Interviews

Real Housewives of Cheshire’s Perla Navia: ‘Dogs Teach Us to Be More Compassionate’

Perla Navia is one of the newest members of the Real Housewives family.

On the latest series of the Real Housewives of Cheshire, Perla let us into her home and shared with us her passion for yoga and how it changed her life, taking her out of a dark time and on a journey of letting go of anger and self-acceptance.

Yoga isn’t all that’s changed Perla’s life for the better. Her dog, Dora is the glue at the heart of her family and she told us that the last two years with her have been life-changing.

We met Perla and Dora to hear more.

Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

Hi Perla, thanks for chatting with us today.

We’re meeting Dora, your French Bulldog today. Please tell us all about her. How old is she?

Hi! She’s two years old and we’ve had her since she was a puppy.

How did you come up with her name?

She was named by the breeder because she was a very active little puppy. She was the first one to leave the basket, she just wanted to explore everywhere so they named her after Dora the Explorer.

We liked it and thought she looked like a Dora so we kept her as Dora.

Is she your first dog?

She is.

My husband and I have five children between us and over the years our kids have said ‘we want a dog, we want a dog, we want a dog’ and two years ago, our youngest was nearly 11 and growing up and we thought if we didn’t do it now since our other kids are now adults, it would be too late.

Why did you choose a French Bulldog?

Originally Dora was going to be my little girl’s best friend so we did our research on different dog breeds and we decided on the French Bulldog because they were originally bred for comforting and don’t need a lot of grooming, having to have their hair cut twice a month, for example.

Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

What led you to Dora?

A close friend of mine had a relative of Dora's so that’s how we got the recommendation for her breeder. We went to see Dora and we just fell in love with her straight away. We knew she was our baby.

Our images show a real closeness between you and Dora. You have a special bond, don’t you?

Absolutely. Dora has a special and different relationship with each person in the family but I’m her mummy.

She’s also still a very active dog, again judging by our photos.

She actually has the bee toy in her mouth now.

She is incredibly active. She goes running in the morning with my husband. She swims, which is not very common for French Bulldogs because of their breathing problems, but she breathes properly so she swims perfectly. She runs a lot and she goes for a walk later in the day too.


Dora pictured with her bumble bee dog toy from United Dogdom / Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

But we have to be very careful with her, both in the garden and on walks.

If I take my eyes off of her, she will be up the road or in the neighbour’s garden. She’s very curious - and also has a thing for squirrels. I don’t think she’s a typical French Bulldog, she has a streak in her, almost like a hunting dog. She’s incredibly curious.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

It sounds like she keeps you on your toes.

She does. However, when it is time for her to settle down for a cuddle on the sofa, she does. She’s the best of both worlds.

Dora made a few appearances with you on ‘The Real Housewives of Cheshire’, so let’s talk about the show and your first series as a TV housewife.

Reflecting on the series, was it what you expected?

Absolutely. It was everything that I expected, yes. It was very draining but also very rewarding.

It’s definitely not for everybody, you have to be incredibly strong or I think it will destroy you, in a way. But you can definitely make it a path of self-growth, developing yourself.

For me, it was something that was very tangible for me very early on, after two weeks of filming. It was a moment of confusion and I remember thinking ‘Why did I get myself into this? Life was really good’.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

It was a moment of reflection for me but I also reflect on the circumstances and I do realise that everything is necessary for self-development, both the good and the bad.

I don’t make the exception when I’m going through a good or great experience or a terrible, heartbreaking experience, I accept both. I tend not to attach myself to the happy or the bad. I believe in the philosophy of self-detachment.

These kind of moments and experiences can either make you or break you. In my case, it did nearly break me because I’m only human, however looking back I think if I got through that and everything else that life has thrown at me then I feel I’m a winner. I conquer.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

What was the situation? Was it the Rachel and John Lugo situation, where John had been coming to your yoga classes and Rachel felt he had been keeping it a secret so was caught off guard and jealous?

No, absolutely not.

That was very straightforward for me. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong and there are situations where I know that my mind does not belong and doesn’t have time to give to that type of situation. This was one of those because I knew that I hadn't done anything wrong.

Okay.

It was more getting to know different characters and different personalities. I’ve worked with so many people through the years, teaching yoga to hundreds of people a week, so I thought that I knew people but this was a complete shock.

