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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

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