Photo Credit: Unsplash/Getty Images (Nigel Tadyanehondo)
Written by: Vicky Guy
2020 saw a lot of changes for me and my family, that’s most likely true for most people. It was year 15 of me running my Pet Care and Dog Walking business. In January 2020, our landlord informed us he was going to be selling our rental house we had been living in for 7 years. We thought it would be a great time to finally buy a house.
I contacted a long-time client of mine, him and his wife are real estate brokers. We got the ball rolling and started touring some houses. We unfortunately knew we could not stay in the same city we had been living in for 9 years and I my business had been in for 15 years. The home prices were simply out of budget.
Mid-March 2020 came and that’s when everything came to a screeching halt! It started on a Thursday, one of my dog walking clients cancelled the next 2 weeks, stating someone in their office got Covid. They had to quarantine. The next day schools closed. By St Patrick’s day (6 days later) all my daily walk clients cancelled, as well as vacation clients I had scheduled.
I wasn’t too panicked yet as I think we all thought this was just going to be a couple weeks. I figured the kids needed help with remote learning and I would just take the much-needed time off. Our house shopping was put on hold. Two months went by and still no clients returned. Luckily, I was able to get PUA unemployment and we got stimulus money. My husband was still working full time, his job unaffected.
We resumed house shopping in June. We found the house we bought the first week of July and moved in end of August. That summer, I had maybe 3 vacation clients. We moved 30-35 minutes away from my main service area. I made a tough decision to close my business in the area I had serviced for 15 years! I was unsure if I would start another Pet Care/Dog Walking business in my new area.
It was hard to say good-bye to my clients, especially some that I had been caring for, for so many years! I had survived the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Sure, I did lose a lot of revenue, but I still had clients. This was unprecedented! Covid wiped me out in a matter of days! Lots of businesses went under!
I wasn’t alone in the Pet Care industry as I seen most other businesses experienced the same around the world. Some faded away and went back to the corporate world. Others took that time to regroup, rebrand, and work on making their business stronger for when things picked up again.
A few months ago, things did pick up. People were traveling again and some had to go back into the office. I seen fellow pet care businesses getting slammed with work! I even got calls and emails but I turned them away as these clients were in my old area. I no longer have my business liability insurance. I essentially closed up shop!
The reason I am hesitant to start over is because I no longer enjoyed doing it. I still loved working with the pets, but the schedule became very stressful on myself and my family. I suffered from burn out too many times to count in the last few years.
I was working often 7 days a week, all hours of the day and working every single holiday. One year, I literally only had one day off. In recent years, I did scale back a little. I pretty much was driving all day long and that takes a toll. Occasionally I would have to deal with a high maintenance or rude client, which just brought more stress. When dealing with customers in any type of business, you will come across those less-than-ideal people to work with.
So, I am not going to lie, this time off has been amazing! I have had so little stress in my life. I have been able to spend so much time with my children. My family has been happy too that I don’t have to be gone all the time or drag them with to sit in a vehicle while I care for a pet. I don’t have to miss out on so much. I worked this business for 15 years, its all I have really known or been successful at. Its scary to know where I will be, moving forward. Just when I think I will jump right back in, I hear about another pet care business complaint in a Facebook group I am in, and think “nope, I don’t miss that!”.
I wish this business was just playing with puppies and kittens all day, but it is so much more than that. It takes a special kind of person to do this and stay with it long term. It consumes your life, if you let it. I really do miss a lot of the pets I cared for and the human too. They were my extended family! I am forever grateful!