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The Petcast: The Blue Cross Podcast

Episode 1: Pets and your wellbeing

In episode 1 of The Petcast Gemma Atkinson is joined by Tracy Genever, Blue Cross’ Head of Education, and star of Strictly Come Dancing and bona fide dog lover, Karen Hauer, to talk all about pets and wellbeing.

Tracy chats to Gemma and Karen about all the amazing physical and mental health benefits pet ownership can bring. How pets can truly be the best medicine (and even lead to a decrease in visits to the GP!). As well as how choosing the right pet can have a significant impact on self-esteem and help people to counteract feelings of loneliness:

“Pets are great for loneliness. They can make a house a home, they can make us relax, and they can make us laugh. When we are low, they can lift our spirits.”

Following on from this, Karen opens up about how she feels adopting her three dogs Betty, Marley, and Phoebe has given her an even greater sense of purpose and has positively impacted her mental health and wellbeing. Alongside sharing how she credits first dog, Betty, for picking her up during a particularly challenging time and ‘saving her’.

As well as exploring how pets can help us with our wellbeing, Gemma, Tracy, and Karen also discuss how to make sure that our pets’ mental health is kept front of mind – as well as the warning signs (across different species) we should look out for which might indicate distress.

Find out more about topics discussed in this episode:

Meet Tracy Genever

Tracy has worked for Blue Cross for 15 years promoting the education services across the country and overseeing the Pet Bereavement Support Service.

Her background has been in animal-related work for 37 years including an animal management lecturer at University of Lincoln, a vet nurse and even a zookeeper!

Tracy shares her home with a Blue Cross lurcher called Cherry.


Episode 2: Different pets for different lifestyles

In episode 2 of The Petcast Gemma Atkinson is joined by Kayleigh Hill, Manager of the Greater Manchester Rehoming and Advice Unit (RAU), to talk all about how to match the perfect pet, to their perfect owner. Kayleigh’s centre is one of 34 centres or RAU’s run by Blue Cross across the UK. Collectively, they rehomed 9000 pets in 2019. 

Understanding how to choose the right pet to fit with your lifestyle is vitally important for all prospective pet owners. In this episode, Gemma quizzes ‘ultimate pet matchmaker’, Kayleigh, on all the things people should think about before bringing a pet into their home – and shares her own experiences of living with her beloved dogs, Norman and Ollie.

Kayleigh shares her expert insight on the factors Blue Cross will consider before rehoming a pet as well as the first, all important, question everyone should ask themselves at the start of the adoption process:

“Ask yourself ‘how much time do I have to give the animal?’. And not just during the week, think about how often you go away on holiday, for example. That’s something that people often don’t factor in and consider. Do you imagine your pet going on holiday with you? Or, if not, have you got friends and family that can look after them.”

Find out more about topics discussed in this episode:

Meet Kayleigh Hill

Kayleigh has been with Blue Cross for a year and a half having the unique opportunity to manage the Greater Manchester Rehoming and Advice Unit from its final stages of project development through its first year of opening, helping 332 pets. As well as helping animals, Kayleigh has been dedicating herself to building local partnerships and establish our presence in the local community.  

Kayleigh is a qualified veterinary surgeon with five years clinical experience at the RSPCA and Vets4Pets. During this time, she led a study into how to effectively manage problem multi-cat households, which has recently been published with the BMC of Veterinary Research.

Kayleigh has three cats, Nala, Bagheera, and Orli, and enjoys performing in her local theatre group, salsa dancing and horse riding.


Episode 3: Integrating a pet into your home

In episode 3 of The Petcast Gemma Atkinson is joined by Ryan Neile, Head of the Blue Cross Behaviour service, and actress, yoga instructor, and personal trainer Gemma Merna; to talk about how to adapt when introducing a new pet into your home.

Gemma Merna shares her personal experience of integrating third pup, Paige, into her family with her two other dogs, alongside her advice for anyone else considering extending their furry family.

Gemma also explains how she has ended up owning two St Bernard’s (as well as West Highland Terrier, Phoebe) – despite previously having had a fear of big dogs.

Ryan shares his expert insight on what all pet owners should know and understand before welcoming a new pet into their home, and offers his best tips and tricks for how the process can be made as smooth as possible –also ensuring that people don’t put too much pressure on themselves.

“We need to relax and not make the process too intense. If we have too high expectations of a pet coming into our home, and automatically understanding the routine, then it can be very stressful for everyone”

Ryan chats to the two Gemma’s about how to nurture the owner/pet relationship, the importance of treating all pets as individuals as well as how to best understand the unique, subtle language that pets will try and communicate to us with.

Find out more about topics discussed in this episode:

Meet Ryan Neile

Ryan Neile is Blue Cross’s Head of Behaviour and runs a team of behaviourists across the country helping pet owners needing support, or assisting the animals in Blue Cross care.

Ryan began volunteering for Blue Cross at 13 years old, finding a passion for helping pets and worked his way up through the charity for 29 years.

Ryan shares his life with two Blue Cross rescue dogs, Tok, a Border Collie and Kit, a Dutch Herder.


Laura Tott Petcast with Diane James

Episode 4: Dealing with pet bereavement

In episode 4 of The Petcast Gemma Atkinson is joined by Diane James, Manager of the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service, and First Dates’ Laura Tott, to talk about how to cope with the loss of a much-loved pet.

