What it's like to run a pet hotel
It had always been Heather Lowe’s dream to run her own boarding kennels and cattery.
Now not only has her long-held wish finally come true but she also gets to spend every day working alongside her two daughters Holly and Niamh.
From feeding cats to walking dogs, there is a never a dull moment for this busy trio, who all share the same passion for animals.
And they believe their special mother-daughter bond is a recipe for success as they work to drive the business forward.
“We’ve all got the same interests, strong personalities and the same motivation to get things done,” says professional dog groomer Heather.
The 55-year-old bought the house as well as the kennels and cattery, now called Haleswood Pet Hotel, in Marsh Green, near Telford, with Holly, 25, last year.
They are helped by 17-year-old Niamh who spends three days a week studying equine science at Rodbaston College in Penkridge.
The family moved in with their own menagerie of dogs, cats, horses and rescued birds of prey in October following a four-year search to find the ideal premises and get their finances in place.
Since then they have been looking after furry guests for stays while their owners are away and also offering a doggy day care service and a animal taxi for customers.
Heather says a typical day will see them fitting in a routine of walking, feeding and cleaning before breakfast. “We’re up bright and early with the cockerel. We’ve got our own dogs to let out and walk as well as the kennel dogs. The dogs and the cats are fed. What needs to be cleaned is cleaned. We can have our own breakfast any time between 10am and 1pm as there is a lot to do first thing.
“We’ve also got people dropping off or collecting their dogs and cats. We’re making improvements so we are doing jobs around the place too. Every day is different. The routine is the same but the animals and the customers are different. We don’t all do the same things every day,” she explains.
“We are constantly on the go. It might be 9pm before we sit down and there is the admin to do and keeping the website and Facebook page updated,” adds Holly, who previously worked in administration and built the business website.
They have also taken in a flock of chickens that were rescued from the slaughter house by Shrewsbury-based Red Hen Rehoming and will donate money from sales of their eggs back to the charity.
Heather, Holly and Niamh all say they enjoy working side-by-side and that they rarely disagree.
“It’s great to be able to work from home and not be stuck in an office. It’s good to be your own boss. Although there is not one of us who is the boss, we all get a say and we all do the different jobs that needs doing. We all think in the same way too and quite often we will go to do a job only to find someone else has already done it.
“We managed to feed our own cats three times because they managed to trick each of us into thinking they hadn’t been. It was only when one of us said the other two ‘I’ve fed our cats’ that we realised we had all done it.
“There are some clashes because we’ve all quite similar and we’re all quite fiery. But I think the biggest thing we are likely to clash about it what we’re having for tea,” says Holly.
“We all like the same things so we get on well,” adds Niamh.
“It’s nice that we are all together. We are very independent women and we’re not afraid to get stuck in. If something needs fixing we will work out a way to get it fixed by ourselves. We make a good team,” adds Heather.
Holly says one of the biggest challenges they face is the feeling that there is not enough time in the day. “I remember when I used sit at my desk in the office and the time would really drag and the days seemed really long.
“But here time really does fly and I’m always looking at the clock and thinking ‘can I have those last few hours back so I can do something else that needs doing’,” she tells us.
In between looking after their own pets and their guests in the cattery and kennels, they are working to make improvements.
“There wasn’t a website or a presence on social media so we’ve modernised that side of the business. It was very much paper and cheques but now people can pay online.
“The Facebook account is popular with customers and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback. We put pictures of the pets that are staying with us on there so people can see that their dogs are happy when they are lying on a beach in Spain. They want to know their animals are being well looked after – that’s their priority and it’s ours as well,” explains Holly.
They are offering boarding for rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals as well as birds of prey and reptiles while owners can also arrange for their dogs to be groomed during their stay.
Long-term plans include being able to offer physiotherapy and hydrotherapy for dogs.
As you would expect the animals always come first.
“We know pets are precious and owners will worry about them while they are on holiday so we want to make sure they know they will be looked after as well as they would be at home. We are offering a home away from,” explains Heather.
For Heather and her daughters the move has been better than they ever could have expected. “It’s definitely a lifestyle rather than a job. We live and breath it. We have managed to turn our hobby of looking after our own animals into a business,” says Heather.
“We’re out in the fresh air and countryside every day with views over the Wrekin – what more could you ask for?”