As a Prestonian I occasionally like to shake the parched peas out of my clogs and cross the border into South Ribble to marvel at their giant scones and whinge about their terrifying new roundabout that will slingshot an unwary driver into Fylde via the sun if they circle it three times.
The opening of a new doggy salon called Bubbles and Bark Pet Spa on Liverpool Road coincided with my Chihuahua Archie’s 9th birthday, so I had a genius idea to take him to Penwortham for a day of fun, food and pampering.
My daughter Beth, Archie and I entered Bubbles and Bark to receive a friendly greeting from Lucy, the owner and groomer. She told us that it was the first day of opening, showed us her apparatus and gadgets and explained what she intended to do to Archie while he sniffed around, oblivious to what was heading his way having never before visited a dog spa.
The spa uses a line of hypoallergenic dog toiletries made locally in Lostock Hall called Paw Naturel, which also includes sugar scrub and doggy dry shampoo. They have a number of scents to choose from including peppermint, lemongrass, and puppy fresh, but we decided that flower power was our favourite.
I wished I had a dog for each of them, but then remembered that in the 80s my cool friends and I always wore perfume oils from The Body Shop. Mine was dewberry, one friend used vanilla and another was a fan of coconut; they were great individually but when we were together passersby kept commenting that they could smell trifle.
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Lucy gently encouraged us to leave Archie to his pampering, explaining that sometimes a dog can play up to their owner’s guilt and anxiety as soon as they sense it. This was definitely the right move as Archie is so good at garnering sympathy that his alter ego is known within our family as Tragic Eddie.
We were advised to return in an hour and managed to scarper without making eye contact with him.
A short stroll further down Liverpool Road took us to the Tap and Vine, a micropub serving a variety of cask ales, specialist lagers, wines, spirits and a small menu to complement the drinks on offer. It also allows dogs in the front room and has a jar of dog treats waiting for them, making us feel briefly guilty about Archie. Then we forgave ourselves and ordered a fabulous meat and potato pie, gravy, mushy peas and a slice of bread and butter for £4.50.
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We also made the acquaintance of Mr and Mrs Gore, a local couple who told me that the beer and food is wonderful but the staff are what makes the micropub special. It certainly has an atmosphere about it almost like that of a rural pub, which isn’t often felt so close to a city but is always lovely to find. We scarfed the excellent pie, promised to return to try one of the huge cheese platters, said our goodbyes, and went to collect Archie.
After we were readmitted to Bubbles and Bark Spa, Tragic Eddie stared at us like we’d left him jammed in a sewerage pipe for three days. However, he smelled like a summer meadow and had been gloriously floofed up using two separate drying techniques.
It all got a little bit dark-web-meets-Scooby-Doo when Lucy started chasing him around the salon trying to trim a minuscule mismatch of his buttocks-fluff, but it looked fine to me, which is testament to how much of a perfectionist Lucy must be.
We moved on to The Cow Shed next door, an ice cream parlour that also allows dogs inside, and I bought a small tub of cinder toffee ice cream to share with Archie in order to buy back his love. As it was so busy inside we divided it up and sat in the car to eat it, which instead of being a sweet bonding moment with my fluffy new Pokemon-dog, turned into a horrible, wild-eyed frantic lickathon with some very unattractive growls and quacks coming out of both of us.
In the struggle he managed to swipe his tongue all over the top of my share, so that went in the bin because although his fur was all eau de sunshine he has saliva like bin juice.
We drove in shocked silence to location three of Archie’s Big Day Out, the beautiful Hurst Grange Park, but we had to keep him on his lead because I could see in his eyes that he wanted to roll in something awful to spite me.
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I dropped Archie and my daughter off at home before the final part of the day; a visit to InKarma, the new tattoo parlour on the corner of Cop Lane and Liverpool Road. The very talented and patient Hannah gave me exactly what I asked for, which is a design with little symbols of all my favourite things. For his last birthday surprise, hidden in the design was a tiny paw print for Archie.
I showed it to him when I arrived home and he tried to express how touched he was at the gesture by licking it with his toxic, manky little tongue but was foiled by the cling film wrapped around it. Then I apologised for eating a meat pie while he was getting gently floofed against his will at Bubbles and Bark, he apologised for getting his germs on my ice cream, and we agreed to try again next year.
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Were you a dewberry, vanilla or coconut fan? Does your dog also have toxic saliva? Let us know in the comments.