18 Jun

Contributed by Jennifer Dew, 9 to 5 Pets

EJen & Luckyveryone has a personal story that has shaped their life. I felt it was time to share my own with you. I have always thrived on building relationships with people and loving-on pets, which is why starting 9 to 5 Pets was such a natural fit for my life story.

What I love the most about what we do at 9 to 5 Pets is the peace of mind we provide, how personal our service is, how welcoming our clients are, and how important their trust in us is. It is an awesome privilege and responsibility to care for a client’s home and their beloved pets while they are away. We recognize how special these relationships are and that our clients’ trust in us can never be taken lightly or for granted.

9 to 5 Pets has been all about unleashing my JOY and trusting the journey and I’m proud to share my story with you now.

Jen & SoxWhat can you share about your background?
I was born in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, raised in Greensboro, NC, and have 2 older brothers. I graduated from the University of Tennessee Knoxville in 1998 and received my Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, Marketing. I was also an NCAA Division I Lady Volunteer Varsity Rower for Tennessee. I moved to the Jacksonville area from Atlanta back in 2000 and fell in love with our beaches community. I rented a little duplex by the sea in Neptune Beach and decided I could never be landlocked again! I married my husband Mark in 2003 and we purchased our first home here in Ponte Vedra Beach in 2004. We couldn’t imagine our lives anywhere else; and I can truly say that no matter where we travel to, we love coming home more.

Jen, Mark & Pete at BeachHave you always had pets?
Yes. I’ve felt a special connection with animals my entire life. I grew up going to the farm just about every day and riding horses, and there wasn’t a time when my family didn’t open up our home to a dog or cat in need of rescuing. For me, a house just doesn’t feel like a home without a pet. Just before my husband and I got married, we rescued our cat Otis and our dog Pete. We raised Pete for 14 years and Otis for 19 years. We missed having a dog in our lives. So after Otis crossed the rainbow bridge last year, we decided to open our hearts and home to another pup.

OtisBlue came along quicker than expected, thanks to our good friend Jennifer Wesely who loves to play ‘matchmaker’ in her free time and connect people who are ready to adopt with local pets in need. Jen follows all the facebook pages of local rescues and shelters and came across a post about Blue and his sister Maxi through Fur Sisters Furever Urs Rescue. They were 6 months old at the time and being crated and muzzled all day by parents who weren’t ready for the responsibilities that come with raising puppies. Luckily Fur Sisters stepped in, and with the help of their foster network, Jessica and Luke gave them a soft place to fall and all the love and reassurance they needed to thrive through the transition.

Blue & Maxi Facebook PostWhen it’s meant to be, it will happen. And it all happened fast! When we saw the Facebook post on Thursday (Thanks again, Jen!) we filled out the adoption application that night, and were meeting up with Blue and Jessica the very next day at BrewHound Dog Park + Bar. We fell in love with Blue immediately and by Sunday he was hangin with us for his first pack walk on the beach and settling in with us at his new furever home.

Blue & Maxi at BrewHoundAside from learning about the wonders of the outdoors and how to be a dog a little late in life, both Maxi and Blue are living their best lives now. We got to know Matt who adopted Maxi at the same time we adopted Blue, and so the best part of this story is every now and then we get the siblings together for a reunion at BrewHound where it all began. It’s an absolute riot to watch the two of them running around, chasing each other, barking all the while (like beagles like to do), and herding one another(like heelers like to do). It’s pure JOY unleashed!

Blue in the SandI truly never thought I could love another dog like I loved my boy Pete. What Blue has taught me is that the bond you share with each of your pets is unique and can never be replaced. And that it’s the love you have for them that is limitless and meant to be shared. I truly believe our pets are a gift from God and that each of them finds a unique way to bless and inspire our lives.

Jen Jumping for JoyWhat inspired you to launch 9 to 5 Pets?
For 20 years I worked in sales, marketing and business development for both the corporate and non-profit sectors. During that time I experienced the pressure of trying to make time for it all in a “9 to 5” day. As devoted a pet parent as I wanted to be, there were times, unfortunately, when Pete and Otis got the “short end of the stick” when early meetings, deadlines, and business travel pulled me away. I’ve always believed the sky’s the limit when you dream big, believe in yourself, and work hard. We CAN have it all, but I’ve learned it can be hard to manage it all. And the last thing we want to feel is guilty about not giving our furry companions the love and attention they deserve. Or worse still, stress when we’ve left them too long or have to leave them behind. In this busy 9 to 5 world, we can all use a helping hand; and so in 2017 I was inspired to find my JOY, follow my passion, and launch 9 to 5 Pets to help bring a professional, dependable, and easy-to-use pet care service to the people and pets in our community that I love and can certainly relate to.

