Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Joy of Six

I've just picked up another dog. Bit of a struggle, he's a big one! GSD based muttley by the look of him. He looks a bit like my dog Buster who died last year, but not enough to make me cry, which is a good thing. He gave me a jolly good wash at the interview! After trying to stick his nose in my bag, which all the dogs seem to do. When I'm working the bag sits on a kitchen counter or a table, but at the first meeting stage I think it's better not to make myself too much at home!

This owner found me by my website, through a search engine which really pleased me. All the hard work my lovely friend put in obviously worked!

The trouble is, now I really am full (except on Fridays, which is nice ready for the camping season to get away early!), yet still one third away from my target sales. I have been putting some adverts out there for cat care, but depending on where they are I may still not be able to take more than one or two at a time. This has not gone entirely to plan.

I am going to approach a couple of people I know to see if they are interested in some work, otherwise I may have to advertise to see if I can take on a couple of people to help out. One of the dogs is most likely going to be 'termtime' only, so if I can find someone who wants to earn a bit extra while the kids are at school then that would be ideal.

I'm finding it hard to believe I have enough work to pass on already. Although admittedly if I'd managed to get dogs that could walk together I should be able to do 9 (3 walks of 3 dogs) a day with no problems, which would give me my target sales, as well as a waistline Twiggy would envy. Ah well, eventually the pups will grow old enough to walk with the big growed up doggies, or even each other!

Monday, 29 December 2008

Back to Work

Well, in a kind of 'semi-working' way.

This morning I have an hour's work, tomorrow, two hours, and Friday, one or maybe two. So it's not exactly strenuous labour at this time of the year. Work really begins again on 5th Jan, when I'll be walking the grand total of... da da da da ta ta da... five dogs throughout the week (but not every day).

Two days I'll find it hard to squeeze any more in, but the other days I still have spaces. It takes some organising, this job. Should I be taking on part-timers? How am I going to fill in those spaces during the week if I can't take another dog on full time? Where will I find dogs who only want a walk on a Friday?

I've got to redo some of my advertising. A lot of walkers fill up with cats, especially over xmas. I got one enquiry but it was too far away, so I need to focus my advertising there. Also I wondered if I should be putting posters up where people might have pets but are unable to walk them. Shame there is no local hospital! If someone is home all day but unable to get out, timing of the walk won't matter and I can take on more dogs.

The council are apparently confused by my request for home boarding. One of the councillors emailed me this: "A kennel is subject to licensing so that certain standards of kennel etc. can be ensured however, if you are keeping them in your house they don't really know what applies!"

I'm not in a rush, Fred has told me he's not ready yet, but really I only want to offer overnight care, maybe a weekend, or to take in a pup to cover a family day out and that's a short enough time he can be sent to his room! I don't think I'd want a dog here for weeks at a time, unless it was one of my walking customers. Boarding is very different from fostering.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Two Down

Today was the last day of the first of my dogs to take a Christmas holiday. She's a pup, so I expect her to be the size of a small pony when I see her again. Her owners kindly bought me a lovely basket of goodies, which looks so pretty that I don't really want to unwrap it. In fact, if it wasn't for the chocolates it has inside, I'd frame it!

I also met another pup for our first visit. I'll be taking him on after the new year but covered a day out for the family. How cute is he!? As long as my boot, and half as tall. I'm already in love. The owners have booked a consultation with a behaviourist for tomorrow. Prevention is better than cure and it's part of my 'Puppy Package' to recommend it to new owners.

Tomorrow I will be seeing my 'occasional' pup, so it's been a real puppy week!

Over the weekend, I've got to concentrate on some non-dog areas of my business - I want to do some pet sitting as well, so need to aim my advertising at cats, and put it in places cat people go. Ideally I'd have had some cats to look after over the holiday to replace some of the dogs who are having time off, but I have been working so hard to get more dogs it's been badly neglected and now I'm paying the price with a very quiet Christmas.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Carrying Capacity

On Sunday I managed to get 6 dogs into my van. I was very impressed!

