Gold medal-winning kayaker Lisa grew up in a cat-oriented family, but these days, it's Colin the cavoodle who greets her when she comes home from training. "My husband [Michael Buck] Bucky and I always knew we wanted a dog," says Lisa, who with five gold medals and one bronze, is New Zealand's most successful Olympian. "I was probably the main driver for getting him, but we were both on board – the only condition was that Bucky got to name him."
A firm believer in giving pets human names, Bucky decided their pooch looked like a Colin. "I guess Colin was destined to be Colin!" laughs Lisa.
Cheeky, playful, loyal and loving, the video on Lisa's Instagram page of Colin greeting her when she returned from the Tokyo Olympics is an absolute tearjerker, he is so excited to see her. "Colin helps to keep things fun – he can instantly lighten the mood. We can't imagine life without him."
But as you might imagine from a champion athlete with a strict regime, there are rules for Colin. "I'd say I'm moderately strict," muses Lisa. "He definitely has boundaries, but I'm also pretty relaxed."
It's hard for Laura to recall a time without animals. "My family always had pets – mostly cats and dogs, but other random animals when we lived on a lifestyle block. I remember being tiny in Cornwall following the cat around, desperate for her to love me. And poor Freckles, our Labrador, endured me trying to ride him like a pony. To be clear, I was very small!"
She became involved with cat charity 9 Lives Orphanage a few years ago when Shortland Street needed kittens on the show. "I absolutely melted at the little bundles of fluff, so when my plan to adopt became concrete, I knew where I wanted to go."
Now she lives with Portia (Paw) and Claudio (Claw), who are named after Shakespearian characters. "I love living alone and I love animals, so it made sense to have non-human companions. I wanted two so they could entertain each other, so a brother/sister combo was perfect.
"I love their personalities and that they let me pat their tummies. But I do try to limit how much I let them train me!"
Three years ago, Ryan and his fiancé moved to a place of their own. "I suppose I'd always wanted to get a pup once we had a place together, but we could never agree on a breed," he tells. "Then one night, while waiting for takeaways, we bumped into our neighbours who were queuing with their dog, a beagle called Ringo. We both thought he was great and our neighbours gave us the breeder's details."
Luckily, the breeder happened to be expecting a litter in a couple of weeks and the new pup was brought home – and named Fanny. "We actually have a French friend called Fani – it kind of came from her," laughs Ryan. "We loved that it's a cute name but it's also a bit cheeky."
Fanny has settled in happily with her humans. "She's a very smart girl. She's learned how to open the pantry door. There have been a few occasions when we've found her on the kitchen bench eating our dinner!
"She's definitely cheeky, but she's super-affectionate and loves to play whenever you are," says Ryan fondly. "Her best quality is that she bounces off whatever energy you give her and loves being a part of whatever's going on." But when it comes to rules, Fanny's got Ryan sussed. "She's definitely figured out I'm the weakest link!"
Wilhelmina has been cat-obsessed since she was a little girl. "I had my first cat – Swizzle – when I was three years old," she recalls. "After she passed, my mum bought me the cutest little black and white kitten for my seventh birthday. She told me to close my eyes and hold out my hands, so I opened my arms wide, hoping for a huge gift, but she cupped my hands together and placed the tiniest fur ball in them."
For a few years, Wilhelmina was cat-less until she got her own place five years ago. "I dreamt of furry snuggles and head boops, but it was never viable in a flatting situation. Now I have my beautiful tabby white queen, who's just as sassy as me!" she laughs. "She has a bit of an identity crisis, though, as I named her Florrie, but the nicknames have evolved over time. I call her Smooch, Smooty, Wooty or Wubble – ridiculous, I know, but I'm so obsessed, I want to smooch her all the time!"
But there are no smooches at her "zoomies" time. "It's her bewitching hour – she runs around like an absolute lunatic. One time, she was chasing a cat toy and ran straight into a glass door. She looked at me as if to say, 'I can't believe you put that there.' The facials were priceless, but her little kitty ego was severely bruised."
Six-year-old wheaten terrier Charley was the product of child peer pressure for The Breeze radio host Robert.
"Charley is our second family dog. Poppy, another wheaten, came before her – and she came about in the same way. Now we're empty nesters," says Robert, who lives with wife Carmel Murphy now their son Sam, 26, and daughter Molly, 22, have left home.
"I was the last one in the family to agree to get dogs, but now I wouldn't change it for the world. Even though I always knew it would end up being the parents' job to do the walking and looking after!"
Fun, playful and occasionally a bit moody, Charley isn't keen on the little red postie delivery carts or scooters. She is, however, a huge fan of bean bags – maybe a little too obsessively. "She loves them so much that as a puppy, she'd come charging into the house and launch herself at the bean bag," he tells. "Once, she got so excited that she peed all over it. I washed and scrubbed it clean with Dettol – only for her to come racing in and do it all over again!"
Tortoiseshell Muffy has been part of Lana's world for 18 years. "She's lived everywhere with me – Dargaville, Hamilton, Whangārei and Christchurch," says the announcer, who shares her with wife Katie and a ginger exotic cat named Teaspoon.
Getting Muffy was a flatting decision. "We got her for only $26 with a free cat carrier!"
And she is quite a character. "The sass she has is unreal. She stands all over Teaspoon and clearly doesn't like him, just because he cost us more than $30!"
However, Muffy is there when it matters, tells Lana. "Over the years, whenever I've cried, she makes a bed on my back."
When Teuila's best friend suggested buying a dog along with her first house, Teuila was easily persuaded. "My friend's dog had pups and a little ginger boy needed a home," says the Sione's Wedding actor. "But when she dropped him off, his litter sister came too – I ended up keeping both! They're so loving, with their own personalities."
Melo is the quieter of the siblings. "It suits him because he is mellow in nature. His sister was so mischievous, I called her Missy. Then Missy had a tiny brown baby like a little cocoa bean. I kept her too – she's feisty like her mum!"
Teuila also fell for a feline when her son Jared came home with a black cat in 2020. "Salem was the most beloved cat," she says. "He went missing. We're still heartbroken."
Over the past three years, Teuila's helped home around 10 dogs. "If I could, I'd have an entire animal sanctuary," she says.
Petra is a die-hard animal lover. After a period of being a cat family, Petra's children – Venetia, now 20, Jude, 18, and Theo, 16 – started putting the pressure on to get a dog.
"There was a lot of discussion about what flavour of dog. I was reading things like, 'Sheds a million hairs', 'This is a digging and jumping dog.' I was nervous," she admits. "I felt I had enough going on with the cat, kids, myself, the hubby, goldfish..."
Finally, the decision was made thanks to Hendo, a brindle schnoodle owned by the neighbour. "He was so cute, so we rang the breeder who said she had one left from a litter. I knew that as soon as Theo laid eyes on him, we'd get him."
And so it was that Otto, now three, came to live with the family – as does Hendo, part-time. "We have a gate between us and the neighbour, and we look after each other's dogs. Otto is overly friendly. He loves catching balls and eating, and can jump as high as my elbow."
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