i realized the other day that i – and by that i mean, wags by mags, LLC – am celebrating my three year anniversary of dog walking and pet sitting full time! i can’t believe it. my how time flies!
i don’t really have a specific day or even month that i think of as an official start to this business, as it was sort of a rolling process over six months. it all began in december 2010, when i was offered a regular gig walking one dog three times a week by a friend who had started a dog walking business but then had decided not to do it; she was looking to pass off a client to someone else. as i was in desperate need of money at the time, i took it, not thinking much of it other than that it would at least be some steady money coming in for little time commitment while i looked for other work. (this was during a particularly low point in my life after a major relationship break-up and my art and writing businesses had dwindled to next to nothing.)
well, as it turned out, i fell in love with the dog (spicy, an adorable boxer who i continued to walk until just a few months ago) and i started realizing that maybe this was something i could expand upon, make a go of. by march 2011, i had come up with a clever name, designed a logo, business cards and this website, and i was using social media to put the word out that i was doing this kind of work as well as making good use of craigslist to advertise for free. within a few weeks, i had all kinds of clients! it wasn’t an instant 40 hour work week, but it was one or two regular walking clients (that weren’t even friends! total strangers!) and a whole lot of occasional dog walking and pet sitting (mostly friends and friends of friends), enough to make me feel like i definitely had some momentum going with this pet business idea.
a few months later, around may 2011, as fate would have it, some friends knew another dog walker who was moving to hawaii and was looking to place her favorite clients with someone she could trust. our mutual friends hooked us up and boom, all of a sudden, i had a very full schedule! that month i filed the paperwork to make wags by mags official, a legal LLC, and joined pet sitters international and pet sitters associates, two of the more reputable professional organizations in the field, so i could learn more about my profession and also get liability insurance and bonding. (i’ve remained with both organizations and have learned a lot!)
and the rest, as they say, is history!
i recap all this to explain why i’ll be celebrating my three year anniversary from now through the spring. while i won’t be throwing any big parties (i don’t have a budget for that kind of thing), i do want to acknowledge it as an accomplishment that i’m proud of. three years in this business is nothing to sneeze at, particularly when you work solo, without any employees. burn out is very real in this line of work when you do it full time. it can get very monotonous, day in, day out, spending all your time alone with animals; it can be extremely physically demanding, walking 5-7 miles/day in every kind of weather from extreme heat/humidity to severe thunderstorms to sleet and sub-freezing temps; and it can be frustratingly time-consuming, as the hours can be nonstop when you pet sit at night and on weekends as well as dog walk during work-week daytime hours. i have definitely struggled over the years to maintain a balance of steady 9-5 dog walking clients with occasional night and weekend pet sitting gigs to supplement my income while still leaving enough time for myself to have a personal life of some sort. it’s not easy trying to maintain friendships and/or a relationship when you constantly have to be working nights and weekends, oftentimes overnight, when everyone else is having downtime and being social.
but i think after three years i’m getting a little better at it. the hardest part is learning how to sometimes say no when clients call. i’m a people pleaser – i always want to make people happy, especially if they are regular clients. but i’m learning to sometimes take time for myself, and i’m blessed that i currently have enough work to be able to occasionally say no. (i’m also blessed that my regular clients understand my need to occasionally say no and they continue to come back to me!)
[this seems a good point to interject that i do again have an opening for a daily dog walking client. i thought i had a new client that was starting up this week, but as it turns out, that fell through. so please spread the word that i could use one mon-fri regular walker or a few clients that together would amount to the same (two or three folks who could use me regularly one to three times a week). midcity, downtown, or uptown preferred.]
yes, this job/business has its downsides. but it’s also the best job in the world. i get to hang out with sweet, adorable dogs and cats all day (and sometimes night). i get to make my own schedule. i work for myself. i work outdoors, not in a stuffy office. i get to ride my scooter all day. i get lots of exercise and get paid to do it! i get to see so much of the city i love, experience so many different neighborhoods and architecture, see how so many different people live. it’s fascinating, really. and i’ve met some really wonderful folks who love their animals so much.
i really am just so grateful to have stumbled upon this life, this work. i had no idea what i was getting into when i started, but i’ve learned a lot along the way and have become a better person through it all. so thank you to every single person who has ever hired me to care for their pet – and there are hundreds of you at this point. without you and your trust, i could not be doing this. i could not be having the life i have now, which, despite its ups and downs, is a pretty fucking good life.
here’s to the last three years! and, i’m looking forward to seeing what this next year will bring.