For the second blog article in my ‘Pawsome Pros’ Series, I spent a couple of days enjoying the company of Dawn Hooper and her doggie friends …
Dawn runs a successful Dog Walking & Pet Sitting business called Bentley’s Buddies, which was originally formed 6 years ago – born from a passion for dogs and spending time in the countryside.
After a while, Dawn took up a position at a local dog rehabilitation centre, where she enjoyed working – and was able to acquire a vast array of knowledge about her canine friends. When the job hours increased, however, Dawn decided that she was missing too much family time – so returned to running her dog walking business April/May 2019. She hasn’t looked back . Her work/life balance is now perfect for her – fitting her vocation around family life, keeping time free to spend with her husband and granddaughter – and her own dogs.
Dawn has what some may call an obsession – for Pointers – 4 of them !
The first is Bentley – a Pointer/Lab cross from Cyprus – after whom her walking business is named.
She then has 2 Greek rescued Pointers – brothers Theo and Bryce, and a brown & white German Pointer – a female called Lola. She is very beautiful ( and I think in charge of the boys ! )
They are working/hunting dogs – who love to be out in the fields following scent trails. They are large dogs who enjoy lots of exercise and mental stimulation – and Dawn enjoys running with them. They are perfect partners for her to enjoy the sport of Canicross – where you run with your dog on a harness that attaches to a belt around your hips. It’s a growing sport in the UK – which usually takes place from September to May avoiding the hottest months. It’s basically like cross country with your dog – and if you develop a good partnership with your dog, it can increase your running times considerably. The Pointers all love it – and I shall be doing a separate blog all about Dawn and her 4 running partners soon.
When her dogs are at home – they like to laze around and are very friendly They all want their chance to meet me and be fussed over. It was the first time I’d ever met any Pointers – and I was impressed with their lovely temperament and how cuddly they were.
On my days out with Dawn, I discovered that the majority of her clients are army families based at Colchester Garrison. As her husband is in the army, her contacts for work have naturally been from that sphere and she has been recommended by word of mouth. Dawn does a mix of home visits, individual and group walks – within the locality of her home in the south of Colchester.
One thing has struck me about the daily life of a dog walker. There is a lot of driving involved, even though Dawn’s clients live within a fairly small radius of her home. There is a real skill to working out the best itinerary to maximise walking time versus driving.
Her van is professionally customised to transport her canine companions. It has four caged compartments and is fully insulated to keep it cool in the summer months.
I’m set to meet a wonderful array of dogs on my walks out with Dawn – and she takes me to some brilliant places in the middle of nowhere to walk the dogs. She tells me that a lot of army land was abused by visitors littering, so the Army has shut off car park access. She therefore has to work harder to find good places to take the dogs.
Dawn is extremely knowledgeable about Wildlife and Nature – and points out Badger and Deer tracks as we walk. She often walks later in the day with a Barn Owl flying around and tells me that she is keen on hunting out rare fungi in the Autumn.
Not all the dogs that Dawn looks after on a daily basis are easy to manage and she has become known and very skilled at handling dogs who might be considered more difficult for other dog walkers to cope with. I soon see that she is a calm, assertive individual with a sound knowledge of canine behaviour/body language – so it makes sense that this would be within her scope. Having 4 large dogs herself within one household means that she is used to keeping behaviour in check.
Some of her charges are energetic puppies and others are reactive to other dogs. Tilly, a shepherd cross , was fed drugs by a previous owner and has a fear of dominant, confident dogs. She wears a muzzle and cannot be let off the lead in public places. Max, a Pointer cross is a dog who Tilly feels comfortable with. It is a compliment to Dawn that Tilly & Max have become great walking buddies. Dawn is very aware of how to best protect her charges, she takes great pains to avoid confrontation for the reactive dogs.
When we go out on the group walks – Dawn won’t tolerate any misbehaving. She doesn’t make a big fuss – her motto is to be ‘Firm but Fair”. Dawn definitely maintains her position as ‘Pack Leader’ on her group walks and has a tangible positive impact on the dogs’ ongoing training.
