Pet Sitting is not for sissies

Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Pet Sitting is not for sissies – I saw this comment and thought how true it was, Dog Walking and Pet Sitting is also not for clean freaks, the squeamish or people of a nervous disposition!

Only this morning I was walking a dog who did his business and then did that thing where they scrape their feet backwards as if to spread their scent. I bent down to pick it up but no, he hadn’t finished ‘spreading his scent’ and I got a face full of grass and mud and I dread to think what else! People wonder why I carry a back pack when I’m walking dogs… it’s full of wet wipes and tissues to wipe the mud and crap off my face!

One of the things I’ve learned is the need to have a spare pair of shoes and socks in my car. Not only for the changeable and untrustworthy weather here in the UK but also foIMG_8307r those instances where a dog decides to use your leg as a tree… the problem is if they decide to do this half way round your walk you still have to walk for half an hour back to the house with soggy feet. Again those wet wipes are needed! I’m sure they don’t do it on purpose but there was the time Prince the Frenchie walked round the other side of a fence and decided to aim through the gap and onto my leg! I had to admire the accuracy of his aiming skills though.

 

I once looked after a cat whose owner informed me (after they had left for their holiday) that the cat was on antibiotics and needed to be given his medicine by squirting it into his mouth. This immediately filled me with dread knowing what this cat was like…he was not going to take this willingly. I googled the easiest methods which involved oven gloves, a large towel and eye shields, this did not help settle my nerves. So I ended up asking the owners how they give it to him. They suggested holding him by the scruff of the neck, prizing his mouth open, and quickly placing the syringe in his mouth and squirting the medicine in. Again this did not sound like it was going to go to plan. Can you imagine an angry cat that doesn’t like being held, having his jaw held open by a stranger and liquid squirting in, nope, it wasn’t going to happen. Needless to say after many attempts I mixed it into his food instead….

One of the things I do before meeting a new customer and their pet for the first time is ask their name and their breed. I don’t discriminate against or turn down any dog breed but just ask purely out of interest and future reference. There was one occasion where I was arranging to meet a new customer and her dog whose name was something very pretty and girly (we’ll go with Poppy) and I later realised I hadn’t asked what kind of dog it was. Oh well I’ll find out when I get there I thought, imagining a spaniel or something like that. I arrive and follow the lady into the kitchen to discover ‘Poppy’ is the biggest Doberman I have ever seen, who was the other side of a stair gate standing on two feet and was the same size as me! The lady then informed me Poppy doesn’t know any commands in English as they speak Polish and that they will be getting a new extendable lead as Poppy had snapped the last one again! I have to say I was a little anxious about this but to be fair she was a lovely dog…and I learnt some Polish.

 

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What’s your real job??

You’re a dog walker? Oh ok…but what’s your real job though? Is a question I have been asked many times. Or something similar like ‘oh so this is your ONLY job?’ followed by a shocked expression when I say yes.

It’s usually old ladies who I get talking to whilst I’m out walking dogs that will say ‘aww well at least it gives you something to do’ as if I’m on school holidays or can’t get a ‘proper’ job. I just smile usually but very tempted to say thanks for the compliment but I’m 32!

Oh and how could I forget the time someone misheard me and thought I’d said I was a duck walker haha! I did wonder why she looked so surprised, but she just politely said ‘oh I see’, later realising I had said dog not duck.

Dog walking and pet sitting businesses seem to be booming at the moment but only a few years ago when I first started it was something that not many people had heard of as an actual career option or even knew it existed at all! (I must be making it look too easy).

I think a lot of people can’t believe that you can actually make decent money from it, or enough to live on anyway. I always say to people just think how many pets there are in the area I cover alone, how many people are out at work all day every day. That’s a lot of pets needing walks and feeding! I don’t want to give away how much I earn exactly but let’s just say I am earning more than I did when I was working for the City Council, whether that says I’m doing well or that The Council don’t pay very well is debateable….

If you’re willing to work early mornings, late nights, weekends, bank holidays, and everything in between then you can make a very decent living from dog walking and pet sitting. For example, most people charge around £10 for an hours walk, and say you walk on average 5 dogs a day Monday to Friday, add on visits to cats and other pets, any weekend jobs… you do the maths.

