Wellingborough’s talented dog trainer extraordinaire Ashleigh Butler has spoken of her heartbreak at the death of her beloved Pudsey – and how her parents have helped her with her career.
The Britain’s Got Talent winner was devastated when her dancing dog died in July.
But with a starring role in panto this winter, she’s been talking about her latest star in the making, spilling the beans about Simon Cowell and more.
Ashleigh is no stranger to pantomimes, having starred in pantos around the UK over the past five years.
She said: “I love taking part in pantos and Jack and the Beanstalk [in High Wycombe] is my sixth one.
“I enjoy seeing children with their families having a good time and pantos are great all-round family entertainment.”
Crufts Agility Champion Sully (an adorable four year old cross-breed of a Chinese crested powder puff, border collie and poodle) made his pantomime debut last year in Northampton alongside Ashleigh and Pudsey.
Says Ashleigh: “Training and performing with dogs is my life, despite my heartbreak at losing Pudsey.
“It hurts so much to think that my handsome, incredible Pudsey Bear will never be by my side again.
“We only had 11 years together, but they were the best years ever.
“He was my one in a billion dog that will never be replaced.
“However, Sully is turning into a star performer and is very popular with audiences.”
Talking about her parents, Ashleigh says: “They have been very supportive throughout my career and helped me when I was competing in Britain’s Got Talent.
“It’s a daunting experience when you’re only 16.
“They figure out what’s best in whatever I do and always help me to make the right decisions.
“I have taken my act to America and Germany although I’m not a massive fan of flying, as it requires keeping Sully in the hold of the aircraft which I’m not keen on doing.”
On Simon Cowell, she said: “He’s genuinely a lovely person and extremely considerate.
“He took Pudsey and me to America on his private jet, as he knew that flying on a commercial plane would have meant Pudsey having to travel in the hold of the aircraft, as he was too big to go in the cabin.
“Simon also arranged for us to go on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, as well as America’s Got Talent and Good Morning America.”
In addition to winning the 2012 series of Britain’s Got Talent, Ashleigh and Pudsey got to meet the Queen in November 2012.
“It was an amazing experience and something I will never forget,” says Ashleigh.
“Pudsey touched so many people’s lives. The Kennel Club told me that they have had many young people contacting them about training their dogs after seeing Pudsey on Britain’s Got Talent,”
In addition to Sully, Ashleigh’s mum’s dog, Eliza, will be performing a routine in Jack and the Beanstalk.
“I am currently training Eliza for the panto and I will have two dogs on stage with me, which I am looking forward to,” says Ashleigh.
In 2014, Pudsey: The Movie was released and screened in cinemas across the UK.
Further publicity came in the form of a book titled Pudsey: My Autobidography.
So what about the future? “I would love to get into TV presenting.
“I have done some presenting and I would like to focus on that in the future.
“For now, I enjoy doing pantos and consider myself very lucky that Pudsey gave me that opportunity!”