Growing up with a dog was like having a personal bodyguard for actress Hayley Tamaddon.
The Blackpool-born star is championing pet charity Blue Cross in its celebration of inspirational animals from across the nation as nominations open for the prestigious Blue Cross Medal.
The Blue Cross Medal is open to pets that have done something brave, life-changing partnerships, assistance animals and serving or working animals. Deadline for entries is February 15 2019.
Hayley says: “Pets have always played a wonderful part in my life and I’ve been grateful to each and every one of them for it. The wonderful German Shepherd I had growing up called Sheeba would be my strong contender for the Blue Cross Medal nomination – she thought she was my bodyguard, she was always close by me and she made me feel so special and loved.
“I am a huge animal lover and anything to do with animal rescue I am there.
“I visited the Blue Cross centre in York and I was in awe of how hard they work and care for the animals. I was inspired by what the animals have been through and offered my services.
“The charity asked me to get involved in the Blue Cross Medal which rewards animals that have been influential in people’s lives.
“Pets do so much for us and the Blue Cross Medal is all about celebrating that, so I would urge anyone with a special pet in their life to nominate them right away.
“Animals are hugely influential. Having a dog can really turn the life of a child or adult with special needs around. For example I know of an autistic boy whose mum didn’t know what to do with him. She got him a dog which became a huge part of his life. As a result, he began to talk and was happy.
“Animals have a way of knowing how humans feel. It is almost like they are talking to us.
“The same goes for elderly people or those with mental health problems. If people are struggling to cope having an animal by their side gives them a different purpose and some hope.
“Animals are highly intelligent and clever and they are so wonderful to be around.
“Unfortunately I live in an apartment and work away a lot so I am unable to have a dog. But my brother has two dogs, which are amazing. His Westie, Billy, is my favourite. He also has a Rottweiler called Ronnie.
“I do miss having my own dog. I have had a couple of dogs, but sadly they have passed away.
“I wish I had the biggest property with lots of land so I can house all the rescue dogs myself. That has always been my dream.
“It is heartbreaking going to rescue centres and hearing what the animals have been through.
“There are so many cats, dogs and even horses that need homes and I want to urge people who are thinking of getting a pet to go to a rescue home.
“Christmas is a really big time for animal charities, as you find that more people abandon their animals this time of year.
“Animal charities need blankets, food and treats and so if you have an animal rescue centre near you, drop by with some donations.
“People also need to be aware that a dog is for life and not just for Christmas.”
Hayley, who has starred in Emmerdale and Coronation Street, adds she supports a variety of animal charities, including Dogs Trust, PDSA and RSPCA.
She says: “I worked the PDSA to launch its new Pet Hospital which tours around schools to teach children how to look after animals. Dogs Trust is an amazing charity which does incredible work. I also follow a lot of charities on Twitter.”
Hayley, who won Dancing on Ice in 2010, adds she is now working on rehearsals for panto in Newark.
The 41-year-old plays Princess Jasmine in Aladdin.
She adds: “I love panto. For me, Christmas has started early. I have had my Christmas tree up in my flat in Manchester since November as I am staying in Newark over the festive period.”
Hayley is now looking ahead to next year, with the release of some projects she filmed earlier this year.
She adds: “I have been filming a documentary which will be out next year and I have also been doing a film, Eaten by Lions, starring Johnny Vegas, which will be out in spring.
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“I have never known anything else other than acting. It is my life and I love every second of it. I feel blessed to do something I love and then in my spare time I am able to help animal charities such as Blue Cross.”
Blue Cross is a national charity that has been helping sick, injured, abandoned and homeless pets for more than 120 years.
It helps thousands of pets in need every month by providing veterinary care, expert behaviour help and find them loving homes.
The charity also offers education for current and future pet owners plus pet bereavement support for those who have lost their pet companion.
Sally de la Bedoyere, Blue Cross chief executive, says: “Pets are amazing, they help us in so many ways, from rescuing us from loneliness to teaching us new things, and even saving lives. The Blue Cross Medal is a wonderful way to draw attention to the incredible things our pets do for us every day and to celebrate them. We’re very excited to hear all the amazing stories to be sent through and can’t wait to pick the next medal winner.”
To nominate a pet and find out more, visit www.bluecross.org.uk/medal.