Puppy Love: Devon couple finally get their pooch after years of research
PUBLISHED: 14:06 13 October 2017 | UPDATED: 14:11 13 October 2017
Puppies can bring big life changes, bigger still if it's a Bernese Mountain Dog, as Belinda Jones discovers
Some people buy a puppy on a whim, after just a moment’s interaction with its chewy, roly-poly cuteness. For Phil and Lisa Dickenson bringing home a Bernese Mountain Dog was a dream seven years in the researching, planning and saving, and it still came with a multitude of surprises!
“We hadn’t even thought of owning a dog prior to 2010 because we were working long hours in London, living in a sixth-floor flat in Kensington and the only pups we saw were over-pampered Chihuahuas!” Phil laughs.
A year travelling – meeting every breed from street dogs in China to dingoes in Australia – changed that. “Once we got back to the UK and I began working from home I found myself desperately craving a canine companion!”
Favouring big dogs but being aware of rental property restrictions, the next step was saving to buy a house. “We found the ideal place in Sidmouth – good-sized garden, 15 minutes from the sea and just three minutes from the Byes - the large park that runs along the river Sid in Sidmouth.”
All they needed now was the dog – this proved a little trickier since No.1 on the wish list was the relatively rare Bernese Mountain Dog, native to Switzerland and combining a calm temperament with 50kg of fluffiness.
A chance encounter with mother/daughter BMD owners in Bakers Park, Newton Abbot led to a meet and greet with mum-to-be Daisy, as well as aunt Aria and grandma Tilly!
“The dogs all had such fantastic natures – so friendly and gentle,” Phil enthuses. “As they leaned on us and we stroked them, we talked with owners Hayley and Beverly about their history, behaviour, experiences and advice. They were so helpful and open and we were thrilled when they made the decision to entrust us with one of their doggy offspring!”
And so President Kodi-Bear Hank Friday Dickenson came into the world on 6 May 2017.
There was a big build up to Kodi coming home (eight weeks later) and even some actual building work with Phil constructing a custom den in the conservatory, complete with framed photo of mum Daisy.
“We spent a small fortune on toys, bedding, bowls, treats - anything to make him love us!” Lisa jokes, adding: “Of course Kodi’s favourite toys are old plastic bottles and socks...”
When I ask what aspect of becoming a puppy parent she was most excited about Lisa beams: “Seeing how happy it would make Phil. He’s wanted a dog for so long I knew it would increase his joy levels by at least 100%!”
In fact Phil went beyond happiness and headlong into a new career – as a pet photographer! “My pictures of Kodi seemed to go down so well with friends, family and Instagram I was prompted to launch Fur Life Photography!”
The business (which includes 50% of photo sales being donated to a local pet charity) is still new but already set to become a plotline for author Lisa whose books include You Had Me At Merlot.
In the meantime she is busily noting down all Kodi’s endearing quirks, including his daily hiccups (which still leave him with a bemused expression), the way he chooses to lie in the “weirdest, most ungainly positions” and the fact that his fur is “so soft he feels like a really expensive luxury blanket from John Lewis!”
And then there’s the pride of him winning the second prize in the Cutest Puppy category at Woofstock in Dartmouth last month.
“His rosette has pride of place in our home!” Lisa chuckles, leading Phil to confirm: “Kodi has become the absolute focus of our lives. As he gets older I’m sure that will change to being just a third of our three-way family but for the moment we are entirely besotted.”
He smiles. “When he flops down next to you and rests his head on your lap, you would do anything to stay there forever and ever.”
‘When he flops down next to you and rests his head on your lap, you would do anything to stay there forever and ever’
Dukes: Kodi’s favourite pub! Huge patio, free dog biscuits, awesome food and staff.
Woodlands Hotel: Five minutes walk from the sea front, lovely quirky styling and a large garden for pups to run around in.
Mocha: Dog-friendly café (with gluten-free cakes!) set on the Esplanade.
Jacobs Ladder Beach: Open to dogs all year round and away from the hustle and bustle of the main beach. When the tide is out the sand stretches alongside the cliffs for miles.
The Byes Riverside Park: 2km of grass, slopes, wildflowers and walking paths/cycle tracks weaving off in different directions. Dog-walking heaven!