When you start dating, get together, go steady – however you want to phrase it – with someone, you sort of inherit their family, don’t you? You have a whole new load of people to get drunk on Amaretto on and argue over board games with at Christmas. Luckily for me, I inherited a bloody amazing family when Andrew and I got together. They might be small (trust me, I feel like a giant around them and am contantly banging my head on things at their house, which they fit under easily) but they are mighty.
And this is how I met the subject of this post’s interview – Jo. She’s Andrew’s little sister. Jo set up a dog accessories business a few years ago. I know a lot of dog owners visit The Z Factor, so I thought some of you would like to hear about Jo’s business and her very cute little pug, Betty.
Hi Jo! Can you tell us a bit about Betty’s boutique – what products do you sell? What’s your style?
Betty’s Boutique was initially a small business selling branded dogwear (collars, leads, harnesses, dog coats) and accessories, such as Puppia, Mutts & Hounds and Danish Dog Designs. However, in 2014, I moved in a new direction and have begun making my own products. Betty’s Boutique offers products to dog owners who wish to show off their dogs’ lifestyle and personality through their dogwear i.e. collars, leads and harnesses. The ranges that I have developed use quite classic fabrics as I am big fan of rustic chic design. I also believe that classic fabrics illustrate the simple beauty of the English countryside – no unnecessary additions – it is just delicate, pretty and simple.
Do you make any of your own products?
We now produce our own range of dog collars, matching leads and harnesses in three different styles – dotty, rustic stripe and retro floral. Collars come in 5 different sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL), leads come in 2 sizes (M &L) and harnesses come in 3 sizes (XS, S & M). These ranges are slowly expanding. We will also be producing our own range of matching dog coats by winter which is exciting!
Do you have a favourite product? If so, which is it?
My personal favourite product is the dotty harness (see photo below), firstly because it was the first item that I worked hard to produce and therefore took a lot of time and effort to get it right and, secondly, as it is just a simple, pretty material that looks great on our little Betty. It shows off our Country lifestyle with is a ‘pretty, simple and a country chic’ vibe.
Why did you set up Betty’s Boutique – did you always want to set up a dogwear company or was it only when you got Betty you thought about it?
I set up Betty’s Boutique as a result of meeting our little puglet, Betty. In April 2012 we met her, only 8 weeks old, and instantly knew that we were meant to be a little family. She had the characteristics that we were looking for – a cheeky, adventurous little soul – a slice of mischief! Through becoming involved in the ‘doggy community’, I was surprised at how many poor quality dog clothes there are in the marketplace. I wanted to find a website which would allow me to buy products which would show off Betty’s little personality but there was nothing quite right. All of the main websites selling doggy clothing were quite generic. So I started Betty’s Boutique. We sourced different brands initially which would allow people to buy products to show off their dog’s personality and lifestyle and, in 2014, I began producing my own range of goods which combined my love of the English countryside and the lifestyle that Betty is part of. The business has now been recognised by the magazine Berkshire Life and we regularly send photos of our dog walks in to show off all our lovely local dog walks.
What’s the best part of running Betty’s Boutique?
I mainly love the fact that I am constantly coming into contact with people who are bonkers about their dogs – like I am! It’s very comforting to know that there are lots of other people who find their dogs as fascinating as I find Betty. It’s lovely to share each others experiences of doggy behaviour and their personalities.
Where can people buy your products? Are you based in particular shops or online?
The main place to buy to buy Betty’s Boutique products is my website – www.bettysdogwear.co.uk but I will also shortly be selling my products from some local Berkshire boutiques – Pink & Brown in Sunninghill, Ascot, the Groom Room in Windsor and WagsPetBoutique in Eton.
What’s the future for Betty’s Boutique? Will you do clothes for larger dogs or expand into more shops or start doing dog accessories?
My hope and plan for Betty’s Boutique is that firstly, get the production and supply of Betty’s dogwear right. As I only began this thread of the business earlier this year, I want to ensure I can keep my customers and the boutiques happy. Following that, I would like to expand the ranges that we have to offer our customers, including a spring/summer, then autumn/winter range and possibly a bespoke range which would cater for all sizes of dogs.
It doesn’t take long browsing this blog to realise I absolutely love dogs. I am totally obsessed with them. I grew up with dogs as pets, and really think they add an incredible amount of love to owners’ lives.
As you know, I take pictures of dogs when I’m out and about. I also talk to them and stroke them whenever I get a chance (Andrew gets kind of mad when I stroke them!), and often buy homeless people’s dogs treats when I can. I also have quite a lot of dog accessories.
So often people ask me why I don’t have a dog of my own. Trust me, I would love a dog of my own. But my lifestyle would make it completely unfair on the pup. I work long hours and like to go out socialising too, and a dog needs plenty of love, affection, routine and care. So at the moment, I just can’t have one.
But recently a few friends – normally fellow dog lovers – put me on to BorrowMyDoggy. This is where dog owners are matched with dogless people who want to spend time with a dog, so they can take the pup for walkies or even dog-sit when the owner needs an extra pair of hangs.
