by: Joan Morell
This is a great question because the answer has changed a few times since I purchased my pet sitting business in February 2012 and yet they all still apply to my business and my career change.
Through a course of life changing career paths I found myself as a certified groomer, obedience instructor and healing touch for animal’s practitioner, and most recently owning a successful pet sitting business. There is also a dog bakery, Black Dog Bakehouse that is in the works too!
Those of you who know me know that I have a degree in Computer Science which I received in 1989 and was laid off from my contract position with the Department of Defense in 2001. It was then that I realized that I didn’t want to go back, back to being what I liked to call myself, the “Token Broad”. Yes, the woman in a ‘mans’ field and usually the only woman in the systems department, the minority quota.
In January of 2001, I saw a Use Your Life award episode on Oprah where Bonnie Bergan received an award for her work with at risk teens. These teens trained dogs that would eventually become service dogs, and with an 85% success rate, I was hooked. I wrote a fake resignation letter to my company a few hours after that episode and dated it for April 30, 2001, my contract terminated April 15th, 2001. The deal was done and I was off to explore my true desire…dogs. Be careful what you put in writing folks, someone is always watching. I think that even without that fake letter my I knew my life would change forever.
It was a long year, being unemployed and planning for my future. I tried to open a self-service dog wash but with the tragic events of 9/11 that wasn’t happening. That didn’t stop me from moving forward, I put my business idea on the back burner and kept moving. My first stop on this path was to become a certified obedience instructor and a groomer and I was off and running. Debt was piling up but I knew that my day was coming. A few moves and a few bends in the road, well they were more like circles, I am here, in beautiful Colorado working towards my goal.
After a few months in Colorado and being without a dog for almost 5 years, I adopted a shy lab from Safe Harbor Lab Rescue named Tally who I immediately renamed Guinness, which he picked himself. I don’t get it either, but he has answered to that name without any retraining since the day I picked him up from his foster parents.
About 6 months into our relationship, I had to travel to San Francisco for a few days and I had a friend watch Guinness. Needless to say, I was highly disappointed in that my instructions weren’t followed. I didn’t find this out until a woman I had never met said “Hello, you must be Guinness’ Mom.” “Um, do I know you?” “No, but I saw a picture of you and Guinness.” I was freaked! I asked my friend and he said she came by the house while I walked Guinness. My instructions were, #1 please don’t walk him, I’m still working on his leash issues and #2 please don’t have anyone over, he gets freaked with strangers. I was done with that nonsense. What was I going to do if I had to travel again? I found a kennel close by with great reviews and so I had them take care of Guinness for 2 nights while I was traveling. They are a great facility and were very attentive to his needs but told me that Guinness was not happy with anything, he wouldn’t play with other dogs and would just hang out by himself. My heart sank, that was really the final travel plans I had, unless I took Guinness with me.
Not long after Guinness failed at boarding, I met someone who was an in home pet sitter. A what? I had no idea that these types of people existed and hey, this may be the answer for Guinness. I pet sat for him on a few occasions and about a year later a local pet sitting went up for sale and poof, I’m a pet sitter.
Since that first day, owning my own pet sitting business has changed so many things. I was able to quit grooming which was another goal of mine and I have pet sitters that can help with Guinness at my home if I need to travel. About 3 months into the business, I thought about that ‘friend’ who watched Guinness so many years ago who didn’t follow my instructions and jeopardized the safety of Guinness. One of my business goals that has never changed is to give pet parents peace of mind when it comes to their pets and their home. I want to provide a safe environment for pets and share my love of animals with everyone.