Book review: Chandi by Tina Humphrey

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When Tina Humphrey and her Border collie Chandi made the final of Britain’s Got Talent in 2010, it was the love between dog and owner as much as their amazing dancing routines that won the hearts of the nation.

But behind their success story is a tale of devastating loss and incredible devotion which is as moving and uplifting as the sight of the talented Chandi clutching an umbrella in her paws as she dances to the music of Me and My Shadow.

In her honest, funny and truly magical memoir, Humphrey reveals that it was Chandi and her first recue dog Pepper who sustained her through the desolation of losing both her parents to cancer in less than two years.

Humphrey’s humanity, her affection and care for her parents and the insoluble bond with her dogs is inspirational, and her emotional, straight-from-the-heart account of the trials and tribulations she has endured over the years will have readers reaching for their tissues.

The young Tina’s love affair with animals, and dogs in particular, began at an early age. An only child, she was always happy with her own company but longed for her own pet and the unconditional love that she believed only an animal could offer.

Her first dog was a golden Labrador called Chandie but when she moved back in with her ailing parents in Church Stretton, Shropshire, after graduating with a music degree from Oxford, Humphrey took in Pepper, a rescue dog, which had been badly treated.

It was with Pepper that she began to develop her own training and obedience methods and before long they were competing in dog shows.

In 1998, Humphreys took home another abandoned puppy which she called Chandi, believing her to be a reincarnation of her first dog, Chandie.

From the moment Chandi walked into the house, ‘it was as though she had always been with us,’ writes Humphrey. From day one, the beautiful collie with her silver-grey markings ‘has never let me out of her sight, and she has never left mine.’

Although she could not bear to be left alone, Chandi took to learning simple tricks so quickly and was so keen to learn and attentive that Humphrey knew she had a potential star in the making.

When Humphrey’s parents and her beloved Pepper died, she threw herself into training Chandi and became immersed in the Heelwork to Music classes at dog shows, inventing many of the moves that are today used by other trainers.

They have now won every major competition in the country several times over, including three Crufts titles in 2009.

The following year they were finalists on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent show when Chandi’s astonishing dance routines wowed the television audience, and even pernickety judge Simon Cowell!

This is a memoir with the very widest appeal ... you don’t have to be an animal lover to fall for Tina Humphrey and Chandi. Theirs is a heart-warming and often humorous story of pain and perseverance, resilience and mutual reliance, grief and glamour, work and play, love and selflessness.

Humphrey’s experiences of grief and loss have endowed her with a determination to ‘live for the day,’ a philosophy which she expounds with genuine feeling, humility and grace.

Performers par excellence and lifelong partners, Tina and Chandi take a bow-wow. You truly are a pair of shining stars!

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)