Alexandra Burke on how medical detection dogs could have helped her mum

Alexandra Burke with her dog
Alexandra explains why Medical Detection Dogs is a charity that means so much to her (Picture: Alexandra Burke)
As one of the celebrities joining our Metro.co.uk Lifeline Woof and Walk for MDD challenge in June, pop star Alexandra Burke explains why the charity’s work is so close to her heart.

‘Diabetes runs in my family. It has been something that every woman in my family has had to cope with from birth. Apart from one of my aunties, and myself – I have no experience of having diabetes – my mum had it, and my grandma had it and my great grandmother had it as well.

So, when I heard that there are these incredible dogs that can sniff out diseases such as cancer , Parkinson’s, even Covid, and, of course Type 1 diabetes, supporting the charity Medical Detection Dogs through the Metro.o.uk Lifeline campaign immediately became a really important cause for me.

When I was younger, we always had to take my mum’s condition into consideration. She sat us down when we were really little and had to show us what to do if she fell ill. She had to tell us how to help her and how to react if she became unresponsive because of her illness.

Here’s looking at you. Dogs have three eyelids, an upper lid, a lower lid and the third lid, called a nictitating membrane or “haw,” which helps keep the eye moist and protected.

It would have been incredible to have had a pet be able to sniff out the signs that something was wrong, and to give us that warning. It would have been an enormous help to my family when we were young, even now it would be really beneficial.

So, if families like mine, who needed that extra support, can have these animals around to provide warnings about certain illnesses, or to help somebody reach their medication, that would be such a vitally useful resource for them.

I always smile when I talk about what these dogs because it’s extraordinary, it’s remarkable. And those who are training these animals, they’re remarkable too. That must be a task and a half!

Alexandra Burke with her dogs
As a dog lover it means so much to me that these amazing animals can do extraordinary things (Picture: Alexandra Burke)
This campaign is also very close to my heart because as well as the diabetes connection, I have also lost people in my life to cancer. My grandfather passed from cancer, as did my auntie. Also, my best friend’s mum has Parkinson’s. So, to know that there is the possibility of improving early detection for these conditions – it means the world to me, and I know it will for so many others who can relate to this as well.

As someone who is a dog lover I also adore the fact that these amazing animals can do extraordinary things – like identifying disease – that people think only humans can do.

Wow, check out those choppers! Puppies have 28 teeth and normal adult dogs have 42.

I have four dogs at home. There’s Alfie, who is 11 years old and a Yorkshire Terrier. He is the one that plays with the ball all day and doesn’t stop.

Next, I have Prince who is the middle child. When people talk about ‘middle child syndrome’, Prince is the perfect example of this. He is a chihuahua and such a loving dog, but he gets very protective over me. He gets quite jealous when I when I pet or stroke any of the other dogs. He’s like, ‘what are you doing Mum? Stay with me!’

I also have Teddy, who is a Pomeranian, who is quite a timid little dog. He loves to play, but at the same time he gets a bit scared of cars and things like that. He is such a loving soul, but if you walk too long with him he will just stop and will look at me as if to say, ‘okay, I’m done now. Pick me up!’
Finally, I have my newest addition to my family – little Bella-Rose. She is a miniature golden doodle, and she is the only girl in the pack. She is the cutest little button you will ever meet and so full of joy! Bella-Rose even broke the internet the other day and got loads of followers on Instagram. I really couldn’t be prouder. She is just wonderful and has the most beautiful little face. In Caribbean culture, we don’t usually have dogs in the house. In Black families, it is rarer to see animals being kept as pets. When we were young, my mum always said that we weren’t allowed to have animals. But then she decided to break that break that cultural taboo.

She started off by allowing us to have a cat, who was amazing, and then we started on our doggy journey by rescuing animals that needed help.

Meeting your new puppy, kitten or any other pet can be an exciting experience. Your pet, however, has some adjusting to do. New sights, smells and sounds can be overwhelming for the little guy and keeping a calm household is important.

After that my mum fell in love with our four-legged friends, and all of a sudden, we just became this massive dog family.

We had two big family dogs that we rescued, but they have sadly passed away. So, now the family dogs are my four, and they bring us so much love, joy and affection.

They have really been such an enormous help throughout lockdown. They inspire conversation with people in parks and on walks, and they just make you feel like you’re never on your own.

That’s why I’m proud to be part of this campaign. I want to do my bit for dogs – especially those that can help sniff out disease and help save lives.’