My mum and I went out for a walk with all our dogs. I had thought I could probably get at least one more crate in there, and I managed to squeeze Fred's small one in. Two of Mum's Yorkies went in there, Fred and Beauty were in their own crates, and Mum's other two dogs sat in the space that was left. Not ideal if we'd been making a long trip, and I certainly wouldn't be walking six dogs at a time for work, but it was nice to see them all settled in nicely. I wish I had thought to take a photo!

I am still saving for a bigger van anyway.

New Dog

This morning I will be walking an elderly cairn terrier for the first time. He's blind, or mostly blind so I've taken lots of notes from the owner, and done some research online.

It sounds reasonably simple for me, as most of the work has been done by the owner, I just have to remember to use 'up' and 'down' for kerbs. I thought I might wear a bell, so he knows where I am when we are out. We will be onlead, but there is a green where he can have a long lead walk so I thought it might be useful. I have a 'belly dancers' belt, with is a long line of little coin shaped bits of metal. I love wearing it, jingle jangling around but am never quite brave enough to wear it out of the house. Now I have an excuse!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Home Boarding for the Future?

It looks like the possibilty of home boarding might be on the horizon. I gave up the idea because of the local council's licensing being rather behind the times, and because Fred's behaviour at home wasn't really ideal.

As Fred's behaviour is improving, I've started looking more into it and finding out information from other Essex councils about how they deal with it. I have passed some of this information over to my council and they have said they will look into it, contact the other councils (who they claimed were ahead of their time) and perhaps put it to the committee. The whole process, if it goes ahead, could take three months, which is ideal really, as by then I will know for sure whether Fred is settled enough to be able to take in paying customers (his behaviourist said that it would be doable if I stick to the programme).

So fingers crossed! I was told I didn't need to contact councillors, but there is one who has a lot of interest in dogs so I might drop her a line anyway.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

And a Yes!

I've picked up another customer, but something is out to ruin my plans to earn enough money to become independant and pay my own mortgage once again.

My business plan revolves around walking three dogs, three times a day. Not necessarily the same dogs each time, but that was the plan. At the moment none of my dogs can be walked together, and only one with my dogs, and that one only once a week as she's still a pup and needs plenty of attention. In about four months I should be able to match her with another pup I am taking on after Christmas, but of course they'll both be at different stages of the 'who needs you?' phase and perhaps it won't seem like such a good idea. And of course, it's four months away.

Oh well, let's hope the writing work comes in to fill in some of the time, or I may need to apply for a job as a lollipop lady. In the meantime, I'm off to feed and walk the freeloading pair that live with me. ;)

Monday, 8 December 2008

More Nos

A mix of no to fixated with shadows, no to training, and no to home boarding.

It's a bit miserable this job sometimes. :( I have referred them all to colleagues, and if this keeps happening I plan to ask for a referral fee! I'm generating the publicity and passing most of the work on! Seems as if I'm working my socks off to try to bring in customers and other people are benefitting from the results.

On the other hand, I have a meeting this evening with someone who actually wants me for what I am - a dog walker!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Knowing When to Say No

Just had a lovely chat on the phone with a potential customer. Sadly I can't help her, as she wants some one-to-one help with a few problems her new 7 month old rescue dog has got.

I'd really love to help out, but with the problems she describes I may do more harm than good. If it were a foster dog I'd be happy to take it on, but of course I'd have expert back up for advice, and the tiny amount of experience at instructing people I do have is again with expert back up. I certainly don't think my first time alone helping a person should be with a dog with issues.

My next training course isn't until August next year, but of course it's in handling, not instructing.

I've referred her to a colleague who is more qualified and should be able to help.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Out of town bookings

I've had a request to look after a couple of cats over Christmas/New Year. Obviously I can't have them in the house, so have to travel to the cats, and they are in another town, so an hour's travel per visit.

After a couple of hours fiddling with a spreadsheet (not my strong point!) I've worked out that it is going to cost the customer more for my travel (bearing in mind there is a chance of snow and definitely will be lots of frost!) than to actually look after the cats.

I've done some fiddling and can get the cost down a decent amount if I visit once a day instead of twice, but I can't help but think this will be the one that got away.