It’s a dogs life for Obi...but can Ellen stretch to a pamper treatment at Harrods for her little pooch?

Ellen's children and the family dog

Ellen's children and the family dog - Credit: Archant

Ellen Widdup’s 2.4 Children

The standing joke in our family is that my husband loves the dog more than the rest of us put together.

The feeling is mutual.

When my husband comes home from work, the pup is sat on the mat by the door, waiting to be smothered in kisses.

“Dad?” our son yells down the stairs. “Are you coming up to kiss us goodnight?”

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“In a minute,” he replies, before crouching down to cuddle the ball of black fur.

“Who’s my best boy? Are you my best boy?” he whispers in a singsong voice, tickling him behind his ears.

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“I love that dog,” he says fondly before finally going to greet the kids.

When it was first suggested that we get a Toy Poodle – a breed which does not shed, which is small, unassuming, easy to train, hypo-allergenic and very intelligent – my husband took some convincing.

“Like a rat on a lead,” was his first objection.

“Overbred and overpriced,” was his second.

“It’s not very manly,” he added, while perusing pictures of gun dogs, Alsatians and Rottweilers.

“You might as well get a cat,” he sneered later as my daughter and I Googled pictures of our preferred pet.

“Well, I’m not walking it,” was his final decree when he was outvoted three to one.

He thought having a dog was going to be disaster. Another responsibility. Another impracticality. A four-legged guilt trip to follow us around like a hairy to-do list.

But coming from a family of dog owners, I knew it would only be a good thing.

All decked in wellies and coats and out traipsing in the woods with our mutt in tow – it’s like the wholesome, happy ideal I always pictured when we moved to Suffolk from London.

And – as usual – I was right and he was wrong.

“I would do anything for that dog,” my husband says affectionately when he is teased by his friends for his choice of companion.

“Look at his little face,” he coos as they continue to laugh at him. “What’s not to love about that?”

In three weeks’ time the dog, who was named Obi Wan Kenobi (the only concession to us getting the poodle in the first place was to allow my husband to name it) will have his first birthday.

“We have to mark it in some way,” my husband said. “It’s not every day man’s best friend turns one.”

“We will buy him a bone,” I replied.

My husband – and both children – looked horrified.

“Is that it?” my son said incredulously.

“He must have a party,” my daughter announced. “We can invite Elvis, Dusty, Flo, Hector, Clover, Daisy and Monty,” she added, making notes.

“I’m not sure I want eight dogs tearing round my garden,” I replied dubiously.

“Spoilsport,” my husband muttered, petting the pup.

Apparently a pooch party is happening whether I like it or not.

And I’m expected to rustle up liver cupcakes, pupcorn and a game of paws the parcel.

Believe it or not, birthday parties such as this are now a significant part of the booming dog lifestyle market.

There is even an online catering company called Dogs Cake Bakery that specialises in healthy, preservative-free dog birthday cakes made from wholewheat flour, vegetable oil, natural honey and free-range eggs, sandwiched together with meaty buttercream and iced with yoghurt.

You can employ entertainers who can supply agility courses to amuse the canine guests, clowns who dress in dog costumes and walk on all fours and pre-filled party bags stuffed with favours of the plastic, squeaky variety.

And what about presents, I hear you ask?

Well, in the past decade there has been a steep rise in the number of things you can buy for your dog.

Among extravagances are a cashmere cable-knit pullover for £95, Sexy Beast perfume – a unisex mix of patchouli, mandarin and nutmeg oils ? for £50 and a dog spa treatment at Harrods for £104.

If you are feeling very flush, you can buy your dog a mink fur coat for £500 from designers Hartman & Rose, who are apparently unaware that dogs already have fur.

Or for a cool one million pounds you can purchase a collar studded with more than 1,600 hand-set diamonds on 18-carat white gold attached to a crocodile leather collar.

All a bit pricey for us.

But there are some other products out there which my husband is rather keen on getting.

Among them is a crate of specially designed beef-flavour beer for the dog called Happy Tail Ale.

There is also The Bow Lingual – a gadget which claims to translate doggy woof into English.

And he is also rather keen on the selection of doggie chew toys available from Political Pet Toys.

This company, which sells via an online retailer, has a wide range of slobbery playthings which allow your dog to take out its frustrations on your most hated politician.

Think Cameron sucks? Let Rover at him. Despise Blair? Train Spot to bury him in the garden.

Now while I rather like the idea of letting Obi loose on Nigel Farage, I don’t think it’s necessary to splash the cash on pets to the extreme that we do as a nation.

In the UK we spend a whopping £15 billion a year on them –and recent research has revealed that the British devotion to animals is such that more than a third of owners claim they would cut back on spending on their own food before that of their pet.

I pointed this out to my husband. He just shrugged.

Trust me, this is not the response you expect from a Yorkshireman who won’t spend a penny unless absolutely necessary.

It really must be love. Puppy love.

Find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup

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