Power of the pooch community
Here at Puppy Tales we love stories about passionate dog owners who turn their love for dogs into a business. Today we have one such story from Tom and Bronwyn the founders of PetHomeStay, a new Australian business based out of Melbourne that teams up dog owners and dog sitters through their website. I hope you enjoy their story!
My fiancée Bronwyn and I moved to Melbourne in June 2012 from New Zealand and had found a great (but very expensive) place to rent in Clifton Hill. We primarily chose the house because of its proximity to Edinburgh Gardens. When we had come over to Melbourne on a scouting trip it was the nicest doggy friendly park we could find. If we were going to be heading there twice a day and spending about 1/16th of our waking hours at the park we might as well pick somewhere nice!
Bronwyn had a great job all lined up, which was partly why we moved, but I had to dust off my CV and put myself about. Whilst I was doing this a big question was always at the back of my mind – who is going to help us look after the dogs? Our dogs are really woven into the fabric of my and Bronwyn’s life together. (The second time we met was at a rugby game and I asked Bronwyn to hold the leash of my beagle whilst I played. At the end of the game she was in love, but not with me. That’s what she says anyway!) We care a lot for them and while we don’t go overboard, we consider them our fur kids.
Izzy the Beagle
The people down at the Gardens were really friendly and fortunately enough there were another few Danes down there, which is a good icebreaker. It’s funny how people who have the same breeds always get talking to each other down at the park – what food, which vet do you use, how many times have you heard the ‘so big needs a saddle’ joke!
One topic which kept coming up was the ‘know any good pet sitters’ question. It was really obvious that quite a lot of people were in the same boat as us – what do you do when family or friends can’t help? And with busy modern lives people needed help more and more because their support network is constantly changing.
Taking our pets to kennels isn’t an option for us except as a last resort. It’s not very convenient, it’s quite expensive, and we hated the idea of putting our kids in cages when we want them on the couch having cuddles instead. Bronwyn and I just want to provide the best life for our dogs that we can – they are social animals and love human company. They prefer routine and they need stimulation. But we need to balance that with our own lives – and over a few months it became clear that lots of people at our dog park felt the same way.
In August 2012 we created PetHomeStay.com to help the people at Edinburgh Gardens. It connected all the local people in the community that were willing to help, provided a central point where all the information and co-ordination could take place, and built trust and support between people. If one sitter was busy, no problem, just ask another local sitter who could provide the style of sitting that was required.
Tom and Bronwyn with their dogs Izzy and Cooper
We couldn’t believe the response. After a month or so, we had around 30 sitters in our area that wanted to use our site. I look after your pet, you look after my pet – mi casa es su casa! People kept coming up to us at the park and saying ‘this is so awesome, it’s like couch-surfing for pets!’ So we thought, why not offer this service to pet owners across Melbourne?
We also found people had different reasons for choosing to look after pets. For instance, there are actually families that want to teach their kids the responsibility of looking after a pet before getting them a permanent one, so they volunteered themselves as sitters and safely supervised them for a week or two. I think that’s an amazing way of letting the love and bond of dogs and people be shared and passed on.
We actually got to meet some great people this way as well – pro-sports people, terrific families, creative people and even a band member of Hunters & Collectors! Some of these we now call our friends, and share a beer or two with at the park on a hot day while the dogs run around. In fact I would say that almost every person I know in Melbourne I met through dogs – not a conscious lifestyle choice at the time but a very welcome one nonetheless!
Cooper the Great Dane
Recently the PetHomeStay service actually got too big to manage part-time, so I made my passion my full-time job! We now have a network of more than 250 sitters in Melbourne and Sydney so I am working on building the community to help other pet owners around the country to find a caring local sitter.
Moving country and setting up a network of great new friends through our website has been a fantastic experience. Bronwyn and I get married at the end of April. Izzy & Coops will be accompanying us down the aisle, and many of our new friends will be there too! That’s the power of pooch community and the dog park!
Tom LeGrice and Bronwyn Dilley set up PetHomeStay.com in Melbourne during August 2012. It has been described as ‘Australia’s Airbnb for pets’ and provides a free-to-join platform that connects pet owners with trusted local pet sitters. If you need a petsitter for an upcoming holiday or if you are a pet lover that is interested in looking after pets go to www.pethomestay.com for more information.
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