When TV presenter Darren Kennedy was bullied as a teenager he’d come home and snuggle up to his dog Rascal, because that’s what helped take his pain away.
The expression about a dog being a “man’s best friend” certainly applies to him; that’s one of the reasons why he has decided to leave a donation to the Dogs Trust charity, in his will.
The Irish stylist and fashionista is supporting the My Legacy campaign, an initiative set up by a group of charities in 2003 to encourage people to leave a donation to a charity of their choice, when they die.
Aside from supporting that campaign, Darren has just recently finished filming hit TV show Dream House, which he co-presented with Anna Daly.
“I’ve just come out of a really hectic six to eight weeks; I was on the new show called Dream House for TV3 which was pure property porn, so that went down really well and people seemed to have great appetite for it which was nice,” he said.
“I’m very busy in the UK as well, I host the London Fashion Week Festival, which is full on, and as part of that I filmed Britain’s Next Top Model and the finale show of the new series of that coming up, and I’ve lots of other stuff going on.”
When speaking with Darren, he was home in Dublin, preparing for a weekend of celebrations at a friend’s wedding and looking forward to unwinding a little, before jetting back to London.
“I’m sitting here with my little pooch Harry curled up beside me as I speak.”
Darren has had Harry — his feisty, miniature Yorkshire terrier, now 77 in dog years — since he was just a seven-week-old pup.
And, in recent years he has supported Dogs Trust: Dog Rescue & Rehoming Charity — Ireland’s largest dog welfare charity, which is another reason why, as part of the Legacy awareness campaign, he has committed to supporting the charity when he dies.
“The Dogs Trust will never put a dog to sleep, so if a dog ends up in their care, until that dog finds its forever home it will always have a home in the Dog’s Trust, and for some dogs that forever home is at the Dogs Trust.
“I’m always very conscious of charity; in general Irish people are a very charitable nation, but when it comes to continuing that support after you’ve passed away it’s something I hadn’t given a lot of thought to.
“Obviously your first concern is your loved ones and making sure they’re looked after as well as they can possibly be, but I think the whole point with leaving your ‘legacy’ is that — no matter how small or large the contribution is — you might consider continuing to support whatever charity, or charities you supported during your life.”
Dogs have “played a great part and have been a really important part” of Darren’s life, especially during his school years when he was bullied because he “was different to the other boys”.
“I wasn’t into the sports, or football really in the way that they were and I think I looked a bit different.
“I was in my teenage years and going through some fairly tough times — figuring out who you are and dealing with difficult circumstances.”
Talking about his sexuality, Darren said: “They (other boys) identified something in me I hadn’t identified in myself at the time, or maybe I had and I wasn’t prepared to come to terms with.
“It was pretty tough actually, so I’m very venomously anti-bullying for obvious reasons, because as we know it can have very detrimental effects.”
During that time, his little jack russell, Rascal, gave him comfort when he needed it most. “Obviously I’m not the only one who’s been bullied, but you feel very vulnerable at that stage in your life and then someone might pick up on something that you’re not quite even certain about yourself, and that can be very difficult to cope with and to talk about as well.
“Coming home to my dogs was always great relief because regardless of what happened during the day, or regardless of what someone’s said to you, thought of you or assumed of you, your dogs don’t really care they’re just delighted to see you; they’re non-judgemental, affectionate calming, and they never judge you.”
Darren believes that people don’t talk enough “about the important role dogs play” in our lives “and it kills me when I hear about them being abandoned or mistreated.”
My Legacy says 12% of Irish people plan to leave money to a charity when they die.
The group also says that just 30% of people living in Ireland have made a will.
“I hadn’t really given it a huge amount of thought, but then all of a sudden you realise you never know when the fat lady will sing,” Darren said.
Fergal O’Sullivan, chairperson of My Legacy said My Legacy Week — formerly Best Will Week — is asking the public to support Irish charities by making, or updating their will
and leaving money to a charitable cause.