Dogs have always been an important part of Tabatha Patterson’s life. “After I got cancer in 2006, I went through chemotherapy,” she said. “I had a bunch of health issues. I was working in graphic design and special events. It was so stressful. I started fantasizing about being a dog walker. I looked in Craigsist and found a company that was hiring dog walkers. I worked for them for a couple of years. Then it clicked in my head, ‘I can do this and make it even better.’
“I’m very introverted — they’ve been best friends for me. As my ‘getting over cancer’ gift, I purchased a Basenji. She got me into dog parks and doggy events around town. She’s a big influence on my dog walking career, too — I wanted to spend as much time with her as I could,” Patterson said.
Patterson and her husband are in a rock band. “It’s named after our dog, Uzza,” she said. So when she started her own company in 2010, “Rock Star” was the first name that occurred to her.
“I started it just to be me taking on a few walks,” Patterson said. “Next thing I knew, my phone was ringing off the hook. I’d come home and be too exhausted to work on music. I realized, ‘I need to hire people.’ I started with independent contractors. I wanted more control, so I switched over to real employees in June 2014. It’s the best thing I could have done.”
Rock Star now has 10 employees. “We have people working all hours. Our general daily dog walking is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. We have cat sitting, which can be morning and evening. Some of our clients are nurses — they work weird hours, so we walk at eight at night. We do weekend dog walking. Next week I have a 5-hour hotel pet sitting gig from 8:30 to 1:30 at night,” Patterson said.
Hotel pet sitting is one of Rock Star’s less common requests. “You’re hanging out, giving doggy massages, watching TV,” she said. “One of the unique requests was for a wedding last year. I picked up the pup, drove him to Minnetonka Orchard to be part of the wedding, then brought him back home.”
Ironically, Patterson said, Rock Star is “far more stressful” than the jobs she left in 2010. “But it’s different because it’s something I created. I’m very proud of what I’ve done.”
Do you still get to walk dogs?
I have retreated to the managerial role. I oversee things throughout the day. We have a GPS system — I can pull up Google maps and see where my employees are. I spend a lot of the day on my computer. I do get lucky and get to fill in when employees go on vacation. Occasionally I do the hotel pet sitting.
What part of the job is the most fun?
Meeting pets, seeing photos my employees take, hearing stories, becoming part of the family of some of the clients. It’s really fulfilling. I like teaching my clients nutrition and proper training for puppies. I steer them down the right road as a first-time pet owner.
How do you find employees?
I look for them to come to me. The best people are the ones who contact me when I’m not looking, because they’re actually looking for that type of work. □