Stacey Coffman walks her dog, Noodles, around Boardwalk Park on Tuesday in Windsor. Coffman runs a dog-walking and pet-sitting business called Release the Krakens. (Joshua Polsonemail@example.com)
Stacey Coffman answered her front door last week with Bella, a Tibetan Spaniel, in her arms, and Noodles, a Chihuahua/pug mix, close on her heels.
Tucker, a Shiba/pug mix, is older and followed the others at a distance. It’s hard to watch him sometimes, Coffman said, because he’s more fragile thanks to his age.
Coffman always has loved animals, and when she started to tire of working in health care, she decided it was time to start Release the Krakens LLC in Windsor this April.
It’s a dog-walking and pet-sitting business, something she’s done for friends and family for years until she decided to do it professionally this year.
The name for the business, she said, came from her love of the 1981 film “Clash of the Titans.” And when she lets the dogs out, she warns her husband by saying, “I’m about to release the krakens!”
Stacey Coffman walks with her dog, Noodles, on Tuesday at Boardwalk Park in Windsor. (Joshua Polsonfirstname.lastname@example.org)
That’s one of her main focuses: releasing dogs from silent living rooms and a need to go potty throughout the day, whether that’s just to get outside or go for a long walk.
Her services include check-ins â€” in which she might just stop by to let the dogs out â€” a variety of walks and overnight care.
She was a little nervous to start the business at first, but she said her financial concerns have been laid to rest. People, including her, can make a living off dog walking and pet sitting.
It’s not easy, though. Her days, she said, often start as early as 6 a.m. and can go as late as 11 p.m. She’ll have multiple clients, sometimes with pets that need to be let outside, fed or given attention several times per day.
Noodles looks up at Stacey Coffman during a break on their walk around Boardwalk Park in Windsor. (Joshua Polsonemail@example.com)
Coffman keeps in touch with her clients and gives them a window of time she’ll be with their dogs rather than setting a specific time in case something goes awry.
Sometimes a half-hour appointment in which she planned to let dogs outside to go potty and maybe to play â€” she has some dogs that are fond of bubbles â€” can turn into an hour if they manage to make a mess in her client’s house.
The variety of clients also means dog walkers and sitters have to keep themselves carefully organized.
Jean Travis of Give Me a Paw LLC in Greeley said she started her dog walking and sitting business in 2010 and keeps a carefully meticulous planner with her at all times.
How the business works
Dog walking and sitting professionally isn’t like just doing it for family, Coffman and Travis said.
Professionals take a variety of classes to get certified to take care of pets.
Travis took classes on dog training before she started her business and offers that service, as well, to her clients.
Jean Travis walk dogs, Olivia, left, and Jadeence, on Tuesday in west Greeley. Travis runs Paws dog walking, a dog-walking and pet-sitting business that works with clients across the Greeley area. (Joshua Polsonfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Coffman is pet CPR and First Aid certified, and she said she has experience giving animals medication, so she can take care of senior pets.
The hardest animals to administer medication to, she said, are the cats with diabetes she cares for. She keeps an extra-long protective glove handy for those instances to make sure her arm doesn’t become a scratching post.
“They’re wily creatures,” she said with a laugh.
Coffman said she offers a variety of lengths for her walks to best suit the different dogs’ needs. One dachshund she walks only goes about a block because it likes to sniff everything it passes. But other high-energy dogs go to the dog park or on an afternoon hike at Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins.
One client of Coffman’s, a nurse, often has to work 12-hour shifts. Her dog is only 4 years old, Coffman said, and when she first started walking it the dog had extra energy to burn because it was so often left alone with nothing to do. It appeared to be aggressive, she said, with enough energy to knock people over, but with Coffman’s half-hour walks each day the dog is much calmer.
Noodles jumps in excitement during his walk on Tuesday at Boardwalk Park in Windsor. (Joshua Polsonemail@example.com)
Coffman and Travis said they like to meet animals with their owners before caring for them, so when they visit without owners present pets won’t see them as strangers.
Travis also has human clients who have health issues and need help taking care of their pets.
Coffman said she enjoys working with senior dogs that may need extra care, but she had to learn to distance herself emotionally when she needs to.
“When you lose clients it’s very hard,” she said.
Both Coffman and Travis said dog walkers and sitters have to protect themselves physically, too. It’s all too easy, Travis said, to schedule a couple months with no days off, so both women try to avoid that for their sake and that of their families.
Hiring dog walkers and sitters
Though it’s a profession that’s been around for a long time, Coffman said she has seen it grow in popularity with a variety of dog walking apps and the increasing popularity of pets in Colorado.
Both Coffman and Travis also are connected to other dog walkers and sitters in northern Colorado and can refer clients to them if they aren’t able to take on an animal on a certain day.
The community appears to be growing and continuously learning, Coffman said, which she’s mostly seen through a Facebook group she’s part of.
Though dogs may be the main animals Coffman and Travis work with, both can care for other animals. Travis has cared for chickens, rabbits, hedgehogs, guinea pigs and a variety of other animals, and some of Coffman’s favorite visits have included caring for a pig named Rupert and shearing alpacas.
Both women said the best part of their job is getting to spend their days â€” and sometimes nights â€” with animals.