Pet heaven in Keswick
Welcome Back Fund - funded by ERDF
In a town that’s been voted the most dog-friendly in Britain, Podgy Paws is a perfectly placed pet shop.
You don’t have to peer behind the counter of Podgy Paws to see the shop’s four-legged resident – Buddy, the Great Dane-Mastiff cross, stands head and shoulders above many of the store’s doggy visitors. He was rescued by the shop’s owners, Chris and Peter Harper, whose business has been on Tithebarn Street for 16 years, and Podgy Paws is now a destination for locals and visitors alike.
Those lucky enough to live in around the town come for their staples – the food and the treats or toys for furry or feathered friends – while tourists also come to kit out their dogs for their holidays, with coats, collars, harnesses and leads.
Some of their most popular ranges go above and beyond the obvious pet accessories though. They have carriers of all shapes and sizes, and that means fun for even the oldest or infirm pets.
“We do backpacks to hire for older dogs that can’t walk far,” says Chris.
“They’ve been nicknamed Harry the Carry, and there is the fleet of buggies – Dougie the Buggy, Lola the Stroller and Pam the Pram! They can literally change some dogs’ lives. It means they can still go on a walk with the rest of the family.”
Podgy Paws also sells dog boots to protect the paws of those who spend a lot of time on the fells, in particular the pups who may be more used to short walks on pavements and in parks at home, but suddenly find themselves on lengthier Lake District hikes.
“Their pads can get sore,” says Chris, “so quite a lot of holiday makers come in to get their dogs fitted with boots. “That’s the beauty of bringing them in to see us. You can buy harnesses or coats or whatever on the internet, but if you can come in store we can make sure they are fitted properly.
“We sell a lot of coats. They’re real specialist products, Gortex quality with taped seams. It’s not about dressing dogs up, it’s about practicalities.”
Holidaymakers also order their pet food in advance, to save them bringing it from home, especially those who feed their pets raw food which has to be kept frozen until it’s needed. The team say there’s increasing demand for health dog food and treats too, as people focus on their pets’ diets as much as they do their own.
Though Chris and Peter do have online businesses – they have a Podgy Paws store as well as selling the Hurtta brand for active dogs – she feels there’s nothing quite like the face-to-face contact with customers.
“We try to offer the same level of customer service on the phone,” she says, “but it is always going to be trickier.”
There’s more to Podgy Paws than just selling pet food and accessories though. The team like to be at the heart of the community. They’ve had visits from Santa Paws – no pet should miss out at Christmas! And they sell ‘memory bones’ for charity, to decorate a tree in memory of pets that have ‘crossed the rainbow bridge’ as the sad loss is known in many animal-lovers’ circles. They also do ‘meet the trainer’ workshops, and sell handmade puppy poppies in aid of Hounds for Heroes.
And Chris says Keswick and Allerdale are the perfect places to be located.
“I’m Keswick born and bred,” adds Chris, “and we would never have opened a shop anywhere else.
“The town has still got a wide variety of independent businesses and people have time to go browsing and shopping while they’re on holiday.
“The businesses here that are dog friendly really see the benefits. People come here repeatedly, whatever the weather. It’s just a great place to be.”
Podgy Paws is taking part in a new Shop Local Allerdale campaign, organised by Allerdale Borough Council and funded by funded by HM Government’s Welcome Back Fund funded by ERDF, the European Regional Development Fund.
4-7 Tithebarn Street
Keswick, CA12 5ED