Our pet project is a real dog's dinner!

IF SOME of the diners are slurping and splashing water as they drink and leave a trail of biscuit crumbs around them, nobody seems to care.

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Laura Davies in her  recently opened Dug Cafe - for dogs and their owners - at Lomond Shores. She is servingBulldog Bella with owner Yvonne Rankin from Alexandria.Pictures: Martin Shields
Laura Davies in her recently opened Dug Cafe - for dogs and their owners - at Lomond Shores. She is servingBulldog Bella with owner Yvonne Rankin from Alexandria.Pictures: Martin Shields

The table manners might give, ahem, paws for thought but with pet food on the menu and comfy throws to snuggle up in after a long walk, our canine friends are king at the newly opened Dug Cafe at Lomond Shores, Balloch.

It's a place for dog owners to bring along their four-legged friends while they have coffee and cake or a bit of lunch and look out across the bay to the beautiful surrounding countryside.

And it takes dog-friendly to a whole new level.

The ethos here is that it is a cafe for dogs, a place to sit back and relax without feeling your pooch is getting under the feet of other customers.

"The inspiration really is my own dog Missy, a seven-year-old Newfoundland," explains owner Laura Davies from Callander.

"She's quite big, but a lovely dog and really easy to manage. When you go out with her it can be difficult to find somewhere to take your dog.

"We've taken her to a couple of local pubs but felt we were always rushed - not by the owners, but the other customers who might not be so comfortable with big dogs being around."

After working in sales and marketing in the healthcare industry, Laura jumped at the chance of a career change.

"One day in my previous role I was with a customer and we were talking about dogs and work and I said, what we need to do is open a dog cafe. And she turned and looked at me and said, that's a fantastic idea.

"I went home that night and thought, it's a bit off-the-wall, just stick to the nine to five.

"Then I started to look into it and realised, looking at all the recent Mintel and pet food reports, it's a growing industry. So I thought, let's look at it."

A large bowl of water sits at the door alongside a mat to wipe muddy paws and towels to rub down damp coats. Alongside cake stands overflowing with delicious bites for those of us on two legs, there are packets of doggy popcorn snacks and trays of organic dog food.

Order a sandwich or a plate of home-made soup for yourself and if your furry friend is hungry he can have a Dug's Dinner, a serving of a Lily's Kitchen dog food foil, or a Hungry Dug's Dinner, a 400g can.

The range is organic and holistic, made with botanical herbs and fresh meat, and is good for the dog's digestive system.

"The business format is the same as for any cafe, we've just used clever marketing," says Laura. "Obviously, dogs are not allowed to be near where food is handled, stored and prepared."

Five-star reviews online are testament to the success of the cafe that has only been open for a matter of weeks. "A waggy tale gem," raves one. "How nice to find a spotless and homely place that welcomes owners and dogs alike," says another.

"It's novel and quirky," laugh Laura. "We don't force it upon our customers. We've had loads of customers coming in without dogs, you don't need to have a dog to come here."

Laura did a lot of the work on the refit herself, sanding and painting furniture and reupholstering seating, even sourcing some rather special dog-rinted wallpaper.

The crisp white tablecloths and dog-friendly seats were a hit with Robert and Yvonne Rankin from Alexandria who popped in for a coffee with British bulldog Bella.

"We often walk Bella in the park so it's wonderful to have a place to sit and have a break," says Yvonne.

A regular since the it opened, Lesley Kielty of Alexandria pops in with her akita Yoshi and his brother Yuki, who belongs to her friend. "It's a great place to relax," she says.

Carolin Carson from Jamestown, owner of Yorkshire terrier Mindy, King Charles spaniel Molly and labrador puppy Marlie says: "It's smashing, we'll definitely be back."

Dug cafe, Lomond Shores, Balloch.

angela.mcmanus@eveningtimes.co.uk

Food and drink

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