By Alison Bowyer
Pampered: Chester has three sets of stairs to help him get around Alison Bowyer's house
Robbie Williams, that most eccentric of pop stars, recently revealed that he appointed his eight pet dogs as bridesmaids at his wedding last year, and that he and wife Ayda Field sleep with the entire menagerie of pups in their marital bed.
The dog-crazy singer also admitted he has invested in a set of bespoke, fake fur-lined steps to enable his little darlings to clamber up onto the couple’s king-size bed more easily.
To which, as a similarly devoted pet owner, I have to ask: what, just the one set?
My own pampered pooch, Chester, a 13-year-old three-legged Parson Jack Russell, has no fewer than three sets of steps at our house in Buckinghamshire.
The main set, which are covered with faux sheepskin (very tasteful), enable him to hop onto my bed — a superking with deluxe mattress topper and Egyptian cotton sheets that Chester finds very appealing. This is his favourite day bed, where he snoozes away the morning after the exertions of breakfast.
Woe betide if he goes upstairs and finds his steps are not yet in position. Then he will simply yap in an increasingly petulant tone until I hare up the stairs and rectify the situation.
I lay a clean tablecloth on top of the duvet for him to lie on (I have some standards), but when I next see him he is invariably ensconced behind a pile of my expensive Designers’ Guild cushions with his head on my cashmere throw and his bottom on my husband’s pillow.
By noon he is ready to venture downstairs for one or two of his favourite Gravy Bones biscuits. Then, weather permitting, he makes a beeline for his second set of doggy steps and skips up onto the garden swing seat where he reclines, gently swaying in the sun.
Silly? But people are enchanted by Chester's 'Pup To Go', which enables him to be carried when he gets tired
My husband, Paul, and I eye him with a mixture of fondness and envy as we toil away at our computer screens. It really is a dog’s life.
A third set of furry steps allow Chester to get onto the sofa in the evenings, where he likes to stretch out — taking up far more space than his tiny frame would suggest. Most evenings he kicks one or other of us out of the way (those back legs can deliver a surprisingly strong rabbit kick).
Chester, it is fair to say, rules the roost.
Even Gilpin, the lurcher-cross we rescued from the Caribbean almost ten years ago, knows better than to tangle with him.
How long did it take Chester to take over the 3ft bespoke bed we bought for Gilpin (and which our kitchen was designed around)? Roughly half an hour.
Poor Gilpin long ago gave up any claim on the wicker bed, with its luxury doggy duvet. Instead, he slinks under the bench seat in the corner of the kitchen where Chester is supposed to sleep.
Mobile: Chester has the run of the house - and even gets massages in the evening
Of course, it isn’t just that Chester is spoilt. Having lost a leg as a puppy (the result of a vet bandaging his front leg too tightly and cutting off his blood supply), his remaining front leg is somewhat worn out after more than 12 years spent tearing around the woods and fields near where we live.
Through a mixture of bravery, determination and sheer exuberance, he managed to carry on as though he had all four limbs — for years matching his late sister, Molly, stride for stride, leap for leap — but time is catching up with him.
Where once he would think nothing of 90-minute walks and chasing the local wildlife, last year I started to notice he tires on his strolls.
And so it was that I invested in the brilliant Pup To Go. A papoose with four holes for a dog’s legs and one for its tail, it allows me to carry Chester strapped to my front.
OK, so it came from America and cost more than £140 with shipping and import duty, but the purpose-built doggy carrier has been a brilliant success. It allows Chester to get out and meet his public and garners him plenty of attention.
Yes, I felt silly the first time I wore it in public. For a while, I chose remote paths where I knew I wouldn’t bump into my fellow dog walkers. If I did spy someone in the distance, I would avoid them.
I told myself it wasn’t as bonkers as pushing my dog round in a pram, like an old lady in my village does. Besides, it was helping Chester, and that was what mattered.
Relaxing: Alison spoils her dog even more than Robbie Williams, who had his eight pets as bridesmaids at his wedding
But then I started to notice people’s reaction to the Pup To Go. Everyone is enchanted by it. And when carried in it, people actually crane their heads out of car windows and cross entire fields to get a proper look.
Just last week, Chester was feted at the garden centre by a never-ending queue of people, from pensioners to toddlers.
For his part, Chester loves it. He’s always been a very cool dog, and from the first time I rather ham-fistedly manoeuvred him into the Pup To Go, he took it in his stride.
Nowadays, I have got the procedure down to an art, and can pop him into it in just a few seconds when he shows signs of flagging.
As well as enjoying all the attention, he also seems to like being high up. After a lifetime on the ground, he now gets to see exactly where that pesky squirrel has run off to.
It’s also a workout for me, as he weighs just over a stone, which is not too bad on level ground, but can be hard going uphill.
As far as I am concerned, though, nothing is too much trouble for my beloved pooch. As well as lugging him around, I also take him for acupuncture sessions at the vet, at more than £50 a pop.
And at least once a month he goes to his favourite place on earth — the doggy hydrotherapy pool.
Wearing a cute little orange lifejacket, he deftly swims for his fetch toy with his eyes taking on a strange glazed look as he becomes increasingly excited. Indeed, he once became so over-excited he was sick in the drying room (of course they have a drying room, complete with fluffy towels and warm, infra-red lamps).
And if all the activity gets too much, well, what are owners for if not to provide their pets with a therapeutic massage?
As Chester luxuriates on the sofa, I spend my evenings gently massaging him with his very own battery-powered mini-massager.
Oh my goodness. I have just realised the sad truth — I am, quite possibly, even madder than Robbie Williams.