Sunday, March 31, 2013

Working for the Man... Not

Dear Readers,

What I didn't tell you about last summer was that, the day after Lynne’s surgery, our car died as I was pulling up to the toll both on the Benicia Bridge.  I had been working for almost two years as a real estate courier, driving legal documents between title companies, banks, law offices, realtors, homeowners, etc.  I enjoyed the job at first.  I like to drive, and I was sent all over the Bay Area and far beyond.  It was an opportunity to see some of the beautiful countryside of Northern California, and become way more familiar with how to get around the area.  But it’s hard to stay enthusiastic about driving when you’re logging upwards of 1,100 miles a week, and the pay is getting lower and gas prices are getting higher.  I started to long for freedom.

Quitting was tough, however.  It seemed prudent to find other work before leaving what I had.  At the same time, the job was so physically, and more importantly, mentally, draining, that all I wanted to do evenings and weekends was veg out, not look for work.  The car made the decision for me.  It said, “I quit.”  So, I was liberated!  No more unpleasant job!  Of course, this meant no more income and no more car, too.  All this while Lynne’s was undergoing her unexpectedly long and difficult rehab.  It turned out to be a pretty dark time in our lives. 

This was just about the time we started taking the five-session course I mentioned in an earlier post, Saying Yes to Pleasure - with Lab.  Ask me sometime to tell you how extraordinary this course is.  Several weeks into it, a couple in the course, Patricia and Pepijn, approached us to say that they had a second vehicle, an old covered pickup truck they weren't using, and would we like to borrow it for a while?  What a generous offer!

In the meantime, I had been looking for many different types of work:  Food service, copy writing, office assistant, proofreading, whatever.  Marilyn suggested that, while waiting to get a job, I put signs up in the neighborhood and post on craigslist to walk people’s dogs.  I resisted this plan for a variety of reasons, but I started looking into it anyway.  I immediately felt vindicated when I discovered I would be required to get insurance coverage in order to walk other people’s dogs.  Cost of the premium: $200.  “You see?” I concluded.  “This is clearly not for me.”

Then Lynne, bless her heart, had an idea:  “Why don’t you write to all the dog-walking companies in the area, and see if they’re hiring?  That way you’ll be covered by their insurance.”  So I did.  Most didn't reply, and the ones that did said they weren't hiring.  Then I got an email from an outfit called Woofwalks that said they had actually just been talking the day before about how they needed another walker, and that I sounded like I might be the perfect fit.

When I arrived at the regional park staging area to go on an interview/dog hike with Stacey, the owner of the company, she and I seemed to like each other instantly.  We had a great hike, talked about dogs and our lives, and the deal was sealed.  I started going on training hikes the following week.  Ironically, it turns out that I could not even have applied for this job if it hadn't been for the pickup truck.  Not only was a vehicle mandatory, but it had to be one that could carry six dogs at a time.  Our old car, the one that died, wouldn't have been suitable.      
So, the happy outcome is that I get paid to take a one-hour trail hike in the Oakland hills with up to six off-leash dogs, twice a day.
  I drive to the owners’ houses, pick up the dogs, drive up to one of the East Bay Regional Parks, go hiking with the dogs for an hour, drive them home, pick up the next pack of dogs, and do the same thing again.

Lynne loves my job.  She knows the names and personalities of each of the dogs on my schedule.  As soon as I walk through the door after each day’s work, she immediately starts grilling me about what each dog did that day that was entertaining, and what I wrote on the “report card” that I leave at each client’s home when I drop off their dog.   There’s always plenty to tell.  It’s glorious work.  I get exercise, sunshine, fresh air, spectacular scenery, and the company of dogs.  And it fulfills a dream I've hoped for my whole life.  I no longer have to choose between having fun and making money.  Thank you, God!

Best Regards,

You have to get older, but you don't have to get worse. 
-- Vic Baranco