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Going for gold: Pooch who ‘saved’ Hannah Miley in lockdown aims to be Scotland’s Best Dog

Hannah Miley and Poppy
Hannah Miley and her pooch Poppy are competing in Scotland's Best Dog on BBC Scotland.

Olympic swimmer Hannah Miley is going for gold again but this time with her beloved pooch, Poppy, who she credits with “saving” her during a tough lockdown.

The pair are competing in Scotland’s Best Dog and vying to win the BBC Scotland show’s coveted Golden Bone trophy for the country’s most-cherished canines who are the life and soul of their families.

But, win or lose, Hannah and Cocker Spaniel Poppy both loved being part of the show – which will feature their heat on Thursday December 16.

“It’s a family fun show and really comes across that way,” said Hannah, from Inverurie.

“The judges were amazing, the competitors were so fun and good to know. Poppy doesn’t care if she comes first, second or last, she just enjoyed being there.”

Poppy going through her paces in Scotland’s Best Dog.

“Being a spaniel, she’s chaotic and energetic, but she really held her own and did fab during the tasks.”

Hannah entered the show after her physio sent her an advert and urged her and Poppy to take part.

Scotland’s Best Dog out of Hannah’s comfort zone

It was only after she signed up that she realised the show wasn’t just a profile of people and their pets, but an actual competition with tasks – such as recall, agility and testing the bond between human and canine.

“When I found out we’d been shortlisted it was exciting but also really nerve-wracking. As a swimmer, I know what I’m doing in the pool, but this was completely different and very much out of my comfort zone.

“But I had Poppy by my side who reminded me to stay calm and actually enjoy everything about it.”

Hannah Miley and her dog Poppy hope to impress the judges on Scotland’s Best Dog, including Kaye Adams.

Hannah hopes Poppy can win over the judges – dog-lover Kaye Adams, animal behaviourist River McDonald and Scottish SPCA veteran, and dog trainer, Alan Grant – with her personality and also with the many tricks which the pair worked on during lockdown.

That included training Poppy to help Hannah pack her swimming bag, retrieving the items she needed and dropping them into her kit pack.

“And I’ve taught her to read, but I say ‘read’ in inverted commas,” said Hannah.

“I have a couple of placards that say ‘sit’, ‘back’, ‘down’ and spin. If hold one of them up she will do the command without me saying anything. I think by association she has figured out the word and which trick it is associated with. That took a while to do.

It’s fun to say Poppy can ‘read’

“It’s quite fun to say my dog can read,” said Hannah, adding she and her partner Euan have had Poppy in their lives since 2019.

But it wasn’t just Poppy who benefited from the trick training. Hannah freely admits that her Cocker Spaniel helped her get through a tough lockdown.


Poppy is a bouncy, energetic Cocker Spaniel.

Hannah was not only facing the pandemic restrictions, but also battling an injured shoulder which stopped her swimming, something she found “devastating”. At the same time, Euan, a sports videographer and photographer, had to take a supermarket job when his work stopped during the pandemic.

“So I was often on my own while my arm was still in a sling and mentally I really struggled because it was such an emotional and difficult time for me as an athlete. I felt I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t go out and work, I couldn’t swim and I just felt useless,” said Hannah.

“But having Poppy there, I could talk to her, wherever I went, she was there keeping an eye on me and she just made me laugh.  When I felt at my lowest, she would pick me up and give me something to do. So the trick training was really important because it gave me a sense of purpose that I could do during my recovery.

‘Poppy saved us in lockdown’

“I genuinely don’t know what I would have done without her, my mental health especially. It’s going to sound very dramatic, but she kind of helped save my partner and I especially during lockdown when with that one walk a day we had, she gave us that purpose.”

Poppy is a water baby, just like Hannah.

Little surprise then that Hannah says Poppy means the world to her, constantly bringing light and joy into her life and she doesn’t mind how far the pair of them get in Scotland’s Best Dog.

She said: “I actually genuinely don’t mind whether we make it past the heat, whether we make it into the final, it genuinely doesn’t matter. Just being here with her and being able to compete and do the event actually was just a huge achievement for us in itself.”

To find out how Hannah and Poppy get on, watch Scotland’s Best Dog on BBC Scotland on Thursday December 16 at 8pm.

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