Technology in Pet SittingHow has in-home professional pet care evolved and how has technology impacted the business model and services offered to clients?
Like many businesses back in the day, client records and pet records were kept on paper. Reservations were made by phone. Clients would have to wonder and worry if you were really there for their pets and how long you actually stayed with them. Visit notes (if any) were handwritten by the sitter/walker and left on the kitchen counter. And clients would have to pay via cash or check and leave it behind for the sitter or walker to collect.

The technology that is now available to pet care professionals has allowed us to serve our clients more efficiently, with greater excellence, and with far more transparency. At 9 to 5 Pets, we have a secure online client portal and free mobile app service where our clients enjoy the convenience of quickly and easily updating their client and pet information, scheduling our services, communicating with their 9 to 5 Pets Team, and easily making payments either with a credit card or through Paypal. And they receive peace of mind (along with a few smiles and laughs) from the notes and pictures we send them after each visit, along with GPS and time tracking data so they can always rest assured knowing we are there and caring for their pets. Our time with our clients’ pets is pure JOY and it’s wonderful to see how technology has allowed that JOY to shine through to our clients. It truly makes it a “win win!”

Jen, Jen, Minka & BlueIt seems the human bond with furry friends is more valuable than ever. Do you agree? Why or why not?
The bond we share with our pets IS special; and through their love and constant companionship we get to experience what it truly feels like to be unconditionally loved. That’s a gift. And so it makes me smile to see more and more people opening up their hearts and homes to furry companions; because there are so many animals in need of loving homes, and we are all deserving of this special kind of love. Pets DO enrich our lives and there is no doubt in my mind that every household could benefit from their companionship.

Mother's Day 2018How does volunteering enrich your life?
When we volunteer we say “yes” to serving a need greater than ourselves, which I believe is an important and humbling practice. Volunteering has given me the gift of perspective, and reminds me that we all face different challenges and we all hold different strengths. And when we take the time to offer up our strengths in order to help someone who is in need, we create more space in their world and in ours for happiness, joy and gratitude to set in and thrive.

I’ll always be grateful to my mom for teaching me the value of volunteering at a very young age. She used to deliver Mobile Meals and I would ride along and help her. I remember how good it felt to know I was brightening someone’s day not just by delivering a meal, but by saying “hello,” sitting down to visit for a bit, and offering them a little companionship in their day. I learned that sometimes it’s not all about the immediate need you are serving.

Brooks Adaptive GolfMy mom’s background was in Special Education; and so while I was growing up, she would help both children and adults who had disabilities with pool therapy. And so when I moved to Jacksonville and was looking for volunteer opportunities, I was introduced to the Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program and was able to understand and relate to their mission immediately. I met and fell in love with all their program participants and was humbled to see how every individual was hit with a different and unexpected curveball in their life. They each had their unique challenges. And what I learned and came to love the most was to see how the participants were not just benefitting physically from the activities, but collectively they could be there for one another, to help each other through whatever challenge or hardship they were facing. Collectively, they could empower one another to keep pushing forward and believing in the possibilities for their lives. We all need this, and it’s wonderful to see Brooks supporting this Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program in order to promote this type of healing. And so although I was there to help the participants ambulate physically, it was their smiles, hugs, and willful spirits that left me smiling and feeling inspired. Now that’s the true gift of volunteering with Brooks!

JHS Jen & ElmerOur 9 to 5 Pets team also enjoys volunteering at The Jacksonville Humane Society with our Northeast Florida Pet Professionals group to play with the cats in the cattery and to help walk the precious pups who are patiently awaiting their forever homes. Each pet we meet has a special story to tell and their hearts are so full of love. JHS is doing so much to enrich the lives of animals in need in Jacksonville. If you are not able to adopt or foster, volunteering your time at JHS to help walk their pups and show them some love is a great way to get out, give back, and get a whole lotta love in return!

JHS CatteryWhat is your favorite part about living in Ponte Vedra Beach?
There are SO many things! This place is a gem and we often feel like we hit the jackpot with all the places you could choose to call home in the United States. The natural beauty, wildlife, and peaceful community of Ponte Vedra Beach is what first drew us in back in 2004.

Pete in his YardOtis in his YardTo be perfectly honest, when we were looking for our first home, our number one priority was giving Pete and Otis the space they needed and craved…a great big yard they could play in, relax in, and call their own. When we found Sawgrass it felt like just the right fit. It’s pet friendly with miles and miles of safe, shaded sidewalks and neighborhoods to walk your dog. And the beach side has an amazing community of dog lovers who are out there every morning taking in the sunrise and bonding in their own, unique ways with their pups. Whether it’s chucking the ball, throwing the frisbee, running/walking a few miles, or hunting for crabs, they are all out there catching up with one another, watching out for one another, and most of all, loving on their pups. It’s a great community through and through!

Blue & Henry Fetching the BallNow, our favorite part about living in Ponte Vedra Beach is our ability to walk to the beach and greet the sunrise each morning with our precious boy Blue and all his buddies. I can’t think of a better way to start each day and how blessed we feel to call this place our home!

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