Meera Jethwa swapped a glamourous corporate life for life as a canine Mary Poppins and it’s been a howling success

Don’t be alarmed if you are in the Golden Ball of Longton on a Sunday afternoon and see ten perfectly polite puppies enjoying individual roasts dinners, watched over by a lady dressed as Mary Poppins. You haven’t had a stronger drink than you think, it is simply Meera Puppins and her charges, socialising by enjoying a very pleasant and civilised Sunday lunch at their local hostelry.

Penwortham-based Meera runs Meera Puppins; a puppy positive socialisation and training business that has seen her recently nominated for the Best Dog Trainer in the Dog Friendly awards and be a finalist in the Trailblazer Awards.

It’s all the more remarkable when, just three years ago, Meera was a very successful jet setting Spanish translator for an investment bank in London. She had never actually owned a dog until she was 31, when she and her then partner adopted a rescue dog.

‘She had many problems. It was a steep learning curve but I didn’t begrudge one single moment of it,’ says Meera who was forced to leave her dog when she split up with her partner.

‘Something had changed in me. I wanted to train puppies using kind, positive and gentle techniques. I don’t believe in adversarial training and I don’t believe in the reasoning that a puppy should just ‘get used’ to something it doesn’t like. If a child was terrified of spiders, we wouldn’t put them in a room containing spiders and tell them to get used to it,’ says Meera.

Great British Life: Eira and Benjie are excited to be out with MeeraEira and Benjie are excited to be out with Meera (Image: Archant)

She gave up her corporate role to become a puppy trainer, working at a vet’s and undergoing an intense period of study in puppy development, socialisation training and canine first aid. She also found herself another rescue lurcher. And then lockdown happened. So, Meera and her lurcher left London and took the train home to Preston.

‘My parents were shocked. There I was on their doorstep with an anxious lurcher and a suitcase. Naturally, they worried that I had given up a great career but they’re wonderful parents and gave me their support. We all, including puppies, need the confidence and security of our loved ones if we want to succeed,’ says Meera, who now felt the time was right to launch Meera Puppins.

‘I’m a massive fan of Mary Poppins: flying in when she’s needed, full of calm common sense and magically resolving problems. That’s what I wanted to do and that’s why I called the business Meera Puppins. When training or socialising puppies, I wear an Edwardian nanny outfit and carry a carpet bag, just like Mary Poppins,’ she adds Meera

She believes that the earlier puppies can be socialised, the better. But lockdown meant she wasn’t able to meet puppies personally so she used the time to launch her now hugely successful website.

Great British Life: Belinda Rainford with Benjie, Kristen Rawstron with Eira, Charlotte Holland with Indiana, Meera Puppins aka Meera Jethwa, Amber Jones with Otis and Jane Staniforth with PhoebeBelinda Rainford with Benjie, Kristen Rawstron with Eira, Charlotte Holland with Indiana, Meera Puppins aka Meera Jethwa, Amber Jones with Otis and Jane Staniforth with Phoebe (Image: Archant)

‘It contains lots of useful free information like the best puppy walks and I’ve walked them all, making notes as I go. There are also lists of puppy-friendly businesses and plenty of general tips on how to train a perfectly polite puppy,’ says Meera who also uses the website to answer questions, such as how to stop a puppy drinking from the toilet. Answer: check he’s not thirsty and keep the seat down!

Meera does deal with much more serious issues than this though, including puppies who suffer separation anxiety, are destructive, incessantly bark, need sleep training or are frightened of other dogs and people. There is also a monthly web subscription course – Puppy Club – which gives access to training tips and more personally tailored advice.

When lockdown lifted, Meera was also able to travel in order to meet individual pups.

‘I call it my Problem to Perfect Programme,’ she says. ‘Sometimes owners think they have failed if they have a problem puppy but, of course, they haven’t. Training a puppy can be exhausting and owners should be kind to themselves as well as to the puppy. There is no quick fix and that’s why I don’t judge anyone.’

Meera has heaps of cards from grateful owners – sometimes signed with a pawprint too – and her Socialisation Sundays, giving puppies a chance to constructively socialise, have become a local phenomenon.

The puppies – and owners – meet at the Golden Ball, say hello politely and then fall into a crocodile, walking two by two to Longton Nature Reserve. Then it’s back to the Golden Ball for Sunday lunch.

‘I go to the front in order to lead, hold up my Meera Puppins umbrella and away we go! They get used to traffic, each other and wildlife and they’re encouraged to be calm and polite. We have breaks for rests and to practice our manners and then the reward is a Sunday roast for puppies and humans and we all have a lovely time,’ says Meera.

Only ten puppies can take part and there is a waiting list – people apply as soon as they decide to get a puppy... a bit like enrolling at Eton.

Great British Life: Puppy socialisation with Meera Puppins and OtisPuppy socialisation with Meera Puppins and Otis (Image: Archant)

Meera also runs courses for teenage dogs: Tearaway Teenagers.

‘Like some human teenagers, some want to push boundaries, forget all their manners and they can be a handful. It’s just nature’s way and will eventually settle down. Waiting can be stressful though, which is where my Tearaway Teenager course comes in,’ says Meera who, encouraged by her many fans, is writing The Meera Puppins Guide to Puppies.

As Mary Poppins says: ‘In every job, there is an element of fun.’ And that’s exactly what Meera Puppins brings to the world of puppies.

Hair of the dog

Eight dog-friendly pubs to try

The Golden Ball

The newly refurbished Golden Ball at Longton has twice won the award for Dog Friendliest Pub. Dogs are allowed in all areas – it's a condition of employment that staff must like dogs. There’s a super Dogs Dinner Menu, day beds, space for a wash and brush up after a walk and water and treats on hand. On the third Sunday of every month, dogs and owners are invited to join a seven-mile circular walk.

The Rose and Crown, Ulnes Walton

Great British Life: The Rose and Crown at Ulnes WaltonThe Rose and Crown at Ulnes Walton (Image: Archant)

Dogs can fill up on treats before strolling around the grounds with their owner.

The Spread Eagle, Sawley

Dogs can enjoy a three-course dog menu and choose to drink either Bottom Sniffer dog beer or Pawsecco.

The Fox at Upholland

Stella’s Bar – an area named after the owner’s dog – is a dedicated dog area, with gorgeous doggy themed décor, complete with treats and water.

The Healey, Rochdale

Where dogs can enjoy a pint of doggy pale ale, after a walk around the glorious Healey Dell.

Holmes Mill, Clitheroe

Dogs are very welcome in the Beer Hall and Mill Yard.

The Sun Inn, Crook, Kendal

Treats and drinks are available and there’s also the chance of having your dog’s picture displayed in the Pooch Gallery.

Queen's Head, Hawkshead

Where dogs love to slumber in front of the fire after a day’s exploring.