Summer is here! Well, nearly... but it is vacation season and beach season! Well.... for everyone else. This is the time of year when I reevaluate my life. How many hours do I work? Why haven't I taken an actual vacation since 2011? Am I charging enough for my services (when I am walking around in 100 degree weather, barely able to breathe)? Should I take summers off since I don't handle the heat well? Do I take on too much? Do I deserve to have an actual life that does not involve work? Am I offending people by saying no?
These questions run through my brain all day everyday. People say that your job does not define you. Well, in my case it does. I kind of live and breathe animals. I wake up to 4 cats in the bed, I feed the brood every morning, and then I leave the house at 7:30 a.m. to walk and feed other animals until about 3pm where I come and take care of my animals again. I rest a bit, and then go back out to take care of other peoples animals. Then I come home to clean up after my own. Sometimes along the way I find stray kittens that I have to bring home to save. (Yes, this happened 2 weeks ago)
I used to stay overnight with dogs all the time. When I was in my early 20's and lived in a crappy apartment with no cable and no washer/dryer, staying in an adult setup was a pleasure! Now I am married with my own house, cable, and appliances and I just want my own bed! I will do overnights from time to time, but when I do them I don't sleep very well and my cats go a little nutty. It is a lucrative service that is needed often, but it just became extremely tough.
My business has grown and it has gotten to a point where I need to turn people down. Not because I want to, but because there is literally not enough time in the day to accommodate everyone. I've had people beg, offer me a towncar with a driver, offer me double me rate, guilt trip me, and for what? I have been doing this for 15 years at this point. Two weeks ago I actually had a newer client request 2 walks one day. When I got back to her about doing the walks, she said, "Oh! I saw that you just rescued 2 kittens. It seems like you have a lot on your plate, so I got other coverage." I was shocked and grateful and honestly a little teary because it made me realize that I can't remember anyone ever saying this to me before. In 15 years!
I take on last minute requests. I help people out who are having emergent situations. My phone goes off from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. I try to do whatever I can to make my clients happy and to make them realize how much I really do care about them as well as their pets. My entire day is filled with texts and emails asking, "Can you...? Will you... Are you available...? Can you? Can you ? Can you? " It is extremely overwhelming and sometimes I just shut down and I do not answer until the next day. Some people get concerned if they don't hear back within a few hours. I need at least 24 hours to be able to respond.
As I turned 35 this year, I realized that my own life has been put aside for work. I am taking a stand this year and making doctors appointments, taking beach days, and basically just giving myself a moment to breathe. Instead of filling every waking moment with work and catering to others, I am giving myself a cutoff time in the day where I will not do any more visits. It is nothing personal to anyone. If I say no, it is not because I hate you or because I am blowing you off. I am just one person and I can only do so much in a 24 hour period. If I don't set limits for myself, I will just work until I crash.
So for those of you reading this that care, these are things that you can do to maintain your good relationship with your pet sitter/dog walker:
1) Plan ahead! Nothing worse than last minute trips you feel like you have to fit into your busy schedule
2) Have back up sitters! I won't ALWAYS be available. Back ups are a must
3) When I tell you that I am unavailable do not beg or try to bribe me into doing what you want. We sitters have to have personal lives as well.
4) Do not text about business after 9pm unless it is emergent. I have already worked for 12+ hours and I do not want to think about scheduling work all evening as well
5) Make sure to be respectful and appreciative of your sitter and not treat them like hired help that doesn't deserve a life of their own. We are in the service business, but we are not your slaves.
6) Treat us like adults. We are not 16 year old girls walking dogs after school. This is our livelihood, and although it is exhausting, we love it.
7) Always ask if we are available to do something. Do not just assume and say, "I need you to come tomorrow at 5 and Sunday and 4."
Remember. You trust us with your house, your keys, and your 4 legged kids. We hold that trust close to our hearts and we protect your house and keys and 4 legged kids. We lock your doors, turn on your alarms, deal with the police when the alarm unexpectedly goes off, and we make sure your animals are safe and healthy. It is as though you are all family to us. Your fur kids are our fur kids too. We just want to feel like we are appreciated. The old saying is really true.