour. Then we have two-year-old Bertie, a Miniature Wire Haired Dachshund, and finally, Kathryn’s two Pekingese, nine-year-old Bea, and Lillie, who’s eight.
“You’d think that our house would be chaotic with so many dogs but it is very calm.”
Q. Who has been/is the canine love of your life?
“On the one hand, it would be hard not to say Petra because she was a great part of my life. It was wonderful to be reunited with her bronze sculpture recently. It has been relocated from BBC TV Centre in London to the new ‘Blue Peter’ garden in Salford Quays, Manchester.
“But the dogs I have loved best were Newfies Mishka — my first whom I absolutely adored but she died from a heart defect aged five — and Kent, who was magnificent — a lovable big bear. However, Woody runs close… And I adore Bertie… Oh, I don’t have a favourite!”
Q. If you were a dog, which breed would you be?
“It wouldn’t matter which breed, as long as I could be one of my own dogs because they have such a glorious life!”
Q. What do you love most about sharing your life with dogs?
“Dogs give people so much pleasure, comfort, and peace, and I get that every time I stroke one of mine. They have such a calming influence and I love their presence.
“If one of them is ever not here — say, at the vet’s — they leave one heck of a gap.”
Q. Tell us a funny story about any of your dogs.
“Bertie makes us laugh all the time. He has a tendency to disappear under things — he’ll turn his bed upside down and run around the room underneath it. It looks so silly!”
Q. Dogs in the bed: yes or no?
“Yes. But it’s limited to Bertie and the Pekes. Oh OK… so I do have my favourites!”
Q. What’s your favourite dog-related film or TV show?
“Probably the classic ‘Lassie’ — the first dog film I saw years back — and ‘Lassie Come Home’, although I made some nice films with Petra and her offspring, Patch, for ‘Blue Peter’.”
Q. Do you have a favourite place for a dog-friendly holiday?
“Either the Lake District (where we once spent a scary six hours searching for Petra after she’d swum across a fast-flowing river) or The Great Glen in the Highlands — we really enjoyed travelling from Inverness to Fort William by boat.”