Monty Don recalls late dog Nigel’s ‘very rare quality’ – ‘Different from the beginning’

Monty Don reads the introduction to his book 'Down to Earth'

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Monty Don, 65, moved fans to tears last year after he announced the passing of his beloved golden retriever Nigel. Since the pooch’s death, the presenter has remembered him fondly and revealed he had a “very rare quality” that made him so special.

Right from the beginning Nigel has been different

Monty Don

12-year-old Nigel died unexpectedly the day Monty finished writing his latest book My Garden World, but in his 2016 autobiography Monty Don: Nigel, My Family And Other Dog, he talked about the pup’s power to draw attention to himself – in a good way.

“Right from the beginning Nigel has been different,” Monty wrote.

“It helped that he is good looking – beautiful even – but so are lots of dogs and anyway, as we do our children, we all think our dogs are fine creatures.”

He continued: “But Nigel has that very rare quality of drawing attention to himself as if by osmosis.

“He steals every scene he is in. He takes the light form the room and casts it so that it falls on him to his very best advantage.”

The BBC star, who also has a Yorkshire terrier named Patti and another retriever named Nellie, added that Nigel also knew his way around a film set, and used to go into the garden to find him in positions that were especially flattering on-camera.

“When we are filming it is uncanny how he will always find just the position where the combination of sunlight, flowers, the whole composition of the scene – about which he cannot possibly have the slightest notion – all came together to work perfectly around him,” Monty chuckled, looking back on filming Gardeners’ World with his four-legged friend.

But in May 2020, poor Nigel suffered a major seizure in the early hours, and the the presenter revealed he didn’t appear to know where he was, and seemed to have lost his sight.

The fits apparently continued all night and after a few hours, the visible pain he was in became too much for a distraught Monty, who admitted he wanted him to die in his arms to end his suffering.

During a visit to the vets the next morning, they were told the prognosis wasn’t good and agreed Nigel should be gently put to sleep.

Looking back, Monty said in his latest release: “It happened with no warning at all. It was a shock, it was very sudden.

“We were filming the day it happened and I had to go on filming while it was going on. That was quite tricky.”

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But he is grateful that his furry pal did not have a prolonged illness and said Nigel had a “lovely last day and was quite happy”.

He added: “It was upsetting and very sad. We didn’t tell anyone for a week after he died because we just wanted to process it privately.

“He might have been a star around the world, but he was just part of our family.”

Monty couldn’t believe quite how famous Nigel had become, with his death making headlines all over the major UK tabloids.

“I put the news out and it was front page news in The Times,” he recalled.

“It was on the radio and on the television.”

Speaking fondly of his beloved dog, he added: “I miss him all the time. If Nigel was here now, he’d probably be bringing me a ball and rolling it on the desk and saying, ‘Come on, get off the phone.'”

The 12-year-old pooch is buried with 50 yellow tennis balls, his bowl full of an extra helping of food, biscuits and a bunch of May flowers, with a stone set above him surrounded by foxgloves, anemones and primroses.

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