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The pet I’ll never forget: Elizabeth Hurley on Nico the stabbed dog, ‘the loyal angel who kept me safe’ | Pets

When Nico slunk into my rental house in Los Angeles and gazed at me with her haunted eyes, I knew I had found my Polaris. Eerily tranquillised, with a large knife wound from shoulder to hip, the traumatised German shepherd I had volunteered to dog-sit had arrived – and I knew right then that I would never give her back.

Nico had belonged to a friend – and was loved – but one night burglars had broken in, encountered Nico and stabbed her viciously. She had become too hard to handle and was sent to kennels. When I heard of Nico’s plight, I thought: why not have her to stay? This was back in the early 90s and I was a struggling actor in Hollywood with time on my hands. Little did I know she would become my beautiful leading lady for many years.

I had never had a dog of my own and wasn’t sure what to do with her. At first, Nico wouldn’t eat unless she ate out of my hand. I also discovered that no one had removed her stitches, so I painstakingly picked them out with my nail scissors. Then, crossing my fingers and toes, I threw away the tranquillisers. Nico bloomed before my eyes and our mutual obsession began.

My days were full of auditions and meetings – I would leave the house bright-eyed and hopeful, but return crushed and miserable. Nico would always be there, waiting anxiously for me. She would know instantly if I was upset; I would feel her great love reach out and engulf me. On many shamefully self-indulgent occasions, I buried my face in her neck and wept. She would have made me a cup of tea if she could.

In time, my fortunes changed and I decided to move back to England, but dogs had to complete a torturous six-month quarantine in the UK to make sure they weren’t carrying rabies. It was an appalling prospect. I subsequently become a leading voice in the pressure group Passports for Pets, which got the law changed so that fully vaccinated animals could travel freely. Sadly, it was not in time for my baby, who did her six months behind bars before going on to have a whale of a time in the English countryside.

Nico, AKA Bat Ears, Two Pelts and Tiramisu, was the loyal angel who slept with her head on my chest and kept me safe. When she died of cancer, I was devastated. This was before I had my son. Nico had been, quite simply, the light of my life. I vowed I would never again allow myself to get so close to a dog. I have had many since, all of whom I have adored, but my sooty-eyed dream girl will always be my best in show.

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