Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021

Couple shares their home with 16 dogs as they ‘can’t say no to pups in need’

Dog trainer Zoe Willingham really knows what it’s like to be in the dog house.

She and husband Carl live with no fewer than 16 dogs at their home in Suffolk – all accompanied by 35 cats, four rabbits, four guinea pigs, a hamster and a green-cheeked conure parrot.

Zoe, 42, says: “I am literally the softest touch when it comes to anything furry or feathery that needs a bit of help with life, or a person to call their own.

“It all started about 10 years ago when I had been rescuing cats with health issues for a while.

“That expanded to dogs. One became two, two became five and five became 16.”

Zoe has rescued puppy farm dogs and canines with challenging behaviour.

She has ten Cavalier King Charles spaniels, a German shepherd, a beagle cross, a springer spaniel, two cocker spaniels and a pug.

She says: “I really struggle to say no to animals in need, and what I get back from all of my animals outweighs all the hard work I put in to make their lives as magical as possible.

“I absolutely love my life with my pets. They are my world and life is never ever dull.

“It’s fair to say we see our share of the vets and groomers, they even joke I should have my own parking space.

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Zoe also gave up her corporate job as a sales and marketing director to become a dog trainer and behaviourist.

She has her own business, Best Behaviour Dog Training, as well as an online training business called Dogversity.

She says: “As a trainer, living with so many animals day to day can be challenging and lots of hard work, as my world focuses around their needs to ensure they have the most amazing lives.

“With this brings the most incredible rewards, seeing dogs rehabbed and able to lead fulfilling lives, they are my greatest teachers of all.

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“Despite all my qualifications these guys teach me how my clients feel dealing with dogs with issues and more importantly it really helps me to give other dog and cat owners real first hand advice from someone who has been there themselves.

“I honestly could not imagine my life any other way and am so grateful to be able to live with and help so many animals.

“My days are never dull, we go through at least 50 poo bags a day, and order our dog food 250kg at a time and our cat litter 1 tonne at a time.

“To me this is my normal, I couldn’t imagine buying one bag of food anymore.

“They all go on walks together as I bought them a five acre meadow and woodland of their own, and had it fully fenced so they have a doggy playground with woods, adventure areas and wild areas to explore.

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“The dogs all sleep together and have their own beds, but generally all bundle on top of each other in what was our dining room, which is now their doggy bedroom area.”

Zoe says plans are afoot to create further bedrooms too.

And she says the spare bedrooms have been handed over to her cats.

She says: “We removed all the human beds from all but our room to create cat bedrooms. They love it.

“Just to add to this, I am obsessed with ensuring they are all kept in pristine conditions, so we purchased more washing machines and they have all their beds washed and dried every week without fail.

“That’s almost two solid days of washing machine loads. But they are worth it."

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