Britain’s Got Talent winner Ashleigh Butler won the hearts of the nation with her performance with dancing dog Pudsey in 2012.
And after he sadly passed away in 2017, it was up to Sully to step up to the mark and following in his paw prints.
Since then, Ashleigh, 24, and Sully, now six, have appeared on TV shows and stages across the UK.
They’re currently at the Whitley Bay Playhouse in Jack and The Beanstalk with Ashleigh performing as the fairy and Sully as her fluffy sidekick.
We spoke to Ashleigh about life her new role, life after Pudsey and how Sully tries to protect her from the ‘baddies.’
Can you tell me a little about your new panto?
Yes, for the first time I’m actually going to be playing the fairy.
So it’s really exciting. I just want to fly. Sully, I don’t think Sully will be flying though.
His paws will be staying on the ground. So I’ll have my little helper Sully, who will be helping Jack defeat the giant.
Is panto challenging for Sully?
Yes, it can be. We have some days where we’re doing three shows a day, so I’m quite cautious and wary about how much Sully actually does.
Obviously, people have come to see Sully perform, so I make sure I do his performances and I’ve got to rehearse with him.
But I try to keep them to a minimum, and try to leave him off set if I know we’re going to be standing around and he might get bored.
So Sully will come in towards the end and do his bit. I’m quite aware about how much he’s on stage and how much he’s doing.
When he comes on stage I want him to have that impact of, wow, he’s doing his routine and his tricks, rather than him be there the whole time.
How to you keep him fresh for his appearances?
I change up our routines a little bit. So for two weeks I’ll do this routine, two weeks I’ll change it up a little bit.
Not huge amounts, because he just gets to the point where he goes, yep, I know what I’m doing. And he does this and then he goes into crazy mode.
Have you ever had any moments where things go wrong?
Yes, one thing is that he gets angry at the baddies because he thinks they’re being mean to me.
I told Guy Mott, the actor who plays Flesh Creep: “No offence, but Sully probably won’t like you.” It’s just, you know, you can’t tell a dog that we’re acting.
Other than that, he’s dropped a bucket before, but that’s about it.
Does Sully have any similar characteristics to Pudsey?
They were two completely different dogs. Pudsey used to be really calm and just chill.
Sully is the total opposite, like crazy. Always on. Always switched on. He likes to do everything at a million miles per hour.
Pudsey took his time and was more precise, but he didn’t do all the technical stuff that Sully does.
Sully is a little bit more sensitive, whereas Pudsey was hardcore, you could put him in any situation and he was, I don’t care.
Sully is just that little bit more sensitive and a little bit more wary. Other than a love of agility they are the complete opposites.
Did you find having Sully has helped you cope with the loss of Pudsey?
Yes, it was really strange with Sully as he was very immature and there was a point that I didn’t think he’d go on stage because he was very wary about his surroundings.
When I lost Pudsey, I don’t know, something clicked in him and he kind of just, he just knew to step up.
He went from being the puppy and being the younger one and just being crazy. To him going, ‘Okay, I know what I’ve got do.’
Wow that is amazing.
Yeah, it was very strange. The very first panto I did, I still had Pudsey, and I performed with both of them.
And Sully was crazy, sometimes he would just stand there barking. And then when I lost Pudsey, it all went to Sully, and he was completely different.
What do you think you’d be doing if you’ve not done BGT?
I have no idea. I was at school and I didn’t know what I wanted to. Britain’s Got Talent was massive for me. It completely changed my life and it gave me a career and every day is completely different. So, very grateful.
If people are inspired by the dancing and the agility they see you do, is there any advice you’d like to share?
Yes, if you’re starting from scratch, go find a local dog club or a certified dog trainer that can help you.
There’s lots you can learn online but I often find when I’m training or teaching people, it’s much better to be there in person.
And they can train you and your dog the proper way with positive reinforcement.
If you want to go on BGT or something similar with your dog, you can’t replicate that environment so you have to know your dog very well.
It’s vital they’re going to be able to cope with it and they trust you and they’re going to be sound with noises but have fun as well.
That’s the great thing about people like yourself and like the dog acts that we see on shows, it is all about encouraging people to have fun with the dogs, isn’t it?
Yes, 100 per cent, that’s what being a dog owner is all about.
To find out more about Ashleigh and Sully, follow them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ashleighbutlerdogtraining/
And for tickets for the panto which runs from Saturday 30th November to Saturday 4th January 2020, visit: Whitley Bay Playhouse
If like reading about celebrities and their pets, you might enjoy: