Now I have told you about Developing Dogs Holidays, I want to tell you a little bit about me, Sian, founder of Developing Dogs Holidays. I love what I do, and I feel honoured to be able to share it with you.
Hospitality was always part of my family business. From a very young age, I used to help in the family bed and breakfast, and throughout school and university I spent many years working in pubs and restaurants. After university I joined the NHS, where I worked for 15 years in IT project management roles…this seems like a lifetime ago, and life has changed so much since!
I was a keen rower in my 20s and met Paddy at Thames Rowing Club; he was on a two year visa from Australia. Whilst not quite love at first sight (sorry to ruin the moment), it wasn’t long before we got together. He abandoned plans to teach in the US for a teaching job in the UK and a desire to win a medal at Henley Royal Regatta. With that dream realised in 2003, we married the following year. Shortly after, Paddy became a rowing coach full-time. Knowing he would be working evenings and weekends, I negotiated that we would get a dog to keep me company. I’d grown up with multiple Jack Russells and saw this as my best chance to bring a dog into our lives. Initially insisting he wasn’t a dog person, Paddy was soon besotted with Riley – our newly rescued Staffy-cross.
Riley was the catalyst for my wanting to learn more about dogs, and three years later, I quit my NHS job and went to Lincoln to complete an MSc in Clinical Animal Behaviour. Eventually, I was offered a job there in the Animal Behaviour Clinic, so Riley and I moved to Lincoln while Paddy stayed in London. We lived in separate cities for two years until we decided that we needed to find somewhere we could both fulfil our ambitions and dreams. Cambridge seemed the obvious choice, so off we went.
When did Developing Dogs all begin?
Whitecross Farm was the first property we viewed, and we knew it had everything we were looking for. I wanted space to dedicate to dogs and people having fun together. Paddy would be near Cambridge for rowing-related jobs, and got to have a ride on mower! By August 2013, we were reunited; the rest is history. We started Developing Dogs Holidays in 2017 with Barn Owl Cottage first, followed by Dragonfly Cottage and Hare Cottage in 2019.
The vision for Developing Dogs Holidays was always to combine relaxation and luxury for humans with outstanding security and safety for dogs of any kind. My work as a dog behaviourist – and as the owner or fosterer of nervous dogs – highlighted how hard it can be to find somewhere away from home to relax with dogs who are fearful around new dogs, new places, and new people. Every decision around placement, gardens, doorways, access to the fields etc at Developing Dogs Holidays has been about minimising the risk of disruption from other dogs or people. I also wanted dogs to be able to live as they do at home; if that means they sleep on the beds or sofas, then that’s fine with us. We have achieved what we set out to do and are proud of that. With exclusive use of our secure fields, dogs and humans can rest and play together without stress or aggravation. If that sounds like your dream holiday, we have achieved our goal.
Away from dogs, I am a keen open-water swimmer and am always happy to share local swim spots or introduce others to the joys of cold-water swimming in the open air. When he gets the time, Paddy is a cyclist and can suggest some local routes.
In a nutshell, that’s me. I hope you have enjoyed reading my story and learning more about the what, why and how behind Developing Dogs Holidays. My one aim from the experience we offer is that you are desperate to return again. Paddy and I love our business, and we hope you feel the same.
We currently share Whitecross Farm with Buzz and Woody, who you’ll often see on our social media.
Buzz originally joined us in 2016, just over a year old and already been through multiple homes. He’s a black and white EBT x Whippet (apparently) and absolutely full of life. He is extremely clever, loves to be doing things, and thinks every day is Christmas.
Woody turned up on the doorstep 6 months after Buzz arrived – a painfully thin, full of fleas and worms, dumped puppy who no-one claimed. He’s a little orange whippety lurcher – there’s definitely some saluki in there somewhere too – with a lot of opinions. He and Buzz curled up together within hours of his arrival – and it seems his name and his fate were sealed.
Riley was our first dog, and our inspiration for everything we’ve done here at Whitecross Farm. She was joined by Cooper – the big white lurcher – the most gentle and loving dog you ever hope to meet. They are both much missed.