South Holland’s holiday home from home for dogs

Holiday photographs and postcards to ‘mum and dad’ are a reassurance that everything is going well on a trip away from home.

Except in this case it’s not teenagers taking holidays with friends that’s the potential cause for concern.

These are dogs spending time with ‘foster families’ while their owners take a holiday of their own.

Kerry Wells is proprietor of the local franchise of an organisation called Barking Mad and she has about 350 dogs that she ensures are looked after when their mum and dad go away.

Of those 350 dogs, about 150 are “active” says Kerry, referring not to their energy levels but to the regularity that their owners go away and they need an alternative home.

Kerry says: “My job is to match dogs where their owners don’t want them to go into a kennels and want them to be in a loving home.”

There are about 26 host families, each carefully vetted by Kerry, whose many years in banking locally have given her an insight into human nature.

She says: “I love people as much as I love dogs, so I knew I could find the right people who did it for the right reasons.”

Hosts are predominantly active retired people who are at home during the day. They are paid a nominal sum and everything the dog needs is provided.

Kerry said: “Hosts do it for the companionship and the love, a reason to get out for a walk, particularly ladies on their own, but they haven’t got the long-term responsibility, so they are effectively borrowing a dog for a short period of time.

“The dog becomes the centre of attention in that house and is loved and cared for in the same way and with the same routine as it would at home.”

The dogs too are vetted to make sure they are suitable for the service, and a trial visit is arranged with the host family to make sure it settles well before the holiday proper.

Kerry and her assistant Cherylyn Marriner are then on call to co-ordinate veterinary care should it be needed.

Kerry says: “The dogs go home with holiday photographs or a video and postcards from the hosts telling the owner what they have most enjoyed about them.”

Lots of those postcards are from Carol and Ron Sudbury, who live in Spalding.

Kerry has been running the local branch of Barking Mad for eight years and Carol and Ron have been hosting eight or nine dog visits a year from the start.

They say they do it because they “just love dogs”.

Hosts Ted and Deirdre Procter, of Holbeach, find it “a real pleasure to have dogs again”. Ted (83) was a gamekeeper and so always had dogs but didn’t think it was fair to have one of his own at his time of life.