This is a short series about my former pet sitting business. Subsequent parts will be posted the next two weeks.
I mention on my “About Me” page that I once owned a pet sitting business. That business was started in late 2009 with a close friend of mine, Sheryl, and later on one of my sisters, Lynn, also joined us. We closed the business almost a year ago now. This is kind of a tough subject for me to write about, because it involves having to admit some of my own failings. Pet sitting is just one of many jobs that I have tried and discovered that I did not like. This really does not seem plausible for someone who loves animals as much as I do; but there is a lot to the story of why.
I have to give myself some credit; I am not always afraid to try new things when it comes to careers. The problem is that what usually leads to that is the fact that I have grown bored with the old ones. However, I will point out that I have been bookkeeping for about 20 years now. That was a field I kind of fell into accidentally, and it did seem to stick. However, I enjoy it in moderation only. I still work part time at a general store keeping the books, and I do other bookkeeping on the side, from my home. At one point I took on a little bit too much of that type of work and found myself tiring of it. So I cut back on my own clients, and that really helped.
Around the same time Sheryl, my close friend from high school, moved back to our area and was also trying to figure out her job situation. One of the options she was considering was pet sitting. I had looked into pet sitting myself a few years before that. After talking to other pet sitters, I decided it wasn’t right for me, mostly because of the odd hours; evenings, weekends, and early mornings. But at this point in my life I was leaning towards some sort of pet related work. I had toyed with the idea of doggy day care and thought perhaps pet sitting could ultimately lead to that. I sensed that my friend just needed a little help to get going on it herself. Plus it was something I could take on without having to give up my other work. She and I decided to give it a shot.
I have started and helped in handling small businesses before, so I felt confident in being able to prepare the proper paper work to get this one going. I would handle the business end of things, including bookkeeping and marketing, and basically just getting the business going. I created a website and a Facebook page for the business. Sheryl would do the pet sitting, mostly dog walking and cat care, and if the business grew, I would consider helping out with that also. My sister joined the business to do some overnight care, which is in high demand in our area. That suited her life at the time, and it was something she could do without having to give up her full time job.
Things moved along fairly well….the business grew, though slowly. Eventually Sheryl was getting to the point where she had just a little bit too much work. Most of her visits were noon dog walks, and since we’re in a rural area, there is a lot of travel time inbetween too. So I agreed to give up one more bookkeeping client at the end of our first full year, to try and help out with the daily dog walks. By the time I phased that out, we had lost a couple of clients, and I was not needed so much anymore. That is the ups and downs of pet sitting – people move, or their work or personal situation changes and their needs for pet sitting change. I helped out a little, trying to meet all of our current clients so I could provide back up on them when needed. But I was never totally comfortable when I only had to visit a client once every couple months or so. Every time I would have to be sure the routine hadn’t changed, and often, it had. Maybe I would have been more comfortable with some steady clients of my own, but I wasn’t willing to give up more of my other work at this point, and there was no way to work around that.
Here’s where I have to explain more problems I had: I have a little bit of OCD. I check and re-check doors and their locks; I worry that I have left the water running when re-filling water dishes. If the dog is in a crate, did I latch it properly? That needs to be checked more than once. I have trouble leaving my own house and dogs, and worry if I have left everything as it should be. I unplug electrical appliances that have any kind of heating element in them. It did not help that after one visit I did with Sheryl, she got a call from the client telling her that we had left the door between the house and the barn open. How did I not check that!!?? The barn was attached to the house, and it was winter. Luckily nothing bad happened to the dogs, they didn’t get out, or anything like that, but STILL. This is exactly the type of thing that people with OCD know is going to happen, if we don’t check and double check everything!
We had some problem clients too. Both human and canine. There was one beautiful Great Dane named Bella, who would just never accept me. She loved Sheryl to death, but if I tried to visit her without Sheryl, she wouldn’t let me in the house past the kitchen. We managed to get by the few times I was needed, but it was not ideal. We often called Sheryl the “dog whisperer”, as she seemed to have a way with some animals that I just did not.
I still plugged along in spite of my difficulties, but in Part II I will tell about one particular problem human client that we had, and how that was going to contribute to the end of pet sitting for me.