90-million dogs live in the U.S. today and that means there are more than 90-million dog owners who are stressed out about what to do with their pups when they go on vacation. I know I am. Enter “Rover,” the website and app where people with dogs can connect with people who would like to board, petsit or walk dogs. Judy Fishbaugh is one of those who signed up. Welcome, Judy!
This is one of those stories about how necessity is the mother of invention, because you started boarding dogs because you lost your job, right Judy?
I lost my job in 2007. I was a textile designer. I was downsized when the economy tanked and the only thing I could find was 20 hours to pick up at Bed Bath and Beyond. That doesn’t support anybody. I grew up on a farm and we always had dogs and I have always been in love with animals. I saw dog walkers out and started asking questions and put up a poster around the neighborhood and that’s how I got started.
Tell us how you went from posters on telephone poles to high tech.
It happened pretty fast because Rover and DogVacay came along right about then. I found them online when I was looking for opportunities. I found Rover first, which came out first. Those 2 websites have now merged. I went online and signed up and I was approved and I was very happy. When I first started I was so full I couldn’t keep up
I know Rover offers dog boarding, daycare, walks and also house sitting. Which do you do and why?
I am a boarder. I keep the dogs at the house and take them on walks 3 to 4 times a day. Their owners are people that are traveling on vacation or overseas or business travel. Always overnight.
How long do dogs stay with you?
The longest stay is 3 weeks and the shortest is overnight.
So we can picture this, how many dogs do you take care of at a time?
In the beginning I only had one. At this point I take 9 or 10 dogs. I live in a brownstone on the parlor level or garden level so I have a big garden and a 2 bedroom duplex. For NY it is amazing.
I’m sure having all those dogs in your care has led to some funny stories.
I had a little Dachshund named Bonnie and she was curious and fast. I had an opening in my fence that I knew no dog could go through. She made it through and all she did was run all over my neighbor’s garden. She would not come. I called her, shook treats and she would not come. Then she went to another yard and the owner had to come home and we passed her all the way over the fence and then over the fence again.
Have there been stressful times too?
People in the neighborhood know who I am. I’m the lady who walks all the dogs. I have had a few times where collars came off but I have never lost a dog. I have gotten hurt myself. I have had fractured wrists and injured foot in boots from getting hurt while walking the dogs.
So the dogs can occasionally be challenging. What about the people?
In the 6 years I’ve been doing this I have only had 1 client get upset with me. It was just a miscommunication. Everyone is so nice. They are wonderful people. Dog people are just nice people.
So you work with good people and good dogs. Is it good money?
When I started out the first year it was only $20,000 to 23,000 and now I am up to $30,000 to-35,000 a year. I was making $100,000 before. I don’t have anything extra. If I am low on money I pursue clients on line through Craigslist.
How’s the quality of life compared to your old job?
I am happier now. It is great for my quality of life. I worked in the textile industry for 15 years and it wasn’t easy. It was a hard industry. People aren’t always that nice. I always thought there were other jobs I could do. It is super meaningful to take care of these dogs. I have to do this. I don’t want to go back to a 9 to 5 job.
Now I want to share your advice with people interested in boarding dogs through Rover. You say board dogs rather than walking them, if you can. Why?
There are more people doing the walking then boarding. Someone really has to have space. I have one dog who is big, comes to my waist. My apartment and garden are good for him. You have to have space to take dogs of all sizes.
And finally, you say, do it because you love it.
If you don’t love it, get out. Dogs deserve to have you love this. Treat every dog with love.