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How the healing power of puppies inspired London Dog Week

PUPPY LOVE: The co-founders of London Dog Week, Aneka Johnson, left, and Lois Mallett-Walker

SUFFERING ILL health and forced to revaluate her lifestyle choices, vocation and general outlook, Aneka Johnson says seeking comfort in her own solitude was enhanced when she decided to get a dog, a decision that has completely turned her life around.

Later this month will see the first ever London Dog Week (LDW), an explosion of canine activities which, at the centre of its ethos, aims to bring Britain’s dog-loving community together in contemporary ways not seen before on these shores.

Co-founder of LDW, Johnson told L&S that if she hadn’t had to rush back from living in America three years ago when she fell ill, the event may not be happening.

“I have spent the last 10 years curating and creating events for known and unknown talent in the entertainment industry, including planning celebrity events to consulting for entertainment tech companies,” Johnson explained.

She added: “However, life took me in a new direction in 2016 when, living in New York, I had to come home abruptly due to illness. This is when my life took a new direction. I had to take a year and a half off work as I had very aggressive fibroids and was severely anaemic, suffering from anxiety, and taking eight tablets a day to just function.

“In addition to this, I had been bleeding with a period for a whole year-and-a-half as the fibroids were so aggressive.” Johnson says she bought her beloved French bulldog the day she landed back in the UK and the four-legged friend has been a literal life-saver since.

ENERGY

“Throughout this illness, I believed Chubbs literally saved my life and gave me the energy and motivation to get better. “I threw myself into being a fully-fledged puppy mum and found a new focus to channel the little energy that I had.


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“I attended puppy classes, even when I had zero energy, and would find the strength to get out of bed to walk and play with Chubbs.

“His unconditional love and his little cute face gave me so much strength. I was a fur-mum now and I had to get better for Chubbs.”

Johnson did get better, she also met in Lois Mallett-Walker a kindred spirit, someone who had come through personal adversity and had found a bosom friend of the furry capacity.

“A week after my mum passed, I bought my tiny poochon puppy, Pedro and it was love at first sight,” Mallett-Walker says.

She added: “He helped bring happiness back into my life and I truly discovered that unconditional love that dogs bring.”

They also bring light-bulb moments and Johnson said having reached the point where she was ‘sick of being sick’, one idea led to another.

She said: “Through this new found love for Chubbs and seeing the amazing health benefits that dogs provide, I was really inspired by him and decided that I wanted to turn my pain into purpose.

“I decided I would advocate the healing effects that dogs have on humans which led me to launch Doggy Cafe – Doggy Wellness in the Workplace.

“Since then, I have been working with companies such as Publicis Media, Unruly, L’Oréal and more, taking The Cuddle Club – a selection of cute dogs – to people at work who definitely benefit from some therapeutic cuteness.

“Then Lois and I met on Instagram and I knew I wanted to do a week-long event focused on dogs. I asked Lois to join as a business partner and London Dog Week was born.”

Consisting of multiple events such as Dogs In The City that Brunch, Canine First Aid Course and A Sausage Dog Celebration, LDW will take place from March 25–31.

Event organisers have said the inaugural week is a chance to raise awareness of the dog world and promote the benefits and connections between the owners and their furry friends and to make London a more dog friendly place.


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Johnson admits it isn’t the type of business many would have anticipated a black women to be involved in, but she aims to be a part of the movement to increase positive perceptions among the BAME community where dogs are concerned.

MESSAGE

Waxing lyrical about the benefits of dog ownership, Johnson said: “I learnt that Lois had also suffered with physical and mental health and her dog Pedro had helped her to recover.

“Now we are doing the first ever dedicated dog week in the world, which is a week to not only have fun but to also embrace our furry friends and spread the message of how incredible dogs are for our health, mentally and physically, and how they help us forge friendships.”

She added: “I honestly believe one dog at a time, we can make London less of a lonely place. Dogs are people magnets and encourage conversation. Dogs are the new dating app in real time, forget dating apps and get a dog.”

London Dog Week listings

Date: March 24 Event:
Fur-Mamma’s Day Lunch & The Puppy Club for Kids
Time: 12pm to 2pm
Address: M Restaurant Victoria – M, Zig Zag Building, 74 Victoria St, London, SW1E 6SQ

Fur mammas (and fur dads), come and celebrate being a fur-parent. This is no ordinary lunch, there will be giveaways, special guests, lots of interactive activities and features around the venue for you, your fur-kid, friends and family to enjoy.

Date: March 24 Event: A Sausage Dog Celebration
Time: 2.30pm until 5pm
Address: M Restaurant, 74 Victoria Street, SW1E 6SQ

Each year London Dog Week will be celebrating a specific dog breed and this year is the year of the Sausage dog.

Date: March 27
Event: Dinner with chief vet and MedicAnimal cofounder, Andrew Bucher

A chance to ask Andrew questions on his time as a vet and about his company, now the largest pet retail store in Europe, in a private dining setting.

Date: March 29
Event: Umbrella Furniture Doggy Wellness Evening

Umbrella furniture will be hosting a Doggy Wellness evening at its showroom to boost wellbeing.

Date: March 30
Event: M Restaurants LDW and M have joined forces to host a Fashion Brunch.

Bring your dog along to experience the London Dog Walk rocking designs from talented independent brands.

Date: March 30
Event: Urban Food Fest

An amazing day out at Urban Food Fest, with competitions, prizes and photo opportunities for you and your pooch.

Date: March 30
Event: Beyond Limits

Bootcamp specialists have teamed up with LDW to bring dogs and their owners a tailored bootcamp experience. Attending will be the famous @barriepaws, who was rescued from Syria.

To find out more and for details of more events, visit londondogweek.com

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