People are lovable creatures, but they’re complex too. Dogs on the other hand are pretty straightforward beasts. For a start, they have one over on us – they’re always upbeat. Even when you think they’re having a bad hair day, they’re just gathering energy to bounce you through the next few hours.
Dogs need exercise. They love walking, running, sprinting, galloping. They go nuts every time they hear the clink of the lead. It’s adventure calling. At a deeper level, the right dog can teach a child how to grow up and take responsibility. They can be the eyes for people who can’t see and the ears for those who can’t hear. They open up a world and heighten all the other senses. It seems a dog can at least teach an old man new tricks.
Historically, we’ve always made heroes of hounds. From Laika the astro-dog who orbited Earth back in 1957, to Snowy and Tintin gallivanting through cities and jungles, to the Corgis in tweed on tour with the Queen, many a dog has tagged along on a trip. Since we first took them in from the wild, they’ve hankered to drag us back out there.
So what do you do with your dog when it comes to your holiday? Well, you may well be able to bring him or her in a dog-friendly holiday cottage. This means you won’t have to beg your neighbour to look after your Great Dane, or check your pup into the local kennels to whine away to sleep every night. Just make your way here and make yourself at home. If you get a place with an Aga, you can bet your life they’ll be lying there late at night, happy as Larry.
It’s not just dogs that hitch a ride on holiday. People find comfort in animals of all shapes, sizes and materials. How can a baby settle without her comfort cloth of monkeys? What child can get to sleep without her toy rabbit, chewed to within an ear of its life? And if you’ve ever tried to cram a giant felt whale or a full-sized crocheted pygmy hippo into your boot, we feel for you.
If you’re an animal lover full stop, then the South and West is a rambling menagerie of wild beasts and sanctuaries. Many of them struggle to survive, so if a seal, hedgehog or llama gives you the sad-eye and you feel like adopting one, go ahead. And don’t worry, you won’t be asked to cart it back home, he or she will be here next time you’re down.
11 Animal Sanctuaries
1. National Seal Sanctuary
Sway to a colony of Humboldt penguins, feed the otters, adopt a seal pup. They also let dogs in as long as they don’t dive in.
2. Margaret Green Animal Rescue
Church Knowle, Dorset
Re-homes over 1,000 unwanted, abandoned or ill-treated animals a year, from guinea pigs to pygmy goats. Also has a sister site at Tavistock, Devon.
3. The Donkey Sanctuary
With over 12,000 fans on Facebook, these donkeys get plenty of fuss. They even have teams in war-torn areas looking out for donkeys in the line of fire.
4. The Monkey Sanctuary
Chatter to Barbary Macaques, Capuchin and Woolly monkeys, or huddle inside a bat cave.
5. Screech Owl Sanctuary
St Columb, Cornwall
Owls by the dozen, plus meerkats, alpacas, miniature Shetland ponies and pygmy goats.
6. Secret World
Badger rehab, fox rescue, hedgehog help, this 24 hour wildlife care centre has open days throughout the year.
7. Porfell Wildlife Sanctuary
Hand feed a lemur or mooch through a Masai village. This mini-zoo of exotics includes coatimundi, capybara, lynx and zebra.
8. Cornish Camels
St Martin, Cornwall
Fab organic farm set-up on Goonhilly Downs. They even breed to sell, so you could ride home like Lawrence of Arabia.
9. Mousehole Bird Hospital
Founded in 1928 by two sisters, this amazing place cares for injured birds until they’re well enough to fly back to the wild.
10. Ferne Animal Sanctuary
Over 300 strays and retired working beasts, the king being Chilli, a 6ft 6in tall Friesian steer weighing 1 tonne and once Britain’s tallest bovine.
11. Red Squirrels
Isle of Wight
When you're on the island, you may be blessed with a sighting of this elusive mini-mammal. They're all over the island but tend to shy away from people. HEad to Parkhurst Forest for your best chance of eking one out.