City couple quit office jobs to create dog retreat in central Otago
An excited and assertive ball of white fur, wearing a sparkling rhinestone necklace, leaps from a large shed. Harley is closely followed by two miniature schnauzers, Bella and Riley, who are calm and quiet but also eager to explore the vast farmlands of Central Otago.
The dogs are led by a tall, athletic man – Neill Williams – aka ‘Pencil’, who until recently spent his working days in a Christchurch courtroom as a police prosecutor. He had been in the police force for 27 years.
His partner, Yvonne Martin, journalist for 33 years for the metropolitan dailies and Avenues Editor-in-chief of the magazine for 10 years, wears shorts and a t-shirt and, with a relaxed laugh, says the only makeup she wears now is sunscreen and her hair can go brushless days.
“Dogs don’t care.”
* Prepare your dog for the crate
* Animals have priority in a cattery and kennel
* Southern pensions reserved
The couple, who had lived in Christchurch for 25 years after leaving West Auckland, took a ‘leap of faith’ by packing their bags and moving to the countryside to run a boutique, dog-friendly Bed & Breakfast.
Their new life brought freedom – one not governed by deadlines or the Monday doldrums – but a great learning curve.
“We spend a lot of time talking about the rabbits. There are more of them than expected and they are cunning. Neill has become a Mr. McGregor trying to get rid of them. I’m torn. I cried watching. Ship down when I was a kid so I’m kinda gentle on rabbits, but I see the terrible damage they do when landing, ”said Martin.
Days are also spent running the dogs, painting the chicken coop, planting the garden, and figuring out how to harvest their alfalfa crop.
“Currently we only have my father’s 35-year-old Masport mower, which I don’t think is going to cut it.”
The decision to move to Central Otago was motivated by the fact that Martin accepted the layoff and their “urge” for a rural way of life.
“It was an incredible opportunity to do a factory reset and live the kind of life we’ve always talked about.”
The property, Queensberry Ridge View, about a 15-minute drive from Wanaka, offered views of the surrounding mountains, room for horses, and the ability to run a shelter for people and their doggies.
“Neill has always loved dogs. We have built a reputation in Huntsbury for walking and babysitting neighbors’ dogs. We used to have five dogs. We didn’t need our own dog as we love the dog. variety of other’s dogs.
“A story I wrote for Press about Neill and our last dog, Chilli, had the biggest reaction to any story in my nine years of writing for Press. “
The couple imported kennels made in North Canterbury and converted a super shed into kennels. Their five farms are already in high demand, the couple are planning to buy five more.
One owner has asked to book his dog for two years while he is in an international position, while another plans to have his dogs mailed in from Christchurch for the summer holidays.
Dogs are not allowed in the house, but neither are they kept only in their kennels. Dogs spend most of their days outdoors. “Neill is a dog magnet. Everywhere Neill goes, dogs follow him.”
On rainy days he plays with them in the shed, including dog soccer matches, and at night he gently dresses a little Maltese in a sweater to make sure he stays warm. “We spoil them.”
“For us, the lifestyle has brought new freedom. We are masters of our own destiny. We live in a special part of New Zealand and we love to share it with others – on two and all fours. “