Have you ever wondered what it’s really like to be a Tailster carer? We’ve been catching up with some of our favourite pet carers on Tailster and asking them to tell us how it really is… This week we had a good old chinwag with Tim Donovan – dog walking extraordinaire.

Tailster carer

My alarm goes off at… 

It depends because I have a portfolio of occupations. From working in an art gallery, selling stuff on eBay to walking dogs, every day is different. After thirty years of working in a boring office job, this way of life fills me with the enthusiasm to leap out of bed and start the day, though not necessarily always at the same time! I may be poorer but I’m far happier than when I earned a salary. And, at the age of 60, I feel that I can afford to earn less and that I deserve to feel more content.

My first client… 

My first client is often Bruno the bulldog in Chelsea. I’ve walked him since he was eight weeks and he’s now eight months. He may still be small but he’s got enormous character. Our initial progress is usually very slow, partly because he prefers snoozing to walking and partly because so many people stop to coo over him: if I had £1 for every time I’ve heard “Oh, he’s gorgeous!” I could afford to retire! 

I take him to… 

Well, we either go to the local gardens or up on to the Kings Road to find somewhere to eat breakfast. Like many bulldogs he can sit happily for ages, gazing into the middle distance whilst I eat, though he does also enjoy the odd sneaky bit of bacon or sausage. By the time we’re ready to start home, he’s usually woken up and then he will scamper along with bags of enthusiasm, possibly because he knows his cosy bed awaits him.

The rest of my day looks like...

Next, it’s off to beautiful Battersea Park with Baxter, an older bulldog, who also likes nothing better than grinding to a halt and gazing at the sky. Baxter’s owner was recently in a motorbike accident so whilst he was in the hospital, I was popping in to see him at all hours of the day and night. He obviously missed his owner but was as good as gold. If my partner wasn’t allergic to dogs, I would have snuck him home to sleep with me.

After that, I go to walk Blue, a beautifully elegant whippet whose coat, in a certain light, really is blue. He’s the friendliest dog but if he ever meets an unfriendly dog, he’s off like a bullet. Most of the time he’s frolicking with all his doggy friends so again, progress can be rather slow. For some weird reason, he adores offices so if the door is open, he’s in, which delights the office workers.

Once I’ve dropped Blue home, I go back to Chelsea to give Bruno his lunch and have another walk. He adores his food and I try to walk some of it off with him.

Next up, we’ve got Higgs and Mickey the cat who live right by Clapham Common. Providing I have a ball and a ball chucker, Higgs will run for hours and seeing him leap to catch the ball is a pretty amazing sight. He too has a lovely nature and so I get to chat to loads of other walkers and owners as he plays with their dogs.

I also look after Peanut and Bonnie, two Spanish rescue dogs who are absolutely inseparable. Peanut is a big, handsome dog and Bonnie is smaller and very pretty. I know they can’t possibly understand what I say to them but they both look as if they do. If I have to go out, Peanut puts his head on one side and is clearly asking “Where are you going? And how long will you be?” And when I say “Good girl, Bonnie!” she definitely gives me a little grin and wags her tail even more violently than usual.

My biggest must-haves for the job are… 

Poo bags – though if you do forget them or run out other dog walkers are usually very happy to give you one – treats (invaluable to calm, distract or simply reward) and of course, collar or harness and lead.

Must-dos are to think ahead. It’s rare to meet aggressive dogs but when you do they normally come out of nowhere. Whilst with them you need to concentrate on your pet and their welfare so no texting or letting them out of sight. 

My biggest tip for someone who wants to get into the industry is...

Be punctual – dogs get into a routine and whilst, with the owner’s permission, this can be varied, they can get stressed if you are very late.

Be firm. Every dog is your friend but you are also their master whilst they are in your care. So, for example, if their owner doesn’t allow them on the sofa, you mustn’t either, no matter how tempting when you are watching TV or reading a book at the end of the day. And when you leave, always, always check that the dog’s water bowl is full and that they are settled.

Be thoughtful! Recently I have discovered a local butcher who sells marrow bones and veal knuckles. One of these will keep the most active dog happy for hours.

The hardest part of the job is…

Admin! Like any business, you need to have a regular stream of new and old clients. Often I find I need to quote on a chunk of jobs before I hear back and can arrange a meet and greet, so be patient! 

The best part of the job is…

The best parts of the job are the discipline it entails (you can’t keep your faithful friend on tenterhooks), the fresh air it gives (yes, even in London!) and the exercise it provides. But best of all is the companionship and friendship that it provides. We all have bad days and dogs sense when you’re happy or sad, angry or content and, unlike our human friends, always respond empathetically.

I also dog sit which means that I move into the owner’s home whilst they’re on holiday or away on business. This is particularly enjoyable because it’s a bit like moving into an Airbnb and sharing with canine mates. I really enjoy staying in different parts of London and exploring them with the dogs.

Tailster carer

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