Paul, pictured with street dog Arthur, reveals all about his new series, Paul O'Grady for the Love of Dogs: India

Paul O’Grady has revealed he was tempted to take one of the dogs home with him when he visited India for his new ITV series.

The popular star, who was speaking before he lost his beloved dog Olga on Saturday, fronts a new four parter, which sees him travel to Delhi and get to grips, literally, with the remarkable work done for stray city dogs by volunteers and the Friendicoes rescue centre. Paul is quick to help with some of the most harrowing cases he’s ever seen.

Here Paul O’Grady, 62, tells TV Times why he embarked on this very special rescue mission…

What drew you to the plight of Delhi’s street dogs, Paul?

Paul O’Grady: “I love India but had only been in Delhi for a night [when he filmed For The Love of Animals: India in 2017]. I knew then I wanted to do something on the many street dogs.”

Paul meets miniature Golden Retriever cross called Golu with Friendicoes worker Sandrali

Did you want to take any dogs home?

Paul: “There was one dog in particular – there’s always one! A big, old, black lab cross, called Kalu. He was crippled with arthritis, cataracts, mange, and he stunk! We clicked. He used to wait for me at the gates in the morning. I wanted to take him home to Kent with me but I couldn’t because he was top dog in a pack. Saying goodbye to him really broke my heart.”

Tell us about Friendicoes…

Paul: “The work the rescue centre does is amazing. They’ve got limited funds so it’s a really basic hospital full of dogs. Battersea is like a luxury spa in comparison! The people who treat these street dogs are fabulous.”

How hands-on do you get?

Paul: “For the first episode, I went to the beautiful Lodhi Gardens with volunteer Mala. It’s full of wild dogs and she feeds them twice a day. We found a mum, Blackie, and her six pups in a bush and had to get them out because, if we didn’t, the rats would have got them. The rats are enormous and they’re not scared of anybody. It was like a horror film, too horrific to show on TV.”

Were you worried about illness?

Paul: “The last time I was in India there were no incidents. This time I ended up in hospital after lying in the gutter playing with two maggot infested puppies. I don’t remember going in because I was delirious and had such a high fever. It was all panic when blood tests revealed my white blood cells had gone berserk and I was headed for renal failure. The doctor told me it’s because Westerners don’t have the immune system to cope with it.”

Is this captured on film?

Paul: “When it happened I said we had to get it on film, it’s part of the journey. I wanted it to be in the series because it was a viral infection I caught off a dog. It was my own fault –I was warned! If I were to do it again I’d be a lot more careful.”

How long were you in hospital?

Paul: “I was only in overnight. They were lovely and wanted to keep me in longer, but I wasn’t having any of it. I thought ‘I haven’t come over here to lie in a hospital bed’. The doctor came round three times a day to give me antibiotics and a drip. I looked like I’d been dug up!”

Paul O’Grady for the Love of Dogs: India starts on ITV at 8.30pm on Thursday.