One year ago today, I woke up not stressing about what to wear, not pressing "snooze" for an hour, and not dreading the 520 bridge. I woke up excited, optimistic and nervous (the good kind) - it was the first official day of ballwalkpark!
I had done weekly park trips for months before, and leash walks during my lunches or after work, and housesat on many occasions, but this was my first day of experiencing ballwalkpark as my full time job.
I put on my lime green Hunter rain boots (oh how I miss those - I wore them out in less than 6 months and they started leaking), put Bailey in the back of my dog-ready 4runner, read a sweet encouraging "Have a great first day at your new job" note from my boyfriend, Michael, and set off to pick up my first client, Chinook. I remember when I got to his house I was nervous about every little thing.... would he want to come with me? Would he jump in the car OK? Would he cry or whine? Would he run away from me at the park because he had never been with me before? Little did I know, that Chinook was the ultimate park dog and he actually showed me the drill.
Chinook, (the white guy with the cute floppy ears on the right, below) looking back now, was my first step to building this business. Chinook doesn't ever ever run off, he is by my side all the time, to the point where in the beginning I would often panic looking for him, only to realize he was so close to my side I didn't even look there! He has trained every new puppy that has come into my car how we ride in the car - if anyone gets out of line and tries to wrestle and play to much he will tell them to knock it off, just with a little growl, but never anything more. At the park, whenever dogs start playing a little too rough, at almost the exact time I start to redirect and calm them down, Chinook runs into the situation and gives them a little "talking to" - again, nothing to ever worry about, just keeping the situation under control (he does have herding dog in him). When I was at Marymoore one time, I threw the ball a little too far into the water and all the dogs decided they weren't going for it. I had already come to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to get that ball back, when Chinook just slowly but surely walked into the water and swam out to retrieve the ball. He's almost never the one to get the ball, but in a time of need, Chinook came through to save the day :)
I am lucky enough to have Chinook go the park with me every day, and he truly has helped build the energy and order in my pack. Not only is he cute and sweet and breathes his fishy breath on me, he has been such a great help. Oh, not to mention his owners are amazing too!
Chinook was a sign of a great beginning, and I have been lucky enough to have every client since be just as great in their own way. I love each and every one of my dogs and they all bring something special to the pack to give it the perfect balance. Not only are my dog clients great, but my human clients are amazing as well - each one has been such a pleasure to work with and people I feel lucky to have in my life.
In my first year, I have learned so much, some hard lessons, but mostly good. I have had amazing people to work with and learn from on a daily basis, I am so grateful for their support, encouragement and common interest of loving dogs. People have asked me from the very beginning how long I plan on doing this - I remember some of the first clients I met with asked if I planned to be doing this in a year (which of course I responded "yes"), but now that my first year has passed, I feel like this is only the beginning. I am so excited to take all that I have learned to better my business, better my dogs, and better my life.
Everyone told me that this wouldn't be easy, and that even though I'm playing with dogs it is still a job, and a job is work. They were right! This is some of the hardest work I've done in my life. There are days where I come home after 8 hours in the car, covered in mud and dog poop and I feel like I got beat up by 14 dogs and I can't remember the last time I had a conversation with someone of my own species.... BUT.... I LOVE IT! My response to those people who cautioned me before, has turned out to be 100% true, and that was that no matter how (rare) bad of a day I may have with the dogs, there was at least one point in the day where I was smiling and laughing watching them play or playing with them. On the other hand, there were days at a time were I wouldn't as much as crack a smile in the office, and that's why on my last day, I posted my ballwalkpark flier in my window of my office. I haven't spent a day since without a smile, thanks to all my wonderful dogs (and their wonderful owners!)
Here's to an amazing 2nd year! Thanks for all your support - ballwalkpark wouldn't be here without you! :)