For example, sitting across the table with seven other people. I didn’t know anything about their backgrounds, I was still getting to know them, and they didn’t know anything about me, but yet already judgements were already in place.

Although I was open to know everyone, I was judged from the beginning. It was ‘Who are you? What are you coming here for? You are upsetting one of our friends.’ So for me, the situation with Rachel and the yoga was absolutely not relevant but it became relevant because some of the other members of the cast got involved and made it worse.

Do you think that is because the other housewives (excluding Hanna, who was also new) were more used to the world of reality TV or for some other reason?

I think some people were incredibly intimidated by me.

I think they were expecting a yoga teacher with a loud voice but I didn’t speak much because when I speak I am very concise, very sharp, with my words and I think they found it difficult because I’m incredibly polite, however, if I have to say something I will, I will just be polite and concise when I do. So I think that some people were expecting someone different from who I am.

I want to know someone from a very genuine point, I don’t want to sugar coat, I don’t want to have to say the right thing for them to think that I’m alright.

I am just who I am and I think you either take it or you leave it and ultimately that comes from me being incredibly comfortable in my own skin. And I think that was the problem.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

You did build solid friendships with some of the ladies on the show, I’m thinking of your friendship with Tanya (Bardsley) in particular.

I did.

It’s often easier to know where you stand with someone to be able to build a friendship if they’re honest and upfront, isn’t it?

Absolutely. That’s why I have really good friendships in my life because they’re built on honesty.

Some of the members of the cast have a huge ego, we all do, but some have egos bigger than others and I think they expect you to come in and not just make an effort but to win them and that’s something I’m not willing to do for anybody.

I’m not very chameleonic. I can’t just adjust myself to someone for a situation, so if there’s a member of the cast taking it too far and I don’t like her behaviour or way of speaking then I’ll switch off. But if you pinch and pinch and pinch, then you’ll get a reaction, but it will take a long time.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

Quite early on in the series, you mentioned a little about your own story, how at one stage you were quite angry but then your life changed and you went on a journey. Are you happy to talk about it?

Absolutely. Until I was in my 30s, I felt like life owed me something. I felt like life had thrown something at me that wasn’t what I’d asked for.

I come from a very dysfunctional family. I don’t mean my parents were dysfunctional, although there is an element of that, it was more the environment we were born into and grew up in, Columbia. It was an environment of war, death and killings. It was difficult.

From the age of seven-nine years old, I, with my siblings, were in care house. It was very difficult but we were together. Then, when I was nine we emigrated to Spain with my parents.

When we came to Spain, life continued to be very difficult. It was a particular episode that I’m happy to speak about because it’s part of my life and my journey.

When I was 11, my father and I, just us two, were in the kitchen together and he put a gun to his head and he shot himself in front of me. He was very lucky actually because he blew part of his jaw away and part of his ear, but he didn’t die. So at 11, I had to drag him maybe 100 metres out to get help.

At that moment, I didn’t have time to deal with what had happened, it was just a situation that life was throwing at me. I didn’t feel sorry for myself or think of the trauma behind it. And at that moment, my family completely broke and my younger sibling also committed suicide three months later, which was dreadful.

I ended up living on the streets until I met the father of my oldest child and from then, life went on and it was difficult. I suffered from depression and anxiety. I didn’t know what any of the sensations were or what they meant, I just kept brushing it under the carpet.

I had lots of different jobs. I cleaned houses, I sold flowers, you name it I did it.

Then when I was 17, I met my husband and life slowed down. It was after this that I was able to name what I was feeling as anxiety and depression.

I should have been happy. I had a fabulous child and a husband, I had a better job and we had a good life. I didn’t understand how I was feeling. I should have been happy because life was changing for the better, I was living a life I could only have ever dreamed of. It took me years, until I found yoga, to realise that my trauma came from very early on. Probably from the moment I was born.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

And so, this is where rolling a mat saved my life. I tried many therapies and visited clinics for help, to clear my mind, but every time my life got worse.

From the moment I rolled the mat, I knew everything would change. It did something for me that therapy, clinics, a boyfriend, my husband, nothing or no one ever could. It was the moment I realised that it’s up to me to take myself out of this darkness or let it take me somewhere that I didn’t want to go. It brought me to my knees.

