Lola loves Baxter
I am a very happy spaniel as you all know and friends are important to me so I have decided it’s time to introduce you to a few. Baxter belongs to mum’s very good friend so we have had lots of play dates and Baxter has even come to stay when he was a pup. I think he’s very cool so I thought you would enjoy my little chat with him and his owner Bruce.
- What makes Baxter so special to you?
As a Bearded Collie, Baxter is of course a member of the best breed of dog there is! He’s my fourth Beardie (the successor to Biggles, Brodie and Buchan) and in my opinion they are just brilliant dogs generally. Baxter is specifically amazing because he loves to play but knows when to chill out. Another big plus is that he’s super friendly to everyone. We live in the middle of Camden Town by the green space, Castlehaven, and that area is often populated by young people recovering from a big night (or day) out and slightly the worse for wear. Baxter just trots up to these people and they instantly love him – even if they don’t like dogs! He’s also always happy (except when he’s been naughty, but then he’s always super-apologetic) and really is my best chum.
- What is your typical day like?
Weekdays, we start out along the Regent’s Canal heading West, via the Pirate Castle. His favourite part of that walk is when we go past the African Wild Dog enclosure at the back of the Zoo. They’re housed in a bit that overlooks the canal. Baxter runs ahead and sits on the towpath directly opposite their den. Then when I draw level with him, he gives one of his deepest barks and all the African Wild Dogs come running out of their den to see what’s going on. Then they run up and down their enclosure and Baxter paces them on the path, barking his head off. At the bridge, we (well, I) decide whether we turn right onto Primrose Hill or left into Regent’s Park. If he hasn’t had much exercise the day before, then we usually play with his Aerobie ring in the park. He adores it and will insist that we play with it all day unless I stop him. He also loves jumping onto and over huge fallen trees. He’s a very agile dog. That’s his daily ‘big walk’. As for the rest of the day he gets a half mile at lunch, supper and bedtime. Sometimes he plays ball games, other times playing with neighbourhood pals.
- Have you done dog friendly travel out of London and if so, where to?
I have a Volvo estate for longer trips, but we’ve been on the train a few times as I have an old car that’s kept in storage outside London, and he always enjoys the trips – mostly because people make such a fuss of him. His favourite form or public transport is the bus, though.
- What do you feed Baxter and why?
Baxter is the first dog that I’ve fed from puppyhood on a BARF (Bone and Raw Food) diet. I’d previously fed kibbled food to my dogs with no detrimental effects. However, I’d done some reading up and concluded that it was the healthiest way to feed a dog, if not the most convenient. A dog isn’t supposed to be a chore, and I know that for some people, it’s hard to feed a raw diet – the freezer gets full and defrosting is a nightmare – so really good kibbled food is an option for them. After a lot of research, my food of choice is Bella and Duke which is a Scottish company that ships two weeks’ worth of food to us in London every fortnight. The ingredients are really high quality and include vegetables, fruit and fish oil as well as ground bone in each container.
- What do you think the high points and low points are of life with a dog in London?
High points? It makes meeting people in a capital notorious for being unfriendly infinitely easier. With a dog, people have a license to come up to you and say hello and chat so that barrier is instantly broken. It also means you can share the love with lots of other people. Having a dog like Baxter is a bit of a novelty in London – he’s monochrome and hairy rather than brown and short-haired and stumpy like many of the dogs here. And he’s not handbag-sized and yappy either. People just love him
Down side? Well, not EVERYBODY loves him. There are quite a few people who are afraid of dogs in London. Some for ethnic reasons, some through family reinforcement. You need to learn who is going to run screaming from a hairy bundle loping up to them, and whose day is going to be made by meeting him. Also, it’s quite tricky having a dog in a crowd. I wouldn’t take him anywhere really crowded – like Oxford Street on a Saturday. Plus, if you live in a flat, it can be harder to ensure that they have the space or view you’d like them to have – even if naturally they’re quite happy in small spaces. I’ve lived in London with dogs in the family most of my life, so I’ve never found it an issue. I can imagine that if you’re used to having a dog who can roam over more free space, it might make you feel you’re depriving him of his territory, but in my opinion, it’s all about how you raise them.
- Which are your favourite places to walk and why?
At weekends, to make a change from what is, frankly, a pretty awesome walk Monday to Friday, we go a little further afield. On Saturdays, we often head for Hampstead Heath. I try and get there for about 9 (if he’ll let me lie in that long) and have an hour or so enjoying that fabulous swathe of green space. On the way back, we swing past the Farmers Market near the bandstand and grab some groceries. If he’s availed himself of either the muddiest pond in northwest London (and he knows where it is!) or had a bit of excitement swimming or paddling in the ponds, then it’s back for a bath afterwards to ensure that he is fragrant and silky once more. Hairy dogs are actually mops on legs, sometimes.
Sundays, we ring the changes with trips to Highgate Woods, Alexandra Palace, or even further afield to Richmond or Windsor Great Parks or go and visit friends in the country.
- What is your perception of other dog owners in the city – responsible? supportive? etc
This is a really hard question, because there are as many different types of dog owners as there are people. The dogs that get all the publicity in London tend to be the ones that people get to protect themselves or to compensate for some physical deficiency – the pitbull-type or wolf-alike of dog. Then at the other end, there are an awful lot of first-time dog owners who don’t really know what their dog is doing or thinking and tend to anthropomorphise their (usually small) pet into a small child. However, there’s a huge ownership between these two extremes that don’t get any publicity who are just great. They care about their pets and the places where they exercise them. They hang together as friends who know every detail of each other’s lives, but only identify each other by the names of their dogs. They meet at one time of day in one place on a very regular basis and are happy to shoot the breeze for as long as the dog needs exercise, then as suddenly as the conversations start, they end, as the owners need to get on with their day. Having said that, one of my best friends I met through dog ownership, so that’s not always the case. I would say that owning a dog in London makes you a saner, more relaxed person. And the more people like that that there are in London, the better it is to live in.