In the third year of its Great British Dogs campaign, Winalot is celebrating the positive impact our everyday heroes have on our lives by chatting to five real families about their canine companions. From Peanut and Marmite the tiny Chihuahuas to Inca the adorable Great Dane, just try to resist being drawn into these heart-warming stories…
Dogs are an integral part of every family, and this couldn’t be truer for Jess and her pup Willow, who always looks out for Jess’s children, two-year-old Sydney and six-month-old Lennon. “When we brought our boys home, Willow took to them so well. She’s extremely gentle, kind and loving,” she explains.
If anything, Jess considers Willow to be her first child. “She’s like a sister to our boys and our first and only daughter. She is the core of our family.”
Willow is invited to every family event, no matter the occasion. “On Christmas and her birthday, she gets her own presents, because she has this sweet little trick where she can completely unwrap them using her paws and teeth. It’s like watching a child, it’s amazing!” laughs Jess. “She’s a small dog with a big character and she really can put a smile on anyone’s face when they’re feeling a bit rubbish.”
Her silly antics bring joy and laughter to every day, but she’s just as good at the serious stuff, too. “Having Willow as part of our family definitely helps us to teach Sydney about responsibility. Taking her out for a walk is part of his routine, and we teach Sydney to share with Willow.”
During lockdown, Willow really came into her own, especially because Jess was pregnant with Lennon at the time. “It was really lovely to have Willow at home with me constantly, because my fiancée works in care. It was tough, but Willow really helped.”
No matter what’s going on, Jess knows she can always count on Willow for support. “She’s extremely important when it comes to looking after our mental health,” she says. “My partner and I find Willow an extreme source of comfort if we’re going through tough life situations. If we can’t – or at least feel like we can’t speak about it to each other – we’ll talk with Willow, because it feels as if she’s listening.”
When asked what makes Willow a Great British Dog, Jess doesn’t have to think twice. “Willow is a Great British Dog because she’s a very loyal family member. She loves to be out in the fresh air and spend time with the family. She’s extremely friendly, so we can take her anywhere.”
She is the core of our family
“I’ve wanted a dog since I was very young,” explains Sally. “I grew up with my granny who had five Poodles, so it was always a dream for me to get my own. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed one back then, because both my parents were working.”
It wasn’t until March 2020 that Sally finally found herself in a position to get Pepper the Cavapoo, the puppy she’d been dreaming of. “I left my job and then lockdown happened, so I had more time to train her. I took her out to the park every day, just trying to get her used to things.”
Although training a puppy can be a lot of work, Sally found it to be therapeutic during a challenging time. “In the past, I suffered with really bad depression. Pepper just brings me so much joy and happiness. Having her around forced me to go outside and spending that time outdoors is what eventually led me to take up a course in floristry. Pepper inspired me to do something with my life, something worthwhile.”
Sally’s adorable Cavapoo has given her a new purpose, and with that has come a very special friendship. “We’ve bonded a lot and our relationship is just so close. I feel like I understand her,” she says. “When I cry, she somehow knows that I’m upset and so she’ll stay by my side.”
The pair are so inseparable that Pepper even accompanies Sally to work every day. “She loves greeting people and getting attention,” laughs Sally. And it goes without saying that Pepper is the star employee. “If she gets other dogs coming into the shop and chewing the flowers, she tells them off!”
Pepper is only a year and a half old, but she’s already grown up in the time that she’s been with Sally. “I think she picks and chooses who she wants to play with now. She prefers to interact with people more than dogs. She’s really well behaved.”
Pepper has a hilarious personality. “She loves getting attention. Everyone finds her cute and she’s learnt that word. So, if anyone says that someone or something else is cute, she gets really jealous and barks at them!”
“I feel like I can do so much more now,” reflects Sally, discussing how Pepper has had a positive impact on her wellbeing. “I want to travel, to go out and make memories, and it’s all thanks to her.”
After getting Pepper, my life changed for the better. She just brings me so much joy and happiness
When lockdown happened, Sarah, Anthony and their children struggled to stay positive. Their Chihuahuas, Peanut and Marmite, gave them a new purpose – and two reasons to smile.
“We got Peanut just before the first lockdown. Two of my children had to cancel their birthday parties and they couldn’t go to school. It was nice for us to have something positive to focus on, and somebody extra to cuddle,” Sarah explains. “We got Marmite towards the end of lockdown, so we were getting out and about more, but it was still nice to have that time with a new puppy. Our lives changed straight away, because there was more fun, laughter and love in the family.”
With both Marmite and Peanut around, Sarah gets to enjoy double the dose of puppy love. “They get on really well, they’re like best friends. They do everything together, sleep in the same bed, sit next to each other on the sofa. In the evening, I love to sit and watch TV and cuddle with them. You just feel nice, warm and homely when they’re with you.”
When they’re not snuggling, Marmite and Peanut provide Sarah with the motivation she needs to get outside for fresh air. “Having two dogs, especially with one of them being a puppy, does make us more active. Even when the weather’s bad, we like to get out for a walk.”
