Ashleigh Butler’s appearance in this year’s Wycombe Swan panto, Jack and the Beanstalk, will be a bittersweet experience, writes Debra Aspinall.

It will be her first big show without the adorable, and hugely talented Pudsey the dog by her side, but will also be the first big show that her equally adorable dog, Sully, will take a lead role.

Her beloved Pudsey died in July and Ashleigh is clearly still shaken by his passing.

“I did my first awards event without him last week and it was very strange,” she said.

It took six years to train Pudsey from puppyhood to stardom and Sully is still a baby at just three.

“Anything could happen,” laughed Ashleigh at the panto launch this week. “Pudsey was dependable, solid and wasn’t fazed by anything. Sully is still very immature and very excitable. A bit of a daredevil really.

“Sully can actually do more technical stuff than Pudsey, but he needs reining in a little.”

As if to prove a point Sully leapt off stage during the Swan’s photoshoot.

“I’d say where my confidence in Pudsey was at a 10, I’m still at about a seven with Sully,” admitted Ashleigh.

Twenty-two-year-old Ashleigh, who won Britain’s Got Talent with Pudsey in 2012 and went on to make numerous guest appearances here and in the States (even performing for the Queen) as well as movies and TV shows is playing the princess in this year’s panto alongside Simon Webbe (from boy band Blue).

Sully played a minor role in the same panto in Northampton last year, but Pudsey was the lead.

This year Sully will be supported by one of Ashleigh’s mum’s dogs, Eliza…who bears the same family resemblance to the other two dogs, but is bigger.

Ashleigh will have plenty of doggy treats in a large pocket sewn into her princess costume to keep her canine co-star in line.

“But at the end of the day, he’s just a dog. He has two routines in the panto with me and one with Eliza. It’s just fingers crossed I guess!”