Diane has been around dogs for most of her life, while Mark got his first dog as a young adult because his parents weren’t really dog people. When our last Border Collie sadly crossed the rainbow bridge Diane had already returned to full time study and so, with no one at home during the day, we decided it was unfair to have a dog at that time.
By 2010 Mark was working for himself but spending a lot of time working away from home. Diane was more than ready to give up her job as college lecturer and support Mark in an administrative role which meant she would spend more time at home. She decided it was time to get another dog but, much to Mark’s disappointment, didn’t want another Border Collie. She started to research different dog breeds and realised that Bolognese was the perfect companion breed to fit in with her new, less active lifestyle. She was particularly impressed to read that Bolognese are a relatively healthy breed. Once the decision was made, she contacted all the Kennel Club Accredited Breeders to see if they had puppies. Bolognese puppies are hard to find but we were very lucky to get a response from Aemelia Bolognese to say that their girl Bonnie was expecting her first litter and we would be considered for one of the puppies.
It seemed like an awful long wait but in May 2013 Aemelia’s Christiana at Arkadian (AKA Bella) finally came to live with us. Her breeders, Fay Walker and her Mum Christine Rushbrook, were very supportive and knowledgeable. Bella was easy to train and has a good repertoire of tricks, but she is very stubborn. Her recall was excellent until the day we let her off the lead in the local country park. She ran off, found the nearest muddy puddle and returned, in her own good time, covered from head to paw in thick sticky mud and looking very pleased with herself. Encouraged by Fay, we took her to some club shows where she strutted her stuff but never seemed very keen. She is most definitely a country girl at heart.
Bella was such a good little girl that after a couple of years we decided that we would like another one. We spoke to Fay who suggested we might like to breed from Bella which was a great idea. Fay was very supportive in helping us find a mate for Bella and put us in touch with Caroline Fabian who had two suitable sires. In December 2015 Bella gave birth to two girls and a boy. It was hard work but lots of fun to have puppies in the house and Bella made an excellent mother. We had promised one of the girls to a friend but kept Max (Arkadian Marcus Maximus) and Cara (Arkadian Beloved Diana).
When they were old enough, we started showing Max and Cara in a few dog shows and, in 2017, Max got 1st Junior Dog at Crufts. We really enjoyed doing the shows and meeting all the other show people and their beautiful dogs. We also enjoy spending time on the Discover Dog stand at Crufts and Bella has celebrated her birthday on the stand each year since she was a puppy.
You can never have enough Bolognese in your life, and we decided that Cara was too small to breed from so in 2018 we got Amy (Belstown Beloved Amee at Arkadian) from Melanie Thomas at Belstown Bolognese. Amy is a very loving little girl but more excitable than the other three which keeps us on our toes.
We took the four of them to Italy in 2019 for an epic seven-week road trip, staying in our caravan and visiting most of Northern Italy down as far as Siena. Even in Italy we were asked “what breed are they?” However, there were a couple of occasions when they were recognised as Bolognese. While enjoying lunch in beautiful Bologna a lady introduced herself explaining that she owned a Bolognese too – we are now friends on Facebook. We continued to travel and show the dogs until lockdown. Swapping our caravan for a new motorhome in 2020 we started travelling again once it was safe to do so. The dogs absolutely love our travels and get very excited when they know we are preparing to head off. A caravan or motorhome makes it far easier to attend dog shows.
Then in 2021 the opportunity came for us to have Lyckalotte Enzo Ferrari, AKA Enzo, from Deana Mee. He’s a real little star who just loves strutting his stuff. He won Best Puppy in Breed at Crufts in 2022 and continues to show promise in the ring, although keeping him clean can be a bit of a challenge. Apart from getting dirty, his favourite thing is to fall asleep in Diane’s arms, on his back, just like a baby. He snores loudly!
In 2022 we entered every championship show that had Bolognese classes and stayed over in the motorhome at most of them. We have also shown at a few open shows. Whilst fun and an opportunity to meet up with friends from the dog show community, showing is very expensive and tiring. We’ll probably do fewer shows next year as we hope to start travelling abroad again in 2023.
Bolognese attract attention wherever they go, especially having five of them. Ours have appeared in some English Heritage PR photographs at Dover Castle and nearly appeared as extras in Top Gear. Luckily we, Mark in particular, like showing them off and talking to people about the breed. They are very well travelled dogs and have been to most parts of the UK for holidays or shows. Enzo is the only one who hasn’t been overseas yet unless you count our recent trip to Islay to see one of our sons. They love their walks and especially like running around like lunatics on the beach, chasing seagulls and getting themselves filthy.
We are often asked how we tell them apart. That is the easy part, for us anyway, as they are all very different in looks and personality. The biggest problem is identifying which collar & lead belongs to which dog, especially as we like them all to match. We devised a system where each of them has their own colour to help us distinguish leads, collars, towels, toothbrushes, etc. Bella is yellow, Cara is pink, Max is blue, Amy is purple and Enzo – well he just had to be red! So, all we need to do is to look for the little coloured dots on their leads, toothbrushes, etc. or the name embroidered in the right colour on their towels, coats, etc.
We are also asked how we cope with so many. The answer is simple, we raised 5 children between us, and Bolognese are a lot less trouble! We’re hoping to breed again soon and may increase our family if the right one comes along – Bolognese puppies are so moreish!
Mark & Diane Whateley
Birmingham, West Midlands