Most of all, Sarah is thankful for the way her dogs have helped her children. “Peanut and Marmite have improved the lives of my kids because they teach them responsibility and compassion, and they’re also a companion if they’re feeling sad.”
Beth, Sarah’s daughter, can attest to that. “If I’ve had a bad day at school, it’s always exciting to come home because Peanut and Marmite – especially Peanut – likes to cuddle me and it just makes me feel happier,” she says.
Not only do dogs make great companions, but they can also help you to meet new people, something which Anthony particularly enjoys: “Sometimes, you find that a 20-minute dog walk turns into an hour because you stop and chat to every person you meet. You get to know people and it’s a really nice community.”
“Having a dog has definitely helped us bond with our community and get more involved. We’ve met a lot more people and now we see plenty of familiar faces on our daily walks,” adds Sarah. “There aren’t many Chihuahuas around, so everyone knows Peanut and Marmite. Owning Chihuahuas is very different. It’s almost like having all the perks of a dog, but in miniature. They’re half the hassle, but give you all of the love.”
Our lives changed straight away because there was more fun, laughter and love in the family.
With Kelly, her husband Matt, their three children Tristan (three), Tilly (six) and Edward (nine), plus Inca the Great Dane all living under one roof, there’s not much peace and quiet – but that’s exactly the way they like it.
“I can’t imagine life without a dog. My family have always had one, and so it was natural for me to get one when I moved out,” explains Kelly. “When our old dog died, Tilly asked if she could have a Chihuahua. We decided on a Great Dane – the complete opposite!”
Given Inca’s size, Kelly knew she was in for a change of pace. “The first thing we had to do to adapt to life with Inca was get a bigger car. We’ve also had to move the bedroom furniture around to fit her bed in, because she refuses to sleep downstairs.”
Every compromise Kelly’s made has been totally worth it, thanks to the joy Inca brings. “She’s great with the kids, so loving but fun at the same time. She’s always playing around,” she laughs. “She loves running water, and as soon as you put the bath on, she’s straight there, drinking out of the tap – and then you’ve got slobber in the tub!”
With Inca’s larger than life personality, there’s enough puppy love to go around for everyone. “They’ve all got different relationships with her,” Kelly says, describing her children’s bond with Inca. “Tilly really appreciates the cuddles. Tristan likes a bit of a wrestle. Edward is a typical nine-year-old. He’d sit in his bedroom all day if he could. Having a dog helps to get him out for walks.
“It’s nice when the kids have had a really tough day at school. They can come home, chill out on the settee and they’ve got someone to sit there, give them cuddles and reassure them.”
Of course, it’s not just the little ones that benefit from Inca’s affections. “Dogs give you more love than you can ever imagine. When I get home from work, Inca’s more excited to see me than the kids are!” says Kelly. “I’m not going to lie, having a dog, isn’t easy. It’s hard work, a lot of time and commitment, but for all the love you put in you do get it back tenfold.”
Dogs give you more love than you can ever imagine.
Steve is a firm part of the family now, but Anthony still remembers the day he first brought him home. “I put him in the back of the car, and he chewed through his lead. He ended up sitting in the passenger seat next to me, so that was a fun ride home!” he laughs.
Now that Steve’s older, he’s settled down a little. “I’d say he’s a lot easier to look after now he’s a senior dog. He’s calmer, more assertive and he’ll wait and be a bit more patient,” says Anthony.
That’s just as well, given he and his wife Rebecca have two little ones to look after. “Steve is definitely protective of the boys. Everywhere they go, he goes. Noah’s off to bed, Steve’s off to bed. He has to be in the same room, doing the same thing, knowing what they’re up to all the time,” says Rebecca.
Steve plays an important part in family life, and that includes making sure everyone gets their daily dose of exercise, which Anthony is especially grateful for. “You can just enjoy the scenery of wherever you are. We love seeing the boys running around and playing with Steve out in the fresh air.” Rebecca agrees: “Walking gives us a chance to interact with Steve, he can be free and have a play out in the open, and the boys can too.”
There have been occasions where Steve has taken his free-spirited nature a bit too far, though. “One day, when Noah was about two, he managed to let Steve out of the front door, and he went to visit the local school. He was sitting in the playground, with everybody having a fuss of him. The teacher had to come round and get his lead so she could bring him back to us!” giggles Rebecca.
Fortunately, Steve has learnt to keep his socialising to when he’s out and about. “When you’re walking Steve, you meet other dogs and people,” says Anthony. “His friendly nature means he just wants to say hello, and everyone always want to stand and chat. They ask how old he is and where we got him from, so you end up having a conversation.”
As well as helping Anthony and Rebecca meet new people, Steve has played an important role in supporting their mental health. “He can tell when we’re upset, and we can tell when he needs something. He’s like a brother to the boys and a son to Rebecca and I. We’re grateful for him and he’s grateful for us. It works both ways.”
When you’re walking with Steve, you meet other dogs and other people.