If you're a dog owner in downtown Tampa, chances are you can't be with your four-legged friend 24-7. So the questions become: Who can provide your pooch with a reprieve from a day cooped up indoors? Or, who can be available on short notice for walks when you have to work late or for an overnight stay when you need to leave home unexpectedly?
Veronica Simonetto, a native of Venezuela, pondered those very same questions when she first moved to Tampa from Miami a few years back with four dogs, a parrot and a couple of cats, all rescue animals. An animal lover since she was a child, she quickly recognized a need for pet services for downtown residents.
The result: Tailored Pet Sitting was born.
Tailored Pet Sitting, offering "tailored services'' (hence the business moniker), daily walks, overnight and vacation visits, has been growing each year since its 2007 establishment. When Veronica built relationships with rescue groups and veterinarians and canvassed door-to-door, TPS really took off. The business currently has more than 750 clients and schedules 50 daily walks. Sixty percent of TPS's clients live in or near downtown.
When Simonetto moved to Tampa, she had no plans to open a business. But after a 15-year career as a paralegal professional and the move from Miami, she was ready for a career change. In Miami, she had bred her boxers and built up a small clientele as a result. So getting involved with Tampa dogs by first getting a (part-time) dog walker job was a logical next step, and a way to unleash her desire to tailor to dogs. Opening her own business just felt right and the timing was right.
"It was not a job I needed to pay the bills, but I was having so much fun with the animals,'' says Simonetto. "After I left the job, a few of the clients I had walked dogs for refused to let anyone else walk their dogs. That is how I ended up creating TPS.''
Tailored Pet Sitting
now has eight full-time and one part-time pet sitters, so tailoring to the needs of more than 750 clients is no small feat. A challenge TPS often tackles is finding a pet sitter deemed worthy, which is good news for clients and potential clients in downtown Tampa.
"We are very picky about who works for TPS,'' says Simonetto. "It takes a lot of time to meet the right person and train them.''
Give A Call Ahead
TPS prefers at least 24-hours notice before taking a job, but is able to accommodate less. "Our schedule changes by the hour and our phones get answered 24-7. You can talk to any TPS client and they can tell you we have whiplash service,'' says Simonetto.
Tailored Pet Sitting also sponsors events, assists rescue groups, and raises money for causes dedicated to making Tampa a more dog-friendly community. Their cause of the moment is the "Bark B Que,'' fundraiser (at the end of March) to raise money for the Seminole Heights Dog Park (at Henry and Ola Park).
Facebook is the best way to keep up to snuff with TPS's events and animals. Their calendar includes ongoing Yappy Hour events and special events like "Bark B Que.'' (TPS usually canvasses the event's neighborhood beforehand with special invites attached to doors with the Yappy Hour details.) TPS also uses Facebook for posting pictures of clients' animals; seeing their four-legged friend always results in a smile. On a more serious note, lost pets are also posted on TPS's Facebook page.
TPS will likely change a bit this year because the business is for sale. After working mostly 19-hour days, seven days a week since establishing TPS and learning about a medical issue with a close relative, Simonetto has decided to sell the business.
"This decision was not easy for me. But, meanwhile, until I find the correct buyer, it's business as usual. It's always been about the animals and it still is.''
Juliette Cassistre is a Boston area native who loves sunny Florida, fitness and health-conscious cooking and baking. She earned her BA in Communications at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.