Sadly, our celebrity guest Laura Tott knows first-hand what a difficult experience grieving for a pet can be, after she lost her beloved dog Lucy in early 2019 when she was shot and killed whilst on a country walk. During the episode Laura opens up about how she felt about Lucy’s death at the time and how she has since come to terms with her passing.

Diane shares her expert insight on how not only Laura, but all pet owners across the UK, can deal with the grief experienced when a pet passes away, how it’s ok if your family/partner grieve differently; as well as how to navigate the feelings of guilt which Diane and her team unfortunately see so commonly across all sorts of different circumstances.

“Guilt is the most common thing that comes up when we speak to people, or work with them. Did I do enough? Was it too soon? Could I have gone somewhere else? When I signed the paperwork at the vets to have them euthanized, was it right? Guilt is a massive part for people who are grieving for their animals.”

Diane and Gemma also cover the challenging subjects of missing/stray pets, and also how to cope with the loss of a pet through the breakdown of a relationship.

Find out more about topics discussed in this episode:

Meet Diane James

Diane is Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service (PBSS) Manager.

Diane joined Blue Cross in 2014 and was a member of the team that has won the 2017 Pet Plan Charity team of the year award. Prior to this Diane was involved with Bereavement counselling at a Welsh hospice, with most of her career having been in HR.

Diane sees working for Blue Cross as a labour of love – it combines her love of animals with her chosen career of training and supporting callers and emailers through the loss of their beloved pet.

The support service is free and available 365 days of the year and supports all types of loss including loss from theft, illness, accident, rehoming or prior to loss. Diane also gives talks and lectures for the PBSS at a variety of events.

Diane has two dogs: Hero and Chester.


Gemma Atkinson Petcast

Episode 5: Pet heroes

In episode X of The Petcast Gemma Atkinson is joined by Kerry Taylor, Blue Cross Education Manager, to chat about the incredible pets across that UK that her team have the pleasure of hearing about and working with on a regular basis.

Alongside this, Gemma and Kerry are joined on the line by two amazing pet owners, Steph and Alison, to share the stories of their beloved animals – ‘super Staffy’ and Blue Cross Medal winner, Romeo; and Dillion, the therapy pony who has helped to put a smile on the faces of hundreds of children with disabilities.

As The Petcast series one draws to a close, we thought we’d take the opportunity to celebrate just some of the phenomenal pets the Blue Cross team encounter. Pets who are having a major impact on people’s lives, both physically and mentally, as everyday superheroes!

Kerry explains that there are so many pet heroes up and down the country. In fact, some of us may not even realise just how special our furry friend really is.

Whether its saving lives, acting as a guide dog, giving blood, or helping someone to get out and about – pets can be truly extraordinary.

As well as hearing from Steph and Alison, Kerry also shares some of her favourite pet hero stories with Gemma and discusses the valuable work the education team do in schools to teach children how to be future pet owners.

Find out more about topics discussed in this episode:

Meet Kerry Taylor

Kerry joined Blue Cross in 2003 where she enjoyed looking after and training the horses and ponies, helping them find new homes. Although Kerry loved helping horses back to health and happiness, it sparked a passion for helping people to understand their pets more.

In 2009 Kerry moved into an Education role within Blue Cross and hasn’t looked back. Her current role involves looking after a fantastic team which includes around 130 volunteers who go into schools and groups inspiring pet owners of the future. Kerry loves seeing first-hand the amazing benefits pets can have especially on children.

Kerry has two young children and a scruffy lurcher called Diddy. Weekends are full of having family fun with Diddy and enjoying the outdoors.


Gemma Atkinson Petcast 1

Episode 6: Keeping pets healthy

In episode 6 of The Petcast Gemma Atkinson is joined by Alison Brennan, one of Blue Cross’ Senior Vets, to discuss the key things every pet owner should know about keeping their pet healthy.

As series one of The Petcast draws to a close, we wanted to take the time to educate pet owners on how they can keep their beloved pets in top physical condition. Gemma and Alison discuss how owners all across the UK can keep on top of this through good diet and exercise habits – as well as covering vaccinations, neutering, and dental health and hygiene. 

Using her specialist knowledge, Alison helps Gemma bust some of the most common myths around good pet health (including what they should and shouldn’t eat), and answers some of the most frequently asked questions around how owners should keep pets looking and feeling their very best.

Alison also provides expert insight on how owners can steer clear of pet obesity and keep their pet trim – including some tips and tricks on how to physically feel if your pet is carrying unwanted weight, and some hints for getting different species moving more!

Find out more about topics discussed in this episode:

Meet Alison Brennan

Alison is a Senior Vet at the Blue Cross Victoria Hospital.

Alison joined the Blue Cross in 2015 as a night vet- working solely with emergencies at night. After 18months she switched to working on day shifts and in 2018 she came a Senior Vet in Victoria, a role which also includes some managerial responsibilities along with clinical work.

As a vet Alison’s main interests lie in emergency work and dealing with tricky medical cases in the hospital - she has recently completed a three year certificate in Small Animal Medicine.

Alison sometimes fosters dogs for short periods while they await charity space and is longing for the day she is no longer in rented accommodation and can have lots of pets of her own.