Puppy love... at a cost of £40k

THE cost of bringing up children is part of being a parent, but a dog-lover from Essex has been raising eyebrows after lavishing up to £40,000 on her “children” - her pet pooches.

James Hore

THE cost of bringing up children is part of being a parent, but a dog-lover from Essex has been raising eyebrows after lavishing up to £40,000 on her “children” - her pet pooches.

Louise Harris was a self-confessed dog hater until four years ago when her sister took her to look at some Yorkshire Terrier puppies. She fell in love with little Lola and has not looked back since.

However, unlike your average canine companion, the 29-year-old has splashed her cash on luxuries such as pink dresses, Italian leather collars and a custom-made £2,000 iron four-poster bed because she hated the idea of a plastic one.

Lola has since been joined by Lulu and the pair enjoy pampering that includes cheetah-print coats, steps up to their beds and top-quality dog food costing nearly £8 per packet.

Miss Harris made her money working as an analyst for Reuters in London and said she loves nothing more than spending it on Lola and Lulu.

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“I was not a doggy person before, I did not even entertain the idea of having one as I thought they were just smelly things that made a lot of mess.

“I am a very clean person but when I got Lulu I realised she does not smell and does not need to - it had been the dogs I had been in contact with before- they must have had dirty owners”, she joked.

Miss Harris, who lives in Great Notley, near Braintree, started buying clothing and collars, anything she could get her hands on and ideally in pink.

“I would not want to put cheap tops on them and I think they appreciate it.

“I know they are only dogs, not children, and will never grow up to go to college - I am not stupid - but I do have unconditional love for them like a parent has for a child and parents spend all their money on their children.

“I don't have children yet but the dogs are part of my family,” she said.

When she was out walking the pooches, their unusual clothing started generating interest from passers-by and Miss Harris soon found herself ordering goods from around the world for others.

Her mother, Janet Sapiano, pointed out there could be an opportunity to start up her own business selling the luxury items.

Miss Harris quit her top city job to set up Diva Dogs in Chelmsford, specialising in the high end of doggy-style fashion.

Her clients now include television presenters and footballers' wives.

The most extravagant item of stock is an 18-carrat gold dog collar, from a London-based designer, which will set you back £3,000 and she has sold two.

“Sometimes people's comments can be quite horrible but I am so aware of what we are all about - we are over the top - that is why people are interested in us.

“Walk into a regular pet shop and there will be plastic beds piled up and rubber chickens everywhere, but in here we have chez lounges, four-poster beds and chandeliers.”