I spend more on my dog’s hair than my own: RACHEL JOHNSON reveals the eye-watering costs of keeping her cockapoo Ziggy looking lovely

Not only do I spend more on my dog Ziggy, health and beauty-wise, than I do on myself generally, I also spend more time and money on my dog’s hair than I do on my own. 

I must be barking mad, surely? But no, ’tis true. Let me lay it out.

My hair regime first. Now, I have a massive head start here as I don’t dye my thatch (I know – hard to believe, ha-ha, but I must have saved the price of a small house over my lifetime). 

Still, it grows like knotweed and I used to go to a Turkish barber in St John’s Wood who cut it with a razor, both of us standing up while locks fell in a yellow cascade to the shop floor. It took minutes and he’d charge £50 (including blow-dry).

Once in a blue moon I beg George Northwood to tame the mane. I go to his Wells Street salon in Central London as a special self-care, because-you’re-worth-it treat. 

He stands behind me in silence as we both inspect my reflection in the mirror. He froofs it with his fingers, frowning, and says, ‘It’s been over a year, young lady,’ and, ‘Have you been cutting your own fringe?’

He tuts like a master craftsman inspecting the shonky handiwork of some cowboy builder and then goes in, scissors dipping in and out like swallows. Then he finishes and says, ‘Right, let’s f**k you up’, which is his way of telling you he is about to add his secret sauce, in other words to make your hair look as if it’s never been cut at all, or what I call ‘French hair’: undone, cool, Charlotte Gainsbourg-style. 

He is amazing. I’m not going to reveal his fee but instead of charging me full whack he tells me to pay what I can. (Love you, George!)

The Turkish barber has shut up shop and, apart from my annual pilgrimage to Northwood, I have a package deal with a local place in Notting Hill where I get eight blow-dries for £160. 

But as I do a spot of telly, I can eke it out: I’ll wash my hair then ask for a faux-dry from a kind HMU (hair and make-up, darlings) lady at Sky or the BBC, thus saving crucial pennies that I can spend on Ziggy’s coat. (Other media types who do this are Kirstie Allsopp and Mary Berry, who also taught me the trick of going to bed in a full ‘screenface’ of make-up so it lasts longer.)

Totting it up, I would say that I spend £650, OK, £700 a year on my barnet and beauty regime. 

So, turning to my dog…

No less suitable companion for a muddy, sheep-grazed farm on Exmoor is possible to imagine than my three-year-old cockapoo. 

Her hair is apricot-blonde and curly, and it knots from the base of the shaft first, which makes combing, even brushing, like trying to drag a nit comb through dreadlocks.

In theory we got her because cockapoos are hypo-allergenic and my husband is allergic to most things, including fur, dander, me, dinner parties and cats. (He sneezed endlessly when we had our dear departed collie-lab cross, Coco.) 

But hair, rather than fur, on a pet is extremely hard on the wallet.

Every two weeks she needs a £70 wash and dry at Yuppy Puppies salon

If you’ve ever wondered why, over the past three years, all the book stores and frozen-yogurt places have disappeared from the high street, to be replaced by pet shops and dog-grooming parlours, I’ll tell you: in lockdown, the country decided it needed a dog. A million of them. 

Which partly explains why the size of the pet-grooming market is set to double to almost £1 billion in the next ten years, thanks also to the ubiquity of any breed with ‘doodle’ in it, which is super-high maintenance.

I know this as I, too, acquired one of the most diva dogs on the planet. The Mariah Carey of the canine world. Her Fur Bébé pet shampoo alone costs £28. I have a cupboard full of grooming utensils and pet-drying towels, but nothing seems to make life easier. 

Even after she is hand-washed and blow-dried following each muddy walk she still needs the salon, Yuppy Puppies, every two weeks – that’s £70 for a wash and dry, £20 more than my own treatment. 

Still, untangling her coat can take a morning and the talented Brazilian groomers earn every last penny.

When Ziggy was two, I realised I was not alone in having bitten off somewhat more than I could chew or afford. ‘If Covid was the Year of the Dog, as one newspaper headline proclaimed, then that dog was undoubtedly the cockapoo,’ wrote Flora Watkins in The Spectator, in an all-too-accurate review of the breed that had taken over town and country.

‘Parks and footpaths became overrun with these crazy, barking, bouncing balls of dropped knitting, running rings around their newbie owners.’

Which brings us to the other cost centre: the health of – and the costs of doing business as the owner of – a hyperactive bundle more demanding than a toddler.

Leaving aside the £1,250 I paid for her as a nine week old (I know, I should have got a rescue dog), the vet’s bills, to date, are well into five figures. This is thanks to some major surgeries. 

There was the time I ran her over (or, as I told my sobbing adult daughter, ‘She darted under the wheels of the car’) when she was a tiny puppy; the time she ate two peach stones and needed an enterotomy at a private hospital in the East End; the time, two months later, she ate a corn husk and needed another enterotomy in a private clinic in Minehead; the time she had four puppies after my friend Fiona’s terrier Baxter paid her some serious attention; and the time she was spayed by our lovely vet, Mr Carmichael, shortly thereafter.

Look, I know you’re scanning the pages for a box where it lays out two columns on what I spend on myself and what I spend on Ziggy. But trust me – a tube of Weleda Skin Food, some sunblock, a monthly blow-dry, a dental hygienist appointment every three months and I’m done.

That’s nowhere close to the sums I spend on Ziggy, the most expensive ball of dropped knitting in the world – apart from all the other cockapoos in the country, that is.

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