Comedy queen Joanna Scanlan is best known for screen roles in Bridget Jones’s Baby, The Thick of It and Getting On, and the second series of the upcoming No Offence, on Channel 4 in the new year - but the most humorous character in her life is rescued staffie, Millie…
Q: Who shares your sofa?
Joanna: Only humans and dust mites. We were advised to keep Millie off the furniture so she could learn new house rules and enjoy her own bed and toys. Having her own space and teaching the command ‘In your bed’ has helped us de-escalate her excitable ways! In addition we discovered she is allergic to house mites so all soft furnishings are like falling into a bed of stinging nettles for her unless put on to a hot wash at least once a week! She lies on my feet in the evenings while we watch telly.
Q: Describe your pet in three words
Joanna: Adorable, intelligent, flatulent.
Q: How did Millie come to join your family?
Joanna: We found her at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home when she was approaching one year old. She was still lactating from a litter of pups and didn’t seem to be familiar with the great outdoors at all. Even a falling leaf sent her off the excitement scale. We had gone to look for a Husky but fell for her beauty and sweet, optimistic nature.
Q: Why do you love your dog?
Joanna: Why do we love any living thing? It’s a written in the stars. The love we feel runs pretty deep because it took about a year before she started to really acknowledge us. Up until then she was ‘bovvered’.
Q: What’s the most extravagant thing you’ve bought for her?
Joanna: Training. She went on a residential boot camp with a wonderful trainer who had her living with him and his mastiff cross. Once she got the hang of learning commands and he also taught us how to give them, she came back home ready and much more willing to learn from us too.
Q: What’s the best thing about having a pet?
Joanna: Listening to her snoring after we’ve had a joyful romp around the woods.
Q: What are Millie’s worst habits?
Joanna: I honestly don’t want to share on that topic. Put it this way, the first episode of BBC Puppy Love (in which she plays No Name) itemises the problem.
Q: Where’s your favourite place to go with your dog?
Joanna: I love taking her to Llanddwyn beach on Anglesey. There are woods, foaming surf and sublime views of Snowdonia. She likes to gnaw at each wave as it laps the shore line, then repeatedly seem surprised that it tastes so salty.
Q: What’s the best pet advice you’ve been given, and by whom?
Joanna: A police dog handler suggested I split the daily walk into three parts, first asking the dog to stay close, the second giving the dog a series of tasks, challenges and commands and the third allowing the dog to run ‘free’ – he explained to me that a dog needs to exercise mental muscles as well as physical.
Q: Why did you choose a rescue pet?
Joanna: I just don’t believe in exchanging money for a living creature. It’s almost a superstition in my family. There are so many safe and loving dogs looking for homes I wouldn’t feel comfortable buying from a breeder. As a child I went to the old pet shop at Harrods and saw a bear for sale in a cage. Instinctively I felt that was very wrong.
Q: What was the most difficult thing about working with animals on set in Puppy Love?
Joanna: The worst moment was when we lost the cat, Pumpkin. He jumped off the wall at the end of the scene and disappeared for a week! We searched high and low. As he was a local cat, he eventually found his way home a little skinnier than his distraught owners would have liked. The poor old thing has his own big adventure which he sadly couldn’t share with us.