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Owner of chihuahua that met Paul O’Grady thanks him for being dog’s ‘friend’

The owner of a chihuahua that spent time with Paul O’Grady has remembered the late star befriending her dog when it was going through a “hard time”.

Three-year-old Blue met the TV presenter while in the care of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, with the pair’s bond shown to the world in episode two, series 10 of Paul O’Grady: For The Love Of Dogs.

Blue’s new owner Joanna Randall spoke to BBC Breakfast about the positive impact the late comedian, campaigner and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home ambassador – who died “unexpectedly but peacefully” on Tuesday evening at the age of 67, according to his partner Andre Portasio – had on her pet.

Woman with her mouth open, with a dog on her lap
Joanna Randall with Blue (BBC Breakfast/PA)

“It was really, really upsetting to hear about Paul’s passing”, Ms Randall said.

“We had a long cuddle on the sofa and a little cry and rewatched the episode that he was on as well, and we just felt deeply deeply sad as well because Paul was just so tremendously kind to all dogs and especially to Blue, who was having a really hard time at that point when he ended up in Battersea.

“It was just nice to have a friend like Paul at that point in his life. I don’t think he could have asked for a better friend to encounter right then.”

Royal visit to Kent
Paul O’Grady during a visit to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in Brands Hatch, Kent (PA)

Blue was “relinquished” to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home a few years ago, with Ms Randall saying his previous owners could no longer keep him because they were moving into a new house which did not let them keep pets.

She said Blue is “very friendly” and “hyperactive in a lovely, playful way”, but this was not always the case.

“When he first turned up at Battersea, he just hated everyone. He hated the whole world and you can see in the episode with Paul that he doesn’t even like Paul in the beginning.

“But that was the amazing thing is that by the end of that time spent with Paul, he just completely changed his whole personality.

“He was climbing over Paul and giving him kisses and this is just what’s he’s like now all the time.”

When O’Grady’s name was mentioned by presenter Charlie Stayt, Blue appeared to make a whimpering sound.

Shaun Opperman, head vet at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, added: “(Paul) was just this presence and he was a presence for a good 10 years at Battersea.

Man looking at camera and woman stroking a dog
From left: Shaun Opperman from Battersea and Ms Randall (BBC Breakfast/PA)

He added:”(Paul) was a tireless campaigner for rescue dogs … and his whole maison d’etre was just to get these dogs into homes. He would badger his friends on the phone and say, ‘I’ve got a dog for you’, and of course he took on five Battersea dogs himself.”

Mr Opperman said O’Grady’s death has led to “extraordinary” interest in the charity.

“Phones were ringing off the hook; we were doing interviews back to back.

“People almost felt like Paul lived there. He’s almost become synonymous with the charity and that’s why he’s been such a brilliant advocate for us.”