I loved the concept and signed up straight away to be a borrower. I’m yet to be matched with my perfect pooch, but live in hope. In the meantime, I’ve been chatting to the lovely Rikke at Borrow My Doggy and she agreed to do an interview for The Z Factor. And here we are.
Rikke and Elvis
Can you briefly explain the concept of BorrowMyDoggy?
Of course! BorrowMyDoggy is a trusted community of dog lovers, where borrowers help take care of dogs when the owners are busy either for walks, playdays, weekends or happy holidays. Our aim is to leave ‘Pawprints of Happiness’ on the lives of dogs and people.
Why did you set up BorrowMyDoggy?
I came up with the concept for BorrowMyDoggy last year when I was looking after my neighbour’s dog for the day. It worked out great for all of us. I spent the day taking care of Aston (a very cute brown labrador), and my neighbour’s mind was at ease knowing that his dog was being watched by someone who really cared for her instead of being stuck at home alone. Aston spent the day in the park having fun, and looking after her made me so happy.
During the day I thought, “There should be a site where dog owners can have their dogs taken care off by people who absolutely adore dogs and miss having a doggy in their life.”
All owners need to be away from their puppies from time to time. There is no need for a doggy to be home alone or for owners to have pay for a dog walker or kennels when there are lots of people who adore dogs but unfortunately can’t have them (due to work, travel etc), who would love to take care of doggy for free. As an added bonus, BorrowMyDoggy allows owners and doggies to get to know more people locally and spread lots of happiness.
Rikke and BorrowMyDoggy co-founder, Les
Who have you found has signed up to BorrowMyDoggy?
We have a huge variety of members in the BorrowMyDoggy community. Our lovely members are everything from families, to students, older/unwell people, singles and everyone in between. I don’t there’s a demographic unaccounted for!
Is the service used for one-off dog walks or are people building long-lasting relationships by repeatedly seeing the same dog?
The way our members use the site is as varied as the type of people we have signed up. Some dog owners require a stable ongoing arrangement, some need help from time to time and some people have signed up their pooch just to make other people happy.
We’ve found that members are building local relationships with both new people and dogs, and they’re making new friends in the process, which is lovely. We have some wonderful examples of neighbours meeting for the first time, despite living beside each other for years, through BorrowMyDoggy.
Is there anything people can do to increase their chances of getting matched?
Owners generally contact borrowers who are close by and available when their pooch needs looking after. This means that how long it takes to hear from an owner depends on whether there are any pups in your area who need walkies and looking after at the times you’re available. We are also finding that owners prefer to get in touch with fully verified borrowers.
We encourage people to stay at the front of the pack by keeping an eye out for new pooches in their area and favouriting any they think they’d be able to help, as this sends their owner a notification of your interest. We also advise borrowers to make sure that they keep their profile up to date with as much info and availability as possible. We have some handy tips on our blog about how best to do this.
If borrowers only have a few hours a week are their chances slim of finding a dog they can build a relationship with?
There are so many different doggies out there with so many different doggy sitting needs so it is completely dependent on the doggies that are signed up in your local area. We have thousands of new members signing up to BorrowMyDoggy every week and hundreds of messages are being sent all over the country every day.
What kind of feedback are you getting?
Since we started, we have received the most wonderful feedback from our community. Our members are making a difference to each others’ lives every day and we love hearing about the happiness that both people and dogs are spreading.
We also receive lots of pawsome feedback and suggestions from our members about what they would like to see on BorrowMyDoggy. We are so appreciative of all the support that we get from our amazing community and we are working as hard as we can to make BorrowMyDoggy as wonderful an experience as it can be.
What’s the future for BorrowMyDoggy?
We are still a young pup of a company and we are keeping our paws busy doing everything we can to continuously launch new and exciting features based on our lovely community’s feedback.
Everything we do is centred around our aim to leave ‘Pawprints of Happiness’ on the lives of people and dogs as we exist to make a positive difference.
If you’re interested in signing up to BorrowMyDoggy, you can find out more information here.
Oh hiya pup lovers! It’s been bloody ages since I’ve posted a dog spot, hasn’t it? This is mainly because I am REALLY slow to get my phone out and take pictures of dogs, and by the time I have they’ve walked off. Bums.
But today I saw a really love chap on the train and had ample time to photograph him (still a crappy photo though…) as I was lucky enough to stand next to him.
He was very obedient, and was happily giving everyone a subtle and gentle sniff as they boarded and disembarked the train at various stops.
I’m not sure what bred he was, but suspect he is probably a mix. He looked like a collie, but had the dimensions of a sausage dog – intriguing and very cute!
So my Mum has now got in on the dog spot action too. She spotted this lovely long-haired dachshund while on the train to London to meet me. The dog is called Poppy and her owner, Jo, says Poppy is gorgeous but a little terror. I like a cheeky pup, so I’m a massive fan of Poppy’s… I just wish I’d met her myself.
