As much as I’ve attempted to stray from working in a pet care industry throughout my life, believing that a comfortable living and stability could not be found there, I’ve been drawn back incessantly.

I worked as a veterinary technician after graduating from high school in Kansas City, Missouri, and continued in that field as I completed a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance in New Jersey. Writing was another great love, so I went on to complete a Master of Arts in Communications, and moved from the veterinary industry to writing feature and news stories for my university’s office of public relations. I was a Communications Specialist, as well as a vocalist for an event band (that’s a classier way of saying I was a wedding singer), for eight years.

I continued my work with animals during that time by volunteering at shelters, doing everything from walking difficult dogs to fostering puppies and kittens and rehabilitating those who were ill. I often found myself choosing in favor of saving an animal’s life over advancing myself or making what most would call “responsible” choices; I once missed a job interview because I stopped to catch a Golden Retriever who was running wildly through traffic on a highway, and I was late to my final graduate exam because I had saved an injured kitten (thankfully the Chair of my department was also an animal lover). I still feel those were the right choices, because empathy for another species will always be more important to me than the advancement of an already thriving one.

When I married and moved to NYC, it was October of 2008, and, needless to say, new jobs and weddings with budgets for a band were less than plentiful. So I looked for temporary work, found a position with a successful dog walking and training company and began a career that I unexpectedly loved more than anything else I’d ever done.

I’ve now been running my own business for ten years, and I’ve enjoyed a steady stream of loyal, wonderful clients, canine and human alike. I use my years of expertise in virtually every aspect of dog care to full advantage, taking my clients to the vet when their owners are unable and acting as a veterinary liaison of sorts, explaining symptoms with aplomb and weeding out treatments or products that are unnecessary. I do basic training for puppies and training reinforcement for adult dogs, but I don’t charge anything like the typical price of a professional trainer since I feel strongly that one should have a formal dog training education to justify a master trainer’s fee. I was taught to do basic training by a master trainer (the owner of the company with which I began), and I have learned a great deal about pack leadership over the years, so I do add a nominal charge to my usual walk fee for basic training during walks.

Prospective clients do find, from time to time, that I’m too fully booked to accommodate their needs. This is because I am just me. I don’t have a staff, for a host of reasons that really just add up to my being a control freak. But I reject the negative connotation attached to that term, because being a control freak keeps my dogs safe and my clients happy. I’ve seen almost all of my fellow self-employed dog professionals hire employees, only to have to train intensively and then apologize for the mistakes they make. I’m not saying I’m perfect, far from it. But no one else is ever going to be as invested as I am in maintaining such high standards. So, while I would love to be able to care for every single dog whose path I cross, my inability to do so is the cross I have to bear. I will walk a maximum of three dogs at once, because surpassing that number feels unsafe. I would make a goof about cloning, but I lack the Kanye-esque ego that would convince me the world needs more than one of me.

Happy tails!

Jennifer Vaughn-Wiseman

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