It has been just two years since the unimaginable happened, we were all told we could not go out, go to work or socialise, even down to visiting our elderly relatives, but now, after much disruption and devastation over the whole world, for many people, covid is becoming a thing of the past. People are still suffering it, but it seems to be more like flu now, unless you are like my child, who got covid and did not have any symptoms, lucky thing. Many people are back to work as normal and we are back to walking dogs without any restrictions, which is great, it makes me so happy.
One massive issue over the last few years is the minimum wage. In April it is going up again, meaning the cost of living will go up and you will hit the next tax bracket sooner, as we all know the tax bracket won't be put up in keeping with the increase in income. So, we will all be worse off than we were …well before Covid, as the last two years are a right off, as my credit cards can tell you. Anyone who is earning, but supplemented by tax credits will be earning more money, so getting less tax credits, but their expenses will have gone up too, so they will be further under the bread line trying to scrape a living for their family. Companies will his VAT sooner as their expenses will be higher, they will have to put their prices up, reaching the VAT threshold sooner, so you will have more things to pay VAT on, the price of fuel has rocketed, and everyone is buying electric cars.
Electric cars, great for the environment, cheaper to run, quiets, all that sounds great, but, and it is a big BUT they cost more to buy, there are still very few places to charge them, they cover a very small distance before you need to fill them up, and you must wait a minimum of 30 minutes for this, and if you charge it at home, electricity is not free, even most solar powered houses still must pay for the extra electricity. I investigated an electric van to help with the environmental factors, but decided that I could never sustain it, I would constantly be breaking down on the motorway…do you get points if you run out of electricity? The volume of electric cars on the road totally outweighs the charging points, so if you finally get to one and it is in use, you must wait hours or try and find another! Many people do not have a drive of their own, or even a regular place on the road to park their car, so how will they charge it? Its not just it will be a huge trip factor, but it will also be subject to vandals and thieves. There is currently a huge wait list for electric cars, but when they are all injected into the roads it will be absolute chaos.
The cost of everything for my company has gone through the roof. I have not had a basic pay packet for nearly 2 years. I managed to get Furlough for all my team, but I still had to work and admin, so was not allowed furlough, even though our expenses outweighed our costs. Our local council has even charged us to have a boarding licence for the year that we were not allowed to have dogs to board, and when I questioned it, I was just told it comes from the powers above, so great, the local council look after their small companies by stealing off them when they are already making great losses! Then when we returned to work, not all our team came back, leaving us short staffed and stressing, training up new team members is not quick or cheap!
Every day I am getting messages from companies to tell me of their price rises as of 1 April due to increasing expenses. I have even found out that after 15 years in business, spending time training all my team, paying for admin and team leaders on top of the dog walkers, each with a mobile phone, websites, insurance, a HR company for the team, a counselling support team should they need it, the list of my expenses goes on and on, and somehow, I have got left behind with the prices of a dog walk amongst the professional dog walkers. Many of the walkers have now either put their prices up more than ours or cut their time down or are walking more dogs! We are still walking 3 or 4 in a group for a full hour or two depending on what they want. There is even one walker who loads 16 dogs into his van and hikes them for a couple of hours and returns them home, how long it must take to pick up 16 dogs and how dangerous forcing them all into such a small space for such a long time, it is an accident waiting to happen, he never carries leads, and how do you pick up the poo for 16 dogs???? And I do not know of one insurance company that will cover more than 6 dogs anyway!
There are many dogs out there that are still suffering from the side effects of the Covid period, and not everyone is back at work yet, so separation anxiety is going to be a huge issue in many of them. Many pups that were got over the period were either not able to be socialised properly and suffering from that, or their owners were new to keeping dogs, and had no idea, and no one to turn to as all the puppy classes and dog care companies had to close. We did still do walks, but it was only for our "Critical Clients", the ones that either could not walk their dog due to health, or had to still go to walk over this period and it is unethical and unfair to leave a dog home for this period without a toilet access, so we checked with our insurance and we were still covered.
Every day I see new dog walkers start, most of who are fair weather walkers, who will do it for a few months, or even a year or two, then quit, possibly after causing much damage to the reputation of dog walkers or a dog, but they undercut us, the hardcore dog walkers that do it for a living and in these hard time I can see how tempting it is for clients to go with the cheap option, but who will they blame when it goes wrong? All dog walkers! Then we are left to pick up the pieces when the clients ring us because of the problems they are having after "their dog walker quit" (or didn't, just wanted the easy dogs and didn't want to tell you that the puppy they took on with glee with was now an annoying teenagers with bad habits they had let it do, so too much hard work, but they will tell you they have quit just for ease.)
I have loved running this business for 15 years now, and the joy that I have helped others find in it too gives me an amazing feeling of accomplishment, but I can not help wondering how much longer I can go on with no income. Only time will tell.