Love and licks from the Four Seasons Hampshire pet-in-residence, Oliver
By Si Si Penaloza
A Hampshire pup born and bred, Sir Oliver Beckington is right at home at the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire. Lively and curious, this handsome sporting dog represents the country estate’s continual commitment as a dog-friendly destination. Demonstrating the hotel’s “Welcome Pets” policy, General Manager Charlie Parker says, “Pets are a part of a family and, for many people, a holiday or a visit to the countryside just isn’t complete without them.” Parker is often seen surveying the grounds with Oliver at his side, sneaking him a treat from time to time. “We happily invite our guests to bring their dogs to stay,” he continues. “We are delighted that they will be greeted by our own Oliver Beckington.”
I’ll never forget the first time I met Oliver. As our noses met, it was love at first sight; I literally could not keep my hands off his wiggling back. It was a bit like the first time I met Channing Tatum—but we’ll have to save that for another day. As we played on the limestone gravel in the front of the main foyer, two bellhops approached. They were carefully rolling a five thousand dollar, five-tiered wedding cake on a luggage trolley toward the front door. Like any puppy attracted to silver bells and balls, Oliver lunged at the cake and nearly made off with the fifth tier! He was only twelve weeks old at the time, mind you. One of the bellhops left blanched as white as the cake, only minorly escaping a near cardiac episode.
Of course, now three years old, Oliver is well out of puppyhood and has been trained to exacting Four Seasons standards. He is the consummate ambassador, especially when it comes to children. He relishes in guests’ lavish affections and robust rubdowns but won’t go seeking them. Dog lovers take much delight in him, while at the same time those timid of dogs needn’t worry that he’ll be a bother. He is now trained to perfection—he never wanders into the tea room or around the guest areas beyond reception.
Oliver certainly has snagged one of the top jobs in the canine world. His job description involves napping by the stately manor fireplaces, being stroked from nose to tail and engaging in general all-day cuddling, brisk walks around the hotel’s beautiful grounds and fine canine dining on the weekends. Luckily, this need cushy lifestyle isn’t exclusive to Oliver—your dog can live it up like Oliver and even live with Oliver for a week at the Four Seasons; this is the ideal hotel stay to give your dog the very best of everything. The hotel offers a range of dog-friendly activities as well as dog-sitting services to ensure the most comfortable and convenient experience for everyone.
What Lord Grantham’s yellow lab, Isis, is to Downton Abbey, Oliver Beckington is to Four Seasons Hampshire. Lovingly named after two bishops who once resided on the Dogmersfield Estate, he is an integral part of life on the Hampshire property. Set in 500 acres of rolling countryside about an hour southwest of London, the hotel features 133 guest rooms, an equestrian centre, clay pigeon shooting, fishing pond, world renowned spa and tennis courts. Fancy a spot of falconry? This hotel has you covered. That’s of course the joy of Four Seasons in Hampshire. One can do as much, or as little as one wants but always be assured of a lovely stay.
This is the most stunning archetypal Georgian country manor in the region, straight from the pages of a Jane Austen novel. And my stay at this gorgeous estate proved to be just as lovely as her prose. Upon check-in, my luggage was whisked away and I was shown to my suite—and what a divine suite it was. The bedrooms, and indeed the whole interior are a perfect example of refined, understated grandeur done right. My suite was enormous and yes, there were audible gasps on my initial walk through. Checking into a British country house hotel, one longs to feel the sophistication and opulence of the period. This is not the time for the playful whimsy of “mixing it up” with a Karim Rashid lamp or Philippe Starck chair. Thankfully, there wasn’t one in sight.
As can be expected from a Four Seasons property, the discreet, personal service and seamless attention to detail were absolutely second to none. Hand-written welcome notes, the barkeep remembering your favourite cocktail, the bedside biscuits; great hotels understand these things. And, importantly, both the formal and casual dining proved to be top notch. The Sunday Farmers Market lunch is an absolute must: a cornucopia of delicious, locally-sourced, sustainable ingredients. The grounds themselves are immaculately groomed and the whole estate is a walker’s paradise.
When Isadore Sharp, founder and chairman of Four Seasons Hotels, visited the hotel to meet with staff, he enjoyed his time with Oliver and even sat with the pup for an official portrait. There is no doubt that Oliver is adored by all, both near and far, as evidenced by his considerable metrics on the hotel’s Facebook fan page. With a character perfectly suited for this country estate, Oliver is everybody’s favourite member of the team and loves his role of meeting, greeting and walking with guests. Oliver also worked on the set of a Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot, and was on hand to greet Pudsey of Britain’s Got Talent fame (who arrived on the lawn in a helicopter, natch). Pudsey’s best-selling calendar was shot on location at the hotel.
As a countryside destination for dogs with good taste, Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire has teamed with exclusive London pet outfitters Mungo & Maud to ensure quality pampering for pooches. As guests to Dogmersfield Park, dogs will experience their very own luxuries and personalised welcome amenities with elegant dog beds, grooming products, feeding bowls and organic treats made with Mungo & Maud’s own recipe. Followers of four-legged fashion will be able to purchase a selection of the timeless designs from the hotel boutique.
On Oliver’s birthday, guests and their four legged friends are invited to enjoy a special weekend retreat in the countryside as a part of a celebratory birthday package. After a very special welcome from Oliver and delicious organic treats from Mungo and Maud, dogs were spoiled with a luxurious bed and in-room amenities. Guests enjoyed a historic guided walk around the estate, savouring the fresh air and beautiful Hampshire countryside, while the dogs roamed together in the open space with plenty of freedom to explore. The package was rounded off with indulgence in the spa, afternoon tea in the library, or the heavenly treat that is the Sunday Farmers Market lunch. A stay at this classic, old-world country getaway in the UK is the obvious choice for dog-lovers with any sense—or sensibility.