Known for her barefoot performances and soulful tones, Joss Stone is one of the most successful artists of her time, selling more than 14 million albums worldwide.
Having collaborated with some of the best names in the music business, notably Jeff Beck, Stevie Wonder and James Brown, as well as Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart through the supergroup 'SuperHeavy', it's no surprise that the Grammy award winner has received as many awards and industry acknowledgements as she has over the last 13 or so years.
Always someone to forge her own path, Joss is currently undertaking a World Tour visiting all corners of the world to inspire and be inspired, which she shares across her social media.
Last year, just before K9 Magazine’s Kim O’Meara caught up with Joss, the singer had returned home from the Caribbean when one of her dogs, Missy, was taken ill. At the time we spoke, Missy was recovering but since then, she has sadly passed away.
Our thoughts are with Joss and her family, knowing only too well how hard it is to lose a dog we hold so close to our hearts. But our dogs do live on with us through the memories we hold, so we share below Joss’s interview in the context and time period of when we spoke.
Hi Joss! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us today. We can't wait to find out more about your dogs – please tell us all about them. You have four dogs, right?
Hi, thank you! I do, yes.
My oldest is Dusty Springfield and she’s around 12 years old. I was given her on my 18th birthday as a present by an ex-boyfriend and it seems that he was a serial dog gift-giver (laughs).
It’s a bit mad really because he’s done it with other girlfriends, but I’m really glad to be honest because I’ve ended up with the most amazing dog. Dusty has travelled around the world with me and she’s been my little best mate since then.
So yes, I mugged off the man and kept the dog. Worked out great (laughs).
Dusty / Photo Credit: Instagram.com/jossstone
I got Missy Elliot, my Rottweiler about a year later so she’s around 11. My brother was dating a girl who was the daughter of a dog breeder, who I ended up being really good friends with.
Harry, my brother said to me 'oh my god, Joss, I’m at my girlfriend’s house and there are Rottweiler puppies here and they are so cute' and I said 'I can’t have another dog I’m on the road and I’ve got Dusty'. He said 'you don’t have to have one, just come and play with them' so I went and was playing with them and Missy, I don’t know how else to describe it except to say I just loved her. I mean, obviously I was going to end up coming home with one of them (laughs) but there’s something about Missy.
Missy / Photo Credit: Instagram.com/jossstone
A special connection you mean?
Yes, exactly. There’s a link between us, it’s hard to describe and it’s like there always has been this connection between us. I feel like she’s my little guardian angel.
Ever since she was a puppy she’s just always wanted to be with me. You know, even now when I come home she will follow me around the house. If I run a bath she’ll go up there and lie down, if I’m outside gardening she’s outside gardening with me. If I’m cooking, she’s sitting by the Aga with me.
She has a lovely soul. I just love her.
As a Rottweiler owner, would you say they’re a misunderstood breed?
I would, 100%.
And after Missy came Igor, is that right?
Yes that’s right so I got Igor trying to turn a negative situation into a positive, to be honest.
So basically, two men tried to come and kill me and I was like 'oh, well, that’s a little bit awkward' so I was looking at that and thinking how I could turn it into a positive, which is a bit of a habit of mine in life - I take lemons and make lemonade.
Anyway, I was like 'god, I don’t know how to make this one positive' it’s a bit weird and then I thought ‘I know, I’ll use this as a fantastic excuse to get puppies’ (laughs). So there you go, that was my silver lining and what a silver lining it was.
So I googled top 10 protective dogs and there were a few illegal breeds and there were a few that aren’t. Rottweilers were on the list and so were Ovcharkas, which are also sometimes called Caucasian Shepherd Dogs. Of the dogs which came up, I thought they were also the fluffiest, cutest of the protective dogs so I chose them.
It was quite hard to find them in the UK, and in fact it’s actually quite hard to insure them because they are so rare. If you go to Russia there are loads, but that’s not the case here.
Igor / Photo Credit: Instagram.com/jossstone
So anyway, that’s how I came to own Igor and he’s 5 now.
He’s an amazing dog in every way. He’s quite stubborn (laughs) but he’s my only boy. He’s surrounded by women because I don’t live with anyone so it’s just me, Dusty, Missy and Maggie, who’s my fourth dog and she’s basically Igor’s girlfriend.
I got Maggie, who was named after my nan, from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. I really wanted to adopt so I called them up and the thing I had to take into consideration from the start was Dusty’s size because she’s smaller than a cat.
Maggie / Photo Credit: Instagram.com/jossstone
Really, what I was worried about was adopting a dog that was bigger than her who we didn’t know the history of because if there was an incident, she’s so small I thought it could be one bite and done, so I was just being cautious really because, you know, she’s my Dusty.
