Amazing how dogs can change your life

The Charley Chau Companion Dog AwardsTo celebrate the positive impact that dogs can have on our lives, Charley Chau & The Kennel Club are looking for inspiring stories for our Companion Dog Awards competition! This week’s theme is ‘dogs that changed your direction in life’ and is inspired by my own story of how Charley (my first Italian Greyhound) led me from a corporate career in London to setting up Charley Chau with Jenny and eventually leaving my ‘day job’ and running Charley Chau full time …

I had always wanted a dog but working long hours in the City in London I didn’t think it would be fair but in 2008 I gave up my job to stay at home and do the nesting thing, getting ready to settle down and live happily ever after with my then partner, and we decided it was the perfect time.

Fat Charley, a gorgeous little Italian Greyhound puppy, came home on 27 September 2008 and everything went swimmingly but all the best laid plans … six months later my partner and I had split up and I was a thirty-something single dog mother – unemployed and very nervous about looking after a dog on my own. It was a fairly depressing time and my only coping strategy was to walk the dog so Charley and I walked a lot over the next few weeks - I think he kept me sane!

I found an amazing freelance job few months later, working in the Public Sector, and Charley went off to doggie day care from 8.00am-5.30pm every day while I was at work. Everything slotted into place and we met heaps of lovely people when we were out walking after work and at the weekends so Charley got his own Facebook page to keep up with all his new dog friends.

And then something unexpected happened. Queen Anna moved in. Anna is Charley’s older half-sister and was a problem child - she lived with Jo (who bred Charley) and had attacked several of Jo’s other bitches with increasing determination to do some very serious damage. Jo had no choice but to re-home Anna for the safety of her other bitches (Anna was bitch aggressive) and over a cup of tea at Jo’s and a long discussion about Anna, she came home with Charley and I.

On the first evening Anna just snuggled up right next to Charley and I knew from that moment that they were going to be fine together. And I was a single dog mother of 2 – by choice! So Anna arrived, and soon after my freelance contact ended, so I was back to being out of work and I had time to kill while I looked for another job. The plus side was that I got to spend all my time with Charley & Anna which was fantastic!

I started looking for new beds for Charley and Anna but couldn’t find any in fabrics that would look nice in my flat. The more I searched the more frustrated I became. Why was it so hard to find good quality dog bedding that looked nice? I ended up at my local fabric store, borrowing my sister’s sewing machine and making two Snuggle Beds myself and Charley and Anna loved them!

They looked so cute curled up in them that I posted some pictures on Charley’s Facebook page and I was inundated with people asking where I got the beds from. When I explained that I had made them myself, people asked me if they could buy them from me! The problem was that I can’t really sew and didn’t feel that I could honestly make them up and take money for them.

I was visiting my family in Cheshire one weekend and telling my sister Jenny about the Snuggle Beds, and Jenny said to me ‘why don’t you have them made professionally?’ And that was when Charley Chau was born!

I wasn’t working and I had time to look into it properly so that’s what I did, with lots of help from Jenny. Months of online research, hundreds of phone calls, endless meetings all over the country with textiles companies, manufacturers, cushion specialists, vets, retailers, prototype snuggle beds made, rejected, refined, re-made, tested, and hundreds of conversations with dog friends all came together in August 2010 when Charley Chau launched our first product - Charley Chau Snuggle Beds!

And then I had some good / bad news. I was offered an amazing job back at the Greater London Authority. Jenny and I had a long chat and we agreed I would go back to work full time, and work on Charley Chau in the evenings and on weekends, and that she would run the company day-to-day, with a plan for me to leave my other job by the end of 2012 to go full time on Charley Chau.

And that’s where we are today! Two years later Jenny and I are now self-employed and running our own business full time … and all because Charley and Anna needed a new bed.

It really is amazing how dogs can change your life!


p.s. I’m now a single dog mother of three – Theo joined us in January this year - he's the little fella you see at the top of the page on the Companion Dog Awards image :-)

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