“Make yourselves at home – and please feel free to light the log burner if you are cold,” said Farmer Richard. “Evie will probably enjoy relaxing in front of the fire of an evening.” Evie seemed to agree: she wiggled her bottom and stuck her nose gratefully into Farmer Richard’s hand, writes Robin Mead.
Evie, I hasten to explain, is our rescue dog: a German Shepherd/collie cross found running wild on the streets of an uncaring Greek city just a year ago. She finally settled in our home early last summer: a gentle and loving dog, but one who saw little reason for doing what anyone told her. That was one problem. The other was that we wanted to go on holiday, but didn’t want to add to the trauma of Evie’s past year by putting her in boarding kennels for a fortnight.
A tantalising brochure seemed to offer an answer. “Take your dog on holiday to Cornwall and return home with a more obedient pet!” it read, advertising some self-catering cottages at Polean Farm, near Looe. Besides comfortable accommodation, it revealed, holidaymakers could book on-site dog-training sessions during their break.
The one-hour sessions – led by professionally-qualified instructors Jackie and Terry Lawer (www.capablecanines.org) – are held in a proper training arena on the farm. Owners may find that they are learning a lot themselves, as Jackie and Terry brush up a dog’s basic obedience skills and iron out any problems. (The classes are not available between June and August.)
Polean Farm is a fabulous place to stay at any time of year. During the summer, it caters principally for families, and children especially love romping in the play barn, feeding the lambs, petting the sheep and goats, and joining the daily treasure hunt to discover where the free-range chickens have hidden their eggs. As the farm doubles as a livery stables, some youngsters learn to ride there. And if a horse or pony looks too daunting for “townie” kids, then Farmer Keith will take them on a tractor tour around the barns and fields.
Farmer Richard and Farmer Keith are “townies” themselves. They are also brothers-in-law. Like many visitors since, they fell in love with Polean Farm while on holiday and decided it was the ideal setting in which to bring up their own young families. So they gave up homes and jobs in northern England (Richard worked in IT; Keith was a DJ) and bought the place.
But the summer season is short, and they needed to find another way of attracting visitors to the 25-acre farm’s selection of holiday cottages. That’s when they hit upon the dog training idea, and it has proved to be a winner.
Guests and dogs alike adore Polean Farm. We spent a sunny September week there, and the weather was warm enough to ensure that we never did have to light Farmer Richard’s beloved log burner. Rather, we enjoyed long coastal walks, visits to the village pub, and fooling around on Looe’s Hannafore Beach – all recommended by Farmer Richard as being dog-friendly.
Evie learnt a lot during her first two training sessions. In fact she did so well that at her third session she was allowed a special treat: a series of runs around a specially-built agility course.
Lessons over, she tried chasing the chickens – but they know all about dodging dogs. She got on well with Molly, the farm collie, as well as with Farmer Richard’s two smaller dogs. But Tom proved to be a problem.
Tom? He is the big, black, farm cat. And he doesn’t stand for any nonsense. When Evie spotted him lying on his back in the sun she made a joyful lunge at him – and got an almighty smack on the nose from a muscular forepaw with some very sharp claws on the end.
Thanks to Jackie and Terry Lawer, Evie learned many valuable lessons on her Cornish holiday. She now comes when she is called, walks beautifully to heel, and has greatly improved social skills. But her biggest lesson of all was: You don’t mess with farm cats. They’re tough!
Dog-friendly cottages at Polean Farm (www.poleanfarm.co.uk) cost from £274 to £1,640 per week, depending upon their size and the season, plus £20 per dog. Holidaymakers booking with Marsdens Cornish Cottages (www.cornish-cottages.co.uk) can also pre-book three one-hour training sessions per week for £50 (for up to two pets).