I would say it’s not really a part time job, you need to be available at the last minute sometimes, early mornings, late nights and obviously lunch times are very popular.

I think it is beginning to be seen as a ‘real’ job and certainly a worthwhile one. On days where I think I’m not really doing anything spectacular I remind myself that the owners of the pets I see can go to work with peace of mind, safe in the knowledge that their pet is not home alone all day, that even my half an hour or hour visit is giving them exercise both physically and mentally. That their cats are not shut in a cage in an unfamiliar environment for 2 weeks or that elderly or less able customers can keep their pet at home with them even if they aren’t physically able to walk them themselves.

To me it certainly counts as a REAL job.

Skincare Secrets

Working outside all day in the wind, rain and sun can take its toll on your skin so I do all I can to protect and look after it. I’ve always had a good skin care routine but since becoming a dog walker I like to take extra care of it. In this post I thought I’d share my skin care secrets and absolute favourite products.

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Something I have used religiously every morning and night since I was around 18 is this Aloe Vera Moisturising Lotion by Forever Living. I absolutely swear by it, it’s my favourite moisturiser and the few times I have tested other moisturisers I have always gone back to this one. It contains aloe, jojoba oil, collagen and elastin which Forever Living states ‘leaves the skin feeling soft and supple whilst maintaining natural PH balance.’ I’ve never used anti-ageing creams and for 32 I think my skin looks pretty line and wrinkle free which I’m positive is down to this lotion. It also acts as a good primer and base for make up. You only need a small amount to cover your whole face which is great.

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Even though the Aloe moisturiser is amazing I felt like I wanted to start using an overnight oil or serum to add as much moisture as possible, especially as I am outside all day. This Vitamin E Overnight Serum-in-oil by The Body Shop has been a great added moisture boost. It contains wheat germ oil, sunflower, jojoba, sesame and soya oils from Community Fair Trade farmers which is another plus to this product. I noticed a difference after the first use of this oil, the next morning my skin felt silky smooth and it’s definitely a product I will be re purchasing. Although you only need a few drops so I can imagine it will last for months!

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For a little treat for my skin and a more intense clean once a week I use the Mask of Magnaminty face mask from Lush. It contains peppermint oil, ground aduki beans, vanilla and honey. It smells amazing and when I wash it off it just feels like it’s really deep cleaned my skin and leaves it feeling refreshed and smooth.

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Then there’s good old fashioned water. My boyfriend bought me this water bottle which has really made me drink so much more water than I used to. I drink at least 3 of these bottles a day and I find having the times written on the side does make a difference and helps me keep track of how much I’ve had and how much more I should be drinking.

Shadow – A dog’s point of view

Its nearly lunch time she’ll be here soon.  If I just wait here at the bottom of the stairs at the usual time I’ll see her coming to the door.  I need to check that everything smells the same, where is she?? Oh hang on is that the door…. She’s here! Yippeeee, must control my excitement, must control my excitement, must control.… nope I can’t I’m gonna have to lick her face.

Right harness on, lead on, I’m ready! Open the door, open the door, open the door….. woo hoo walk time!  Ahhh all the smells, hang on I’m sure that bush smells different today, who’s been here??  I’m gonna have to wee on that.  Oops missed the bush.  Well if you will stand in the way lady!  Come on let’s go!

La la la oh what was that??  Squirrel!  MUST GET SQUIRREL.  I know I can’t climb trees lady but I can stare at it for 5 minutes can’t I?  Maybe it will come down?  Oh she wants to keep moving, maybe she wants to check the smells too, ok squirrel I’ll come back for you later.

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So many smells so little time, come on lady hurry we need to get to the bridge.

Finally we’re at the top….aaah look at that view I can see for miles, it is beautiful.  Hang on she’s taking photos of me again she thinks I haven’t noticed.  Let me just give her my best pose in case these photos go on the internet like the last ones.  My mum always tells me I’m beautiful, I reckon I could model for doggy Vogue.

