Bo: the food lab at Forthglade

PUBLISHED: 09:08 03 April 2018 | UPDATED: 09:23 03 April 2018

Bo the dog

Bo the dog


Bo is living the doggie dream as #1 taster at Devon dog food company Forthglade, writes Belinda Jones

Being a dog with a master in the pet food industry has to be like a child with Willy Wonka as a dad. Except instead of chocolate waterfalls and Scrumdiddlyumptious Bars there’s salmon and sweet potato and a range of ingredients so natural and nutritious you might suspect that dogs have a healthier diet than most of us humans.

In fact I saw a chap on the Forthglade stand at the Devon County Show cheerfully tucking into one of these “Dog’s Dinners from Devon” to demonstrate just how tasty this food is. Personally I settled for feasting my eyes on the stylish packaging and admiring the dog model on the cover of the Forthglade brochure.

Yellow Lab Bo is a pro when it comes to posing for photographs – she has been featured in many Forthglade campaigns and, as you can see from this sunny shoot, radiates quality-of-life contentment.

“She’s been this way since she was a puppy,” owner Gerard Lovell marvels. “Nothing fazes her – she barely barks, never chews and always maintains her composure,” he sighs admiringly. “She really is the most fantastic dog.”

Gerard partly attributes Bo’s obliging personality to having grown up in a calm and relaxed home environment – quite some feat since she was welcomed by daughters aged six and eight as well as two cats, 10 hens and a number of rabbits.

“I must say my wife and I did get some wise advice before we chose our dog,” Gerard confides. “We were torn between a Lab and a Cocker or Springer Spaniel and a friend quoted us the line: ‘Labs are born half-trained, Spaniels die half-trained!’” He chuckles. “As first time dog owners with a full house our choice was clear!”

All they had to do now was persuade the breeder that they could offer the right home. “They were hesitant about releasing Bo to a domestic situation as she comes from a line of working dogs and field trial champions,” Gerard explains. “But I think my line of work may have sealed the deal!”

Gerard is joint MD of Forthglade and Bo (now five) gets first dibs on any new recipes created at the company factory in the “beautiful, busy, rural village of Winkleigh”, about ten miles north of Okehampton. Her latest taste tests have been for the new range of cold pressed dried food (she especially loved the chicken and brown rice) and the upcoming hand baked treats, which include a calming option made with chamomile and lemon balm.

Gerard with BoGerard with Bo

Of course Labradors are known to be the most food-motivated of all the dog breeds, but there is more to Bo’s life than chowing down.

“She has two lovely countryside walks a day with my wife but her favourite thing is a trip to the beach. It took her two years to go more than six inches into the water but now she eagerly follows me around in anticipation of me throwing the stick – watching Bo bouncing through the waves never ceases to put a smile on my face.”

Gerard was also delighted when Forthglade had the opportunity to sponsor the Devon Tourism Award for Dog-Friendly Hotel of the Year last year (Deer Park Inn near Honiton won Gold) and I certainly get the impression that Forthglade, which has been going since 1971, is extremely proud of its Devon heritage.

“Oh yes, it’s a great selling point for us because Devon has such positive associations – it’s a county known for great quality food as well as great beauty, plus there’s often an emotional connection for people who have spent idyllic holidays here.”

Gerard includes himself in this group.

“It’s been ten years since we moved here and the honeymoon never ends – every time I’m out with Bo and the family I catch myself saying: ‘Just look at that view!’”


The New Inn: 16th Century thatched inn six miles from Winkleigh. So dog-friendly their website features photos of the canine regulars. Menu changes monthly. For a pint of Winkleigh cider visit The King’s Arms.

The Old Station Tea Rooms: based on the platform at the old Okehampton train station, this step-back-in-time café offers traditional English fare with a canopy covering the dog-friendly tables and chairs.

Eggesford Garden Centre: situated in an old walled kitchen garden, dogs can peruse the pet supplies as well as join you in the café and explore the flora and fauna.

Castle Drogo: dogs are welcomed on leashes at this National Trust castle overlooking Teign Gorge. £11 adult entry, dogs free.

Wheatland Farm Eco Lodges: superb self-catering accommodation for dog families. Dogs are welcome everywhere on the farm except the nature reserve and are spoiled for scenic walks.

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