He's not mine, this is a business walk. I run a dog-walking business and day care centre for dogs and he’s one of my little day-care customers.
All my dog customers who stay with me are in the house, on the sofa - it's all about being a home from home. Eddie is a good boy and very sweet. He's a Cavalier-Bichon Frise type cross and belongs to a nurse from the local vets. He's so cute, but he can have quite bad separation anxiety, so I can't leave him alone much - even while I have a shower, he has to sit on my bathmat watching me.
When people I meet ask me about my job, they usually give a big smile and say, “I can't think of a better job than that,”... and on some days I can agree. It's mostly enjoyable, although I have had the occasional dog to look after that has made me think, 'Wow, you haven't had any training, have you?'
I didn't work over Christmas because I spend time away with my family, but when I got back home yesterday I had Eddie straight away. The summer can be hellish because everyone wants me at that time of year. I have as many dogs as I can, but I've got more customers than I need.
I don't have to advertise for business and I feel so guilty turning down customers. They love their dogs and I want to look after them, but I just have all I can care for now. Last year I think I only had about four weekends without a dog-customer so that I could see my friends and family. I'm already fully booked up until November, it's madness. I don't think people like leaving their dogs in kennels so much these days, so my sort of individual dog care business is definitely a growth area.
We're very lucky because we live backing right on to Tringford Reservoir and the dogs love it when I walk them around the water. I think where I live is perfect for my dog business. From my house I can go out the back and walk the reservoir so there’s no traffic at all.
I walk along the water a lot, but I do try to mix my routes up because the dogs get so much enrichment from different smells and different dogs. You meet people when you're out walking and that's great because I've made some lovely friends that way but, for my dogs, I want to mix up the walk routes so that it's not always the same people we meet.
Usually we do our big walk in the morning, which is what we're doing around the reservoir now, and then in the afternoons we'll get a ball out and have a play session in my field. We have several acres over the other side of the reservoir.
I haven't done any specific training courses to learn how to care for dogs, I've learnt all I know from having my own dog and I used to work for a lady who had a big day care business for dogs. She had quite a few dogs to care for every day, and when I was thinking about starting my own dog business I knew that having so many dogs at one time was definitely not for me. I'm niche.
I don't have a dog of my own any more. We had an Irish setter, but she died in 2016. She had an auto immune condition and was only six when she died, which was quite young. She was really, really poorly for about three months. I'm definitely not getting another dog of my own - it was just too painful to do that again. So that's why I started my business and now I'm looking after other people's dogs.
With my own dog I did lots of obedience training until she was two and a half - she was an Irish setter, so she was 'mental' as a puppy. You have to get them up to two when their puppy-hood and teenage years are really full-on. Once my Irish setter had reached two, she was magical. She was so chilled at home. I used to walk her in the morning and then it was the sofa in the afternoon and she was an easy-peasy dog. Then I did agility with her from the age of two and a half. She was quite good. The problem was with me, I used to get a bit flustered and not know the left from my right. And you have to be really fit to keep up with your dog. We only did it at fun level, I didn't want to do it at higher levels because competition isn't my thing. It's just a great way to connect with your dog.
In my business, I only look after one family at a time. If I've got two good dogs, such as Golden Retrievers, I'll walk them together, but if they're a bit lively I'll walk them separately. Dogs that are older and a bit better behaved I'll walk together. It's not good to be pulled around and it's quite lively around the water with so many lovely ducks and geese. Some of my dogs, like Eddie here, aren't at all interested in them, but some are just desperate to get in the water. I have a Golden-Doodle who is amazing, he's huge, but he had a sad start in life in a farmyard in Ireland. He had nothing, no socialisation or training or anything, so when I walk him round the reservoir it's total overstimulation for him. I walk him alone so I can help him learn about meeting other dogs and people, and start to enjoy the smells and sounds of the nature and wildlife here.
We’re blessed with where we live – straight out of the garden and onto the reservoir.
Liz & Eddie, Marsworth Reservoir, Grand Union Canal