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Oh my gosh there’s another human coming towards us, she looks nice, I wonder if she’d like a hug, I think she would.  Hey lady, want a hug? Yeah ya do! Yes managed to lick her face too, I think she liked it cos she’s smiling, or is that laughing? Same thing.  Why’s my walking buddy apologising, who wouldn’t want a hug from me?!

Dum de dum…Oh what do we have here…another dog on my patch…don’t think so mate. WOOF! That told him….

Looks like we’re turning back home now, we can’t have been an hour already!  I am a bit peckish though.  Right back home, I’m gonna pull out the puppy dog eyes so she feels sorry for me and stays a bit longer.  She won’t be able to resist.  Harness off, paws dried aaaaand zoomies!!  Ok enough of that I’m worn out now.

I think she’s going now she’s putting her back-pack back on and talking in that strange soppy high pitched voice.  There she goes again telling me how beautiful I am and looking forward to seeing me tomorrow.  I’ve always been a ladies man.  Yawn I’m pooped, think I’ll finish my lunch and have a snooze. Same time tomorrow lady!

8 Misconceptions about being a Dog Walker and Pet Sitter

Before I start I just want to make it clear I’m not moaning about what I do, I absolutely love it despite the ‘down sides’. I feel at the moment there are a lot of people starting up pet sitting and dog walking businesses not realising what it really entails and soon give up once they find out. Maybe this post will help those in 2 minds about it.

1. You are your own boss you can work whatever hours you like and take as much holiday as you want right?!

 

Wrong! Well technically correct but anyone who wants to be a successful dog walker needs to be flexible and above all reliable. Who is going to pay someone to walk their dogs while they’re at work every day if you are constantly taking days off? Your customers can’t always get home from work at short notice and they will need to find another dog walker to cover your days off. Obviously you have a right to time off and actually in my first year my customers were TELLING me to go on holiday ha ha but I don’t like to take days off if I can help it. I do now try to work a 6 day week rather than a 7 day week.

2. The owners are more trouble than the pets

 

Maybe I’ve just been lucky but all of my customers are as lovely as their pets! I’d even say some are now friends. That’s not to say I haven’t had some strange requests, I draw the line at bringing in washing and folding it away neatly, I am not a house keeper….

3. Picking up dog poo on a walk is the worst part of the job

 

I’m afraid it’s not! If you are squeamish this is not the career choice for you. You’re now asking yourself what could possibly be worse?! Believe me walking in to a house greeted by a suspicious smell to find a dog or cat has had diarrhoea and/or puked everywhere (usually on carpet) is far worse. People say to me ‘yeah but you’re not a cleaner’. But I am there to look after the wellbeing of the pet and I wouldn’t want them to be getting it all over them and treading it round the house so I do clean up as best as I can. To be fair this doesn’t happen very often.

4. Surely it’s just a lunch time job

 

While 11am-2pm is a very popular and busy time for a dog walker, not everyone works 9-5. Many of my customers work different shifts which can mean the middle of the day for them is anything from 3pm to 8pm. Some of my customers are elderly so can’t walk their dogs very far, so don’t necessarily need the dog walked at a specific time. Then there’s my feline friends, usually when their owners are on holiday I feed and let them in and out mornings and evenings so I can sometimes leave my house at 7am and get back late evening, it’s so varied every day. I’ve even done jobs at 10pm at night.

5. It must be lovely in the summer

 

It’s certainly nice to be outside rather than in an office when the suns out but walking in the sun and heat for hours usually ends in me being a sweaty mess, make up dripping down my face, sunburnt and dying of thirst (drinking lots of water is an issue when you’re doing hour long walks back to back!) Plus if it’s very hot it’s not always safe to walk the dogs for too long so you end up playing with them inside instead. Which leads me onto….

6. Winter must be the worst

 

I actually prefer the winter just because it’s easier to keep warm when power walking, wrapped up in a scarf, gloves and hat. I suppose the only downside is the mud and dirt so my car is constantly covered in muddy shoe prints. I do have fun trying to wipe muddy doggy feet though, who would have thought so many dogs don’t like being towel dried!? It usually ends in Dog 1 Towel 0.

