The other day I realized that I graduated college in 2005, worked for my father's company until 2011, and have been a pet sitter/dog walker since 2012. That means that I've been walking dogs and sitting pets for as long as I've done anything else in my professional life, and it doesn't look like that is going to end anytime soon. With that being said I wanted to take a moment to reflect back and share my top moments as a dog walker over the course of a few blog posts.
Typically when people forget to cancel and I show up and surprise the owner it doesn't create a lasting memory. It can be a bit embarrassing for everyone but there have been plenty of moments when the owners have been home that have helped solidify the partnership between pet owner and pet sitter/dog walker. I remember one very clearly with one of my first clients. As I'd just come from the combative world of construction I was still a little nervous around clients. It isn't like someone is going to hire a dog walker, take their dog to doggy daycare and then sue the dog walker for not walking the dog (replace dog with cabinets and doggy daycare with storage and this is a real situation that happened to us). This is the first moment where I realized this was different and I had made the proper life decision.
As a dog walker we hardly have any face to face interaction with our clients and at this time I was still in Northern Virginia working for another dog walking company. So my interaction with the clients was even less. It's surreal to think about it sometimes. We're in someone's home every day and our job is to make it look like we were never there all while making certain the dogs get out to get their exercise, enrichment, and potty break. For this particular client I'd met the wife, but never the husband. He had read my notes I left after every visit and we'd emailed a few times but until this day we'd never been face to face.
It is also important to note that these dogs were typically crated and where two full grown German Shepards. When I opened the door and was greeted by both of them I was a little surprised. I asked them what they were doing out and that is when the owner came around the corner. This wasn't the first time I'd run into someone that had forgotten to cancel so I asked if he still wanted the dogs to be walked and he said he hadn't forgotten to cancel but had to work from home and wasn't able to take the dogs out due to conference calls. He then told me he was happy to see how much the dogs liked me. By this time they were both laying belly up at my feet asking to have their bellies rubbed. He also told me he felt the dogs would prefer to walk with me due to my calm demeanor and if he took them it would be a rushed and hurried walk since he couldn't be away from the phone for long.
This was the first time I understood that the job I was doing helped people. It wasn't just a luxury service done for convenience. People need dog walkers and appreciate the service we provide. There are a lot of people that would have to choose between their career and their dog if it weren't for the dog walkers of the world and running into one such owner unexpectedly was the first time I started to realize this. It was also the first time I started to understand the importance of the relationships we build with the dogs and their owners. That is why I always say dog walking and pet sitting are the services we provide but what we really sell is partnership and peace of mind.