Paulo Fernandes & Baby
“I love those two realms: children and dogs. Children and dogs are two beautiful worlds. And working with Baby allows me to do my part in making a change”
The healing power of dogs has been known to exist for centuries. Direct descendants from wolves, the mutual attraction between canines and humans goes way back to the time we started living in settlements. According to Marion Schwartz, in her book A History of Dogs in the Early Americas, dogs were the first animals to take up residence with people and the only animals found in human societies all over the world. And for the past twelve thousand years dogs have played an integral part in human lives. Research shows that petting a dog helps decrease stress hormones, regulate breathing, lower blood pressure and release oxytocin- the hormone related with bonding and affection. In both dog and human.
Paulo Fernandes and Baby are a perfect illustration of this connection. Paulo and Baby are much more than just the binomial human/ dog.
He is one of the most loved, charismatic and entertaining voices in Portugal. The host that brightens up the mornings of M80 radio and a tv host for Sporting Tv. She’s his Baby. His partner in making a difference in the world. Together they share a bond. They share love. And together they spread joy, love and service across all the lives they touch. Children. Senior citizens. Other dogs. Together they work with charities that serve children with mental and physical disabilities. And children with cancer.
For those who know Paulo Fernandes, his energy, generosity and good humor are contagious. Married to portuguese singer Lara Afonso, one the most beautiful voices in the world of music, a lot has happened in Paulo’s and Baby’s lives ever since this interview. Ten months ago, the family expanded with the sweetest melody of their lives: the arrival of a beautiful baby girl.
However the bond between Paulo and Baby is everlasting.
And the rest? The rest is a story yet to be unfolded.
On Air With Paulo Fernandes & Baby
Paulo (testing the mic)
One, two. One two. Baby. baby.(laughs)
Is there a life before Baby and a life after Baby?
Of course. She’s my baby. My best friend. Thanks to Baby, I started training other dogs and came closer to other realities and other worlds. Yes, there’s a life before and a life after Baby. She takes a lot of hours of my life (laughs). She also allowed me to get to know the beautiful reality of dogs and how to treat dogs, how to really train a dog. Also how to make a dog useful. Because dogs are much happier when they feel useful. I can guarantee you that. Working with Baby made me realize how we are thousands of light years away from other countries where I’ve been in what concerns the relationship human/dog. Light years away!
Did Baby change your relationship with Voice, your other dog?
In a way, we can say that she has. Voice was already with Lara. He was chosen for Lara. By Lara. So he will always be Lara’s dog. The relationship I have with Baby is, obviously, very different from the one I have with Voice. I wanted to do a very specific work with Baby. But I started to read Voice’s behaviors better, to look at Voice’s needs in another way and find better ways to help him.
What kind of work do you do with Baby?
It’s an amazing work. Basically I train her to be a balanced dog. A balanced dog is a dog that can be in one place without barking. Without whinning. Relaxed. Calm. That training that makes her being a balanced dog, gives me confidence and allows me to work with children, which was something that I really wanted to do. I love those two realms - children and dogs. This work I do with Baby allows me to offer children fantastic moments interacting with animals. In the way they learn how to touch a dog, in the way they learn to hug a dog. And then if you add to that a few tricks (I mean behaviors because what people call tricks are learned and trained behaviors. Tricks are in the circus) and stories, you can make children very happy employing Baby.
Yes, small stories that we make up related to dogs. We say: “Now Baby is going to pretend that she’s very sleepy” And at my sign, Baby drops to the side and pretends to faint. Another: “Baby is feeling very lazy and needs me to help her walk,” I make the sign and she comes under my legs, puts her little paws on top of my feet and walks with me. Simple stories that kids love. They go like: “Wow! How did that happen?”. And that’s how we know that for at least an hour or so we made a difference in the lives of those children. We work with children with mental and physical disabilities and children with cancer and what we do is adapt the dog to the needs of children. Sometimes the simple presence of the dog, makes the child very happy. We work with charities like Fundação do Gil and IPO. We adapt the dog to the child’s needs. Older kids can “train the dog” themselves with our help. And the can do it because the dogs are very well trained to let themselves “be trained” by the kids. For some other kids, just touching or petting the dog is enough.
Was that a project that you already had?
No, it all started with Baby. I began to realize that she responded very well and very fast to what I asked her to do. Golden Retrievers are very intelligent dogs. Goldens are the 4th breed among the most inteligent. And I started to think: What if I used Baby to do something more? So I started teaching her a couple of behaviors. For example, when I pet her and she falls to the side, it’s a behavior. She knows that that’s the signal. Being a Golden Retriever,which is a very sociable, delicate, gentle dog, ,I thought, what if I use this to help kids? I partnered with the CEO of Pet Behavior, who has worked with dogs for 19 years. He works with police dogs (GNR)and he’s probavly the best dog trainer in Portugal. Together we created a project that includes assisted therapies with dogs. There’s even a book where Baby is the star!
