Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Kilgallon.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Sarah. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I began the business with my one year-old, Vizsla, Dudley. In the fall of 2007, we walked along the Charles River in the Waltham/Watertown area, and local dog-friendly woodlands, handing out business cards that announced – Adventure Hikes by Walkabout Dogs! Dudley’s sweet and friendly nature and enthusiasm actually sold the hikes when we spoke to people. Every said to me, “What a well-behaved, and good-natured dog. You must be quite a dog trainer. I smiled back at the remarks, knowing full-well Dudley was an amazing dog and I was fortunate enough to own him.
The business grew quickly. Within six months, I had a full schedule of dogs. Every day I picked-up between 6-8 dogs and headed out to conservation areas in Metro West Boston. We hiked between 4-5 miles for 2-2 1/2 hours. I incorporated taking photos and videos of the dogs early on in the business. In the ten years I’ve been in business I have walked thousands of miles and taken thousands of photos. I’ve always wanted to be a photographer, a dream of mine was to be photographer and journalist for National Geographic. The dogs gave me the perfect opportunity to expand on my interest. Photographing dogs is now a passion! Each weekend I update the website with the hike photos from the prior week. My clients love seeing their dogs in action.
I’m now beginning a side project, offering outside photo shoots of people’s dog(s). The photos will accompany a fictional story of their dog(s) that I will create based on seeing their dog(s) romping and playing, and the owner’s antidotes. I’m also a writer with an MFA in Creative Writing. Currently, I’m revising a travel memoir and my novel is being considered by a prominent agent in New York City.
My first priority is still giving dogs the opportunity to run off-leash in the woods with their “pack.” Most of my clients have been with me from the beginning. I’m fortunate to have terrific clients and the love of their dogs. In my 20+ working with dogs, I find myself still fascinated by their grace and instincts. Dogs will do amazing things, on their own, working with their instincts when they’re in their natural habitat – the woods.
Has it been a smooth road?
Owning a small business is never easy. There are some months that between hikes and boarding, I don’t have a “day off.” And with the fluctuating economy I’ve seen my business grow and shrink many times.
But the rewards of hard work and dedication always win out at the end of the day. I work with terrific dogs; my clients are the best people; my photography satisfies my creative nature, and I everyday I’m out in the most beautiful places.
My motto has always been – don’t be greedy. I’m a one-woman business, and it’s remaining this way. I charge a reasonable rate, because I believe excellence shouldn’t mean over-charging people.
Yes, I work hard. Some days I wish I had a two-week paid vacation. But never would I give up the independence and the reward of owning my own business.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Walkabout Dogs story. Tell us more about the business.
I offer two services: 2+ hour off-leash dog hikes and boarding. However, I only board client dogs, since maintaining the integrity of the “pack” is important.
My specialty? Taking a dog full of energy and bringing him home tired and happy. I think all dogs benefit from being off-leash with other dogs. The hikes teach them to work within a pack and become more socialized. This is especially helpful with fearful or anxious dogs.
I am most proud of the longevity of my client-base, the trust they have in me, and the all-out love their dogs show me! The feelings are mutual.
I think the fact that I offer 2+ hour hikes in a group setting sets me apart from other dog walking companies in the area. And I only take out one group a day, so my day isn’t time focused; instead, my day is dog centered.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I think there will be more restrictions with having dogs off-leash, which will change my business dramatically. The problem is there are companies hiring unexperienced walkers, which puts pressure on highly trafficked areas. Even though I go to little used conservation areas, the towns they’re in experience problems in dog parks. Blanket rules are enforced and this makes my position precarious.
I think we all need to think about pitching-in with conservation, preserving the woods and parks we walk in every day. The small things like picking up trash, removing dog waste, or help with clearing trails, goes a long way to being accepted within the communities where we conduct our business.
- Hikes are $40
- Boarding is $50
- Website: http://walkaboutdogs.com/
- Phone: 617-448-1987
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @walkabout_dogs
- Facebook: @TrailDogsLifeonAdventureHikes