"Did you leave the dog at home?" my dad asked when he calls up to see how our half term holiday is going.
Now why on earth would I choose to have a dog (my second son!) just to leave him at home when we go on holiday? No no no no no! He's part of our family and we are taking him on a dog holiday!
Around 3.2 million households in the UK have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association. Pets have offered companionship for a population starved of company by the pandemic.
Improving the mental health and wellbeing of people forced to work from home, and provided the perfect opportunity for people who've always wanted a pet but worked long hours, to be able to have one.
When we rescued our greyhound Mac back in October, we were sure that we wanted a dog and had adequate time and money to correctly care for him. I'd carefully researched the breed suitable for us and we were sure that we wanted to adopt a dog in need of a new home rather than buy a puppy.
But you still need to get to know your dog when it arrives, finding out his likes and dislikes, giving him the space to unveil his personality and truly relax.
Introducing a pet to your home in lockdown has been hugely beneficial to the mental health of children across the country and it's something I've certainly noticed in my home. Sonny would walk into the room on the verge of tears saying "Oh my God, I can't believe we've got a dog, he's so cute" and all his worries would be forgotten. Playing with Mac, caring for him and taking him on walks has been a fabulous distraction.
Ex-racing greyhounds have lived through a lot of trauma, difficult circumstances and awful conditions. So it's not surprising poor Mac doesn't really like to leave the house, now he's finally found a safe and loving home. He's a very sensitive boy, so we couldn't just leave him in kennels or with a dog minder. He wouldn't relax. And boy does he know how to relax! Despite being able to run 40mph this boy can sleep for 22 hours a day!
Like most of us, with restrictions lifting, my son and I want to start travelling again and enjoying our lives. So we set about finding the perfect dog-friendly holiday. Not too far so Mac's not stuck in the car for too long. Near to a nice beach, because he LOVES the beach. But not a mega busy beach!
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He needs plenty of room and people can be funny about large dogs, especially when they're trying to relax. We needed to find a hotel that not only allows dogs but welcomes them with open arms, enjoy having them and treats them like guests. Travelling alone with a child and a dog is stressful enough, I couldn't take being made to feel unwelcome or 'in the way'.
So we packed up our car and trotted off for a half-term break in Barmouth, southern Snowdonia's most popular seaside resort with breathtaking views over the picturesque harbour, where the steep rugged hillsides meet beautiful clear water beaches. We stayed in the newly refurbished Bae Abermaw hotel, with its sprawling beer gardens and roomy hillside setting. A quiet spot just a short walk away from the town, bustling with half-term sun-seekers.
This hotel was not just a dog-loving hotel, it turned out to be THE dog loving hotel! We were presented with a little doggy welcome bag on arrival, with bowls, treats and a toy.
They usually provide a dog bed for your pet, but knowing we had a greyhound with us, and that they tend to sleep on human beds, we were allocated a family room with a super king-size bed, so there would be plenty of room for us all.
There were lots of other beautiful dogs on site for Mac to explore and play with. Marley a beautiful, chilled-out chocolate Labrador and Izzy the playful Bichon Frisée were lovely friends to get to know. We all really enjoyed bumping into them during the day.
We had breakfast outside so Mac didn't get in anyone's way with coffee, juice, pastries and toast with a full English breakfast featuring gorgeous Welsh sausages, bacon and eggs from the free range hens that lived on the hotel grounds. They also brought Mac a bowl of milk and some extra bacon, no trouble at all. We felt free to take our time over breakfast and soak up the morning sunshine, while watching people begin to gather at the beaches below.
Barmouth town was pretty busy and the paths next to the road are narrow. So we stayed near the small secluded beach situated at the bottom of the hill, a three-minute stroll from the hotel. There we had more room and didn't have to worry about keeping our distance from other holiday makers.
The hotel has a resident greyhound (Leo Magic) who came to the beach with us and played with Mac for the afternoon. We took Leo on a couple of walks and played with him in the hotel's beer garden while his owners worked. One afternoon the hotel owners took Mac for a couple of hours so me and Sonny could enjoy a stroll into town for some dinner, stress free.
We stumbled across a cute little seafood spot set back from the main road called The Captain's Table where we ordered a couple of lobsters and had fun cracking them open with our buttery hands.
Couple of things to note when taking your dog on holiday. It's often too hot for doggos during the day, so we made sure that we always had water and a bowl on us, along a little spray bottle of water to cool him down.
Dogs can go off their food on holiday, due to the heat and unfamiliar surroundings, so we took a small portable fridge with an in-car adapter. That way we could take his favourite raw food with us, plus cheese and pate for treats.
It's really important to make sure their flea and worming treatments are up to date before you go, and 100% buy bars for the boot of your car. Learn from my mistake, a large anxious dog slobbering for three hours over the rear upholstery while you navigate narrow and winding Welsh roads, is the opposite of chillin'!
Was it the most relaxing trip I've ever been on? Absolutely not! But we all had fun and it really was the perfect first pet holiday for us.
You can follow Sarah's Instagram account @mybrothersarah.