St Francis Of Wandsworth – ES Magazine
Mark Thompson’s career has gone to the dogs – or to be precise, they come to him
Mark Thompson, 33, ex-private and corporate event planner, is the best dog handler in London. He manages to keep 16 dogs perfectly still on the steps of Battersea Buddhist Peace Pagoda for a photo shoot lasting and hour and a half, despite distractions that include stray dogs, gawping crowds and flashlights.
So magical do the powers of this latter day St Francis of Wandsworth seem that a wandering Buddhist monk felt compelled to join the mutts for a prayer before disappearing into the Battersea Park landscape.
Mark, brother-in-law to Lord Ivar Mountbatten, stepson of the former chairman of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, the late Tim Walker, and son of Sotheby’s director Colin Thompson (the best shot in Wiltshire), studied animal husbandry and stock management at agricultural college.
Recently he decided to turn his canine talents to financial advantage. In debt to his brother, Mark offered to pay off his loan by walking his brother’s dog. Then his neighbour asked if he would take her dog out too.
Then the vet asked. Then everybody asked. Now he trains dogs in general obedience. He gives individual lessons, gun dog training and boarding. He will pick up your dog if you live in Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Kensington, Chelsea, Battersea and Wandsworth. One client who lives Hampstead, daily sends and collects his dog to Mark by taxi.
Walking with Mark and his posse is an awe-inspiring experience. People stop and stare and point as the dogs obey his every command. ‘I was at a dinner party the other day when a girl said; “Oh, you’re the dog lover, aren’t you?” Mark said to me. ‘Dog lover? Well I wouldn’t actually say I loved all of them. It’s just that I have a bit of a knack.’ He certainly does.