At the height of her fame, fan mail came in every three seconds. Smitten Sir Tim Rice even rewrote the lyrics to Don & # 39; t Cry For Me Argentina in her honor. So who were these global stars? The answer is black Lab Olive, seven, and three-year-old gold lab Mabel, whose antics, accompanied by the hilarious comment of their owner, sports broadcaster Andrew Cotter, captured the nation's hearts during the lockdown. Now Andrew has written a book about the couple that will charm you all over again …
When asked about your favorite year, I'm not sure if 2020 is anyone's top list. Zoom's CEO might disagree. But almost everyone else will have experienced deep inconveniences – lockdowns, lost jobs, strained relationships, and worse.
And above all, the overwhelming weirdness when our lives were completely changed by the pandemic. For me, that feeling was only heightened by something I took upon myself in somehow turning our ignorant Labs Olive and Mabel into viral internet stars.
If we can remember something like this in normal life, I'm a sports broadcaster – mostly for the BBC. It's an extremely fun job and I'm lucky enough to do it, but it depends more on whether or not people are actually doing sports.
Sports broadcaster Andrew Cotter, pictured with his Labradors Olive, black, 7 years old, and Mabel, cream, 3 years old, became known during the lockdown for commenting on the antics of his pets
After the cancellation of first the boat race, the end of the Six Nations, then the Masters, Wimbledon and the Olympics, I didn't miss the fact that the work of a freelance sports commentator could prove difficult. Most people in this position would immediately ask, "Can I pay my bills and mortgage?"
And yes, that came to mind. How my next thought came about, "Maybe I should comment on my dogs at breakfast and then post them on Twitter," I'm still not sure.
But on that fateful day, suddenly unemployed, I went out with the iPhone in hand and the dogs asked why I was looking for a more scenic place than their usual feeding place by the washing machine.
In the garden, Olive and Mabel certainly didn't care that I was filming while they were eating. However, my partner Caroline seemed concerned about my mental wellbeing and in her own way offered support by shouting insults, possibly while packing a suitcase.
The dogs then did what they did every day, inhaling their food and tasting "absolutely nothing," as I said in a comment. And that's it – it was nothing more than a bit of fun. "I was bored," I wrote in the tweet I posted in the wilderness of the internet.
It had been seen by millions in a matter of days.
Impressed by its success, there had to be a sequel, and our dogs had to grapple with an argument over a well-chewed rubber bone. Mabel won after Olive lost control and looked at the camera with all the sadness a Labrador can muster. The counter on this is still ticking at around 20 million views.
And so it went on – Olive and Mabel starring in videos of daily dog life, such as playing around in a pond or usually human activities like online meetings.
And with the prospect came a lot of love. From famous personalities in Great Britain like Gary Lineker, Dawn French and Rory Bremner as well as worldwide, especially in America. Actors Ryan Reynolds, Mark Hammill and Julianne Moore all told us "good dog".
Andrew and his pets now have fans across the UK and even around the world – including Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds, Mark Hammill and Julianne Moore
At first it felt strange. In my head was the humor in a semi-recognizable sports channel turning his hand into something mundane. But in other countries nobody would know what I did.
But now I can see why. There was a strange unity in all of us to be locked in, and social media – for all its evils – was a place we could come together. People wanted to laugh at something too and needed a distraction during stressful times.
Not to forget that humans just love dogs. How else could I comment on Kirsty, Sir Tim Rice's boxer dog, and in turn rewrite the lyrics for Don & # 39; t Cry For Me Argentina for Olive and Mabel?
Dogs always offer therapy and then, at some of the worst of times, they really rose up, helped us individually, and at times brought us all closer.
Not that dogs did anything else. Olive and Mabel certainly didn't – they just continued to be themselves, ignoring the world's bigger worries, but that was what needed to be done.
And in doing so, they taught me to be more optimistic. To be … how should I put it? More… Labrador.
I am a "dog person". It has always been like this. I grew up with dogs of different shapes, sizes, and temperaments, but Olive and Mabel are the first to be entirely mine – ours. The black coated olive first came almost eight years ago and the yellow Mabel four years later.
The moment when a younger dog meets the older is crucial. They hope the incumbent will have just a sip to let Junior know the pecking order.
However, like most puppies, Mabel wasn't particularly good at reading the signals. "Greetings new friends … I see you growled at me and caught me once or twice. I understand this to mean that I should constantly attack you and try to chew your ears. Right? & # 39;
In those early days of testing, Olive turned to us with Labrador eyes and asked, "Will this take a long time?"
But Mabel adored Olive from the start and within a few weeks some, if not all, of that love was returned.
Over time, we noticed a lot of differences between them. Olive is a destroyer. There's no point in giving your toy if it's not made to last. Otherwise, you can toss her a twenty pound note covered in sauce.
In contrast, Mabel values her possessions. As a puppy, she brought things from the garden – a twig, a leaf, a flower – and kept them in her bed in a pitiful heap, which nonetheless made her very proud.
Andrew has written a new book that introduces his two pets and the adventures they have had
She will wander in, her cheeks only a fraction swollen – only to crack during interrogation. Ask, "Got something?" And she will switch paw to paw, making denominational noises before pulling out a stick.
Often times Mabel decides to take one of her possessions and toss it around, maybe trying to hold it up and generally dancing to a tune that just plays in her head. Meanwhile, Olive wears a tired expression, like watching Aunt Barbara at a wedding after too much Prosecco on the dance floor.
