Monty Don and his family have a “great big Nigel-shaped hole” in their lives after the dog died.
Golden Retriever Nigel was as much as star of BBC’s Gardeners’ World as presenter Monty.
The dog had his own fan mail and social media accounts
He’d even given his name to Monty’s book – Nigel: My Family And Other Dogs.
Nigel also helped his owner through his struggles with depression.
In a moving tribute to Nigel, Monty told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4:
“I think if you suffer from any kind of mental illness, whether be it depression or anxiety or whatever, having someone to look after, who returns that attention with completely unqualified love, is very powerful, it’s powerful medicine.
“There’s just the basics – if you have a dog you have to take it for a walk, which means you have to go outside, you have to put your boots on and put a coat on and as anybody listening knows, when you are depressed, you don’t do any of that.
“If you get out of bed you just sort of eat badly, you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, you don’t do what you want to do because you don’t really want to do anything and so on and so forth, so having a dog that needs food and water and a walk and attention and who just loves you is extraordinary.
“At the moment there is sort of a simmering level of anxiety and people are being very brave and they’re resourceful and extraordinary but at the same time everybody is scared and anxious and pets, and in my case dogs, leaven that, they hold it steady, they tie you to a better reality.
“I think for all of us that happens, and I think for millions of people who watch Gardeners’ World, clearly Nigel was part of that.
“He was a member of our family and there’s a great big Nigel-shaped hole in our lives.
“But he was 12, he had a lovely life.
“His death was shocking for us, but it was quick and his last day we went for a walk and he ate, and he was just super.
“It was just a lovely day and I think we were blessed.
“I’ve had lots of dogs and I hope I have more but that one relationship lightened our lives and we were lucky, we were really, really lucky.”
Monty said Nigel loved being on the set of Gardeners’ World and playing with an endless supply of tennis balls.
He said: “He was a bear of slightly limited brain, what he had was this absolute sense of purity.
“He exuded a kind of unsullied innocence and we all love our dogs, everybody thinks their dog is special, I’ve had lots of dogs and there was something special about Nigel.
“It’s really hard to put your finger on it.
“Apart from that, he loved the limelight, we never wanted really to include him in Gardeners’ World, but he always found the light, he always found the spot.
“He would come out with me in the morning at half past seven and just stay with me all day and wait for his call and then just steal the scene, every time, every single time.”