I’m also able to walk with Tilly and a gorgeous Whippet called Colin. Dawn took us to a huge field away from any other dogs. Tilly had a lovely run around off lead following scents and was able to behave naturally – being perfectly happy with Colin around. They even have a good game of chase. I was really impressed how Dawn has established special routines for this nervous dog to thrive in.
Dawn has also taken on a Ridgeback puppy, Maali, who has not been the easiest dog for her owners to manage. No dog should rule the roost at home – and when you have a large breed puppy, such as a Ridgeback – large, powerful and excitable – there definitely needs to be boundaries in place. Dawn has worked hard, alongside Maali’s owners, to keep their exuberant puppy under control and train her to be well-behaved when out walking. She wears a figure of 8 lead ( which has a similar effect to a bridle) to prevent her being able to pull uncontrollably.
Being a puppy means that the slightest thing can cause her to become excitable. On the whole, she proves to be very well behaved on our 2 walks out together.
With Dawns influence and support – the owners seem to be winning. A Ridgeback is certainly not a dog to take on unless you have experience, common sense and are prepared to work hard.
Dawn also takes me to visit Belle. A 16 year old chocolate Labrador who isn’t able to do much nowadays. Dawn visits several times a day for comfort breaks and company. Poor Belle has trouble getting up when we visit but is pleased to see her friend. In her prime, Belle was a top gun dog and also went on deer hunts with her owner. She has the most soulful eyes and it’s easy to see why Dawn has become so fond of her.
My favourite walk with Dawn is a group walk with 4 of her doggie friends – Gary, Colin, Betty and Milo. The countryside is lovely, the dogs hunt and play harmoniously and I manage to get some great images. These dogs all respond well on recall because they respect Dawn’s authority – and it makes the job of a Dog Walker look very appealing to me. I’m sensible enough to know, after spending a couple of days with Dawn, that there is actually a lot of hard work that goes into making what she does look easy.
Here’s some info on the other dogs I met whilst out with Dawn -:
Buddy – a black Spanador,
Habits – loves following scents and hunting in grassy fields.
Ray – a black Shepherd, housemate to Buddy.
Habits – Very intelligent but nervous of other dogs. Likes to carry his toy and stay close to Dawn for instructions.
Copper – Cute Beagle pup.
Habits – Loves to chase around playing with other dogs, especially Monty. Very friendly.
Monty – a pale yellow Labrador pup
Habits – typical lovable Lab, likes chasing around with Copper, playing ball and very responsive to commands.
Betty – a small cross breed.
Habits – Loves hunting in the undergrowth for wild creatures. Does her own thing. Small, so can get into the hedgerows and brambles to hunt out prey. Very friendly and lovable.
Milo – Brindle Frenchie
Habits – Very cheeky character, who loves getting into messy puddles to cool off. Likes to play with other dogs and sometimes wind them up. Surprisingly fast mover. Mostly stays close to Dawn.
Bear – Boxer Pup
Habits – Very Handsome and good at posing for photos. Likes to keep close to Dawn.
Gary – Lurcher, light brown & white
Habits – Very handsome, dedicated to hunting rabbits. Wears a bell. Moves very fast, especially when he finds a rabbit. Can spend the whole walk with his head down a rabbit hole. Great expressive ears in typical lurcher style. Good friends with Colin. Will eventually stand still for photos.
Colin – Grey and white Whippet.
Habits – Very characterful, gorgeous, friendly dog who likes to rub his rear against you for Whippet cuddles. Best friend Gary. Wants to be friends with everyone and be in the thick of what’s going on. Extremely fast. Loves chasing around with Gary. Always looking to see where Gary has gone. Wants to be the centre of attention. Can be cheeky and try to provoke the other dogs to get attention.
Very easy to fall in love with. Strikes a great pose.
Dawn Anne Hooper is really dedicated to the care of her doggie clients, ensuring that they can all have walks that are stimulating & fun, as well as safe.
I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Dawn and all her wonderful canine friends – and I can highly recommend her to anyone in her area who needs someone to take great care of their dogs …
You can find Dawn at https://bentleysbuddies.co.uk
A sad addition to my piece about Belle, the Labrador – Dawn has been doing extra visits to check on her and she was found today to be very unwell. Dawn had to take her to the vets. She has now crossed the rainbow bridge. I’m so glad that I was able to get the above image of her for her owner to treasure …