The heartbreaking reason that led me to work with dogs

Most people know the story about how my business came around, but there is a heartbreaking reason behind my story that has remained untold.  Till now.

5 years ago, the shine had completely gone from working 12 hours days, working earlies, late nights, and night shifts all in the same week in my career with a major supermarket as a Stock Control Manager.  I was proper fed up with not spending time with my then 3 dogs, Poppy and Jimmy, my 2 ex racing rescue greyhounds and Frank a rescued lurcher.

It was getting harder to find reliable care for my gang of dogs when I could no longer pop home.  At that point I worked in a store that was 5 minutes’ walk from my house.  But it was becoming difficult to get away from work to pop home to tend to my dogs (lots of comments about me not being part of the team because I wanted to take my actual break and despite the fact that I put in 10-15 extra hours every week without any pay.

heartbreaking reason
Here I am (9th from left) with the rest of the management team at a team building day at IWM Duxford back in 2012

I hid my heartbreaking reason under my heavy workload

My request to apply for a different role, in the same store, was turned down, with the store manager telling me there was no way they would ever let me do another job role.  I get it.  I had done too good a job and there were real concerns that if I were not holding my department together it would fall down.

To be fair it was pretty broken when I first started in that store but because of my experience in that role I was able to turn it round quickly, calmly and move us from bottom of the region to top of the region with almost seemingly effortlessly (except it was a hell of a lot of work!)

Haverhill team
My wonderful stock control team at Haverhill having some fun at work in Dec 2014, my last Christmas in retail!

My heartbreaking reason

I was stuck in a role that I could do in my sleep, however bad it was.  I had a proven track record of turning stores around, but I was bored.  So very bored and frustrated. I needed my brain stretched.  I needed a new challenge.  The only thing that got me through my shifts was my friends at work.

My now ex-husband said to leave.  We had just moved, and we had a little bit of money in the bank.  I went in the next day with my resignation.  It was initially refused.  I had been with the company for 21 years after all.

When I first joined the company, I was just 20 years old.  I never planned to stay there to see my 21st birthday, yet there I was aged 41 finally ready to leave. I always was destined to leave though.  In my mind I would have a child and would go on maternity leave, knowing that I would unlikely return as my career would not have fitted having a child.

And that’s my heartbreaking reason. Sadly, having a child didn’t happen.  I even tried to adopt but we were devastatingly turned down due to a health condition my ex had.  It was not meant to be.  And of course, I needed to nurture so my attention turned to my dogs.

Jimmy heartbreaking reason
Jimmy, my surrogate baby, in his pj's!

My surrogate baby

Jimmy, my greyhound, was most defiantly my surrogate baby.  I already had Poppy, another greyhound,  and Frank, a lurcher, but I was aching for a new arrival so along came Jimmy. 

And it was probably the wrong decision to make because I was so busy at work, but Jimmy helped to heal my broken heart.

Poppy
Poppy, aka Princess Poppy

He was literally the biggest baby going.  Jimmy was incredibly happy to sit on my lap, all 30kg of him.  He would lean against me wanting a fuss.  Jimmy even came straight over to me after he had his dinner to be winded! I got to put his pyjamas on to get him ready for bedtime too.

And along with Poppy and Frank my grey cloud started to lift. My dogs needed me, and I clearly needed them.

Frank the lurcher. Sadly the only remaning one of my trio who I named my business after

Finally, a conversation about my heartbreaking reason about not having children and my need to have something new in my life meant my store manager begrudgingly accepted my resignation.

I had no idea what I was going to do.  My initial plan was to take 6 months off and relax.  I had endured a lot of stress and I felt that I needed to recover from that. 

4 weeks’ notice was given, the latter 2 were already prebooked holiday.  Whilst on my official holiday I had a light-bulb moment.  I loved dogs, I loved walking.  I was going to be a dog walker!

Out on my own

That holiday was used to research and find out what the hell I needed to do to set up my business.  For years I had worked as a manager in a team of around 15 managers.  I had my line manger and then the store manager above me.  I had my own team to manage and the rest of the store if I was duty manager.

Suddenly I was all on my own, no one to talk over ideas with.  No one to check if I had got the right information with.  No one to talk about the previous night’s EastEnders! Google literally became everything to me.

Having been in my previous career for so long meant I was confident in that role.  I knew it inside out and I  never had to think about it.  At a drop of a hat I could spill out all the official routines that I was required to do at ease. 

I was about to put myself in the spotlight and open up my own business with none of the security of working in a team or having previous experience. My confidence was at an all time low.  Because of the heartbreaking reason I was setting up my own business I already felt a big failure for not becoming a mum and now I was potentially going to be a failure at my own business too. I felt very exposed.

The joy behind my heartbreaking reason
The original Woofers; Poppy, Frank & Jimmy

Woofers Walkies was born

I ended up being officially unemployed for 2 days before I unveiled my new business to the world.  On Tuesday 1st September 2015 Woofers Walkies was born. 

As I posted up my new page my heart was in my stomach and I hid behind the screen.

I was, quite simply, terrified of what people’s reaction would be.  I had already been told by my colleagues that I would be back within 4 weeks beginning for my job back.  They could not see how I could survive outside of the company.  They said I was institutionalised and maybe I was, but I was determined to rewrite my future from that heartbreaking reason of a failed would be mother to a successful business owner.

And here I am almost 5 years later, with a business that is growing and evolving all the time.  Woofers Walkies mended my broken heart and became my baby too!

Of course, I named the business after Poppy, Frank and Jimmy.  Without them I would never have seen there was a gap in the local market.  I collectively called them my woofers.  Sadly, today, I only have Frank left.  I lost Poppy and Jimmy within 8 weeks of each other in 2017, both from cancer.  They live on in my work.

Sally Cousins is a self confessed mad dog lady!  

After being mum to several rescue dogs she decided to turn her passion in to her career and set up her own dog walking business back in 2015.

Sally not only runs her business, she also writes for her own blog and also does guest blogs for other dog businesses. Sally is also the author of  “The Lockdown Dog.” You can also find Sally chatting as a guest  on dog related podcasts.

Sally Cousins

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