We’ve all gone barking mad
Dog shopping at this summer’s country shows has often been more tempting than that for humans. There are elegant ceramic bowls in neutral colours, soft wool blankets with embroidered edging that cost up to £200, organic biscuits packaged in tasteful hessian bags, tartan quilted jackets and beds, woven collars from Argentina and an infinite variety of squidgy, squeaky monkeys and pheasants made from eco-friendly materials (page 63).
There are even special dog bakeries creating organic treats—one makes ‘woofins’ with yoghurt icing in its ‘petisserie’, another duck-and-mango ‘calmers’—and a canine visitor to our game Fair stand was poured refrigerated bottled water rather than tap. owners can now attend classes in dog catering as well as obedience and puppy-training.
Food writer Debora Robertson says she’s embarrassed to admit to taking as much trouble with her border terrier’s lamb-andlentil stew as she would for a dinner party (page 52), but there’s nothing wrong with feeding your pet properly—poor nutrition is one of the cruellest errors that owners can make, condemning dogs to a life of waddling, panting, bad breath, pain and premature ageing.
The UK’S pet industry is worth billions. Charities worry that the unstoppable market for designer accessories will encourage the unwise purchasing of designer dogs to go with them, often from disreputable breeders or the internet. More positively, perhaps all this lavishing of love might shame careless owners; even in these doggy-orientated times, indiscriminate breeding and abandonment remain problematic, despite heightened awareness and tighter laws.
However, no expensive cushion can compensate for a dog’s dispiriting hours of loneliness and boredom; what your pet wants more than anything is to be with you and to feel secure. Fortunately, this dogs-first culture is increasingly pervading hotels, restaurants, shops, offices and holiday-cottage providers and there’s better understanding of the importance of guide and companion dogs.
The pet passport has changed things, too. Numerous dogs will take a French holiday via the Eurotunnel or the ferry this month —for those that can’t accompany the family, there’s the booming industry of enlightened dog-sitting, in which every effort is made to prevent home-sickness.
‘Man’s best friend’ may have become an over-used phrase, but at least it’s now easier to treat your dog as exactly that.
‘Perhaps all this lavishing of love might shame careless dog owners
Pinehurst II, Pinehurst Road, Farnborough Business Park, Farnborough, Hampshire GU14 7BF Telephone 01252 555072 www.countrylife.co.uk