Tell us a bit about your store Winston James Woof and how it all started.
After leaving Liverpool and moving back to Frome, Somerset I found myself in jobs which just didn’t make me happy, be that lack of creativity or just not loving where the company was heading anymore. I quickly realised that the only way to control every aspect of my work life would be to be my own boss.
One evening I was unpacking yet another (dog themed) cushion I had ordered when I realised, I could be making them instead, this was the very early starting point of the business. Having adopted my boys earlier in the year I had spent hours on and off searching the internet for items that were something a bit special, and beyond the norm of your standard pet shop chain. I felt there was a gap in the market for a shop which could house lots of lovely independent companies together and create the ultimate dog lovers haven, stocking items for pooches and also for us humans too such as dog themed interiors and gifts.
The shop name ‘Winston James Woof’ comes from a twist on my boys’ names - Lennon and Macca. Obviously, it’s never going to end well trying to use those names commercially, so I looked up John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s middle names and by some miracle it just seemed to work - plus obviously the ‘Woof’ on the end to help make it obvious. Since being open I have also become known as ‘The Dog Shop’ around the town so on my most recent mini rebrand I added that onto my signage too - ‘Winston James Woof - The Dog Shop’.
I am very lucky to live in a mega dog friendly town, also a town that is famous for its independent shops and it’s quirkiness too - so I knew Winston James Woof would fit in just fine and I’m so pleased to say it has, we’ll have been open 4 years in December!
Tell us about your dogs and how they came into your life.
My two boys, Lennon and Macca came into my life nearly 6 years ago through a wonderful charity called ‘Just Whippets Rescue’. They were being fostered by a lovely lady but she wasn’t the most up to date with tech and so the photos of them were barely non-existent - very grainy dark photos at a distance but I couldn’t have cared less, I knew whatever they actually looked like I would love them a ridiculous amount no matter what. I’ve always had rescue dogs so to me I’m never looking for any particular colour or size I just want to give a fabulous home to a pup in need.
The boys had been rescued from a shed where they were confined to wooden crates 24/7 and still to this day have little bald patches on their ankles from being in a tight space and not allowed out to toilet, resulting in urine burns. Originally there were 9 puppies in total, 3 died at birth, 3 were so poorly they had to be put down and 3 survived - luckily the boy's other brother had already been adopted before I started looking otherwise, I may well have 3 Whippets by now.
Needless to say, any bad start in life was quickly forgotten by the boys and they now reside in the lap of luxury as you can imagine. They both have us all so well trained I regularly end up sat on the floor just so they can have the chair they’ve decided they want. Just one example of the kind of house I live in and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lennon is food obsessed and loves a hunt or two, I won’t gross you out with our latest pheasant debacle. Macca is definitely the cheekier of the two and plays a regular role as ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ from our window. He has been deaf since birth so has a rather unique bark, not at all how people expect Whippets to behave - so we do get a few shocked looks from time to time!
How do the dogs fit into your general working day?
As much as I would love to have the boys in the shop with me I sadly can’t. Firstly, because they would eat all my profits but mainly because I do have some reactive dogs who pop in for fittings and visits so need to be as trigger free as I can. Also, with Macca’s neighbourhood watch tendencies I don’t think he’d like to see other pups coming in and taking ‘his’ treats either. I am however very fortunate to live above my shop, so they are never far away at all, and never on their own either with my other half working from home
When you’re not working where do you like to head out to with the dogs?
We’re very lucky where we live in that although we are based in a town, we are actually not very far away from countryside at all, so it’s very easy to pop straight out into the green fields with the boys. We tend to avoid woods generally due to Lenny’s desire to hunt but there are a few we trust him in a little more, so we head there if it’s a sunny day and fancy a little more shade. The boys are not big swimmers but do like somewhere to have a little paddle in if the mood takes them, and they absolutely love a run on a beach and a splash in the sea.
What essentials do you always have on you when heading out for a dog walk, and what do you carry them in?
Like everyone else eco poo bags are number 1 on the list, closely followed by some super tasty smelly treats to convince Lenny I am much more interesting than wildlife scents - certainly ironic that my deaf dog Macca has a better recall than Lennon! We also take a water bottle, bowl and a small towel. I also carry a bottle of hand sanitiser too - which I’ve been doing way before it became a pandemic necessity! Unsurprisingly considering that list I carry it all in a little dog walkers rucksack that was released by Radley a few years ago in conjunction with the Dogs Trust.
What adventures do you have planned with the dogs for later this year?
Pandemic permitting we’ll be heading down for our annual Cornwall trip in a few months so the boys can zoom up and down the beaches for a week. It’s our week of doing very little except wandering and enjoying the sea air and gorgeous scenery.