7. It’s just walking what’s so difficult about that?

 

I think some people do have an image in their mind of you having lovely leisurely walks in the sunshine, birds tweeting, butterflies and waggy tails. The reality is I can have lovely walks like this, and then I go to my next job and get head butted by a Staffy….. I have to say some of my dogs are a dream to walk, they walk at a good speed, have a quick sniff, don’t pull on the lead, not bothered by food laying around and get on with other dogs. But many dogs can be challenging, nervous or aggressive towards other dogs. Some will pull like crazy, lunge towards other dogs, or you may have to avoid other dogs altogether. Some will suddenly take off like Mo Farrah when they see a squirrel, cat or just something they like the look of. This doesn’t always mean an unpleasant walk but does mean you have to be on full alert at all times, plus sore arms, back and shoulders are a daily struggle.

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8. You must have loads of pets at home

 

Truth is I would if I could but I actually don’t have any. People are surprised by this but with my partner out at work all day and me being out at all hours, possibly from 7am until late evening, it wouldn’t be fair to have pets at home while I’m out looking after other peoples buddies. I would have to hire another pet sitter and dog walker for my own pets!

Don’t let this put you off if you love the idea of being a dog walker and pet sitter, there are lots and lots of pros, lovely and funny times and you’ll get really attached to all your buddies 🙂

The day I was mistaken for a blind person…

Today started with an early visit to some of my feline friends so I was up at 7.30am getting ready for my first job. No Saturday morning lay in for me! After the 30 minute visit I made my way to a village on the outskirts of Peterborough to meet some new customers and their 3 dogs. They’re going on holiday soon and so the dogs are being looked after by a relative who isn’t able to walk them during the day. This seems to be a popular option for dog owners these days rather than kennels, nice for the dogs to be in their own home. The dogs seemed to approve of me and we arranged to have a walk together nearer the time so that they are used to me before their owners go on holiday.

Next stop was a 1 hour walk with Obi the Doberman Cross. She was sporting her new harness which has a thick black strap with the words ‘Sports Dog’ on the side. It was a sunny day so had my sunglasses on. We passed a lady sitting on a wall who started to say something to me, looked at me, looked at Obi and then said “Oh I’m so sorry she’s working.” I walked a few more steps thinking ‘did she just… urr…what did she say??’ Yes I actually just got mistaken for a blind person and Obi actually just got mistaken for my guide dog…. Little did this lady know that Obi would make the world’s worst guide dog and would happily drag me in front of a moving car just for a dropped crumb or chip! Could not stop chuckling to myself all the way back to Obi’s house.

I had some lunch and at 12.30 I went out again to do a 1 hour walk with 2 dogs who I see every now and again when their owner is out for the day or unable to get home from work. It’s always comical walking 2 dogs at the same time on lead, you usually end up with the leads wrapped around your legs as if they’re trying to take you down. Luckily today was a nice day as leads wrapped round you, wind and rain, hair in your face and trying to pick up dog poo is like an ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ challenge!

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A 15 minute drive to my next customer, another 1 hour dog walk. I see this lovely girl, a Greyhound Cross, occasionally when her owners are out for the day at the weekend although this time was because her human had a broken ankle and so was unable to walk her. She was eager to go for a walk and have a sniff around.

Then back home again after stopping off to get petrol and dropping off a door key to a customer whose cats I had been feeding and its 3.30pm, legs are aching after 3 hours of walking!

Back out the house again at 5.45 to do an hour’s dog walk in the most beautiful little village. One thing that’s been great about becoming a dog walker is discovering hidden gems that I may never have come across. This village is one of them, it even has its own red telephone box which has been turned into a book swap! So cute.

After an hour of power walking I settled my buddy in, fed her and checked on the horses that live in the field next door and it was time for my last visit to 2 dogs who needed feeding and lots of cuddles. They are such little characters and HAVE to be fussed at the same time or they get jealous so luckily I have 2 hands! I stayed a little bit longer than the 30 minutes as they are just too cute and kept giving me ‘the eyes’.

Finally got home at 8.30pm and made dinner. Up again early tomorrow!

