Tails are wagging and eyes alert at Pikes Paws as a new guest arrives. Faces line up eagerly at the sunroom window to find out which of their mates is coming to play.
This is a dogs’ home-fromhome like no other with every furry fad and woolly whim indulged, a secure quarter-acre play paddock to let off steam and not a concrete run in sight.
But first things first. Nic and Jane Pike keep an orderly household and there’s important, grown-up stuff to attend to such as diet, medication, eat times and sleep times. In this strange era of social distancing, most of this will have been sorted in advance, along with vaccination checks, and the Pikes are impressively geared up for a contactless handover at the five-bar gate. Nic and Jane are sticklers for doggie drop-off and collection times – half an hour minimum between each guest – so there’s no skimping on cleanliness.
Frequent and necessary hand-washing ties in neatly with another Pikes’ speciality on their three-acre smallholding near Halesworth. Two re-homed goats, mum Hazel and daughter Willow, provide daily milk for soap sold by Nic and Jane under their Soapy Goat company (see panel).
Then there are the three, rehomed sheep – brought as lambs from North Wales to Suffolk in
was a wonderful legacy really,” says Nic.
At Pikes Paws there’s a big welcome for dogs that may sadly have lost a canine companion.
“We help those dogs retain their confidence,” explains Jane. “And we’ve had lots of very elderly and frail dogs that may need extra help.” Dogs that don’t normally get to play with other dogs off the lead in a secure environment can’t wait for their next adventure at Pikes Paws.
“Lots of dogs come for play dates,” says Jane. “They love the sheep and the goats and the sheep often come over and say hello and have a peer through the fence to see what’s going on. It’s absolutely lovely.”
Not surprisingly this is not the place for aggressive breeds or unneutered males, nor do alpha dogs fit in at Pikes Paws.
Introductions are done with the utmost care and would-be guests – house-trained only please initially come to look round, then spend a day with Nic and Jane and the other dogs. If owners are planning a holiday, their dog will have a trial overnight stay before bookings are taken.
Canine fads and fancies are all part of the job, whether it’s bananas, carrots, crisps or freshly roasted chicken for a pernickety pup. Even dogs waking at dawn for the loo or a bit of reassurance are indulged.
“Whatever it takes, as long as they are happy,” says Nic. No wonder Pikes Paws was one of the first to be awarded a five star rating under the local council’s inspection scheme. And with sofas, blankets, beds and a spacious play paddock, dogs really do get the five star treatment. N
Albert in Ickworth Park by Stephanie Downes
ABOVE: Eddie and Tom are happy to share their home BELOW: Nic is living The Good Life