Dining out with your dog is one way to spend precious time together and it can make eating solo in a restaurant far less lonely.
Helen Hallford, 53, loves treating her dog Tommy to regular meals at her local pub – in fact, there’s no one else she’d rather share pie and mash with.
Helen, who works as a compliance manager in Warwickshire, separated from her husband in February, but began dating Tommy long before then.
She told The Mirror : “I love going out with him. He is my absolute favourite date. I know I’m a bit mad. The first time we went out together, it was the best thing ever.”
On New Years Eve 2019, Helen and five-year-old chihuahua cross Tommy went and stayed in a hotel in Bournemouth together.
“I told them I wanted to dine with my dog and they put me in a separate room,” Helen said.
“We had a candlelit dinner with seven courses and our own waiter.”
“Once everyone had finished eating, we joined the restaurant and slow danced together in front of the band.
“All the guests were watching and smiling – it was wonderful.”
Now, their NYE date is an annual tradition, but Helen and Tommy don’t just venture out on special occasions.
“We try to get out two or three times a month, and then we go out to the local pub for Valentine’s Day and my birthday,” Helen said.
While Tommy can’t make conversation with Helen over the table, he does listen and respond to her chatter.
“He won’t take his eyes off me and he wags his tail,” Helen said.
“I take a little cushion and he sits next to me. He’s very well-behaved.”
Helen usually orders a steak and kidney pie with mash potato – which she shares with Tommy.
“He doesn’t have many teeth so I give him tiny pieces of meat and he loves a bit of mash,” she said.
Helen says Tommy is “good company” and takes the pressure off dining alone.
“When I’m by myself, strangers won’t say anything to me but when I’m with Tommy, I meet and chat to so many people,” she explained.
“Life wouldn’t be the same without Tommy and I wouldn’t ever be without him. He is very special to me.”
Tommy is so tiny that he draws attention wherever he goes, and often has strangers approach him to comment on his size.
He is as small as 7.8in and withers around 1.3kg in weight – which is even tinier than Britain’s smallest dog.
“He is really unusual looking – once he won an award at a local charity dog show for ‘the face only a mother could love’,” Helen said.
Tommy is completely bald and tends to wear T-shirts out and about to protect his skin from sun damage.
“He probably has 40 different outfits and my favourite is his Harley Davidson biker jacket. We save his bow ties for special occasions,” Helen said.