 

 

Making The Leap

I’d always worked in admin, it was something I fell into when I was 18 and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or what career path I wanted to go down. It will do for now I thought. 11 years later and with the prospect of turning 30 and still not feeling like I was where I wanted to be, I decided I needed to make some changes. I’d thought about the idea of starting a dog walking and pet sitting business many times over the years, even came up with a name and logo at one stage but always ended up telling myself I couldn’t do it or it would be too difficult and many other excuses. It did seem a risk going from a guaranteed monthly income to being self-employed but it was always in the back of my mind and having had such special bonds with my own dogs I knew I wanted to work with them in some way.

I can’t remember exactly what that final push was. Maybe it was being told that I had to start recording my every move, including how long I stopped to talk to a colleague and how long I was in the toilet for, seriously?! Or having to come up with 3 things I wanted to achieve in my admin role for a personal development review with my manager. I couldn’t think of 1 let alone 3! My heart really wasn’t in it. I looked at all the research I had done into starting my own business and daydreamed of what it would be like to be my own boss as well as working with animals all day. I looked out the window from my office one day with its scenic view of the car park opposite and thought do you know what I’m going to go for it!

After a lot more research and planning I came up with a business plan and that was it, I’d made up my mind, no going back, it was going to happen. When I started telling people my plans I was mostly met with surprise as I had kept my plans so quiet but also a lot of positivity and wishes of good luck. There were of course a few negative comments, “Ooo do you think that’s a bit risky?”, “Are you sure?”, “What if it doesn’t work?”, “Who’s going to pay someone to walk their dog?” This only served to make me want to go for it even more.

My last day in the office was a strange one, I was excited to start my new career but also sad to be leaving the team I had worked with for the last 4 or so years. They weren’t just colleagues but friends and we had so many laughs and good times in between the seriousness, sadness and stress of a Children’s Social Care department. Although when I walked out those doors for the last time I did feel a sense of relief and freedom!

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A week or so later I had my first walk with one of my first customers, a handsome black Labrador called Rocky, such a lovely natured boy and a real character. I soon came to realise he had a talent for finding the biggest stick and not letting go of it for the whole 1 hour walk, and sometimes this big stick was more like a small tree! He also seemed to enjoy whacking me on the back of the legs with it! From then on I knew I was going to love my new job 🙂

My first blog post

So here goes my very first blog post!

It was my first day back today after 10 days off over Christmas and New Year and boy did my legs get a shock! My arms and shoulders too for that matter! After not much physical exercise and eating my weight in chocolate over the festive period I was not prepared for that first cold and energetic power walk of 2017. I’m starting to think I should do warm up exercises in the mornings as I definitely felt like I’d had a full body workout after an hour of brisk walking along with my arms being pulled in every direction trying to stop Obi the Doberman cross from grabbing the loaf of bread somebody had kindly left on the path, I’m assuming for the birds. Obi can sniff out a dropped slice of pizza, half eaten sandwich and random edible objects from a mile away. She could be a police sniffer dog if there were ever a crime involving a cheesecake that is…


Like Obi I was greeted by my other buddies throughout the day with excitable barking, wagging tails and licks to the face. I like to think their greetings are because they’ve missed me as much as I’ve missed them but It’s probably more to do with me being ‘the one that takes us for long walkies and then gives us a treat!’

One of my 1 hour walks was with a beautiful Labrador who is just bursting with energy and so I decided I would put her on an extendable lead so she could have more room to have a wander around and a little run. Unfortunately for me I didn’t anticipate that she was going to start sprinting like Usain Bolt! With me still attached to the other end of the lead you can use your imagination as to what happened next, ouch!  Most of my customers like me to keep their dogs on lead so I seem to have something inside me that says ‘DON’T LET GO!’

My last walk today (now with muddy jeans) was with Jack, I walk him once a week through The Cinnamon Trust which is a charity that I signed up with last year. It’s an amazing charity that helps elderly and terminally ill people and their pets, finding volunteers to walk or foster pets if the owners are not able to themselves. Very rewarding and something which I’d love to write about in more detail in the future.

When I got home I have to say I was pretty tired and my calves were aching, probably from trying to stop myself face planting the mud earlier! Still, I’m looking forward to whatever the day has to bring tomorrow 🙂