I was pleased to be invited to write a Member’s Profile for the Bolognese Dog Club and hope our story will encourage others to think about choosing one of our beautiful breed.
It all started quite a few years ago now. My husband, Andrew, and I had both grown up with dogs, myself with Corgis and Yorkshire Terriers, and Andrew with Samoyeds, so I think it is fair to say we were destined to own a dog one day, but which breed was the next question.
In the early years of marriage, and both working full-time, we agreed that it was unfair to have any pet; however, we were adopted by a pretty little tortoiseshell cat, whom we had for about 8 years, and then moved over to pedigree cats, choosing the Russian Blue cat. These are a beautiful, elegant and graceful foreign shorthair cat, quietly spoken, and suited to a peaceful indoor life, preferable for their safety and my peace of mind. I worked on the Russian Blue Breeders Association Committee for many years, and have owned several Russian Blues over the years, usually a mixture of some bought as kittens which have done well in the show ring, and rescues who have enjoyed a second chance at a comfortable home life.
Dog ownership was always at the back of our minds, and quite a few years ago now, we visited Discover Dogs in Earls Court, to look at the different breeds, and perhaps get an idea of what breed we may one day choose. I definitely did not want a large dog that moulted copious amounts of hair everywhere, and Andrew did not want a small terrier, so this was a good opportunity to see all the many different breeds and talk to their breeders about their chosen breed characteristics.
It was there that we met a lovely couple, Mary and Ian Poulter of Tenderella Bolognese, who gave us plenty of guidance and kindly invited us to their home to see all their lovely Bolognese dogs. I can remember Ian telling me that I would not find a better breed of dog at that Show, and he was right! However, getting the timing right for bringing a new puppy into a family home is crucial, and so it was not until Andrew had taken early retirement and we moved away from the Home Counties to Somerset, that we began to think seriously about owning a Bolognese.
Having had rescue pedigree cats, we contacted the Bolognese Dog Club to offer a home to a rescue Bolognese, perhaps where an owner had passed away, and said we would consider a pair, if necessary, as we would never split up established dogs. We were told that they rarely, if ever, came up for re-homing, which was understandable and good for the breed, so I put that idea on the back-burner, and started to think about a puppy. I obviously knew all the reputable Russian Blue cat breeders, and by now Mary and Ian were no longer breeding the Bolognese, so was cautious to know where to begin in our search for a well-bred, healthy puppy from an established breeder.
I contacted the Kennel Club and learned about the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme, and from there found another lovely lady, Shirley Hewitson, of Moorhey Bolognese who had puppies for sale. We chatted for some time on the telephone, getting on really well, and so arranged to meet to be interviewed further and meet the puppies. The only downside was that we were at opposite ends of the country, almost, but we managed a day trip to Lancashire from Somerset, meeting a blonde lady with a little white dog at the train station.
Somerset to Lancashire
We spent some time with Shirley, getting to know each other a little, and answering all her questions so that she could match us with the correct puppy from the litter, and so ‘Bruno’ was chosen and a small deposit secured our choice. Another long month went by before we could bring him home, and this time we drove up, staying overnight in a local hotel, and then picked up Bruno (now named Dante) after breakfast for the 8-hour journey home. He travelled home very well in the car and I think we were all so tired, he only cried a little the first night, and then slept peacefully until the following morning, and then the fun began!
Dante Came Home
He soon learnt how to wrap us round his little paw, squeezing through the stair gate we had in the kitchen doorway to find the comfiest places to sleep at night, when not unfortunately teething on a family chair leg, or chewing slippers found in the utility room. We soon learnt to store things out of reach, bearing in mind as he got older he could obviously reach further. Bringing up a puppy requires a gentle, but firm and consistent approach, and we soon got into our new puppy routine of regular comfort breaks to the garden, short walks, and plenty of play and sleep as required to re-charge both his batteries and ours. We went for short trips in the car, taking Dante to meet his new vet in the first few days of ownership to check all was well, and began socialising including registering with the local puppy training school, so that he could meet other dogs, mostly bigger than him, and learn confidence around them.
Then Came Tino
When Dante was approaching two years old, we began to think of getting another little Bolognese friend for him to play with, but were concerned that he might be jealous of the new-comer, though our fears were to prove unfounded. This time I looked on the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme website and found another lovely couple, Chris and Brian Thatcher of Devonia Bolognese in Somerset – neighbours – who had puppies for sale. We arranged to meet Chris and Brian and were able to take Dante with us so that we could see how he got on with all the little puppies. He was rather overwhelmed by them all, but when with the one for sale, coped much better, and so number two, Tino, was booked, and a date arranged to re-visit in another month to collect him.
