Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Hidden Responsibility of a Pet Care Business

Some of you may not know that Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid originated as a Vancouver-based dog walking and pet sitting company in 2000. In 2003 we added Pet First Aid courses to our services and have focused solely on our International Pet First Aid program as of early 2011.

When I owned the pet care business, the most common statement people would make upon being told of my profession was "Oh, that must be so much fun!". Thinking back, I have to laugh now at these conversations with people truly unaware of the real nature of the business. In fact, I distinctly started avoiding discussion with people about my career to avoid hearing the comment.

You see, pet care is a very misunderstood profession. Yes, there were glorious days where I was out on the trails with 6 wonderfully behaved dogs in my tank top and shorts thinking "I have the best job in the world". However, there were situations I didn't count on that came into play:

Weather: Clients expect service regardless of the weather. This was particularly dire to our cat sitting clients who would not survive if we did not arrive to feed them everyday while their owners travelled. I remember a snow day that I lent my own boots to a staffmember and sent her out with money and instructions to take the bus or a cab (whichever came first) to get from house to house. It took her more then 6 hours to visit 4 animals. I also turned into a professional snow shoveller, helping our staff dig the work vehicles out every morning.

Runaways: Although rare, every now and then a dog would get spooked and run off, or just simply follow a scent into the bushes and disappear. This was the most helpless feeling on the job and the sense of responsibility that would sink in that we may have lost a client's best pal was overwhelming. I am pleased to say that in the more then 10 years I was in business every dog was recovered.

Attacks: I can't count on all my fingers the number of times a pedestrian's dog attacked one of my dogs, and a few times I had one of my client's dogs attack. Wow, what a stressful situation and fortunately most cases ended with only a small loss of fur but some did require Veterinary care.

Unexpected injuries: The first injury I experienced was in my first month of business when out in the woods with a group of dogs. I was about 30 minutes from my car and my own dog sliced his abdomen the entire way across on a stick. Over the years other injuries ranged from minor cuts and dog bites to a spontaneous burst spleen, a dog hit by a car, and another impaled in the chest with a tree. Now these were not fun situations! Training and quick thinking on your toes are important to pull through these kinds of situations. Clients expect nothing less then the best care for their animals by their pet care provider.

So, why did I do it for more then 10 years you ask? The answer is simple. We visited hundreds of animals every week and the above situations, while stressful, were far and few between. There were many days filled with huge slurps, wagging tails, and kitty "headbutts". And thankfully, due to experience and training, we were able to get to our visits and handle any emergencies that arose.

If you are considering a career in the pet care industry, Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid offers Pet First Aid training and mentoring on business startup. We would love to hear from you and share our experiences! Visit us at


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  2. Love it and so true. Any advice for someone starting out? I've got my first aid. I Ben thinking of being an instructor!! Tammy