I Quit My Job To Walk Dogs And Now I'm A Better Mom

Sometimes existential midlife crises come in pairs.

If you’re going to have an existential midlife crisis, quitting your career to walk dogs isn’t a bad way to go.

Ultimately, it all started with a tattoo.

Scratch that, it started two years ago when we got a puppy—a puppy I swore I would never get. This high-energy, ten-pound bundle of cuteness wiggled her way into my life and heart. She sits within a six-foot radius of me wherever I am, and we’ve walked hundreds of kilometers together. To say she has changed my life is an understatement.

But then there’s still that tattoo. I had gotten one many years ago when I was too young to realize a Canadian maple leaf on my hip would stretch into a full grown tree throughout two pregnancies.

But I got the itch again and after arguments about whose would go first, I had my sons’ names tattooed on the back of my neck. I felt very bad ass; my older son declared it, “A very mom thing to do.”

It should have been my first clue that perhaps I was subconsciously hearing the hands of time ticking.

I’m a fit, mostly healthy-eating, in-my-forties-closer-to-fifty-ish person, but there was still the thought in the back of my head that I have lived more years than I will continue to live. Add in the catalyst that my mom passed away at the age of 59, and it was the perfect storm.

Long story, short, I wanted to spend the years I had left on this earth doing something that made me happy. After a considerable amount of self-reflection, many sleepless nights, and more than a few bottles of wine, I quit my career to become a part-time dog walker and go back to my writing roots to freelance again.

It all boiled down to this: No matter what mood I was in, I was always in a good mood when I came back from walking my dog. There is something about the simplicity of being outside and active that gives me joy. The writing then gives me the creative outlet I crave.

Did I also mention that while I was completely giving my work life an overhaul, my husband walked away from his business of 20 years? He’s now a part-time FedEx driver.

Sometimes existential midlife crises come in pairs.

While it’s been a roller coaster ride the last seven months, something unexpected happened that none of us anticipated.

Walking and boarding dogs brought us closer together as a family, and ultimately, it’s made me a better mother.

It takes a village to raise a family, but it takes your entire family to be on board to care for other families’ dogs in your home. When we open our house to a dog, everyone in the family is involved in taking care of them.

My older son has been re-named “The Pet Whisperer” because all the dogs flock to him, cuddling by his legs while he watches YouTube videos on the couch. My younger son becomes their playmate, especially the younger more energetic pups. We go on nightly walks, the boys walking our dog, while I walk our border. 

Those nightly walks have been a means to conversations we might not have had otherwise. I’ve learned about school, friends, and what they are worried about. There’s something about walking side-by-side that allows them to open up. Spending my days with dogs has taught me how to fully be in the moment without any distractions. Now when my boys talk to me I ‘really’ listen, not the half-listening I would do while trying to finish up one last thing on my computer.

Funnily enough, dog walking has also opened me up to depending on other people more, something I didn’t do previously.

My former job gave me freedom. I worked from home and was available to take my kids to and from school, volunteer, and just be there. But walking dogs means you have to be at a certain place at a specific time. This became abundantly clear the first time one of my kids got sick. In my prior job, it wouldn’t have been a problem. Now it was.

I hesitated. But after a few minutes, I called my friend who promised to come over and check on him while I was out for five hours.

And then there was the teacher who took my older son to a two-day competition I couldn’t attend, my mother-in-law who generously helps out on a moment’s notice and the mom who I sort of know but not really, who took my younger son after school a few times. I regret not allowing myself more help previously because I carried the weight of having to do so much on my own shoulders when it didn’t have to be that way.

And that’s what’s changed for me the most – my stress levels. It’s hard to be frazzled when you walk six hours a day and are greeted with unbridled enthusiasm. This has rolled over into all aspects of my life, things that used to get to me don’t. Our bank account is smaller and our house isn’t as pristine, but as my boys like to put it, “I’m more chill.”

Out of all the things I expected dog walking to do in my life, being a better mom wasn’t one of them.

If you’re going to have a midlife crisis, letting your life go to the dogs might not be such a bad way to do it.

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