They say that a dog is a man's best friend, and no one agrees with that more than the boss of a city garden centre.

Paul Oxborrow, owner of Thorpe Plant Centre, has run his business in the suburb for 30 years.

But in more recent years he has shared the site with his best friend Bailey.

The golden Labrador and retriever cross has happily served his customers with a wag of the tail for seven years and has now found social media stardom.

Paul, 58, said: "Right from the start of the day, he's keen. I've only have to say to him 'Are you ready for work?' and he's at the door. He'll come tearing around into the car park and he'll be at the front gate.


"He's a trusty companion. I know that people who have dogs form a very close bond. I've certainly got that with him, but he's got that with our customers as well.

"He sits and watches the car park. He knows who he can approach.

"He's always had that, particularly with children. He'll walk to them slowly, he'll gradually lower his body to their level and the kiddies will pet him.

"Customers love him. We put posts on social media for everything - strawberries, plants and what have you. They'll get a few likes, but Bailey gets them all."

He added: "When we're putting the trollies out in the morning, Bailey picks a tennis ball up and teases us to play fetch with him.

"If you walk around the centre, you will see tennis balls - and the odd football and soft toy - littered everywhere.

"He'll spend the day waiting for customers. He knows all of the regulars who carry treats in their pockets.

"He really is a meet-and-greet dog. He's a real asset to the team."

He continued: "Customers will come in and know Bailey's name but they have no idea what mine is.

"Even if we're out for walks early in the morning, just about down every street someone will say hello to Bailey - and Bailey first.

"Bailey also loves cheese straws, which we sell. If anyone buys a bag, he'll follow them everywhere for one."

Plants to keep away from four-legged friends

Paul explained: "There are some plants you have to be weary of.

"Some people come in and tell me that their dogs eat everything.

"The majority of plants are safe for dogs but there are some to avoid."

  1. Rhododendrons

    All parts of a rhododendron bush - including the leaves, stems and blooms - are toxic to cats and dogs.

  2. Daffodils

    Daffodils are poisonous to dogs if bulbs, flowers or water from daffodil vases are consumed. They can make dogs vomit, make them sleepy and wobbly.

  3. Delphiniums

    Alkaloids in delphiniums are nerve blockers - enough to be be fatal.

  4. Taxus

    It's unknown what chemical in this plant is poisonous, but the entire tree can be toxic to dogs if eaten.

  5. Clematis

    Ingestion of the leaves can effect the digestive system, and exposure to the vine and flowers can cause a dermatologic reaction.