So asked them to let me know if they got a puppy in who would turn out to be a good size dog, but was young enough that could grow up with Dusty and everything would be cool. Anyway, they called me up and said they had the perfect puppy for me and that was that.
I’m not 100% sure what she is, the vet thinks she’s probably a mix between a German Shepherd and a Collie. She looks like a street dog that you might see in India, I’ve seen a few similar to her on my travels.
Cover Photo Credit: Jack Alexander/Fault Magazine
She’s a great little wifey for Igor. She’s super clever and she learns really quickly, I think that’s probably the Collie in her. She’s a little angel really, she comes really quickly when you call her name, she’s so well behaved.
Maggie’s one of three girls with Igor being your only boy. Do you think there are big differences between boys and girls?
Oh god, yes. Massive differences! When I got Igor, bearing in mind the reason I had decided to get him, I went to meet him with a guy I was with at the time and he was like 'right, you’re getting a boy because they’re bigger and they’ll be scarier' whereas I was worried as a boy he might be more boisterous and he’d be different to deal with. It’s a bit like men and women, they’re different aren’t they.
And he was like 'nope, you’re getting a boy and you’re not allowed to cuddle him' because he thought it would keep him tough. I was like no way am I getting a fluffy, cute puppy and not cuddling him. So obviously that relationship didn’t work out, but Igor did and he has been cuddled a lot (laughs).
Ha! I can see why, he is a beautiful boy.
Comparing him to the girls, he’s much, much more stubborn. He’s really clever though and he knows a lot of tricks, so if you have a treat he’ll drop down, roll over, do whatever you ask. But if you don’t have a treat and he knows that, then it’s over for you (laughs).
He’ll decide whether he’ll do what you’re asking him and if he feels like it’s worth it, then he’ll do it. He’ll literally look at you as if to say, ‘yeah, no’ (laughs).
At the end of a walk when I get back to the van I’ll say ‘okay girls in you get, come on Igor’ and the girls will get in without any trouble and Igor will just look at me as if to say ‘nope, too busy’ so I’ll wait for a bit, get in the van and pretend I’m going to drive off and he’ll look at me having already sussed out I’m not going anywhere.
So I’ve literally I had to turn on the engine and drive off just a little bit to get his attention, like you would with a naughty child, and get him to get in the van. It’s crazy, he’s so naughty and stubborn. But it’s cute though.
It sounds like he knows how to keep you on your toes. I know we sometimes apply human traits to dogs, but I do always like to see or hear about a dog being confident enough to be naughty (laughs).
Yes, exactly. If I’m honest, I like it because it’s who he is. It’s him being him. They’re all little people, aren’t they.
I mean we’re all born with a soul, aren’t we, whether you’re a person or an animal. That’s kind of how I see it.
I know Missy fell ill while you were on tour which meant you postponed a show to fly home and be with her. How is she now?
Well, she’s all good now, kind of. She was bleeding from both ends, basically. She had an ulcer so they decided that she’s allergic to something, but don’t know what. So she’s on a hypoallergenic diet and she has to take different drugs as well, including steroids, which I don’t love if I’m honest.
Missy / Photo Credit: Instagram.com/jossstone
It sucks because I don’t want her to be unwell so she takes the drugs but it sometimes feels like, dammit with all of the drugs in her system, I don’t know, you wish there was another way. There’s a whole regime and she can’t eat anything that’s not on her plan. We live in the countryside so we’re constantly watching her to make sure she doesn’t eat or drink anything she shouldn’t while we’re out walking.
I would really love to get her off the pills because the steroids are making her lose muscle in her back legs and I’m looking at my baby changing shape, and it’s like ‘hold on’ but I have to just trust the vet.
I think that’s what is really hard when you have a dog and not a kid because you can’t talk to them and have them tell you what’s wrong so you can’t those conversations. And especially with a Rottweiler, I mean they’re tough aren’t they. They don’t really show you when they’re in pain, except for in the most extreme of circumstances, like sicking up blood.
At the moment her blood tests are good but I’ve basically been taking her to the vets quite a lot and doing these regular tests just to keep an eye on things as much as we can.
That’s great to hear that she’s stable now, they are hardy little souls aren’t they. I have two Rottweilers and a Rottweiler cross Dobermann.
Thank you. Yes, they really are. But oh my god, they are lovely aren’t they. You are lucky (laughs).
When Missy got ill you were in the Caribbean for a gig weren't you?
That's right, I was.
I think every dog owner will understand why you had to come home.
