East Boldon's Odin Valley Dog Park celebrates successful first year - despite unexpected difficulties after pandemic hit
A couple whose business started life in difficult circumstances during the early months of the pandemic have been celebrating its first anniversary with their tails up.
Rachel and Andrew Gillies, owners of the Odin Valley Dog Park in East Boldon, initially hoped to open the site in late 2019.
But, as Rachel put it, ‘things didn’t really go to plan’.
"By the time we got through contracts and everything, it wasn’t until the April,” she said.
"And, obviously, by that point we were firmly in lockdown. This changed the way we started off, but actually in hindsight was a really useful period for us in terms of helping us adapt to the challenges of Covid before fully opening.”
The nearest private-hire dog park of the same kind at the time had been in Darlington, before a similar site opened in South Shields a number of weeks ago.
Odin Park is named after the Gillies’ border terriers, Odin and Valley, who inspired the business.
“They’re very dog-reactive,” said Rachel.
"We were constantly either walking them at stupid o’clock in the morning or at night – always looking over our shoulders. They never got off the lead because they were never very good with other dogs.
"So we really wanted somewhere we could let them off, let them burn off some energy and get their exercise. We then thought that if we wanted something like this locally then someone else might do as well.”
The Gillies say Odin Valley has gone from strength to strength since its difficult beginning, establishing a solid customer base and even having opened a third area on its Boldon site – now used as a dedicated training space.
"We were fully booked by the end of last summer,” she added.
"This new area, which we opened in September, is great for people who got new dogs during lockdown. They can work on things like recall and loose-lead walking there in a dedicated space without the distraction of some of the other dogs on the site.
"We’re so pleased with the support people in the area have shown us this past year and we’re looking forward to many more now, hopefully.”