Perhaps the most obvious difference is that Mabel loves human contact. Let's not get Olive wrong – she is very fond of a violent scratch near the tail, despite losing some hard-earned dignity.
But Mabel never lost hers because she never had any. She wants human hands on her and she's not ashamed of that.
The good news is that Labs try hard to please and are ready to be trained. The bad news is we didn't get it right. And so Mabel takes most of her leadership from Olive, her idol.
The student, initially not interested in eating grass, catches up with Master in whatever amount she can devour.
It's worth noting that in certain places, even the best workout doesn't make a difference, as dizziness overrides everything. The beach, for example. Ours are quiet in a car, but when they see our destination, it leads to excited chatter.
"Beach?" Says one to the other.
Andrew pictured with his wife Caroline and their two dogs at home in Grappenhall, Cheshire
I thought. We should let them know that we like the beach very much and are very interested in getting there. "
It starts when we are a good ten minutes away by car. How do you know? Perhaps familiar curves on the road, or some of the sea air has come in through the vents and reached their almighty noses.
It's a mystery that deepens when you look at the density they can show at times. I don't want to single out anyone, if only I could bring your attention to the yellow member of our pack.
I'm not sure Mabel even knows her own name. When I scream it and try to get her to stop the wrongdoing she might do while out for a walk, she often looks around like looking for another dog with an expression that says, "Gosh … someone is in trouble. I don't want to be Mabel now. "
On one point our two dogs seem to be on an equal footing – and that is having fears and worries that don't make sense to anyone but themselves. Mabel, for example, has her nemesis in the beep of a GoPro camera.
You may be wondering why I'm so specific about the maker, and the reason why is because Mabel is just as specific about what upsets her. Every single electronic device in the house seems to chirp at some point, and none of them make the slightest impression on them.
Andrew began to watch in horror after all sporting events closed – leaving him out of work
But one sound from Satan's own cinematographic device and it is torn to pieces. I discovered this one evening while I was working on the camera fiddling with the beeps when we noticed Mabel was gone. She was finally found while hiding behind the curtain in a bedroom. And olive? That strong, calm, and confident dog? Well, she's scared of certain types of flooring, especially linoleum, which she believes the world is going to end.
But we calm them down and care for them because of whatever they bring us, even though they now dictate our lives and dominate our home.
Once upon a time, we had beautiful things, but those halcyon days of clean furniture and chic clothes are only a distant memory. Because if you're looking to maintain a show-home standard house, Labradors really aren't a viable option.
The vacuum cleaner runs all the time but is barely full when the floor, couches, and any exposed food are covered with a veneer that's a mix of yellow and black. I can brush and brush the dogs with fur that comes off in clouds and it makes no difference.
With Mabel in particular – apart from a molt-free window of about four days in August – it just goes on as if there wasn't a solid dog underneath. I think if I kept brushing long enough, I could only comb them down to a nose, paws, and blinking eyes.
Our house now seems to consist almost exclusively of dog beds, which they use seemingly rotating and divided over time.
However, the line is firmly drawn in our own bed. And by solid, I really mean pretty blurry. They can be invited to rest occasionally, but anywhere near the pillows is prohibited.
I've always been wary of those who accept a lick of their dog's face while cooing "Ooooo". . . Kisses for Mom ”when everyone involved knows the terrible truth about what that tongue did just moments before. But the bond between loving owners and their dogs is unbreakable – and a possible breakup difficult to consider.
Andrew said he was fortunate enough to attend many top sporting events as part of his job, but Lock Lock stopped this overnight
I once dreamed that Olive was talking to me. It all seemed perfectly normal, that's the nature of dreams, and she turned to me and said in a very reassuring tone, "You know that I have always loved you."
When I woke up I was pretty emotional so I went downstairs and found Olive and wrapped me around her as she asked what on earth I thought I was doing.
But in real life, she doesn't have to be able to speak to tell me what I already know.
There are the open displays in which Olive forgets herself – for example, her joyful, loud reception at the gate. But it's the quieter, more subtle instances that tell you more.
So yeah, I know what it means when I walk in to get hit by the dicks on the floor. I know when Olive gets into a silent reverie and just stares at me. I see it when she sits down next to me and I feel it when she leans very lightly on my legs. I just know it.
The only problem is that dogs seem to be fast forward to our own. They are far more likely to leave us than the other way around.
Olive is now dozing next to me with a little salt sprinkled on the pepper of her chin, and white spots are scattered on her chest.
Every day there seems to be more and every day I have a little moment of sadness as I think about what it means. I can deal with gray in my own beard much easier than hers.
Andrew's book Olive, Mabel and Me is published by Black and White Publishing
In that terrible year, time seemed to pass and we were often grateful for it. We all wanted to move on, to get back to something like a “normal” life.
But then I look at Olive and Mabel and I really want to hit the brakes – to try to stop the rushing, vanishing days.
And yet … remember, be more optimistic. Be more … Labrador.
Caroline recently surprised me when she said, "Do you think we should have another dog?"
It was the first time that it had been seriously considered. When (and I mean when) a newcomer arrives, it will no doubt dig itself into our lives and hearts – just like the dogs I've known in the past, like the very special two we have now.
And like all that we will surely have in the years to come.
- Adapted from Olive, Mabel And Me by Andrew Cotter (Black and White Publishing, £ 20). © Andrew Cotter 2020. To order a copy for £ 17.60 go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £ 15. Offer valid until 11/10/2020.
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