I have to say I was really touched by the reaction.
There was such an outpouring of love for Missy, I mean there were a few who thought 'it’s just a dog' but that’s okay, they don’t need to get it because I don’t care if they get it or not. For me, it was like that’s my heart, of course I have to go home to be with her.
People were saying prayers for her and I do think mass consciousness is a very real thing. I was just like, 'wow', I was so touched by it all, honestly.
And I did have to postpone a gig and kudos to the promoter in Barbados because he came to me and was like 'Joss, this is a real problem for us' which of course I understood and I told him I’d play a gig for him anytime and told him I’d make it up to him, but right then what was going on with Missy was a real problem for me.
I explained to him that she was my baby and that she wasn’t stable and we couldn’t make her stable, something he asked me and something I’d already asked, so when I told him that wasn’t an option he said 'okay, I get it' and he told me he understood why I had to go home to be with her.
Missy / Photo Credit: Twitter.com/JossStone
Everyone was so lovely and supportive. And in fact the charity we were going to visit while we were there was a dog charity, so of course they understood as well. And thank god for that, really.
I wanted to ask you a bit more about your work with animal rescues when you're overseas for gigs and when you're recording. I read you fostered a dog while recording in New York. Can you tell us a little about that?
I did, her name was Opera and she was an older Pitbull cross. I always miss my dogs when I’m away from home so when I spend a good chunk of time somewhere I always think there are dogs in kennels that would appreciate not being in a kennel and need a bit of love. So she spent a week with me, we shared all the love and I put a post out on social media about her and she ended up getting adopted.
It was a nice thing to do, you know. She came to the studio with me, we’d go out for little walks and it’s a two-way thing, isn’t it, it was good for both of us.
Photo Credit: Twitter.com/JossStone
That’s amazing. Very good for the soul and again, as a Pitbull cross another misunderstood breed.
Massively misunderstood, yes.
I think the thing is that big strong dogs can sometimes attract people that, how do I put this, have a massive insecurity and they want the dog to make themselves feel bigger and look stronger. So walking along the street with a Rottweiler they think makes them look stronger, but it doesn’t.
I think the saddest part is when the dogs are mistreated though because of that, so the dog might be trained to be more aggressive than they are naturally.
I think there’s got to be a way to fix that, for example maybe you have to have a licence to have a dog to learn how to look after a dog, how to train them and how to spot if they’re poorly. I mean you have to have a licence to drive a car, which is a lethal weapon, why not the same for a dog? A dog can be a lethal weapon in the wrong hands.
If Igor was trained in man work, he’d be a lethal weapon for sure.
I hope one day it becomes a thing because then we won’t have these problems. I really believe it would get rid of the stereotypes around bigger dogs.
Igor, Maggie, Missy / Photo Credit: Twitter.com/JossStone
I see where you’re coming from. I think the stereotypes you talk about definitely lead to more dogs in rescue, too.
Absolutely. Also, I think there would be a lot fewer dogs in rescue if the owners had had to go to the trouble of getting a licence in the first place.
I just went to visit an animal shelter in Serbia for dogs and the lady that’s running it, bless her heart, she’s got loads of all sorts of dogs and people just chuck the dogs over the walls. It’s heart-breaking.
I asked her what the interest is from local people about adopting and she told me there’s little interest, people pretty much never take the dogs on.
So what they do is put them through different tests and health checks, and they get them passports and have to adopt them out to different countries, such as here or Germany.
It’s a shame, isn’t it.
It is, we know this rescue through our dog adoption site, dogsblog.com. It isn’t seen as a choice for rescues like them, it’s a way to try and find a secure future for their dogs, isn’t it.
Exactly. If they aren’t likely to find a home there, getting out of the country is the only way these poor dogs actually have a chance at having a life like your dogs or mine have.
I read when you were in Sri Lanka you donated proceeds from two shows to a rescue called Embark.
I did, the rescue is run by a lady called Otara Gunewardene. She’s a fashion designer and she takes all the money she makes and put it into this rescue to save Sri Lanka’s street dogs, and that’s all she does now. What a lovely thing to do with your life.
It’s a very kind thing to do.
It really is, it’s like a calling.
On the subject of dogs and callings, I saw on your latest album, 'Water for Your Soul', one of your songs ('Harry’s Symphony') is named after your brother. Have your dogs inspired you musically in the past?
My dogs are a big part of my life and that comes through sometimes.
(Laughs) In fact some of my dogs are even in the songs. If you have some time, listen to one of my songs, ‘Mr Wankerman’, it’s kind of long but there’s a lyric in there which is 'Thank you for dusty, love, she's really cute' and basically I’m saying thank you for my dog, but basically you’re a bit of a wanker.