This week has been especially grim as Andrew and I raced to exchange on the flat we’re buying. Wednesday night saw me particularly stressed, so I took myself off to the pub with some close friends to have some salving wine.
On my way home I happened across this scrappy lil’ lady. She was brilliant – just sitting contentedly on her owner’s lap. She looked so soft and snuggly I just wanted to bury my head in her fur (the dog that is, not the nice owner lady). Obviously due to social norms, I didn’t do this – I took this picture instead. Thanks for brightening my day, lovely pup!
Do you know what one of the best things about writing this blog is? That people have started sending me pictures of dogs they see for the Dog Spot feature. It’s like, quadrupling my dog spots and I ruddy love it.
So, as my first guest dog spotter, my pseudo-mother-in-law, Helen, is leading the way. She saw this handsome little guy while on a day trip in Lewes. He’s called Maxie and is just six weeks old. I think he’s AMAZING and am very sad I didn’t get to shake his paw myself.
Thanks very much for the photos, Helen! xx
If you’ve seen a dog out and about and have taken a snap of him (all dogs are boys), you can email them to me. My contact details are here.
I firmly believe there’s nothing more cheering in life than seeing a dog with his head hanging out of the car window. They look so happy, just by the simple fact they’ve got the wind in their fur and are able to see where they’re going. If only human happiness was arrived at so easily… (although there might be many more beheadings on the motorway…)
I saw this German Shepherd while my friend and I were driving out of London on our way to a hen do in Kent. We were tired and our spirits had been broken by the Blackwall Tunnel. This guy made it all better. Look at him go!
I’ve been away on holiday in California, so that’s why I’ve been a little silent. Expect some epic Cali food posts after I’ve recovered from the world’s worst jet lag…
In the meantime, take a look at one of my favourite dog spots ever! I saw this guy directly after finishing cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fran. He was just hanging out watching all the tourists on bikes speeding past – and posing for a photo for me! I think he’s totally brilliant.
I was in my home town recently, and saw this chap out for a Saturday morning stroll. He’s a wired-hair fox terrier – a breed that has a special place in my heart, as my first dog was one. He looked a lot smarter than my pet though – mine was always covered in mud and stank! Poor dog.
While Andrew was fussing over change for the meter in the shopping mall carp park, I came across this guy. He looked pretty sad, so I went over to say hiya – he wasn’t impressed and continued to pout. I guess it sucks to be left in the car.
I love beagles, so was chatting away to him before I realised I looked crazy to passers by, so I bid him farewell. I wonder what he’s up to now…
This weekend I ventured out West, to Wembley to buy clothes for a very good friend of mine’s wedding. I am pleased to report that the journeys there and back were prime dog-spotting territory.
We saw this guy striding down the platform at Willesden Junction. Andrew actually exclaimed loudly to me, “Look at him! He’s so happy!” and indeed, he had a massive smile on his face. He looked like he’d been for a dip somewhere, which we all know labs are fond of. He made my wait for our onward train a lot happier.
It’s been a while for a dog spot – and so I’ve got an extra special one. Having tweeted this picture, it ended up on a great Tumblr Dogs on Trains. It does what it says on the link.
Anyway, I saw this little fellow sitting nicely with no fuss on the East London Line, speeding his way across the top of London. I love his scruffy fur and little black nose. I think we really could’ve been best buds.
I spotted this lil’ chap while on the Victoria Line one blustery winter’s day. Luckily for him, his owner had decked him out in a snug looking coat. He was really lovely – a bit nervy, as a lot of whippets seem to be. But he LOVED his owner, and soon climbed up on her lap and fell asleep.
I met this lovely chap while queuing for the cash point on Highbury Corner. This has turned out to be an excellent dog spotting area. This guy was barking a little – I think he was pretty upset to be leaving the nearby Highbury Fields, thus heralding the end of his walk.
After a short hiatus, I am back – and what better way to celebrate my Phoenix-like return than with an ultimate dog spot. A bassett (one of my all-time faves), a black pug and some kind of Irish terrier – a great selection! I think they were off to Highbury Fields to let loose. I wish I could have gone with them.
This guy made my tedious tube journey much brighter. He was happy to lie on the floor as people stepped over him – he didn’t bat an eyelid. I love the white patch on his tummy. I’m sad I didn’t ask if I could stroke him.
I love a dog in a bandana! This little guy was out for a sunny stroll in Highbury Fields on Sunday. He was sporting a bandana with an Arsenal badge sewn on. You wouldn’t expect any less from a Highbury resident!
I’ve got a confession. I love making friends with strangers dogs when they’re not looking (and I really hope that isn’t some unintentional double entendre). I also try to take photos of them. Yeah, the more you read of this blog the more you’ll realise I am a totally creepy person.
Now I am going to share all my sightings with you. Here is my favourite London underground dog spot – four of the little guys! This man has my dream job – hanging out with dogs. Well I assume that it’s his job. I like the grumpy border terrier at the back best.