I love kids and I know that dogs and kids are two beautiful worlds, mainly if you want to change things. When they’re older, when they get close to a dog, these kids will know where to touch and how to touch the dog. They will know that they have to ask permission to the owner to touch the dog. They will know that ears up doesn’t always mean that the dog is happy. Tail up doesn’t always mean that the dog is happy. In a nutshell, they’ll know how to read a dog. Plus, they’ll know what a dog likes and what a dog doesn’t like, according to the breed of the dog.
Do you think that dogs are more evolved than we are?
I believe we’re not alone in this Universe. However to me man is the most inteligent of all species. What I believe is that dogs have other habilities that we’ll never have. Starting with their sense of smell. A dog’s nose allows him to be able to smell things we’ll never smell. Like for instance a dog can understand, just by smelling if a woman is pregnant, if a child has diabetes. Athough these diagnosis aren’t yet certified by the scientific community, there are already tumor diagnosis done with the help of dogs.
“Baby is not a dog. Not just a dog. She’s part of our life. She’s a member of our family”
How did Baby deal with Lara’s pregnancy?
When we found out that Lara was pregnant, both Baby and Voice were always around her. They had the ability to smell and know that there was something different inside of Lara.
How far do you want to go with Baby?
I think I’ll never go to exhibits with Baby. I’d like to try an obedience contest, though. Because Baby is a working machine. For a Golden retriever, she works very well. She has already made a difference in so many people’s lives (proud smile). If she works until she is seven and do as much as she has done so far, she will go very far. Usually you work the binomial human/dog, but I like her to shine. I would like to see her recognized for doing something special. We’re used to watch those Youtube videos with other dogs. And I’d like to see her recognized like that. And she already is. She already is (confirmation nod and smile). Even here where we’re having this interview (in Cresmina Dune Café - Guincho) every time they see her they pet her, bring her water and other treats because they already know who she is.
(Someone approaches and pets Baby without asking)
Do you know what I say when this happens? (Naughty squint): “She’s got flees.” (laughs)
How did you choose Baby?
It was an impulse. We moved to another house. To a substancially larger house with enough space for two or three dogs. We don’t have much time, but we have the conditions. And we always wanted to have another Golden to be with Voice. One Saturday night we just flew out of the house. And when we arrived to the place where Baby lived at the time, Baby was with her sister Suri and with Thor. Suri and Baby stood there in front of us... And Baby stepped forward first. And we just knew.
“If people only knew that the more they train a dog, the more they stimulate a dog, the more a dog lasts...”
Do you think people and animals have a specific mission in this world?
I believe we all have a specific mission in this world. Baby’s is to make a difference in people’s lives. When she was one year old, I made a collage of the number of people whose lives she’d already changed and it’s unbelievable! I had to make three boards!!! And we’re talking about such simple things... One day we were halfway through a training session and a man got close to Baby and started petting her. Baby was wearing a vest harness that we use when we’re in training mode. That’s a way for dogs to know that that moment is a work moment. And Baby’s vest says In training. It’s a way of saying: keep out (laughs). Anyways, the man started petting Baby in the middle of our training session. I tried to explain to him that we were training. Turns out this man is my neighbor. Meanwhile he got a baby German Shepard, I trained his dog. We became good friends. I already had diner at his house several times. If Baby wasn’t in my life, I never would have met this person who now is a great friend of mine. I would never have met Pedro Paiva - the person who took me by the hand to the world of dogs. I would never have met so many people as I have. I’ve met so many people on the street thanks to Baby! It’s one of the most incredible advantages of having a dog! Especially a well balanced dog. You can meet a lot of new people. Because there’s always someone that asks you if they can pet her. They ask questions about Baby. You exchange a phone number here. Another one there. You get to meet a lot of people.
Is this part of your mission?
I truly believe so.
Do you think Baby has prepared you to be a dad?
Totally. I can say that for sure.
If you didn’t have Baby, your way of looking at daddyhood would be different?
Completely. With Baby, I have a being that depends on me fully. There are things that if I’m not the one to do them, nobody else will. It’s the end of the bachelor baby boy right there!!! (laughs)
What’s your relationship with your inner child?
Those who know me well enough, know that the child within me still lives here and is always playing. Always goofing around. With the verb let’s go in my mouth. Always ready to crack some jokes. My work also allows me to do so. I’m easy going. Always looking at the cup half full. Always full of new ideas. Very passionate about everything I do in life. I do what I want when I want. Just like a kid! (laughs)
Is there such thing as the impossible, in your view?
The word is there. But I’ll eat my hat if I don’t try to get there!
When you decide to do something, you go all the way?
I don’t do anything half way. I stopped saying yes for the yes when I was eighteen or nineteen. I don’t waste my time anymore. In everything. In my work. In my relationships with my friends. Not even in a night out to the movies. Either I want to go watch that specific movie or I simply don’t go.
What do you expect out of life?
Health. I know it’s a huge cliché, but it’s the truth. Good health. For me and for my loved ones.
What legacy do you want to leave to your children?
I want to show them how important it is to seize life. And to make a difference in the lives of others.
That’s a wrap! Thank you!