Ahead of his brand-new BBC One primetime series, Ronnie’s Animal Crackers, Ronnie Corbett talks exclusively about just how potty the British public are about their pets.
A life-long dog owner himself, Ronnie shares the Great British passion for animals. He takes viewers into a colourful, entertaining – and sometimes downright bizarre world - where pet owners and breeders put their beloved animals centre stage and are proud to show why their animals are the very best.
Ronnie’s Animal Crackers will show the extreme lengths we go to for our pets; the time, the money, not to mention the love. Amongst many, we’ll meet a champion breeder of Persian cats, who makes a stand against the cat show establishment; a pigeon racer whose winning bird is worth upwards of £70,000; the two leading contenders for the crown of Britain’s best creative dog groomer; and Ronnie himself puts a professional ‘pet psychic’ to the test.
The series will also chart the progress of Ronnie’s new rescue dog, Baz. Baz seems to have been ill-treated in the past and remains very troubled. Although he’s bonded with Ronnie’s wife Anne, Ronnie is heartbroken that Baz seems fearful of him. We follow Ronnie on his journey with Baz as he tries to get to the bottom of his behaviour; and it’s a journey that has a surprising conclusion.
The series is produced by Plum Pictures for the BBC. Plum Pictures executive producers are Will Daws and Stuart Cabb; the series producer is Mark Jones; the BBC commissioning editor is Alison Kirkhamand and BBC commissioning executive is Tom Edwards.
Exclusive interview with Ronnie Corbett
Could you start by telling us a bit about the show and your involvement?
The programme is a various mix of things. It basically features me, along with breeders of stock of various sorts: ponies, dogs, cattle and cats. It is hinged a little bit around the fact that, before I started the programme, we had taken on, as a family, a rescue dog from home quite near us. He features largely in the programme. He adores my wife and sort of likes me, in a dismissive sort of way when he has nothing better to do! But he is lovely.
How has Baz settled in?
He was maltreated in his young days and so he’s frightened by hoovers and brushes, so he hates anything threatening like that. But he is adorable, and we have had the best time with him. I’m also very lucky to have a facility for going out in the evening with a golfing cart with my wife and he comes with us. He trots all over the place, has a great bit of exercise and a long run. He has a lovely life and enjoys it tremendously!
Any stories to report?
Early on in his stay with us down south - in fact, on the very first day we had him home - it was about half past eight in the morning and we let him in our garden, which is well fenced. After about an hour and a half we thought we had completely lost him! And there were two golf courses between him and where he might have been. Someone came around to check our fences on behalf of the rescue centre and he was checking that whilst we were panicking and meeting people up at the golf course headquarters. But two and a half hours after he had disappeared the man checking our fences said ‘there’s a dog here you know’. And there he was, hiding in the rhododendron bush by the fence. He had tried to run away straight away. But he has got over that and he’s much more confident now.
There are some interesting techniques, throughout the series, such as dog yoga, that owners of pets use to try and change the behaviour of their pets. Have you tried anything like this with Baz?
We haven’t experienced that with Baz! But we did have a lady trainer come in. He gets a lot of love and tickling from me! He is getting slowly better. I’ve got a room upstairs where I do most of my bits of pieces and writing and he just about comes upstairs now and stays for a minute or two before he comes back down again. He has come on a tremendous amount.
What made you want to get involved with the programme in general?
I have had a life-long connection with animals. Throughout my career, even before I was quite well known, I always had a dog with me. I do love dogs, but also animals in general. I come from The Lothians and Edinburgh and they’re all very ‘farmy’ up there! Also, before I went in to the air force to do my national service – this goes back a long way! - I worked in the Department of Agriculture in Scotland, so animals have been quite near me a lot of my life.
The programme sets out to show just how potty the Great British public is about pets - what’s been the most bizarre thing you saw?
Probably the most bizarre thing I came across was seeing two ladies grooming standard poodles - in a very over the top way! But they loved doing it and the poodle seemed to like looking like that! But I’ve not seen anything as bizarre as that!
How potty are we about our pets? What is it that we love so much about animals?
In a way, because it’s such a small country, wherever we live, we are all quite near the countryside: farms, pets, sheep and cattle. You can’t get away from that part of the British Isles. So I think we’re all imbued in that interest in animals.
Is he your only pet - or do you have other animals?
We had cats in the past – a lot of cats, and dogs. We mainly always have a dog. Baz is my only pet at the moment.
What was the first pet you ever had and why was he/she so special to you?
My first pet at home in Edinburgh was a dog my dad had called Glen. He was a small sheep dog and went with my dad every day to work. My dad managed a cooking centre which cooked the children’s lunches for schools in the Lothian. Glen used to sit down in the boiler room sleeping all day and then they would walk back. On Sundays he walked with the family. We walked right across the Braid Hills from one side to the other after church every Sunday.