They say never work with children and animals but, if you’re a soap star, chances are you’ll have to do both. And sometimes, it’s the furry friends that viewers grow more attached to on the show, making it all the more devastating if a soap dog is killed off or goes to live on a farm.
Soap operas in Britain are institutions, watched ritualistically at dinner time by avid fans across the country, and some moments will always be remembered, whilst others are best forgotten.
And no soap is really complete without its mascot pet, normally a pooch, a loveable sidekick to one of the show’s established lead characters. Which of these canine soap stars do you remember?
Wellard - EastEnders
Wellard is a Belgian Tervuren who first appeared on EastEnders in 1994, when he taken by Robbie Jackson, played by Dean Gaffney, who mistook him for a stray. He was given the name Wellard, taken from the phrase ‘well hard’, and was a tough mutt throughout the series.
Despite the character being male, Wellard was played by three female dogs, Zenna until 1998, her daughter Chancer, from 1998-2001, and Chancer’s daughter Kyte, from 2001-2008.
Wellard was EastEnders’ longest-serving pet, having been on the show for just under 14 years. He was killed off in 2008 - Bianca Jackson fed the dog a chocolate which poisoned him, and he had to be euthanized.
Previously, Wellard had been threatened with euthanasia after biting cafe owner Ian Beale, in a storyline that was not popular among fans of the show. Another big moment for Wellard came in 2003 when he helped save his owner Gus who had been involved in a minibus crash.
Bouncer - Neighbours
Labrador Retriever Bouncer (played by Bouncer), was a regular on Australian soap Neighbours from 1987-1993, and he got up to plenty of mischief in his time.
Bouncer may have even been harder than Wellard, given that he survived a bout of poisoning by mushrooms, but perhaps it’s not fair to compare the two. During his stint on the series he also made it through a house fire and several road accidents.
When Neighbours was cancelled last year, NationalWorld listed Bouncer’s dream, akin to watching Cbeebies on an acid trip, as one of the soap’s most memorable moments. In the dream, Bouncer imagined that he was marrying fellow Ramsay Street pooch Rosie, a Border Collie.
Bouncer enjoyed that most rare of privileges, a happy soap opera ending - when his owners Toby and Dorothy leave Ramsay Street, they take him with them. Bouncer returns to the street where he fathers a litter of puppies and is then driven back to Toby and Dorothy, whilst his puppies live on a farm nearby.
Cracker - Brookside
Jimmy Corkhill’s Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Cracker, made 68 appearances on Liverpool-based soap Brookside. Jimmy received his pet as a part-payment on a drugs deal and Cracker was often seen at his side throughout the show.
Cracker was played by dog Kelly and had a few memorable moments in the show - notably being dog-napped in one episode by enemies of his owner Jimmy.
Cracker met a tragic end in the soap, being run over by a van - his owner Jimmy fared better, leaving Brookside to live with his daughter and son-in-law in their mansion in Gateshead.
If you’re feeling nostalgic and want to revisit the lives of Cracker and other Brookside residents, fear not. The first 10 episodes of the show will be landing on STV Player on Wednesday 1 February, with more episodes arriving each week.
Alfie - Emmerdale
Alfie was the Dingle family’s Bedlington Terrier, played by his namesake in Emmerdale from 2006-2017. The third pooch on this list to have been poisoned - this time by chemical seepage - it goes to show that soapland can be just as dangerous for pets as for their owners.
Alfie was also run over - Zak Dingle hit him by mistake when (ironically) fleeing a mob of vegans, but Alfie was taken to the vets and survived. This places Alfie as the most durable soap dog so far.
Sadly though death comes to us all, especially in soaps, and Alfie was killed in a storyline which saw him diagnosed with cancer and put down - he passed away by Zak’s side.
The real reason for the canine actor’s departure was that his owner thought that he was getting too old and that the pressures of a job were too much for her ailing dog. Alfie therefore quit acting and was able to enjoy a happy retirement.
Schmeichel - Coronation Street
Chesrey’s Great Dane, named after Denmark and Manchester United footballer Peter Schmeichel, appeared in Coronation Street from 2004-2011 and in that time was played by four dogs, all owned by the same person.
Schmeichel was first taken in by Tyrone after he had been left on his doorstep, who soon found the dog too difficult to handle and gave him to Chesney. Schmeichel’s most memorable scene came when he jumped into a bath that was being shared by Les Battersby and Cilla Brown’s bath, causing it to fall through the ceiling of their home.
Chesney and Schmeichel were inseparable for most of the dog’s time on the show - Chesney took him with him when he ran away from home, and when Fiz had a baby, she wanted Schmeichel out of the house, and Chesney left with him.
Like Cracker and Alfie before him, Schmeichel was involved in a road traffic accident, being hit by a bus, though miraculously he survived. In 2011, Schmeichel was written out of Coronation Street - he was put to sleep after being diagnosed with liver cancer.