Barks & Bunnies is a family business established in September 2013 and inspired by our oldest Golden Retriever, Albie.
You will see Albie pictured throughout the site with our other Golden Retriever Kizzie, you can also follow him on his adventures 'Albie's Adventures'. This is our story....
This is our story....
Back in 2010 my own Colitis flared, reminding both my husband and I just how short life can be. At the same time as my flare Leigh had to travel to India for a week with his work, meaning he would be overseas on our Wedding Anniversary (something he has never been allowed to forget!).
I gave Leigh a copy of 'Marley and Me' to read on the plane, partly as a small anniversary present until we could celebrate properly but also it was a book that I had particularly enjoyed reading.
Both Leigh and I had always wanted a dog to join us, but I had grown up with Golden Retrievers so I really missed having four furry paws and a wagging tail! After Leigh read the book he was hooked and seeing how finite life can be we took the leap and decided it was the right time (is there ever actually a right time?).
Having a puppy in the house was wonderful! Albie has always been full of life but mostly full of mischief and we had endless fun playing & training him during those early puppy days. He was definitely a daddys boy and loved dragging Leigh out into the garden to play games every night... and still does!
Unfortunately, just after Albie's first birthday, unplanned circumstances meant he was spending a lot of time at home on his own. We never wanted a dog that was left alone all day and we knew something had to change, it was either move to save money or I leave my job and we remain in Ashtead but drastically change our lifestyle.
Together we decided we liked where we live, our family are close by and there are so many places we can go for nice dog walks that really we had everything we wanted. After a series of life changing events we had learnt that life is not about the material things but about the people you love and the time you get to spend together, including your animal family.
It took six months to make all the necessary changes and for me to work my notice period but finally we were all happy. We had to stop luxuries like take-aways and our gym memberships but we were happy and the stress of worrying about Albie was gone.
I spent every day with him, walking, training and playing (or just cuddling on the sofa!).
Unfortunately for Albie he was also diagnosed with colitis just like me. This is an inflammatory bowel condition which causes him to be very sensitive to foods and can sometimes make him a very fussy eater! We found it very difficult to get his Colitis under control and decided to change his protein source from meat to fish - it worked wonders! He improved quickly and was back to his normal bright happy self.
The only remaining problem was that due to our desire to continue training him (something that we always reward for), our choice of dog treats was incredibly limited. There were very few treats that were completely natural and certainly very few that contained fish, so we started to bake our own. His sensitive tummy and no problem digesting them and he loved all the different flavours I made.
In February 2013 we met Angela from Polite Paws, a force free dog training company based in Dorking, we talked about Ablie and his Colitis and a natural progression developed and we made the decision to turn making dog treats into a bakery business. I saw this as a wonderful opportunity not only to encourage people to have fun with their dogs, which is why named our biscuits after dog tricks, but to also raise awareness of force free training and that pack leaders and theories about dominance is old, outdated advice which only causes harm to the dog owner bond.
What next? well we decided to add to our family and we found our girl Kizzie.
We had always planned to get a second dog but one Sunday whilst out walking with Albie we bumped into some nice people with a very handsome thirteen week old Golden Retriever puppy and we took it as a sign, a piece of kismet if you will, that this was the time to add to our family. Kizzie joined our family a matter of months before the business launched and she was always delighted to give our treats a taste test under Albies supervision!
She has been a fabulous addition, she is besotted by me and follows me everywhere, you can always find us having cuddles beside the Aga and on the sofa, or if Kizzie has her way - out in the garden playing ball! She can sometimes get a little too enthusiastic with Albie but we manage it carefully and make sure he is not overwhelmed. Meanwhile Albie gets to have fun and games with Leigh, there is nothing Albie likes more than a game of chase around the garden, he never looks so alive as when they are chasing each other round and round.
Well they actually came into our lives first before our dogs! Back in the days when we were still young and had just moved in together we got our first rescue bunnies Duke & Daisy. We sadly lost them due to illnesses though and so now have Chuzzlewit and Libby.
We had a steep learning curve with rabbits as not long after bringing Duke home he developed a very troubled tummy (we seem to attract animals with tummy difficulties!).
Very quickly we had to pour over numerous books, websites and resources to learn how to help him and during the process we learnt how misunderstood rabbits can be. As part of our passion for bunnies we also offer luxury accommodation for rabbits while their human families take their own well deserved holiday. Any rabbits that come and stay will have an outdoor house all to themselves filled with an endless supply of fresh local hay and hand picked dandelions which Albie and Kizzie often help us find.
We launched in 2013, as a team of two humans, myself (Amy) and my husband Leigh plus of course Albie, Kizzie, Libby & Chuzzlewit! We have quickly grew the business from selling handmade dog treats to also selling a wide variety of products that are things we would use ourselves. Leigh and I always look at the ethics of the companies we trade with and try to balance that out with the potential benefits for your dogs & rabbits.
In May 2016 we welcomed our daughter Erica into the world. What she has given our family can't be put into words and all our anipals are getting on wonderfully with her, and vice versa!
It has meant a few changes to Barks & Bunnies most notably that we have had to stop making our handmade dog treats, there just isn't time at the moment to bake them all. We hope to be able to bring them back soon but with two dogs to walk, Erica to care for and our bunnies it could be a few years before we are able to get back into the kitchen. We have therefore sourced some additional branded treats to our range which are as close to our own handmade treats as we could find, with all natural ingredients and made in their own family factory.