Posted 4 months ago ago
Our dogs can make us smile at the darkest of times. Their love is unwavering and they somehow seem to know just when we need one of their slobberiest kisses and cuddles the most.
Someone who knows how that feels is gold-winning Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton.
She stepped into Wood Green, in Cambridgeshire, on the latest episode of Channel 4’s The Dog House to find herself a new dog.
Visibly excited about adding a new member to the family, Victoria said: “There’s like 100 metres between us and the new dog.”
Visiting the centre with her mum Pauline, the former Olympian and now jockey, adopted a beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback named Leilo.
The pair were planning to co-parent their new dog, much like they had their previous dogs - two Dobermanns named Stella and Mr Jonty.
Victoria said: “Mum and I are both up for a challenge...everyone deserves a second chance.
“We’re both by ourselves so it’s kind of a co-parenting situation.”
A huge dog lover, Victoria described how her dogs had seen her through some ‘turbulent’ times and referred to them as the ‘loves of my life.'
She said: “Having the dogs gave me a distraction from my training and the intensity of preparing for London 2012.
“It was a very stressful time and those two dogs in my life gave me some normality.”
Sadly, both Dobermanns passed away last year, just three months apart.
Victoria added: “My life’s been very turbulent since retiring from the sport. It’s really difficult to settle into what could be considered a ‘normal life’ after being an athlete for so many years and I think I’m still trying to work out what that is.
“It wasn’t quite what I expected and I was very hard on myself. I couldn’t cope with it and spiralled into quite severe depression.
“My marriage has broken down, the divorce got pretty unpleasant.”
Her mum added: “She didn’t want to eat, didn’t want to do anything, she was completely lost. She wasn’t victoria. I just didn’t know really what to do for you for the best.”
To which Victoria replied: “It took nearly a year to feel like myself again.
“You’ve got to find joy in your life again at that point, and I think it’s made me a lot more conscious of doing things that make me happy.
“One of the biggest things about going through some difficult times is appreciating what makes you happy. Taking the dogs out for a walk gave me a purpose again.
“The innocence of what they do and how they behave can be hugely uplifting, something worth getting out of bed for.
“There will always be dogs in and around my little lifestyle because they do bring me a lot of joy.”
Describing how she liked big dogs, the centre got to work in trying to match the pair with the right dog, one that would suit both of them.
And that dog was Leilo.
Pool Leilo hasn’t had the easiest of lives. At four and a half years old, she had spent most of her life wearing a cone due to suffering from an ear infection in both ears called otitis.
Because of this, her previous owners couldn’t afford to keep her, with the ongoing cost of medical treatment proving to be a barrier in rehoming her too.
Described by the centre as ‘very friendly and elegant looking’, those costs were something Victoria and her mum were willing to take on.
The moment the pair met their new dog was heartwarming, it was love at first sight for the Olympian and her mother with Victoria saying: “Oh my gosh, I’m so excited mum.”
Leilo’s lovely nature was an instant hit with the pair and before long, they were taking her for a walk.
During the walk, Victoria exclaimed: “She’ll soon get the measure of us mum, won’t she?
To which her mum jokes: “Bribery.”
With the show later revisiting Victoria to show how Leilo had settled into her new home, it was clear she was a firm part of the family with them all sharing a lovely bond.
“After that first meeting, we knew that she was our girl,” said Victoria.
“She’s a lot more playful, a lot more confident.”
“She has such a lovely nature and mum and I both appreciate that. She has gotten to know us, and trust us, and we’ve built a bond with her now.
“When I lost my two dogs last year, it left a massive hole in my life, and it’s so nice to now have Leilo in that space.
“I think if you’re having a bit of a flat day and Leilo is so excited to see you, it would lift your spirits and I think that’s a very valuable thing.”