Layla Flaherty first captured our attention when she appeared on the scripted reality show 'Desperate Scousewives' in 2011. After a season on the show she left to pursue other career avenues with the hope of finishing a degree she'd already given four years to. Layla went on to appear in other reality shows such as Sky Living's 'Chick Fix' and Ireland's TV3's 'Celebrity Salon'.
As she prepares to enter the pet world with various business ventures from a pet modelling agency, to a grooming salon and a dog day care centre in Liverpool, Kim O'Meara caught up with Layla and discovered who we thought she was from her time on 'Desperate Scousewives' is nothing like the down to earth woman in front of us and she only needs one leading man – her dog Buttons.
Tell us about your dog - we'd like to know everything about him!
Buttons is a Yorkshire Terrier boy who turned three years old recently, in fact it was his birthday when we did your photoshoot – he's into the terrible 3's stage but is getting so much better and is so much fun to be around.
We got him aged eight weeks old and he's actually Buttons no 2. He's the brother of the first boy we brought home who sadly only lived for three days after we got him because unbeknown to his breeder or us, he had gastroenteritis.
It was horrendous really, he was in the puppy intensive care unit but sadly we couldn't save him. We were devastated because he was such a small puppy and really vulnerable.
Luckily, Buttons (no 2) was strong and healthy and we've had no problems.
When did your interest in pets/animals begin and how long have you been a pet owner?
I grew up in Ireland surrounded by dogs. We had two Jack Russells and rescue dogs at home pretty much always. I would go out and find a stray and come back asking my mum if we could keep him and we'd foster him until a home could be found, or keep him if not.
Our family dogs all lived until they were 19, 20 and 21 so only recently passed.
We were all like Doctor Dolittle (laughs). Our home became a sanctuary for animals and my mum still fosters dogs.
Was it strange when you moved from home and didn't have a dog at home (thinking specifically about the welcome home feeling you get as a dog owner)?
Definitely. For me, a house is not a home without a dog.
When I moved across from Galway I was living in the city centre and it didn't feel fair at the time. But that feeling of having a dog greet you when you get in is something you can't replace. It doesn't matter what sort of day you've had or what mood you're in, when your dog comes to greet you when you get home, it makes your day.
Funnily enough whenever I would say to my friends about going home it was always about being excited to see the dogs, sorry folks (laughs) so I really did miss that feeling of comfort you get from having a dog around.
So I just decided I had to make it happen and if I needed to move to be able to get a dog, then that's what I would do.
How did you settle on a Yorkshire Terrier?
I remember before I had Buttons I would always see people with Yorkshire Terriers and I loved their feisty, outgoing personalities. Also, people would never own just one – they'd have five or six (laughs).
But before I settled on the breed, I did a lot of research and I knew I wanted a small dog who loved cuddling and was adventurous enough to love long walks. The Yorkie fitted all of the above.
Reality TV lovers will remember you for your time on E4's 'Desperate Scousewives'. Some time has passed now, so how do you look back on the experience and your time on the show?
On the whole the 'Desperate Scousewives' experience was negative. The reception I got, from the racial abuse on Twitter and on the street, to the fact everyone thought I was a bunny boiler, impacted on my life quite a bit.
I got so paranoid that everyone was looking at me and thought everyone hated me. I was afraid to go places on my own.
When I went on the show I was in the middle of a degree with about five months left. I took a year out and after the show they wouldn't let me finish, so I lost four years of work and time spent in Uni. I had a tainted public image.
I've since done two reality shows in Ireland really just to show the real me, a reason you often hear people say they've done Big Brother for, and the shows I did restored my faith in producers.
I would ask how things would be shown and edited. After 'Desperate Scousewives' I realised they sugar coated telling me how things would air, and I learnt my lesson so I asked the producers to be honest.
I really wasn't prepared for 'Desperate Scousewives' in truth and if you were to ask me if I'd ever do another reality show the answer would be probably not.
You wear quite a lot of hats having gained qualifications in different fields from drama to hairdressing. Balancing this with your modelling and TV work, you're also now delving further into the world of dogs. Tell us a little about this.
When I was at school I remember being called into the careers guidance office and them asking what I wanted to do and I'd say I wanted to be a zookeeper or a vet.
Being the class clown they thought I was joking and sent me back to class, but I was 100% serious.
I knew I would never have the points I needed from school to do what was needed at Uni for those so I put it to one side but have always wanted to work in some form or another with animals.
