BY JENNA BRAUN
After years of sitting at a desk in an office and taking orders from others, 26-year-old Natasha Kibbe began to dream of leaving her full-time job. In fact, she began to dream of starting her own business, one where she could work for no one other than herself.
“I’ve always had a love for dogs,” said Kibbe, a Waterloo resident and owner of A Walk in the Bark. “And I decided to open a dog-walking business that I could start on my lunch breaks, evenings and weekends. Then it started growing.”
The popularity of her services got Kibbe to think long-term. She realized she could make this new interest her full-time career and promptly quit her office job.
“I wanted to take control of my own life and plan my own hours. I realized I wouldn’t love walking dogs all day, so I added the pet accessories as well so my days would always be different and I could be creative.”
Since A Walk in the Bark was created, Kibbe has operated the company completely solo. Her business consists of selling handcrafted collars, bandanas, keychains and leashes in bright, bold designs on Etsy as well as providing various services to dog owners, including individual and pack dog walks, dog sitting and pet home visits.
With each client, Kibbe first meets the owner and dog face-to-face to assess their needs and get to know them. Upon request, she sends photo updates and emails to the owner during her time with their pup. She also provides the client with a detailed report card after each visit, informing the owner about how their dog behaved.
Of course, Kibbe’s got a dog of her own – Decker, a zany Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever.
“I don’t know how to talk about Decker without seeming like a crazy dog lady,” Kibbe said. “He helped inspire me to revolve my professional life around dogs. People will do anything for their pets. They want their dogs to have the best.”
According to PetMD, an online global network of veterinary professionals, regular dog walking can eliminate weight-associated health problems, destructive behaviour and improve the overall mental well-being of any kind of canine.
“Starting this business has been the best decision I’ve ever made,” Kibbe said. “It’s usually stressful, sometimes with crazy nights up until 4 a.m. to meet deadlines. I can see myself hiring a part-time seamstress in the future, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”