10-days later came Millie and Macy
Needless to say, it was at this time that we were also contacted to advise that 2 rescue Bolognese, mother and daughter to be re-homed together as their previous owner had sadly died, had become available and were we able to help. Whilst the girls were exactly what I had been looking for originally, with one lively young dog and a puppy booked (not to mention just having adopted another rescue Russian Blue to add to the 4 others we had at that time), I thought we had enough, whereas Andrew thought in our new doggy routine, we could cope with another 2 as well! On this basis, I advised that if no-one else wanted them, we would take them both, and 10 days after collecting Tino, Millie and Macy (with no previous socialisation with cats) arrived also, taking us up to 4 Bolognese, and then the fun really began!
Through no fault of their own, Millie and Macy had to re-learn some basic manners, so I was now toilet-training 3 dogs at once, not quite what I had in mind, however, with perseverance we succeeded, eventually. We were kept very busy now, walking 4 dogs, often in relays, as Tino was a growing puppy who was only doing short walks to begin with, and the older girls not going as far as Dante wanted to, so we were always out walking with some-one. It soon became apparent that Macy, the daughter, was struggling with her walks, and several visits to the vet later established that she had heart failure, and was put on a cocktail of drugs which she managed very well with for a couple of years. However, she was not blessed with the best of health, and at the age of 10 was diagnosed with mammary tumours. Two major operations later, it was not to be, and we sadly lost her 2 days before her 11th birthday, leaving a huge Macy-shaped hole in our hearts. She had been a great character, always finding and eating anything she shouldn’t, including a dead pheasant from the field next door on one of her many escapes, and chocolate biscuits from the dining table, requiring emergency vet treatment, to name but a few.
Her mother, Millie, has coped very well with her daughter’s passing, and although has 2 new cruciate ligaments, mild heart failure and a collapsing trachea, will be 14 this month, and keeps up with Dante and Tino, now aged 6 and 4, running with them in the garden, although does prefer shorter walks and enjoys quiet time in her cage for most of the day, leaving the boys to create mayhem on their own.
Dante will make a game out of any situation and loves nothing better than to wait by the cat flap to ambush cats coming in with their gifts, which he always manages to get off the cats and usually swallows whole, fur being preferred to feathers. He loves to play chase with gardening gloves and socks, in particular, all of which can be buried in the garden, but he always remembers where he hides them and will dig them up when asked to do so. He loves meeting people, especially when out on walks, and on one occasion when he was very young we met a lady who had fallen and Dante found a lovely sandwich in her rucksack, though judging by the shape of her ankle she would not have been eating it anyway, and at least he made her smile whilst waiting for the Ambulance, even if we were both very embarrassed. Dante, in particular, thinks anyone who comes to the house has only come to play with him, and loves our decorators – one does all the work whilst the other plays with him.
For anyone thinking about buying a Bolognese puppy, I would strongly advise to research the breed carefully and think about whether the time is right to introduce a young puppy into your home. Bringing up a young family, or nursing elderly relatives and subsequent bereavements can all take their toll on even the most well-meaning of owners. Once the timing is right, patience and willingness to travel long distances may well be required, as Bolognese puppies from reputable Kennel Club Assured Breeders do not come up for sale very often.
You must also be prepared to visit the breeder, at least once, before a puppy is booked, to get to know each other and whether you may be the right owner for our breed. These are companion dogs, and as the group name implies, they love to be with their family and would not thrive if left alone whilst everyone was out at work and school. There is also their coat care to take into consideration – regular grooming is essential whether in full coat or a pet trim, and regular visits to the dog groomer all add to the costs of keeping these little dogs. Regular health checks at the vets, especially when a little older, annual vaccinations and insurance are all items to be considered, and can add up, so careful thought needs to be taken before embarking on this journey. It is also a good idea for new owners, in particular, to join The Bolognese Dog Club UK, when under normal circumstances, regular Bolognese MEET UP’s are arranged around the country, which are a great opportunity to meet other families with the breed and share experiences and offer advice to each other. The dogs also usually have a great time playing with many new Bolognese friends.
To sum up, I have found the Bolognese to be everything I was looking for in a dog. They are just the right size, not too big and not too small, easily portable and do not shed their hair everywhere, nor do they have a ‘doggy’ odour. They are extremely loving of their families, and with their gorgeous little facial expressions, who could not resist one, or four!