Then when the show came along obviously everything changed for me and I was travelling around the country doing personal appearances, it was difficult with Buttons. I hated leaving him so had to come up with travel plans which meant he could come with me but I had to find a pet friendly hotel.
It was really only when I got Buttons I started to learn so much about the pet industry and thinking about our own needs, what we were missing locally in and around Liverpool which is why I'm working on a six month plan to open my own doggy day care. I'm not rushing it because it all has to be right.
I'm also a qualified hairdresser and I'm now enrolled on a dog grooming course, which I love, because again stemming from Buttons, I love that look he has when he comes home from the groomers. I'm also planning on opening my own pet modelling agency so there's a lot happening, and it all comes from my main inspiration – Buttons.
What three words best sum up your personality? And thinking similarly, if you were to choose three words to describe Buttons which words best fit his personality?
(Laughs) Well, Buttons is a bit wild and a bit adventurous.
I'd say I'm adventurous but also an extrovert and I'm very open minded.
I'd say the best three words to sum up Buttons would be stubborn, boisterous and he has little man syndrome (laughs).
Do you have a motto that you live your life by? What would you say Buttons motto might be?
My motto would be 'treat people how you wish to be treated yourself'. Buttons would probably be 'you only live once', because he has no fear.
If you were to swap roles with Buttons for a day, how do you think he'd cope being you and what would you love most about being him?
You know what, I would love that. I think Buttons would just go with it because he has no fear he'd just handle it with no stress. He'd probably handle it better than me to be fair. As for me, I'd love being him. His days are filled with cuddles, sleeping and walks – perfect.
For this question, we ask our celebs to match up the following people’s personality to a breed of dog, for example, Winston Churchill = Bulldog or J.Lo = Afghan Hound, Frank Bruno = Boxer etc. If the following celebrities and dog lovers were breeds of dogs, based on their personalities alone, what type of breed do you think they'd be...
Abbey Clancy – I'd say she'd be a Whippet or a Greyhound.
Brian Dowling – (Laughs) I think he'd definitely be a Bulldog.
Kim Kardashian – Well she's a princess really isn't she but she cries a lot so I think maybe a Shih Tzu.
Colin Farrell – He's a manly man, but he's got a mouth on him hasn't he. I think he'd be a Dobermann.
Which do you prefer and why?
Big dogs or little dogs – For me, little dogs personally. From a travelling perspective, it's easier to travel with a smaller dog and they can jump up on the sofa and give you a cuddle on your lap.
Pedigree dogs or cross-breeds – No preference really, I grew up with both pure breeds and cross-breeds and love both equally.
Days off or days at work – (Laughs) Days off!
Describe the last time you laughed out loud because of something you saw Buttons or another dog do.
Well, it's not hugely funny but bearing in mind Buttons lack of fear and the fact he thinks he'll take on any dog, any size, it caught me off guard so I laughed.
At the park recently I saw the biggest dog I've ever seen – I've no idea what breed he was, but he was huge.
Anyway, he just took off and started heading towards Buttons and Buttons just took off in the other direction. It's the only time I've ever seen him run away from a dog and react like that.
If you were arranging a dinner party and could invite anyone from any era, past or present, which three people would you invite and why?
Well, firstly I'd invite Channing Tatum because he's gorgeous. Secondly I'd invite Kim Kardashian because I'm totally intrigued by her. Thirdly I'd invite Nelson Mandela because I think I could learn so much from him.
What is your current favourite…?
TV show – I can always watch an episode of 'Come Dine with Me', I love cooking.
Book – Most recently I read the '50 Shades' series and couldn't get through them quick enough. I don't read a lot of fiction though, I mostly read auto-biographies.
Album – I'm a huge Madonna fan but with Spotify and iTunes I listen to such a variety of all genres I don't think I've listened to a full album for a while.
Film – I recently saw 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' and enjoyed it. It's the sequel to 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' so I watched that afterwards.
Tell us something no one else knows about you.
Not many people know that I'm not really as confident as people might think, I'm a very sensitive soul.
If you could sum it up, what do you think is the best thing about being a dog owner?
It's the unconditional love, joy and happiness they bring to your life.
Finish the following sentence, my dog is...the best thing that's ever happened to me in life so far.
And finally, this is always a tough question and often requires a fair degree of thinking time but….If Buttons had the ability to speak and answer one question and one question only, what would you ask him and what do you think that he would say?
That's a really tough question. If Buttons could speak I think he would ask me 'when am I getting a playmate or a brother or sister' because I'm sure he's lonely at times and wants another dog around the house to play with, obviously to get up to mischief with (laughs).
Many Thanks Layla!