PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — It’s been a long year for all of us between working from home and skipping vacations. All of that staying at home has led to one industry hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic: dog walking and pet sitting businesses.
Yet, ABC Action News found several small businesses getting creative to keep their companies open. Now, as their canine companions come back, tails are wagging again.
On Thursday afternoon, Laurie Debitetto’s dogs were spotted making a beeline to the front doors of Pasadena Pet Motel. The dogs were overjoyed to be back for their favorite activity: doggy daycare.
“For a while, I wasn’t able to bring them because I’m self-employed and my business was slow. Now, I’m able to bring them and since this locally owned pet motel has managed to make it and stay afloat, I want to support that," Debitetto explained.
Kristen Triplett, the owner of Pasadena Pet Motel, couldn’t be happier.
“We have never had people so happy to come back,” she explained.
Triplett’s pet motel is a third-generation, 17-year-old business and for the first time in months, she’s feeling much more confident about the future.
“For all that time that we sweated and worried and all that, the pet care industry is back,” she said with excitement.
Dog training kept their business afloat in the quiet quarantine months. At one point, they even had a waiting list.
“When people are trying to do their Zoom calls and all that and then the dogs are jumping and biting, it’s not a good mix. So, they bring them here for training and it worked out very well,” Triplett elaborated.
In early March, Triplett and her husband took home their first paychecks in a year.
“Oh, it was wonderful. We celebrated,” she said with glee.
Marissa Terrana, the owner of Coastal Canines FL Dog Walking and Pet Sitting Service, was forced to get creative, too. Last March, before the pandemic, she was overbooked with walks and vacation sitting plans. Then, she says in an instant everything was canceled.
So, she traded in a leash for a paintbrush.
“I’ve always liked being creative and I love animals. Why not put them together?” she said. “Some of them are a little silly like a portrait of two dogs on the moon or a dog on a motorcycle. Others are more serious and something you’d want to have printed on a pillow.”
When clients no longer needed dog walking, she turned to pet portraits to subsidize her small business. Now, both female entrepreneurs say pet owners are booking vacations and venturing out of their homes, which is helping both of their small businesses make a comeback.
“I would tell people hang in there. Things are getting better,” Terrana said.
“It’s been really really tough but what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and we’ve been part of this community a long, long time and we’re not going anywhere,” Triplett added.