Below, you can find out a little more about Kathryn and her love of animals over the past five decades. There's also an introduction to husband Paul, who runs the family business alongside her, and, of course, Frankie & Benji.
A love of animals from the start
I have loved dogs (& all animals) for as long as I can remember. The only reason I never wanted to be a vet was because I was hopeless at science and didn't like the idea of lots of blood. My first pet was a goldfish called Jimmy, won at Houghton Feast, a festival held every October in Houghton-le-Spring, Tyne and Wear. There must have been about six 'Jimmys' in reality as sadly they didn’t live very long. Next were guinea pigs for me and my brother Andrew - Cocoa (jointly owned), followed by Sandy (mine) and Silky (Andrew’s). Finally, after years of nagging, my parents caved in and gave me Honey, a golden Labrador, for my eighth birthday.
My own pets
For most of my working life, I have been in full-time employment and didn't feel it would be fair to leave a dog alone all day (dog sitters didn't exist). Having met Paul in 1992 (the year Honey died), we adopted three rescue kittens when we bought our first house in 1996. We had gone for two girls, but there were just three kittens left...you can guess the rest. Frankie (the boy) went missing from home age 15, but his sister Sooty lived to 19 and Bootsie to the ripe old age of 20!
The right time for a dog
When Bootsie passed away in summer 2016, our house felt empty - even though there are five of us knocking around. Everywhere I looked, I could picture the cats lounging in the sun. I couldn't bring myself to move her bowl for a month: it just wasn’t the same without an animal in the house. Paul had been a stay-at-home dad since 2007 and I'd been working from home since 2014. Finally, we both felt in a position to give a dog a proper home - much to the delight of our boys (who are 13, 16 & 17).
One sausage becomes two
We travelled a few hundred miles to collect Frankie, a black & tan mini dachshund, from Cleveland on my 46th birthday on August 28, 2016. Our red mini, Benji, joined us soon after for Christmas, from just down the road in Irthlingborough.
This is me in 1977, age six, besotted with my Auntie Ann's sausage dog, Emily. She was my first 'proper' introduction to this rather special breed; a little dog with the biggest of personalities. Despite the odd warning snap when my constant desire to have her on my lap or hold her lead proved too much, I now appreciate that Emily was remarkably tolerant.
I begged my parents to let me have a dog for years and Honey, a golden Labrador cross, was my 8th birthday present. We always said she 'chose' me, crawling over for a cuddle when I went to see the litter before her eyes were even open. The sweetest of dogs, she was always ready to play, carrying the biggest of stones over in her mouth to help me and my brother build a dam in a river.
Roll forward to my 46th birthday, this is me collecting Frankie (a.k.a King of the North) from Cleveland. Having worked from home in 2014, I was finally in a position to care for my own dog. In a household with three growing sons (one already past six foot), we had decided we needed a small dog. Three months later, Benji joined us too, from down the road in Irthlingborough!
Pictured here at one-year-old (looking angelic) with Mitzi the Siamese cat, Paul grew up with cats and dogs. During his childhood, his mum took in two additional cats (Luck and Whiskers) and a mongrel dog, Judy. Paul's love of animals was firmly established, which is probably what prompted him to turn vegetarian while at university and later become a vegan (a few months before meeting me).
We bought our first house together in Belper, Derbyshire. With both of us out all day at work, our first pets were three cats. We went to the Cat Protection League for two female kittens and came away with three! There was no way we were leaving the last male kitten behind on his own. Rambo was renamed Frank in honour of Paul's best friend, best man at our wedding the following year.
Paul (I don't want a dog - they need too much looking after - outvoted by the rest of the family) fell in love with Frankie the moment we collected him. It was actually Paul's idea to get Frankie a companion. Benji joined our family just before Christmas 2016 and soon stole both our hearts...and bed! He is the soppiest of dogs and loves nothing more than to snuggle and play. He and Frankie are inseparable.
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