In 2004, Jenny Hytner-Marriott sat down and made a list of all of the things that made her feel uneasy about depositing her dog in kennels. Her catalog of concerns was so extensive that she decided to produce a solution: a luxurious holiday package for hounds, in her own home. The Paw Seasons in the U.K. was born.
Charmingly named, The Paw Seasons is a pretty idyllic place to be a pooch. The concept is simple, yet brilliant: a luxury retreat for dogs where the residents can play together joyfully. The main base is the Grade II listed farmhouse in rural South Gloucestershire that Hytner-Marriott shares with her partner Tim Stokes, and when she’s home, her 21-year-old daughter. A small number of carefully-selected canine guests have the run of (most) of the house, sleep where they like, and always have company, whether in human or dog form. There is a resident matriarch named Coco, who helps all the four-legged visitors settle in by showing them where the treats are kept. In contrast to the usual kennel set-ups, dogs spend their time at The Paw Seasons lolloping around in fields and hedgerows, scampering along the ancient footpaths of the Cotswold Way, and frolicking in the surf at Brean Sands, a secluded, sandy beach on the North Somerset coast.
For older and very energetic dogs, there are alternative accommodation options, which still provide the same level of canine care, comfort and exercise. Bigger, more boisterous breeds (gundogs or similar) are typically placed in the care of Hytner-Marriott’s old colleague and friend, Melissa Powell, who inhabits a beautiful period house in a small village on the Badminton Estate. For senior, or more demure hounds, Myra Chappell’s home in South Gloucestershire on Hawkesbury Common is the perfect spot for leisurely strolls and sofa cuddles. Wherever they stay, the dogs are welcome to wander around the house, gardens and grounds of the properties, and are taken for twice-daily walks.
Besides bespoke accommodation arrangements, The Paw Seasons offers personalized pet transportation, thus eliminating another headache usually associated with kennels. The beauty of the shuttle service offered is that it is entirely tailored to individual needs. In June, when my Pomeranian Goji made his inaugural visit to the property, I sent a set of my house keys in advance, and Tim Crocker, The Paw Seasons’ chauffeur, was able to collect Goji, while I was at work. The geographical reach is also wide: a regular shuttle service operates to the London area and the M4 corridor, but dogs have been collected from as far afield as the South of France.
There are other delightful touches. The Paw Seasons is active on social media, and photos of doggy exploits are posted daily on both Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We also received email updates from Jenny during Goji’s stay, which were both reassuring and heartwarming. It was entertaining to follow the adventures of Goji and his new set of chums while my husband and I were five time zones away. What is more, for dogs who stay a week or longer and are partial to a bit of pampering, the good news is that they receive a complimentary wash and blow-dry so they can return home looking and smelling great.
There are, however, some entry criteria to enter the canine nirvana of The Paw Seasons, which are designed with the animals’ welfare in mind. All dogs must have up-to-date vaccinations, including the kennel cough vaccine. Entire males can occasionally upset the balance, and females in heat, along with certain breeds, are not accepted. Yet most dogs do make the grade. Those who do will have a doggy holiday of a lifetime while you are enjoying yours. Prices from £45 (USD $70) per night, per dog, depending on the time of year. Shuttle service is available upon request.