no bucket lists here

Well where to start….it’s been a LONG eleven months since I posted anything here. To say I didn’t have time would be a lie. With Covid-19 shutdowns and my business cut in half I have had plenty of time to write a post, I just didn’t have the idea or inspiration. I was worried about my business and the state of the world and didn’t want to write anything negative sounding but negative was what I was feeling. Roughly a year ago the whole entire world looked like a totally different place. Covid-19 changed the world in so many ways but I’m going to talk about what changed for me and the industry I’m in.

Firstly many animal based industries like dog walking were completely shut down early in 2020 for eight weeks, being deemed as non-essential. Although many of my clients were working from home and still wanted me to walk their dogs I was not allowed to; some clients had kids home from school or were home themselves and were able to walk the dog so no longer required my services. Most of the world transitioned to online work, zoom meetings and terms like social distancing and wearing masks became normal. When I was able to go back to work I had to ask clients to ensure their dogs were used to seeing a person in a mask as that was how I would be arriving to their home to take their dog out. As most of the world did, I had to make some changes to my services and the way I operated. Namely, I no longer use the dogs’ own leashes but purchased biothane leashes that I could use and sanitize between walks, wearing a mask became normal when entering a home, I carry and use hand sanitizer like it’s going out of style, there is no longer any stopping to chat with my clients that were home but rather a quick pick up/drop off to ensure proper social distancing. There was nothing I could do with my business to move it online as the rest of the world had. How do you walk a dog online?

While I was shut down I took an online course in iphone photography to improve the photos I took for my clients as well as for my website and social media outlets. I also took part in some dog training challenges and videos for friends and other groups I am a part of. I found a part time job at a dog training school as I have always loved training dogs but just didn’t have the time to offer it to my clients. If clients ever asked I was always willing to share tips, tricks or ideas but just didn’t offer it as a service. So here was a new world opening up to me in terms of employment. I tried to make the most of the diminished schedule by spending a LOT of time outdoors this summer hiking, running and paddleboarding with my dogs. Luckily I was still able to participate in some new forms of classes for my dogs where masks and hand sanitizer joined the regular items in my agility training bag.

Just prior to Covid-19 I participated in a fun event last winter called Iron Paws which encourages outdoor activity with your dogs. I loved it and had so much fun. It inspired me to track each and every bit of activity I did with my dogs using a tracking app on my phone. I joined another challenge and received a stunning medal when it was completed. The challenge was to complete 1000 kms of activity in the calendar year. I only tracked activity I did with my dogs and finished in September. By the end of 2020 we logged 1200 kms (yes, I still kept track after the challenge was completed since it became a habit) I’m not a super competitive person but I do like to track accomplishments. I much prefer to document and count “up”, so to speak, the things I have done rather than check them off in a countdown to what?? The day I can no longer do those things? Bucket lists are not for me thanks. I had a great idea to start tracking how much walking/hiking I did with YOUR dogs until the first Covid shutdown. I say the first shutdown because as I type this Ontario is in the midst of another shutdown where dog walking has been deemed non-essential again. At this point I may just hold off on the idea until 2022.

I do have some ideas of new things to introduce to my business and I still await the surge of people needing my services as it seems EVERYONE got dogs during the pandemic!!! Yay!! I do worry, as most in the pet animal industries, that with people being home so much with their new pets they will not have been appropriately trained or properly socialized and may suffer from separation anxiety when their owners do return to work. I am currently working on putting together an at-home training program for pet dogs that you can access online and work at your own pace with your pup! How exciting! Stay tuned!! If this sounds like something you’re interested in contact me for more info

Life long commitment

Sharing your life with a pet is a wonderful, rewarding thing.  No matter what type of pet.  Ever since I was a kid my family had a pet, sometimes even more than one.  The first pet I ever recall having was a goldfish, then a hamster, a cat and finally, we graduated to getting a dog!  We knew little about having a dog but what my family did know was that we loved him!  I remember one winter morning he got out the door and was missing but I was told I had to go to school and thought about him all day, out in the cold of the winter.  Luckily a neighbor had found him and taken him in for the day.  I remember being so happy and relieved to have him safely back home!  Having a pet is great for a number of reasons; they provide companionship, in the case of a dog they get you outdoors for exercise, and they can help teach kids about responsibility.  

Having a pet is a big responsibility that you need to consider before getting one.  Are you prepared to care for them for the full length of their life, whatever that number may be?  If the kids who wanted the pet start slacking on their responsibilities of caring for the pet, are you prepared to take over and/or reinforce the responsibilities to the kids so the pet doesn’t suffer?  Are you prepared to give them the time required to train, groom, exercise and take them to the vet?  Are you prepared financially for all of those things as well as the unexpected, such as a serious illness or accident?  Pets should be vaccinated and visit a veterinarian on a regular basis to ensure they are healthy as they have limited ways of communicating to us if they feel unwell.  Regular grooming for certain pets is a requirement as well, especially long-haired dogs or cats.  All dogs and cats will need their nails trimmed, floppy-eared dogs may need regular ear cleanings.   Exercise is essential even for indoor cats, they should have a way to learn, play, explore and move.  Even more so for puppies and dogs, especially any high-energy breeds!  Bored, unexercised pets can become destructive as they will find ways to entertain themselves such as digging holes in your yard, chewing, scratching and destroying items/furniture in your house, demand barking or meowing incessantly.  Even if your pet is somehow limited physically, by an injury for example, there are things you can do to exercise their brains which can be just as exhausting and make for a tired but happy pet.  Teaching your pet basic tricks (yes, cats can learn tricks too!) can build a bond between you and your pet.  You can teach tricks that might be useful on a vet or groomer visit such as give a paw, lie down on your side, or stand still.  DSC_0378

Many people think the responsibility ends after the first couple of years or months and the pet has been vaccinated, has been to one series of basic dog training classes and gets out for a daily walk.   But the responsibility is for a lifetime, you made the choice to bring them into your life so it is up to you to make adjustments for them as they get older or slower, maybe need more attention, need a special diet or a slower, shorter walk.  If circumstances are so bad that you just cannot keep the pet for some reason and there is no other solution, it is your biggest responsibility to find them a sound and suitable home where they will be happy and healthy for the remainder of their life.  

Our pets are only with us for a very short time frame so we need to enjoy them while they’re here with us and keep that promise to provide for them for the entirety of their lives.