My friend Liz established a successful pet-sitting and dog-walking business, and just before Christmas a few years ago, she called to ask if I wanted to join her staff to supplement my income.
I laughed at first but then said, "Sure, I'm in."
"Great," she said, "but you need to know that you'd be helping mostly on the dog-sitting side, which means you have to stay over at a client's home and be able to come and go, depending on the client's request, for time you would spend with the dogs.
There might also be an occasional dog-walking need, but especially with vacations, people may be away for a few days, a week or longer."
"You know," I told Liz, "I'm happy to help you out." But because I was substitute teaching, I'd only be available vacations, weekends and evenings.
Liz said that would be fine. I hung up and didn't think about it again until the phone rang one night just before Christmas.
"Hi," Liz said. "Are you available to watch two adorable Malteses at my house from the night before Christmas Eve through Christmas night?"
It marked a new beginning for me. I packed lightly, since I'd promised my wife that I'd be home to feed and walk our own three neurotic dogs every night, and went to stay at Liz's place. Demand for sitters is high around the holidays, and she was sitting for two other dogs nearby.
My two little charges were adorable and very cooperative. And Liz is so thorough that I knew right down to the poop bags exactly what the drill was, and we spent a very relaxing four days.
Liz and I were like passing ships in the night, since she needed to stop home for clean clothes, and I was generally on my break walking or feeding my own dogs. So we texted.
Liz didn't call again for a couple of months. When she did, I turned down the assignment because it involved a weekday walking-and-feeding regimen I couldn't juggle.
Just after school ended for the summer last year, I took an assignment with two dogs I already knew because I had visited with Liz at the intake session. It involved a regular afternoon walk twice a week initially, with the likelihood it would cut be back to once. It was the perfect opportunity since school was over and my time was strictly doing PR at the museum or working on my own PR clients.
The exercise alone made the work worthwhile, and after a few weeks I could feel myself becoming more fit. The dogs and I had become great friends, and I was very sad when it ended.
But the client booked sitting for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I stayed at the client's house with the dogs. As it turned out, both holidays were wonderful. I could still come and go easily since our brood always needed feeding and walking, and the client's house was close to our neighborhood.
The dogs and I had each other, tons of sappy Hallmark movies and a couple of books I was reading. The experience was great.
I sat with the same dogs over the President's Day weekend, then things got quiet again. But I really enjoyed it and hoped Liz would call again.
But about three weeks ago, she texted me: "You do cats?"
"Sure," I texted back. "I love cats; we've always had cats."
Over the next few days, I got two more assignments for August. The first is for three dogs, one indoor cat and some outdoor cats; the other is for cats.
Earlier this week, Liz and I visited the second client, and she handed a folder for another feline client.
I couldn't be happier. This new outlet is really enjoyable, and the supplemental income comes in handy, too. I mean, how can a dog- and cat-lover like me miss? I get to be with amazing animals, do excellent cat and dog sitting, and sometimes get a little exercise in the process.