When we go on holiday, I prefer to take Buddy with us if we can, but sometimes there are places we want to visit that are just not suitable for him, and so he will be happier, safer and better cared for at home, rather than left in a caravan or hotel room while we go out.
It always intrigues me how other people solve the problem of what arrangements to put in place for your dog while you’re away, and I’ve been doing some PR work recently for Barking Mad, a company which offers holiday care for dogs across the UK. With Barking Mad, dogs are looked after in a home environment – dog sitting in a home rather than a kennel - which makes sense, because that’s where they spend the rest of their time.
To get to know how the system works, I went out with Anne Kessell, who runs my local branch, covering lots of Shropshire and parts of Wales as well. On our first outing, we went to meet a small, sweet Terrier and her owners, a couple who were nervous about leaving their dog (we’ll call her Chloe, but that wasn’t her name) with Barking Mad for the first time. Usually when they went on holiday, Chloe stayed with family friends, but this time the friends were busy, and so, looking for an alternative to kennels, Chloe’s owners turned to Barking Mad.
Anne was very kind and reassuring while she chatted to them, gathering the information she needed to fill in Chloe’s profile. The profile details each dog’s routine, from what they eat to where they sleep, to how they like to be fussed and the words they understand. Armed with all the information on the profile, the host – the person with whom the dog stays – can ensure they follow their usual routine, and have all the reassurance and comforts of home.
Anne explained that she would contact a host whom she knew would be a good match with Chloe, and arrange a sleepover to establish they were well suited, and put the owners’ minds at rest. She would send Chloe’s owners photos and video of Chloe arriving at her host’s house so that they would know their dog was having a good time.
“Barking Mad is all about making dogs and people happy,” Anne told me as we drove back that day. “We arrange loving holidays for dogs, in a home environment, rather than a kennel. That way the dogs are happy, the owner is happy, and the host is happy.”
Later that week, we collected Chloe from her home, and took her to her host’s house. It was clear when we arrived that both Chloe and her host (a single lady) were delighted to be spending some time together. Chloe had a good sniff around the house and the secure garden, then settled down with the lady for a play in the lounge. We had brought Chloe’s toys, bed and food with us, so she had familiar things around her, and she was very quickly relaxed, and seemed very happy.
Before we left, Anne took some photos and sent them to Chloe’s owners, who were very relieved to see their beloved dog was happy. Anne knew how tense the couple had been about letting their dog go off to her sleepover, and wanted to put their minds at rest as quickly as possible.
“I know how important your dog is to you, and so do all my colleagues. We all love dogs – in fact you could say we’re Barking Mad!” Anne laughed as we drove home. It does feel very good to be part of something that makes owners, dogs and hosts happier and more relaxed.
I’ve seen both sides of the business – the owners who have a better time on holiday because they know their dog is happy, and the hosts who look forward to their canine visitors so much. I have to say that as much as we love being with our dogs, there will inevitably be times when we have to leave them – not just for holidays, but perhaps for a family wedding, or other event – and if you do have to leave your dog, it seems to me that Barking Mad makes that process as pain-free as possible.
The other members of Anne’s team are Alison and Nicki, and they are every bit as caring and nice as Anne. Nicki has said to me of working for Barking Mad, “It feels like being part of a family.”
I think she’s right actually, and I’ve met some gorgeous dogs, and some truly lovely people through Barking Mad, as well as had a lot of fun, since I’ve been involved in helping to build a local community, an important part of the company’s ethos.
I’m looking forward to telling more people about Barking Mad, and meeting many more lovely dogs in the process!