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Buckinghamshire’s four-legged friends

PUBLISHED: 11:51 09 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:09 09 May 2014

Gorgeous Bobby arrived some 12 years ago as a rescue kitten

Gorgeous Bobby arrived some 12 years ago as a rescue kitten

MAUREEN MCLEAN

Pets always take pride of place in the family home, says Maureen McLean, whether that’s a castle, a Thames-side townhouse or a Chilterns country retreat

Corinna out in the countryside with majestic RockyCorinna out in the countryside with majestic Rocky

Tales of past pets and their descendants, often still trotting around, form part of many family stories. You may even know the names of dogs and cats long gone before your own birth. Anecdotes about their adventures are woven into the thread when relatives get the family photo album out and find some noble shot of “Beefy – great gran’s favourite retriever, but he hated the postman” or “That’s little Tinker, she had the litter that eventually led to your Kitty being born.”

From formal Edwardian poses of the gathered tribe to Sixties girls in their mini skirts, you will see the family pets, frowning or grinning alongside their human companions. And surely the ultimate example of this must be the Royal Family, and their assorted Corgis, dorgis and other breeds.

The Royal relationship with dogs goes back centuries, although one of the best examples is the present monarch’s great-great grandmother Queen Victoria. It all started with Dash, a King Charles spaniel Victoria received when 13. Dash was still with Victoria when she became queen in 1837, and the first thing she did after coronation was get back to Buckingham Palace to give Dash his bath.

Back to the present day, and the Queen shared her love of corgis with the world when the pets appeared as the London 2012 Olympics scene stealers. James Bond actor Daniel Craig was shown inviting her to join him in a helicopter ride to the stadium, but it was the corgis’ ‘tummy rolls’ that had us all laughing.

Corinna out in the countryside with majestic RockyCorinna out in the countryside with majestic Rocky

Since then, one of the corgis shown, Monty, has died aged 13. So this leaves her majesty with corgis Willow and Holly and two dorgis, Candy and Vulcan.

A Rocky romance with a happy ending

When Corinna Sidhu isn’t busy working as an international director for Exsurgo in London, she can be found with her beautiful horse, Rocky. Corinna is married to Steve Sidhu, who runs the successful local business Ten Mile Menu, our Food Hero winner for the Berkshire & Buckinghamshire Life Food Awards 2013.

The couple had been have been holidaying in Andalucia for a number of years when Corinna got to know a horse owner and began riding a chestnut called Rocky in the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Steve and Corinna loved it so much that they married there.

Corinna heard from Rocky’s owner that she was going travelling to America and wanted to find new homes for horses. Caught up in the excitement of marrying, she decided to strike while the iron was hot: “So this was my sneaky wedding present before we got our joint bank account.”

During the honeymoon she managed to sweet talk Steve into agreeing that it was a good idea. Within days of returning home, Rocky too arrived into the leafy hills of Buckinghamshire and is now stabled at Affricks Farm Livery Stables in Little Kingshill. The stables are owned and run by eventer Joy Dawes.

Rocky was used to the warmer climate of Andalucia, where at 15.2 hands he was the herd leader of 11 horses. It took him a while to get used to being stabled and for two days he looked at his haylage before realising he could eat it. Now it is one of his favourites, as are Pink Lady apples (he’ll pick them out from other apples!).

Corinna rides Rocky five or six times a week before work in the morning and at the weekends. They love to go off road hacking, do jumps, cross country and gallops. Rocky has a long mane and full low set tail, which Corinna loves to plait. She is training him to do some dressage and the Spanish Walk using traditional Spanish commands.

Corinna and Steve also have two very fluffy Birman cats, Minnie and Bow and there is soon to be a new member of the Sidhu family as Corinna and Steve are expecting their first baby. As a result Rocky is going to have to have a bit of a vacation for a year, so if you are a keen horse rider and like the sound of Rocky, do get in touch with Affricks.

The strays who stayed

Pat Miller has been a volunteer for the South Bucks RSPCA for over 24 years. It all began when a friend of Pat’s, who was an RSPCA co-ordinator, asked her if she could foster some rabbits. Now Pat is fostering five rabbits and has one of her own, named Treacle.

