An­i­mal at­trac­tion:

The woman who has the most un­usual job in lo­cal tele­vi­sion.

The TV Guide - - CONTENTS -

Vet nurse Jo McGre­gor must have the most unique job on New Zealand tele­vi­sion.

Sure, ev­ery show has some­one who has to look af­ter the stars and make sure they are fed and wa­tered, but only McGre­gor has to also en­sure they have been walked and toi­leted in an ap­pro­pri­ate place.

How­ever, it is sim­ply all in a day’s work for the Fan­i­mals an­i­mal carer. One of the TVNZ week­day af­ter­noon show’s most-vi­tal team mem­bers, the ca­reer vet nurse has been re­spon­si­ble for the wel­fare of golden re­triever Mol­son, fe­line dy­namic duo Mi­cro and Chip, and the other non-hu­man reg­u­lars from the show’s de­but in March.

Al­though some of the tasks can be odor­ous, the job is far from oner­ous, McGre­gor says.

“It’s a fun place to be,” she says while tak­ing a rare mo­ment to get off her feet at the pro­gramme’s Christchurch-based White­bait Me­dia stu­dios. “There’s a fun team of peo­ple and I think the an­i­mals are nat­u­ral stress re­liev­ers, so when some­body needs a lit­tle time out they come on down and have a pat.”

Fan­i­mals film­ing takes place on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day each week. McGre­gor says a typ­i­cal show day in­volves her get­ting up early to for­age greens for the guinea pigs and rab­bits and pick­ing up Mol­son on the way (Chip and Mi­cro live with McGre­gor, so they are al­ways first on­board) for a 8am on­set call time.

“He (Mol­son) gets pretty ex­cited to see me,” she laughs. “He bounds into the car, which is quite neat.

“Be­fore I’ve even ar­rived, he has had a walk and been sham­pooed and blow-dried.

“He’s a dar­ling, just a cool dog to work with, and be­cause he’s now three years old, he’s sen­si­ble.”

Once at the Ad­ding­ton stu­dios, McGre­gor fills up wa­ter bowls and makes sure ev­ery­one is happy for

the busy day ahead. She sets up a time­out zone away from the stu­dio lights for the kit­tens, while Mol­son goes look­ing for some­one to carry out his first or­der of busi­ness – a game of catch with a ten­nis ball.

“Mol­son has pretty much free rein once he’s here,” says McGre­gor. “He just sort of hangs about on the ‘grass’ (ac­tu­ally as­tro­turf) and wants to play tug of war.”

The only ex­cep­tion, she says, is when a guest an­i­mal might not be so keen on a ca­nine com­pan­ion.

“That’s when he goes up­stairs to hang out, be­cause we want to make sure that no one’s up­set.”

McGre­gor ad­mits Mol­son also gets asked to leave when­ever host Jess Quil­ter is whip­ping some­thing up in the on­set kitchen.

“Be­ing a re­triever he’s keen as. You can al­most see him plan­ning, ‘How can I get a crumb?’.”

Fan­i­mals pro­ducer Reuben David­son de­scribes McGre­gor, who is also a dog-watch vol­un­teer, puppy pre-school teacher and avi­a­tion se­cu­rity puppy fos­ter par­ent, as some­thing of, “A bit of a dog whis­perer. She seems to know what Mol­son is think­ing even be­fore Mol­son does.”

McGre­gor laughs at the sug­ges­tion, al­though she ad­mits she likes to think she has, “A good con­nec­tion with dogs. I’ve been read­ing a lot of books on dog be­hav­iour and I en­joy ob­serv­ing them, watch­ing them, try­ing to read their signs.” As with any role in­volv­ing health and safety, McGre­gor has plenty of pa­per­work to fill out, al­though in her case it mainly in­volves a spread­sheet for ev­ery an­i­mal doc­u­ment­ing when they’ve peed, poohed, snacked and slept. “Mol­son gets his own treats brought in with him – car­rots and ap­ples – be­cause he’s on a diet and when ev­ery­one else is eat­ing lunch, he gets time out in the sun – or the rain. He prob­a­bly gets three or four walks a day.” As for the kit­tens, adopted by the show from the Christchurch SPCA this year, McGre­gor says they seem to love their life in the spot­light. “They are such adapt­able cats. There’s no stress in the car. I put them in their carry case and they just go to sleep be­side me.” She’s also no­ticed big changes since they be­gan their lives on­screen. “They are get­ting a bit more in­di­vid­ual as they get big­ger. Chip is like he’s had a cof­fee or two when he’s on set – he likes to ex­plore and he’ll do any­thing for wee bits of food, in­clud­ing quite hap­pily sit­ting on my shoul­der for ages. “Mi­cro? She’s not so ex­cited by treats. But at home, she’s be­come par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in wa­ter. She’ll just sit in the bath hop­ing some­one will turn the tap on.”

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