Betty's birthday cake

Some of us are finding isolation a piece of cake, but they are usually the ones living with the love of their lives. Dogs are the big winners in the lockdown – spending on our best friend is on the up and up according to pet retail sites.

British tabloid newspapers are rather obsessed with the Johnson family, and this week Prime Minister Boris’s sister Rachel was the subject of a ‘lick and tell’ in the Daily Mail.

The new love interest is blonde Ziggy who moved in just before lockdown. ‘It was love at first sight’ she told the paper. ‘I can’t imagine life without her.’

Ziggy is a Cockapoo who cost an eye-watering £1,250 – almost half the maximum monthly fur-lough pay!

Like Rachel’s brother Boris, we got our pup from a rescue. Betty was a puppy farm reject, just like the nation’s First Dog gorgeous Dilyn.

Betty cost very little, but has become completely priceless. She couldn’t be more adored. A DNA test revealed Betty was a cross between an Old English Sheepdog and a Golden Retriever – but there’s no catchy name for this strange cross! She was an accident. She grew so fast we thought she was probably part donkey.

Betty is no longer a pup, but she’s still the perfect distraction for our family of six in lockdown. She reads everyone’s mood and is always up for a game of football in the garden if someone’s got energy to burn, but she’s equally happy to snuggle up on the sofa and watch a box set. She will enthusiastically walk with anyone.

No one is ever disappointed in her, partly because they have never had any expectation of her emptying the dishwasher. She does offer a pre-wash option if needed. And she’s always very excited and impressed by everyone’s cooking.

But our Betty was already a very evolved dog before we locked down. I can remember what life was like when she was a tiny pup, chewing everything and getting into all sorts of trouble. I think I got more sleep when I had a baby!

But lockdown means the whole family is in the home 24/7 to help supervise the little one and some of the world’s greatest trainers are giving great free advice online.

Jo-Rosie Haffenden (who was most recently on TV seeing if positive dog training methods would work on unruly kids (they did!)) is locked down in Spain with two foster pups.

She told me, “We toilet trained the pups in a week.” Jo thinks all breeders should now be house training pups before people buy them. Her objective is to make sure these little foundlings have the emotional intelligence to deal with the post-pandemic world. She’s using home made mazes, wonder if they’d work on humans?

In human years, our Betty is now in her 40s and she’s very confident everyone loves her, she rarely puts a foot wrong – which is just as well as those paws are huge.

Those in lockdown without a dog often look sad when we walk past them. Apparently dog envy has become a real thing and lots of people are really aching to have a puppy.

I have spent the last 30 years trying to dissuade people from buying puppies on an impulse. Education doesn’t work – our brains turn to mush as soon as we lock eyes on a pup. We all know it’s wrong, but our hearts rule our head. It used to be the Christmas pups that ended up in rescue by the New Year. Will many pandemic pups suffer a similar fate?

In England, Lucy’s Law has now made it illegal for anyone other than the pup’s breeder or a rescue to sell puppies. But due to lockdown most pups have been unable to go to their new homes.

I suspect everyone will need therapy after this lockdown, we will have got so close to our pets we won’t want to leave their sides.

We are really loving spoiling them, too!

We have a retail site ( that’s a bit like a doggie Etsy, so I know people are now buying much more for their dogs in the lockdown. New matching collars, leads and bandanas are the number one best sellers. While we might not be adding much (other than PJs) to our own wardrobes, our dogs have never been better dressed!
Personalised doggie birthday cakes are the other surprise top seller, too. And the frequency of repeat purchases suggests some of us may be celebrating canine birthdays in dog years!

Stay safe – love the dog you’re with!