To launch her company, Boston Pet Sitters, Jennifer North went six years without a day off. Even now, with the business well established, she hasn’t spent a Christmas with her family in 17 years. As a pet caregiver she works holidays so that her clients can be away without worrying about their companion animals.
(Here is Jennifer with her own pup Thurman North.)
Despite the hard work, this is the perfect career for a girl who grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania. North has been surrounded by animals of all shapes and sizes from age one. “I’m really lucky... that I can make a living at doing what I fundamentally love most...spending time with animals.”
After college North had a couple of sales jobs, at which she claims to have been a complete failure. “Then I waitressed for a while, until I figured out what I wanted to do.” She began pet sitting during the day while waiting tables at night. “It was two to three years before I had enough business to do this full-time.”
Today, the animals she cares for and the people they live with have become part of her life. She’s attended their weddings, showers, and holiday parties. “You’d never think the dog walker would be invited to the wedding, but I’ve been to about ten of them over the years.”
In contrast to those happy times, she also shares the sadness of loss with her clients when a pet dies. “It’s almost as sad as losing my own.” “It’s even sadder when people say, ‘Oh, no, I’ll never do this again.’ If you love having a pet that much and you know how to be a good owner, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have another one,” said North.
Her clients have also been her best sales staff, helping to build her business by word-of-mouth and referrals. They even help recruit the walkers she needs. When she brings a new person into the service, she has to be extremely careful. “It’s got to be someone who really loves pets.” It also has to be someone who understands that it’s a hard job. “You have to be out there in 95 degree weather, and when it’s 10 degrees.”
Surprisingly, this woman who spends her days outside eagerly awaits snow. “It makes everything quieter, and cleaner and it’s so pretty...” said North.
When she needs a change of pace from city life, North takes Thurman and perhaps a couple of her client’s dogs, to a farm in New Hampshire where she can give “her dogs” (as she calls the regulars) an opportunity to “... swim in the lake and go on really great walks.”
After all that walking comes her reading time. While she is very close-mouthed about her own clients, North admits to a minor addiction to celebrity gossip. “I love my rag mags! I love reading about how the other half lives.”
All-in-all she’s pleased with nearly every aspect of her life with animals. “I love, at the end of the day, being physically tired because I know that my dogs have had really good walks and the clients are happy and the dogs are happy.”
(Jennifer only agreed to be photographed if Thurman could be the star! He made a great model. Photos © Penny Cherubino)