Become a pet buddy, look after dogs and get paid for it. Folks are even throwing away engineering jobs to follow their dog-lover hearts and get trained in the Pet Buddies programme. Becoming care takers, pet-sitters and home boarders, they feel they have found their soul-satisfying dream job as companions of dogs
Apoorva Kulkarni, a 25-year-old engineer from Bengaluru, is as happy as a dog with two tails. Apoorva graduated with a degree in electronics and communication engineering and has landed herself a perfect job with a fancy job title. She is a pet-buddy and gets paid for receiving sloppy kisses and snuggling wet noses.
“I always wanted to be a veterinarian, but somehow ended up going the engineering way. I love animals and have wanted to do something with and around them,” says Apoorva, who got a chance to follow her heart with the ‘Pet Buddies’ programme.
Apoorva’s day at work begins at 10 am with Bianca, an eight-year-old boxer, whose parents are travelling abroad for two months.
“I am pet-sitting Bianca for over ten days now. She lives with her human grandparent. Bianca is a heart patient and thus needs constant company and attention. Since her parents are travelling, there was no one to take care of her. At times, she gets sick and needs someone beside her. I cook for her and feed her in the morning and evening and give her medication. I also take care of her appointments with her vet. Currently she is undergoing laser therapy and needs to see the vet on a regular basis,” says Apoorva, who does not leave Bianca’s side while she is undergoing therapy.
Started by Anand Vishwanath, founder and pet relocation specialist at Anvis Pet Relocation, Pet Buddies is a training programme for animal lovers, who want to make a living while spending time with animals. The programme is for pet parents and animal lovers and aims at providing loving buddies to all furry friends in need.
“We started with a dog walking service a couple of years ago, and at that point we were walking around 200 dogs. The demand for dog walkers and pet care takers was high and we got caught up in it. We ended up hiring people who were not essentially animal lovers and from a slightly lower socio-economic background. As a result, the service level was not at par with our own expectations and that’s when we decided to come up with ‘Pet Buddies’,” says Anand.
The programme carefully filters out animal lovers, taking them through a two-day training programme to turn them into the perfect companion for the pets.
“The programme trains animal lovers as pet walkers, pet sitters and home-boarders. We are inviting only experienced pet lovers and pet parents for training. The candidates must have experience with animals, especially dogs. It could be own dogs, adopted or fostered. We are looking for people with certain basic exposure or experience with dogs. Once selected, they get registered with us and undergo the two-day training programme,” says Anand.
The Pet Buddies sessions provide hands-on experience in the basics of dog walking; techniques of how to handle dogs, awareness about various breeds and their trademark behaviour.
“We train Pet Buddies keeping in mind the challenges that we face as pet parents and per trainers. Once trained, they are able to handle all kinds of dogs, can walk them and take care of them, too. We demonstrate and correct them while they use the techniques. As of now, we have people from different backgrounds coming forward for the training. They include students, professionals, medical doctors, homemakers, elderly and even retired animal-lovers. So far, we have trained around 68 Pet Buddies,” says Anand.
While the programme helps pets and pet parents by providing loving and trained human companions, it also offers a chance to animal lovers to pursue their dreams.
An engineer, Apoorva has decided to follow her heart and take up pet-sitting as a full time career option. “I am considering this as my career choice, although it is completely off my engineering degree. This does not feel like a job. Being with Bianca, feeding her, spending time with her and getting rewarded when she comes and sleeps in my lap is just awesome. I plan to take up level two training and try making a career as a pet buddy,” says Apoorva.
Agrees Parinitha Ramprasad, yet another pet buddy, working as a full time dog walker. Parinitha was a part of a start-up when she got to know about the Pet Buddies programme. “I have worked in the corporate world for seven years, but it was not satisfying. The Pet Buddies programme has been an eye opener. I realized how much I wanted to do this. It is different to like dogs and to understand them. It was a blessing in disguise that the start-up I was working with didn’t take off,” says Parinitha, who wants to learn the nuances of dog training.
Akshatha Jayantha Shenoy is yet another Pet Buddy, who wanted to walk away from the stressful IT world. “I got certified in September last year and have been pet sitting and walking since then. I like being loved by them and enjoy studying their behavior. I have always loved dogs and have been working with street dogs, but never got a chance to have one of my own. I got to know about the training programme and thought probably this was my chance to be with them,” says Akshatha, who is a pet buddy to a pit bull.
Image credit: Anand Vishwanath