I realised that I had to accept everything that had happened in my life, all of the experiences that had brought me to my knees, to make me a better person.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

Every experience is like an angel coming into my life to teach me a lesson. But for years I refused to listen and learn and that’s why I was in a vicious circle. Once you refuse to take the lesson, another one will come along, and then a harder one, until you accept the lesson that life is giving you and you can move on.

So, rolling the mat was a very crucial point for me. From then, my body was different, my mind was different, even my sense of life was different. I started replacing all of the traumas and feelings of feeling sorry for myself, which I felt entitled to feel, with an hour of yoga practice every day.

I know what it’s like to do it from scratch, like someone doing a push up for the first time when it becomes a belly flop, I know. I remember many nights when the tears would just flow because for me it was healing. I knew that it was helping me.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

I have a book that I tick the days that I do yoga in and I didn’t skip it for a single day in a year. I truly believe that without yoga I wouldn’t be here. I wanted out, I wanted to get away from the feelings and sensations. It saved my life.

I’m so passionate about it and that’s the reason why I teach yoga now.

I’d be kidding myself if I thought I could make a lot of money out of it as a business, but that’s not what it’s about for me. It’s about sharing my very honest experience and understanding that what happened to me can happen for everyone else too.

That’s where I am right now and that’s why the show was important to me because us humans get to know people over and over and over again, and sometimes we are so arrogant that we believe that we know everything, but there are moments in life when it takes you back and it surprises you, and that’s why I’m grateful for this series.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

As a viewer, I think that came across, you can always tell when someone is genuine, as much as you can tell when someone is playing up to the camera.

Absolutely, you can always tell when someone is awkward and it’s not real.

I think by sharing your story, you will help a lot of people. Your story lets people know that they’re not alone if they’re struggling, that there is a way out of the darkness.

You know, I think this is the reason I am here. Regardless of fame, money, being a Cheshire housewife, anything, for me something that’s very important is people and that’s the only reason I signed up for the show. People.

It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve been comfortable enough to share my story. Before that, I hid myself away. Only now do I fully appreciate how lucky I am to have had the experience and that I’m privileged to not have been privileged in life.

It’s been rewarding for me to have people coming to me as a result of the show, sharing their own experiences.

I know what it’s like to want out but there is light. There is light from the moment you decide to take charge of your own life, your own experiences, the good and bad.


Dora pictured with her butterfly dog toy from United Dogdom / Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

Do you hope to be a part of the next series?

Whether I just do this series or the next one, or not, it doesn’t matter. The reality is that I come home, I put my hair in a ponytail and I come to a place of understanding. I love my family life, it’s not easy but I’ve handcrafted my family from scratch.

I like what I have built so it’s rewarding for me to know that when I come home everything I ever wanted is there, it’s inside, with or without TV cameras, that might be why there’s something a little more real about me.


Dora pictured with her new treats, Pet Munchies Chicken Fillets / Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

I’m not a trained actor, if I were I’d be asking for a job in ‘Hollyoaks’ or ‘Coronation Street’, but I’m not. I’m just comfortable in my own skin enough to be me and if that isn’t enough, I’m happy with everything I had before the show.

Well, you struck a chord with me and by the sounds of it, many others who’ve been in touch with you too. So job well done.

(Laughs) Good. We all have a story to tell.

We saw Dora on the show with you a few times, she seemed to handle the experience well.

She is amazing. I’m so blessed with Dora, she’s such a happy girl. When I’m talking to my kids about Dora I’ll say ‘Where is your sister? Go and get your sister’ because she’s our baby. She is such a crucial part of our family.

Dora definitely brought the glue to our family. Before, the children might be in different rooms, all doing different things, but now we all find ourselves together around Dora.

Undeniably, she’s changed our family dynamics in an incredible way.


Dora pictured with her ice cream cone and pugsecco dog toys from United Dogdom / Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

Dogs really do have an amazing ability to bring people together, don’t they?

I don’t know what it is. In my mind, before Dora, I thought it would be a huge sacrifice to have a pet, and like I said earlier, we got Dora because of my daughter initially, but from the moment we met her I just knew that she belonged with us.

I just want to give her all the best things in life, whatever she needs. I feel like she communicates with me and I just want to give her the best life possible. She’s a crucial part of our family, we all love her so much.

