WHEN Strictly professionals Karen Hauer and Kevin Clifton broke up in 2018 after three years of marriage, fans of the BBC dancing show were stunned.
But no one was more blindsided than Karen herself, who considers the aftermath of the divorce the toughest period she has ever faced.
Karen Hauer considers the aftermath of her divorce from Kevin Clifton as the toughest period she ever facedCredit: Camera Press
Glamorous couple Karen and Kevin in 2014Credit: Rex Features
Kevin got together with Stacey Dooley in 2019 and is now dad to their six-month-old daughterCredit: Splash News
The 41-year-old ballroom star, who has partnered celebs such as Jamie Laing, Will Young and Jeremy Vine on the show, says: “I am a professional dancer, and I am structured and I am disciplined.
“But when emotional things happen to you, nothing you do on the outside helps.
“I went through a really tough divorce, and it was the most difficult thing I’ve faced on my own — and, I guess, in a spotlight.
“It’s almost like you want to hide and go into your own little cocoon.”
But luckily, Karen wasn’t entirely on her own.
Her beloved pet Betty — a rescue dog from Bosnia who she adopted the same year her relationship with Kevin ended — proved to be crucial in her recovery.
“Betty saved my life, pretty much,” explains Karen.
“Having that unconditional love and having her there to help me actually get up out of bed.
“My dog doesn’t judge me.
“She just looked at me and sat with me and she would pee if she needed to, which then told me that she needed to go outside.
“‘Take me outside then I won’t pee in the house! Take me out. Get some fresh air’.”
Karen adopted Betty through pet charity Wild At Heart, and their bond had a huge impact on her at a time when she needed it most.
She explains: “I discovered so much more about the power of therapy through my dog and being able to release stress through her.
“And just spending time with her — I didn’t want to speak to anybody, I didn’t want to be around people, I just wanted to be around my dog and it helped me release a lot.
“There were times when I just walked with her and I didn’t have to think about anything else and didn’t have to feel like I needed to do anything else other than be with her.
“Those little tail wags and little looks, and teaching her how to sit and how to give high fives — it always brought extreme joy to me.
“Those little things kind of helped me get through.”
Karen credits Betty with reminding her to “keep going” and reckons that her dog saved her a fortune.
She laughs and says: “I would have to pay a lot of money for therapy.
“She was free therapy for me.
“I think Betty needs a therapist now.”
But despite the heartache of her relationship ending, Karen has no bitterness about her marriage to Kevin, who in 2019 got together with his former Strictly Come Dancing partner Stacey Dooley, 36, and is now dad to their six-month-old daughter, Minnie.
Karen, whose first marriage to her former dance partner Matthew Hauer ended in 2009, says: “I have no regrets.
“I would be wasting my time thinking about the past.”
She is now happier than she’s ever been after marrying fitness professional Jordan Wyn-Jones, 34, last year and moving to a farm with him in Greater Manchester.
Karen says: “Marriage is a responsibility, and making sure that you’re constantly paying attention to this person, to your whole family, that’s massive for us.”
And it’s not just Betty who is part of their family — Karen has also added three more rescue dogs to what she calls her “band”.
She reveals: “Two years after Betty — who’s the Queen Bee of the house — came Marley.
“Then I got Phoebe — she is my first tripod.”
I have no regrets. I would be wasting my time thinking about the past.
Karen cries as she explains how Phoebe ended up losing a leg.
She says: “She was run over by a car in Greece and she was pretty much left to die on the side of the road.
“They found her and amputated her leg.
“I became really good friends with the owner of Wild At Heart, and they sent me a video of Phoebe.
“She’s an exceptional dog — you would never think she has three legs.
“She’s vivacious, extremely beautiful and she’s very spicy.
“She’s the protector of the house.
“Then last year my husband and I adopted Joey from Budapest.
“His leg didn’t grow fully as he had a birth defect, so nobody wanted him.
“He got an operation, they took his leg off and he joined the band.”
Venezuelan-born Karen — who is set to sign up for her 11th series on Strictly — reckons she and her hubby won’t stop adding to their canine brood.
She reveals: “We got our last rescue dog together, our baby Joey.
“It’s a path you’re both working on and you’re just trying to be the best for one another.”
Karen is now working with insurance firm PetPlan, which has just launched its awards campaign to celebrate and recognise exceptional animals who enrich our lives.
This year’s theme looks at how pets are the unsung therapists of the nation — as Karen learned through her experience with Betty.
And the dancer believes her dogs instinctively know when she or Jordan is struggling.
She says: “When we’re sick, Phoebe always comes in and lays on me, on the side.
“A couple of days ago my husband wasn’t feeling very well and she sat by the end of the bed with him and wouldn’t come downstairs.
“They’re very intuitive and sometimes more intuitive than your own partner.
“They’re happy to just see you happy and feel that you’re happy.
“That’s something that’s really hard to kind of understand — how they’re so sensitive to everything.”
Karen with her brood of rescue dogsCredit: Handout
Karen performing with ex Kevin CliftonCredit: James Curley
Karen with her second husband Jordan Wyn-JonesCredit: Getty