I Just Want to Drink Coffee and Pet My Dog

Confessions of a former job worker turned Dog Daycare owner.

“So what do you do?”

When you work a job, you don’t realize how often you get asked this question, nor how often you autonomously answer it without thought. “I’m a machinist. I make gears for helicopters.” You get an approving nod as you’re carefully pigeon holed by this newcomer to the conversation and forever classified. But it wasn’t until after I quit my job to work full time with my wife at our doggy daycare, that I truly noticed this question. “So what do you do now?” I was asked. “I drink coffee and play with dogs.” The responding look was of a pigeon with no hole.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to owning and operating a successful doggy daycare than drinking coffee and playing with dogs, but those are by far my favorite perks (no pun intended, well…maybe just a little.) That and not punching a clock, having a scheduled lunch break or designated start and end times. That last one gets tricky though because, when you own a business, technically there is no end time.

However, I still count long days as a tremendous perk. There are these days when, after carrying out an improvement project that has to be done after hours, I sit for a moment in my truck. It’s a moment of silence, a moment to rest my weary bones before I crank the engine and head home. It’s a moment of quiet reflection as I look back across the parking lot in the twilight, with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that cannot be felt, merely working a job. All this and knowing that I can roll up a little late tomorrow and not have to answer to anyone.

“So what is there to owning and operating a successful doggy daycare besides drinking coffee, playing with dogs and the occasional long hours?” Well, you have to oil the happiness machine. That’s a reference to Leo Aufmann, a character from Ray Bradbury’s Danelion Wine. Leo was the town jeweler and resident tinkerer (not unlike me.) When jokingly given the task of inventing a happiness machine, Leo took it to heart. But after his invention not only failed to make people happy, but actually made them sad, he came to realize that the happiness machine is all around us in our daily lives. A doggy daycare is definitely a happiness machine. But, just like Leo found out, sometimes it needs a little tinkering.

When going from job to owning a doggy daycare, you trade co-workers for employees. These are the moving parts of the happiness machine that must be maintained often to keep it running smoothly. You need to remove friction here and there. Sometimes the parts need to be wound. Other times they need to be replaced. Often, you can move the parts around to find out where they work best. But there’s always some tinkering to be done.

If the employees are the moving parts of the happiness machine, then the dogs are definitely the fuel! Never, in all my years of working, have I seen as many faces at the start of a work day, as happy and excited to be here as the dogs. This is truly the greatest perk of all. Nevertheless, under the wrong conditions, fuel can be volatile. For this reason you must always treat the dogs carefully and be vigilant at all times to keep situations from igniting. When all of the moving parts work together to direct all that energy into powering the happiness machine, it becomes impossible to stop!

“What about the customers?” What customers? Oh them! Yes, I almost forgot. We have customers too! (It’s easy to do when you’re all about the dogs.) Yes, you have pay attention the customers too because they’re the ones who put the fuel into the happiness machine. Imagine how they must feel though.

Your dog can’t wait to get here. We can’t wait to see your dog. Then we whisk your dog away and leave you empty handed in the parking lot, having to go to your job.

Then you get to work and you think, “I just want to drink coffee and pet my dog.”

Why not? I do.


Dennis Van Vleet is a writer, inventor, and owner of multiple successful businesses.

For information about owning a Dogs Unleashed Daycare call 817-431-4400