Advice to the aspiring dog walker….
As we inch ever closer to the 1 year anniversary of entering lockdown, I thought it would be apt to reflect on how life has changed for me as a fully fledged professional dog walker. In hindsight, being just another corporate lemming for over 11 years really clouds your judgement on the world and what is important in life. The daily grind of the commute to work, surrounded by your fellow bleary eyed office job subjects staring out of the tram window dreaming of better days was common practice. Grabbing the Metro newspaper to read about the dullest developments on Brexit, privately giving your fellow tram passengers humorous nicknames in your own head and grabbing that early morning over priced caffeine fix was just all part of the 5 day grind. Moving away from all that by starting your own dog walking business was the epitome of walking into the unknown (just with a bunch of poo bags and treats in your pocket). 3 months into the adventure, means it’s time to reflect on what I’ve learnt and what I would tell an aspiring dog walker to help them down that muddy path. So, here goes….
If you’ve come from the corporate world, then just forget everything you ever learnt. I always found management didn’t take too kindly to me traipsing mud into the industrially vacuumed heavy duty office carpet. If they saw my car mats, I would be on my third disciplinary and sent on a compulsory training course. Don’t worry how muddy your car mats are - it’s really not a big deal.
Your lunch break now consists of you eating cold pasta out of a tupperware box outside a customer’s house in your car. The neatly laid out corporate canteen with the £1000 coffee machine has now been replaced with a thermos flask filled with horrendously strong coffee (once again misjudging the amount of granules needed). You only have a fork that you’ve thrown into your bag of clean (now probably dirty) towels. Deal with it. This is a true working lunch.
When estimating the amount of time it shall take to pick up a dog, walk the dog and drop the dog off then be sure to add 20 minutes onto your projected timings. I’m still trying to find out why cleaning dogs takes as much time as it does. Sometimes after cleaning, they don’t look any better than before. Just keep reminding yourself you’ve told every customer about the mud policy. If you don’t want a muddy dog, head over to Borrow My Doggy so Sheleigh, the local retired teacher can take your dog around the block once a day for free. She loves dogs don't you know? Sheleigh doesn’t eat cold pasta either I bet.
Be aware that the super friendly, elderly and intrepid hikers that you see out with their raincoats and obligatory walking poles, do like to enjoy a chat, but more importantly a picnic. Probably on a bench overlooking a beauty spot. A bench that is inevitably at Labrador nose height. So therefore on walks, be around 15-20 seconds ahead of actual reality to prevent the Labrador from eating the lovingly made tuna and cucumber sandwiches. Come on, sandwiches left on a bench at wet nose height is the equivalent of Peter Barlow being given the keys to The Rovers Return. Turns out some people genuinely don’t like dogs after all.
Take as many poo bags as you can and try keeping abreast of bowel movements for each dog, so you can report back to the owners. Maybe take a notepad and pen with you for this. Yes you will look weird when furiously jotting down figures whilst standing over a dog doing their business, but it’s for the greater good.
Be kind, courteous, respectful and gracious to all your fellow countryside enthusiasts. Understand that the Tour de Yorkshire still has not ended. Therefore it’s vital to have eyes in the back of your head at all times, by understanding that an impromptu peloton of bike riders furiously peddling at full speed could be racing towards you at any point.
Friday is the new Saturday based on the amount of cars parked up EVERYWHERE.
Don’t ever buy black walking boots again. Just buy brown ones, embrace the clashing of your black walking trousers and be done with it. We’re not in Paris.
Be prepared to laugh and have a response to the age old quip of ‘you’ve got your hands full there haven’t you?’ Yes I do have my hands full…. you’re absolutely right. I love it, we’re all having a great time but guess what…. I can see an overzelous yellow jersey zooming straight towards me, I’m trying to capture the magical moments for the dogs via camera phone, my notepad got dropped 2 miles north of the local picnic bench and my Labrador’s breath stinks of tuna for some reason. You’re absolutely right my hands are full.
Above all else, remember that you are genuinely doing the best job in the world and you are responsible for making sure a dog has the best time they could wish for…. Number 10 is the most important one.
It’s certainly been an interesting 3 months. I wouldn’t change it for the world (apart from my black walking boots).
Until next time.