We’re a nation of pet lovers us Brits aren’t we? We love watching shows about animals but we also seem to incorporate pets into all our soaps too.
So we wondered who – or probably more appropriately, what – has been your favourite soap pet of all time out of the three major soaps?
Maybe it’s the ever present ginger cat pictured above who stalks the rooftops of Weatherfield and walks along the tops of the walls in the opening titles? Incidentally, I found a bit of trivia about this cat; when the opening titles were re-filmed in the seventies, no one initially noticed the cat that wandered across a wall. Now, every time the titles are re-filmed, a cat is deliberately used!
In fact, they’re quite superstitious about cats over on the Street set and there’s always a cat somewhere, fake or real. For example, high up on a shelf in the Rovers is apparently a soft toy cat!
Or maybe your all-time fave was Eastenders’ Wellard? Poor deceased Wellard… or possibly Emmerdale’s Tootsie, Edna’s little dog that looks more like a slipper than a dog if you ask me!
Let’s take a look at some of the contenders…
Coronation Street, like most of the UK soaps, has had lots of furry and feathered residents over the years, but first, let’s take a look at one of the earliest; Minnie Cauldwell’s cat Bobby.
Bobby first appeared in the Street in 1962, and was originally going to be called “Skippy”, but Margot Bryant – who played Minnie – changed his name to Bobby. The original Bobby was actually called Toby.
Toby died in 1968 which apparently upset Margot Bryant deeply. In the show, they had Minnie’s Bobby disappear but in one episode, Minnie thought she’d spotted him on the viaduct and good old Stan Ogden brought him down, getting scratched for his troubles.
However, the viaduct cat wasn’t Bobby, it was a stray, so Minnie adopted him and called him “Sonny Jim” which had been her nickname for her young lodger, Jed Stone. Jed of course is now back in the Street and his own moggy is called Sonny Jim.
Cats have always been a Street favourite; Betty’s had a cat called Marmaduke, Hilda had Rommel and Maxine had Bella.
Dogs too have always featured in the show and at the moment, Blanche has Eccles who’s being used as a decoy for Ken’s naughtiness with Martha, and of course, there’s the fabulous Schmeichel as well as Maria’s dog, Ozzy.
Norris had a dog called Mr Woo who he killed by feeding it chocolate and Tyrone had Monica who mad Maya – Dev’s nutty ex – kidnapped.
Other animal Corrie stars have been rabbits – particularly one owned by David Platt – pigeons of course, owned by Albert Tatlock then Jack Duckworth, and lots of budgies!
EastEnders has had lots of animal residents too including, as I mentioned earlier, the dearly departed long-term star Wellard.
There’s also been the huge and gorgeous Genghis, Keith’s best mate who was a scruffy looking Irish Wolfhound.
Ethel Skinner had a Pug named Willy who was most often to be seen tucked under her arm… Willy remained Ethel’s faithful companion for many years on the Square.
Willy was cast just a week before the filming of EastEnders began when it was decided that pensioner Ethel was to have a Yorkshire Terrier named Willy.
However, finding a suitable Yorkie proved to be something of a problem so ‘Janimals’, a company who specialise in providing and training animals for TV and films – contacted EastEnders co-creator and producer Julia Smith and told her they could provide an “experienced Pug” for the part of Willy; he’d previously had a starring role in Swallows and Amazons.
So the Pug was introduced to Gretchen Franklin who played Ethel and she “took a shine” to him from the get go, and the rest, as they say, is history. Janimals also provided Roly, the Queen Vic’s poodle, and the two shaggy stars shared a dressing room at Elstree Studios.
Roly was in the show for years until he was getting too old for show business. In his exit storyline, Roly slipped his lead to chase a cat and was run over by a lorry but in reality, he was retired and went to live with Julia Smith.
Terrence, who’s a Lhasa Apso, has been on the Square for donkey’s years too. He was originally owned by Janine Evans and Terry Raymond, then by Billy Mitchell, then by Pat and currently, custody of Terrence is being fought over between little Tiffany and evil Janine.
Betty was a Cairn terrier who was Pauline Fowler’s pet until she died when Dot then took Betty in, however, she eventually left to live with Martin, Sonia and their daughter Rebecca.
The Slater’s owned a cat called Baby who in theory still lives with them but hasn’t been seen for ages. Abi Branning has had a variety of pets including gerbils, rabbits, a chinchilla and guinea pigs.
Dot owned a budgie called – as they all seem to be – Joey, but he met his end in 2002 when Jim accidentally vacuumed him up!
And finally, recently nasty Susie Branning’s pet Chihuahua Prince was the subject of a kidnapping – or dognapping – storyline.
Now onto Emmerdale where of course animals used to outnumber humans in terms of the cast list when it was Emmerdale Farm, but nowadays, we don’t see as many animals.
In fact, one animal-related issue caused a bit of a stir back in 2005 when Ofcom received complaints about a promo that aired during Emmerdale showing a guinea pig drinking from a ketchup bottle.
Viewers complained that kids might start feeding their guinea pigs tomato sauce but Ofcom’s response was that given the soap “attracts a predominately adult audience and holds little appeal for the very young…” it was deemed unlikely that the UK’s guinea pigs would suffer as a result of the promo.
Ofcom added that, “Pet owners watching the programme would be aware of the need to provide their pets with fresh drinking water” and not tomato sauce!
However, pets who’ve actually been in the show include Viv Windsor’s rabbit Buffy and Edna’s dog Tootsie – a Papillion – who she took on after her beloved Batley died.
As an aside, the scene when Batley died was voted Best Exit at the 2002 British Soap Awards. I remember crying like a girl when he shuffled off the mortal coil, much to my family’s amusement!
Anyway, the original dog – a Papillion called Sky – who played Tootsie died in May of last year so a different Papillion from the same breeder was brought in to play the role. The new Tootsie’s real name is Dusty.
Shirley Stelfox who plays Edna said at the time, “Sky was a very special dog and a good friend. I do miss her greatly. We must now see Dusty as Tootsie, although her personality is very different.”
Other canine cast members include the Dingle’s crossbreed Alfie, a huge shaggy mutt who’s often seen happily hanging out on the sofa. Betty also owned a dog called Charlie but he went to soap-doggy heaven in 2007 and Betty scattered his ashes over her beloved Seth’s grave. Seth’s own dog Smokey died during the dramatic plane crash in 1993.
In fact, dogs are often in mortal danger in Emmerdale and Sadie King’s dog Damon was one such dog. He was brutally murdered by Cain Dingle to get back at Sadie for rejecting him and even though she was a scheming soap superbitch, she really loved Damon, bless her.
Other than that, many of the owners of Home Farm have had horses and lots of dogs though we don’t often get to know them as characters. Likewise, the farm animals that feature included Jo Sugden’s goats who were ‘kind of’ pets, but cruel Andy made her get rid of them.
In the course of Paddy’s job as a vet, we often see a variety of animals being treated by him but again, we don’t really get to know them like we know Tootsie and knew Buffy the rabbit!
So who’s been your favourite soap pet? I think for me, I’d have to say it’d be a toss up between Schmeichel and Genghis… but given Schmeichel’s had more storylines, I’m going to go with him! Let us know which animal soap star gets your vote!