Woman creates niche caring for neighbors' pets
Growing up, Robin Waldvogel always wanted to work with dogs. And while some might choose veterinary medicine or breeding, she found her passion in professional pet care.
Waldvogel operates Puppy Girl Pet Care out of her home, and on any given day, shares her home with between five and nine other people's dogs, in addition to her own dogs, Abby and Scupper ,and her turtle, Shelly.
"The dogs that stay with us become part of our family," she said. "If they're allowed to be on the couch at home, they can be on the couch here. I feed and walk and play with them, we go on field trips to the beach and trails, have dinner, treats and lots of snuggle time."
She most often watches dogs, but has watched cats, birds, rabbits and hamsters, and one time, a snake. Over the years, she has learned many things about pet care.
"I've learned patience with puppies, compassion for older dogs and how much dogs can heal the human heart," she said. "I've also learned how to work with animals that experience separation anxiety, how to read their body language, how to deal with different scenarios of escalating aggression and how to tell when it's just rough play."
Growing up, Waldvogel's family had numerous pets, including cats, dogs, birds, fish, hermit crabs and snakes. They also had a rabbit, a turtle and a gecko, so her love affair with animals began at a very young age.
In 2000, she was living in Long Beach, Calif., and had just graduated high school when a friend's mother asked if she would be available to watch another friend's three dogs.
"The owners told me they would pay me to sleep at their house with their pets and I was thrilled," she said. "I felt like I should be paying them for getting to hang out with their dogs."
Waldvogel spent a week and a half watching the woman's boxer, pit bull and German shepherd. Word of mouth spread through her neighborhood and soon, she quit her other jobs and was pet sitting full time.
In February 2016, Waldvogel, whose maiden name is Cook, moved to Homer after her high school classmate and Homer resident, Ethan Waldvogel, reached out to her on Facebook.
"We started out texting and talking once in a while, and then texting and talking every day," she said. "When we met in person, the connection was the same."
Two days after she traveled to Homer to visit, the couple was planning her move north and six months later, they married. She began pet sitting the day after she moved here.
Waldvogel boards dogs and runs her doggy daycare out of her home for dogs that need care while their parents are at work. She also offers day visits to animals in their own homes, and her care services are adapted to each pet's needs - feeding, walking, brushing, bathing and medication.
"In California, lots of dogs don't walk on wet grass or in the cold, and walking them is like walking them in a concrete jungle of streets, smog and noise," she said. "Here, I take them to the trails and to the beach and let them run no matter what the weather."
Waldvogel shared that, in addition to feeding her love of animals, caring for them helps to alleviate some of her chronic health issues, including her Type 1 diabetes. Other issues include autoimmune diseases and chronic pain due to muscular and bone issues from a recent car accident. Through her good and her bad days, she has a high pain tolerance and a strong work ethic.
"No matter what's happening in my body, my focus is on the animals and my duty to caring for them," she said. "They bring light and happiness into my life, lift my spirits and motivate me to keep my body moving."
Waldvogel is the vice president of Homer Animal Friends and heads the Rover Program, putting out donation boxes at local businesses around town where community members can donate change which goes toward the organization's spay and neuter program.
Waldvogel shared that she loves living in Homer.
"In California, I was always rushing around to get to the next thing I had to do, frustrated by the traffic and the people, and very stressed," she said. "Here, I've really slowed down and am way less frustrated. The weather, views, nature and wildlife, everything is just wonderful and more conducive to my health. And I love the small-town feel of Homer, yet it's big enough that we have everything we need right here."
The couple likes to make their own jelly, pickle their own vegetables and they smoke and can their own fish.
"Homer is so conducive to living a more self-sustained lifestyle," she said. "I had never done anything like that before, but Ethan introduced and guided me through all these new adventures."
Inspired by the philosophy of doing what makes you happy, she is grateful that Ethan has a job he loves as much as she loves hers, and that provides health insurance.
"I don't make a lot of money, but being with animals is very therapeutic and cathartic and makes me happy," she said. "I very rarely meet a dog that doesn't like me. When they are in my care, I spoil them rotten and pour so much love on them that they forget to be upset that their owner isn't there."