There has not been much to unite the nation in joy and laughter over the last few months apart, that is, from Andrew Cotter and his action-packed, heartwarming canine commentaries.
The broadcaster has been entertaining fans around the world after, on a whim, posting a video to Twitter, commentating on his two Labradors, Olive and Mabel, eating their breakfast. The 90-second clip, created out of boredom, went viral and within a few days millions of online fans flooded Andrew’s timeline to share their love for his two pups.
It was a moment, he says, that cut through the worrying headlines and brought people together – just when they needed it most.
“There’s no doubt that there’s still lots of horrible stuff on Twitter,” explained Andrew, who is one of the most recognisable voices in sports broadcasting, having covered events such as Wimbledon and the Olympics.
“Of course, that’s not going to go away – especially at the moment with all the problems in the world. But, during lockdown, we’ve seen almost what social media was originally designed for, which has been lost along the way. It helps a lot of people connect who might not otherwise be able to connect and, during this year, that’s been pretty much everybody.
“That’s probably why the video took off in such a big way. When people are being positive and nice, you can’t help but be affected by that – just in the same way as when you see constant negativity.
“When it’s a constant feed of positivity you realise that humanity is maybe not doomed after all. There’s a lot to be positive and optimistic about even in the darkest of times.”
After the initial video, titled The Dog’s Breakfast Grand Final, Andrew posted a much-requested follow-up, Game of Bones, and a third, The Walk of Shame. With each post, Andrew’s follower count grew, from an initial 45,000, built over a decade, to a now staggering 400,000. The clips have been watched more than 50 million times, boosted by celebrity fans including actors Ryan Reynolds and Julianne Moore, and astronaut Tim Peake, something which, Andrew admits, still shocks him. He said: “The attraction the videos have still astounds me. Every day I find out some new people have enjoyed it.”
Last week, perhaps to the delight of the estimated 60,000 people who have messaged him over the past six months, Andrew published a book about the experience, exploring the unexpected popularity of his improvised videos, as well as the special bond he’s had with dogs since his childhood.
Having grown up in Ayrshire before moving south to pursue his broadcasting career, Andrew’s book-cum-memoir, Olive, Mabel & Me, fittingly, both starts and finishes in the Scottish countryside, and each chapter was initially going to be an exploration of his homeland.
“I’ve lived in England for 20 years, but Scotland is my home and always will be,” explained the 47-year-old, who lives in Cheshire with his partner, Caroline. “My family all still live in Troon and in the Borders, and I get up there whenever I can. The Scottish mountains, for me, are just everything. I would be there with Olive and Mabel all the time, if I could. The book was originally supposed to be more about the mountains.
“The publishers approached me after the second video and asked if I wanted to write about me, the dogs and the mountains – but with every video made, we realised the appeal was slightly broader.”
As new people discover his videos, Andrew says the novelty of his sudden brush with fame hasn’t worn off, especially as he often gets to hear first-hand just how special his dogs have become to so many.
He explained: “I was doing a climb of the Merrick in Dumfries and Galloway, and I wrote about it in the epilogue for the book. Ten different people stopped me and said, ‘That’s not Olive and Mabel is it?’
“One guy said, ‘My mum’s been really ill recently and she’s got dementia, but she’s watched all the videos and it really brightened her day’. He wanted to say thank you, and I was genuinely moved.
“Yes, I enjoyed making the videos and making people laugh, but when you hear people say something like that, you realise it’s actually quite important. Of course, it’s just silly dog videos, but sometimes silly dog videos are all we need.”
But after hours of interviews, filming and even writing a book, does he ever get slightly miffed the dogs will always be the true star of the show? “No, I’m quite happy to be the largely unseen voice in the videos – I would say master’s voice, but I’m certainly no master of them,” Andrew said with a smile.
Olive, Mabel & Me: Life And Adventures With Two Very Good Dogs, Black & White Publishing, is out now
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