There are also two cats and two dogs, all former rescue animals, loved by Pat and husband Mick. She won’t forget the age of her ginger cat, Bobby, in a rush. Twelve and half years ago Pat was out picking up the then rescue kitten. When she got home her phone was ringing of the hook - it was her son Malcolm saying ‘Mum, your grandson James is being born’.

Rosie is an elegant grey haired cat, and the couple also have a Labrador Cross Pointer called Ben, who greets you with a wagging tail and a shoe in his mouth. Ben was fostered by Pat eight years ago. A stray, he was only supposed to be a short term visitor, but daughter Lorraine successfully pleaded for him to stay.

A bit of a handful at first, dog training helped Ben to calm down and today he is a bit of a elderly grey gentleman, but still full of beans. Pat’s other family pet is the soppy Molly, a Labrador cross who simply wants to be loved, nuzzling the hand of visitors.

Pat and other volunteers help during RSPCA Week by setting up a stand at local supermarkets, handing out information about the work of the RSPCA and hoping for donations into their collection tins from shoppers. She also does home visits before a rescue animal is re-homed, to check on the suitability of the potential owners and their homes. It was heart warming to see the lovely thank you cards, photos and letters to Pat from new pet owners who had taken on RSPCA rescued animals formerly fostered by Pat.

See www.southbucksrspca.org.uk.

As sweet as sponge

Naming a pet can be as tricky a task as choosing one for a baby. So when Marlow’s celebrity chef Tom Kerridge and his wife, Beth, owners of the Hand & Flowers, added a cute boxer puppy to their doggie family, they were won over by the suggestion of a pastry chef and the result was Sponge. She was a birthday gift six years ago for Tom.

One day Tom and Beth nipped out for an hour only to discover on their return that Sponge had destroyed a feather-filled cushion, while their Cocker Spaniel Marley looked on. Tom says: “At first I laughed out loud, but trying to vacuum up feathers while they float off towards the ceiling is no mean feat. Sponge also had a good chew at the sofa, so that meant another trip to the furniture shop.”

Tom and Beth love to holiday in Whitstable with Sponge, Marley and their one-year-old French Bulldog, Inky. The couple love the food scene in Kent and thoroughly enjoy wrapping up warm on cooler days and taking the pack out for long walks on the dog-friendly beach.

As dog lovers, Tom and Beth have set aside a dog-designated guest room at the Hand & Flowers. Tom always insists that the pub is “50% food and 50% experience”, a welcome that’s extended to four-legged visitors. Sponge and crew will see less of their master this summer as Tom is looking forward to a busy time at Royal Ascot again this year. He is currently working on the menu with the team at Ascot Racecourse, where he and the chefs will be serving up first class food to around 200 guests in the fifth floor restaurant of the Royal Enclosure each day.

Ceri-Jane’s handsome hunk

He has brooding dark looks and plays a role in the life of Ceri-Jane Hackling with which her boyfriend simply can’t compete. Ceri-Jane has run a successful communications business, Cerub PR in High Wycombe for more than 10 years, and awards have included being Bucks Ambassadors’ Entrepreneur of the Year 2011.

But long before then she had lost her heart to a cat called Eliot, picked out of a litter of kittens over seven years ago.

Exploring his new home as an unnamed kitten, he fell asleep on a book of T S Eliot’s poetry in Ceri-Jane’s library, and so helped choose his name.

Ceri-Jane may be a busy businesswoman, but she fits in working from home and discovered that as a kitten Eliot liked to keep her company by curling up to sleep inside a mansize box of tissues. Cats do choose some odd sleeping spots and Ceri-Jane is often woken by a large miaow from Eliot as he emerges from a favourite place, on top of a suitcase under her bed.

Eliot isn’t just any old cat - he is discerning in his tastes and rather than drinking his water from a bowl, prefers to lap it from a glass.

Even so, he has been known to misbehave from time to time. At the last count he had chewed his way through 12 phone chargers. He likes to pounce on DVDs as they are ejected from the DVD player.

Given Ceri-Jane’s love of animals, it is no surprise that Cerub PR works with a number of pet-related companies and charities.

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