She has different relationships with each of us. With my children, she’s so playful. With my husband, she knows he’s kind of the boss so she does what he says, she’s very loving but takes him seriously, and with me, I’m just her mama and I’m here for cuddles.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

These are probably questions you won’t have been asked before - and probably won’t be again - so we can have some fun.

If you were to swap roles with Dora for a day, how do you think she’d cope being you and what would you love most about being her for a few hours?

I think she would take over my yoga mat because she does try (laughs). When I do the downward dog, she does it. When I do the upward dog, she will do it too. She mirrors me.

And if I were her, I would love her wildness. She has a wild heart and I would love to have that for a day.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

We ask all of our celebrities this question, it’s all in the name of fun.

Based on personalities alone, which breeds of dog come to mind when you think of these Real Housewives stars?

Tanya Bardsley - She would be a Yorkshire Terrier I think, with a long black and coffee coloured coat.

Brian Dowling - I only met him when he hosted the reunion show, but I’m going to say a Labrador.

Rachel Lugo - She is a wise, active person so she’d be a Border Collie I think.

And what about you, what breed of dog would you be and why?

I’d be a Frenchie, all the way.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

Moving onto our quick-fire questions, tell us what Dora last did to make you really laugh out loud.

It was this morning. My husband makes breakfast for us every day and this morning he brought it up to the bedroom and Dora was there too. He gave me my plate and put his at the side while he went to the bathroom. I started eating mine and then I heard slurping, eating sounds and Dora was eating his breakfast.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

What did you do?

I just let her (laughs). I knew that by the time he came out most of it would be gone anyway.

With Dora, we have such a compassion for her and we understand the need to let her be who she is.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

What do you think is the most important life lesson we can learn from dogs?

Compassion. I think they have a greater sense of compassion than we do and I admire that very much about Dora. She doesn’t place any judgement on people, she just loves people.

So, for example, after I finish teaching a yoga class I offer drinks and snacks and Dora will go to every single member of my class saying ‘hello’. She’s a big part of our yoga community.

Her sense of compassion to everyone is visible in everything she does. She just wants to love and be loved and be accepted.


Dora pictured with her new Pet Munchies Buffalo Dental Chews / Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

You mentioned that it's only in the last two years that you've been comfortable enough to share your story.  Do you think that the last two years of your journey would have been the same without Dora?

She has changed life so much for us all. She has taught me so much about love and compassion, beyond humans, to animals and back to humans.

She’s my best friend. I take her with me wherever she’s allowed to go.

I’ve been fine for about three weeks, but before that for about four weeks I was ill and I think it was all the stress from filming. The moment we stopped filming, I got really ill and spent four weeks in and out of bed, and for those four weeks, Dora did not leave my side, day or night, except to eat and go out.

Even my husband said ‘I can’t believe how much Dora knows that you are unwell’ because she was staying with me to look after me.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

She knows whenever one of my children is down too and she will move that way, being there for them. It happened recently when one of my kids wanted to move schools.

Dora just has this sense and an intelligence that she just knows. She can read emotions very well, so she’s now very close to my youngest child because she knows that they need her.

Finish the following sentence, my dog is...my best friend. You know, she is part of my bubble. She’s part of my world.


Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

This is always a tough question so you might need some time to think about it, but if Dora could speak to tell you one thing and one thing only, what would you want her to share with you?

I would want to know that she’s happy or tell us what she would like to be changed. I want to know she is happy.

We are blessed to have her in our lives. And I have to say, Kim, we are also blessed to have this Furbo dog camera you kindly sent to us.


Dora pictured with her Furbo dog treat camera, inset / Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9Magazine

We have all downloaded the app and we’re all using it to keep in contact with Dora when we are away from home, she must be wondering why she is always talking to this camera but we just love it and the image is so clear as well. I’ve been showing it to everyone (laughs).

But I have to say when I realised that she could also hear us, that was just the cherry on the top. Just fabulous.

You're very welcome, Perla. So pleased you're having fun with it!

Thanks so much for your time, and to Dora too.

 

K9 Magazine’s Thanks Go To…

Furbo – For Their Dog Camera

Pet Munchies – For Their Premium, Gourmet Dog Treats

United Dogdom – For Their Soft Dog Toys

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