You have to hear it, it’s quite funny. We were having a little laugh but she was the most positive thing I got out of that relationship and she’s been positive ever since.
The reason I spend so much time at home is because of my dogs. I mean, you know, I wish I could be here more but I’ve still got to work.
Maggie, Igor, Missy / Photo Credit: Twitter.com/JossStone
Mother Nature is also quite a big thing for me too.
I made an EP recently with some African rhythms in it. We kind of did this world music inspired thing and it’s all about Mother Nature. I consider that to be everything, even my dogs. And actually thinking about it I wonder if without my dogs I would be as connected to nature. We go for a walk every day, if my dogs weren’t there I’d probably just sit, sleep and make cakes (laughs).
Photo Credit: Twitter.com/JossStone
I think my dogs get me out, keep me active and connected to the planet.
Everything about dogs is positive, you know, they teach you discipline and the value of a routine, and how you affect other beings.
If you have a dog you have a responsibility as to who they are when they grow up.
This is always a tough question but if Dusty, Maggie, Missy and Igor had the ability to speak and you could ask them one question, what would you ask them and why?
Do you know what, I would ask them how they feel because they tell me everything else. They tell me when they’re hungry and most of the time I know what they want. I can tell when they’re happy or if they’re stressed out, but I want to know how they feel. I want them to be able to tell me if they’re hurt so I can fix it.
I know my dogs and I know their ways, but I mean Igor, for example, he’s a dog that has numb skin. Literally, he’s so tough and Missy’s the same. So, going back to what we said earlier, you don’t always know how they feel because they’re hardy souls and because of that they can hide when something’s not right, but if they could tell me, I’d fix it.
(Laughs) When I’m away I’d love to be able to speak to them on the phone to check if everything’s okay.
I trust a few people with my dogs when I’m away and some of them I know can tell if something’s not quite right, but it’s never the same as you is it?
Photo Credit: Twitter.com/JossStone
Joss, what would you say to finish the following sentence:
My dogs are…my priority. They’re my number one.
My family are my number one of course too, but if there's something wrong we can deal with it. If there’s something going on with my mum or my brother or my sister we’ll talk on the phone because we always discuss things to the death of it and we’re blue in the face but as a family, we are adults. We come up with a plan and sort it out.
But it’s different with a dog so it makes them come to the top of the pile because you have to figure it out. They’re the priority. I haven’t got a kid, but I imagine that would be what it would be like if I had one.
I know what you mean. And you head back out on tour soon. It sounds like your home life is really important to you for obvious reasons, how do you get that balance between home life and touring?
Well, I used to be away for a month at a time and come back for 10 or 15 days, if I was lucky, and I hated that so I’ve changed it now so I’m away for three weeks and I’m home for three weeks.
I have a bit of a mission at the moment with the Total World Tour and that’s to play a gig in every country in the world, and while I’m in each country I’ll visit a charity, like the dog charities mentioned, or a woman’s or children’s charity. So I’m trying to do something positive in each place we visit and shine a bit of a light on them with the tour.
Photo Credit: Twitter.com/JossStone
We’ve also been making musical collaborations, which I admit is a bit selfish of me because I love it, so we find someone out there who is making music from that land and we share our musical conversation with them, sharing their work too.
So that includes of course everywhere we visit and I’ve got around 200 countries to go. It’ll take me a little while but I’ll do it. I do enjoy what I do and it’s part of my mission in life but I do need my time at home with my dogs. That’s who I am too.
I love the whole ethos behind not just your work/life balance but shining a light on people, whether for their work helping others or creativity. What made that so important to you to incorporate in the tour?
Well, I’ve been doing this for a long time but every now and again I’d feel like I was just repeating. You know, I felt like although the audiences were enjoying it, but in some cases, you’d do a gig and leave the country without seeing anything and I felt like there was more we could do to give back to the place.
I try to affect whatever I touch in a positive manner. It’s been a really beautiful experience so far, I’m loving it. The whole mission is to never treat one person, culture or one country different to the next. It’s not my attitude in life.
Photo Credit: Twitter.com/JossStone
Equating the same sentiment to dogs, it’s not judging any one country as you wouldn’t a dog breed, isn’t it?
Absolutely. We talk about Rottweilers because we love the breed, but there are some I’ve met who aren’t like Missy. We’re all individual souls and we all have our personalities, and people have to take that on and not judge. Don’t judge. Take life as it comes to you, including with your animals.
Many thanks, Joss!