Boy band sensation and TV presenter JB Gill explains how rescue dog Nala has stolen his family’s heart...
A former member of the chart-topping boy band JLS — runners-up on The X Factor in 2008 — JB also won the 2012 Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special. He currently presents CBeebies’ Down on the Farm, Songs of Praise, and Walks of Life. As well as charity work for the Mayor’s Fund for London, the British Red Cross, and Mercy Ships UK, JB is a passionate sports fan. Along with his wife, Chloe, four-year-old son, Ace, one-year-old daughter, Chiara, and six-year-old rescue dog, Nala, he lives on a farm in Kent, where he rears award-winning turkeys and free-range pigs.
Q) Tell us about your first dog.
“Although every child wants a pet, even if it’s a goldfish or a snake, I never had one growing up. However, my dad was always keen on horses and kept them when we lived in the Caribbean so I’ve always had an appreciation of animals. But dogs have always intrigued me and I knew one day I would have one.”
Q) Tell us all about your current dog.
“I first met Nala in 2013 when I appeared on The Paul O’Grady Show and she was brought on during a segment about animals needing a home. I’d been looking for a Mastiff -type and I’m an advocate of rehoming rescues, but I was cautious about getting such a big guarding breed for my first dog when I didn’t know her background. But Nala just seemed perfect, so my girlfriend (now wife) went along to the Mayhew to meet her and fell in love with her as well. We brought her home when she was 12 weeks old and she settled on the farm really quickly. When Nala was about a year old, we had a little boy and they got on really well; now she is best friends with my young daughter.”
Q) So is Nala the canine love of your life?
“Absolutely! She’s a real delight and has stolen all our hearts.”
Q) What do you love most about sharing your life with a dog?
“It’s great to have Nala with me, whether it’s in the house or around the farm. If she was no longer here, she would leave a huge hole — one million per cent.
“I don’t think we were quite prepared for all the hard work a puppy entailed — the toilet training and taking her to training classes — but after the first few months it became so much easier. We took having a dog very seriously and wanted to do it properly. Nala is a big, strong, guarding breed — possibly a Mastiff X Rhodesian Ridgeback, although we haven’t DNA-tested her yet — so we weren’t going to take any chances.”
Q) Tell us a funny story about Nala.
“When she goes out in the morning, she runs around in circles doing mad laps, and loves bouncing along in the tall grass before we make hay from it.”
Q) Dogs on/in the bed: yes or no?
“Absolutely not! And not on the sofa either; Nala is bigger than everyone and takes up most of the room! We were told early on not to let her on the furniture, and that we’d be thankful for doing this in the long term when she was fully grown. She lies on the floor by our feet instead.”
Q) What’s your favourite dog-related film or TV show?
“Can I say three? Obviously The Paul O’Grady Show and the classic film Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. And even though it’s a cartoon, I sit and watch PAW Patrol with my little boy, who loves it.”
Q) Do you have a favourite place for a dog-friendly holiday?
“I love the wild outdoors of Scotland. Although it’s a long drive up to the lovely Isle of Bute, it’s worth it, and great to have Nala with us — she loves being there, too.
“If we go abroad, we have a house-sitter as Nala gets on very well with people and is happier in her own environment.”