Interview with Chicago Dog Walker, Cynthia Slaby

Cynthia Slaby of Chicago PetsCynthia Slaby is the owner and manager of Chicago-Pets, a pet care company she founded in Chicago, Illinois. Prior to starting this company, Cynthia had over 15 years of Advertising and Marketing experience, working on some of the biggest consumer packaged goods and pharmaceutical brands in the world. The aspects of her career that she enjoyed the most were the creativity, strategy and the team environment.

Cynthia was able to see many fantastic campaigns come to light, as well as experience the successes that result from a cohesive team, but something was missing. Cynthia knew that her true calling in life was to nurture and care for animals. Her unconditional love and passion for them were the primary reasons for launching her own professional pet sitting service.

Cynthia’s educational background consists of a B.S. in Public Relations degree from Central Missouri State University. She is a registered member of Pet Sitters International (PSI), volunteer in a medical setting for the Anti-Cruelty Society, and she am certified in Pet First-Aid by the American Red Cross.

Cynthia’s goal is to provide your pets with loving and attentive care and she strives everyday to succeed in providing her human and pet clients with the best quality, stress-free and easiest service possible. Cynthia believes in systems and routines to make sure your pets are safe and secure in their own surroundings, and ensure all her Pet Care Specialists are well trained on these. Cynthia’s pet care expertise will ensure that your loved ones receive the best care possible while you are away! How did you become a pet care professional, and what do you enjoy most about walking dogs?

Cynthia: I spent 15+ years in advertising and marketing. While I liked it, I didn’t love it. I want to love what I do because we spend so much of our time working. My passion for animals is something I’ve always wanted to follow and considered going back to school for veterinary medicine. Long story short, the amount of time and money that would require were not for me. Doing this I could use the skills I obtained as a marketer to grow a business caring for animals — now, I love what I do.

One of the things I love about walking dogs, there are so many, are the smiles they bring to people on the street as we’re walking by. I love the fact that the great majority of people love animals and simply must stop to give a big “hello” — and that my “clients” are always gracious and willing to be adored. How do you deal with dogs that have behavior issues?

Cynthia: This really depends on the behavior issue. I get a thorough history from each client before I begin walking their pup(s) and do everything I can to learn about a specific behavior issue. If it’s a dog that doesn’t like other dogs or children, I look for a low traffic walking path; if it’s a destructive issue I will wear myself out trying to make sure that dog gets a very energetic walk, I often run with them; If it’s an anxiety thing I reassure and talk to the dog the entire time we’re together. I do whatever I can to ensure that pup is as content as possible. Where are your favorite places to take dogs in and around Chicago  and why?

Cynthia: My favorite places are wherever I can find “natural turf” —- I look for grass and soil and head in that direction. A natural setting just seems more calming and gentler on the pads, not to mention they have to provide a lot more interesting scents and smells than concrete! Please share a good story from your dog walking career.

Cynthia: Again, there are so many. It’s not a story really but I do have one wonderfully cute and quirky Shepherd/Sharpei mix, Sam, who does this funny little circle dance thing when I walk with him…he’s constantly walking a few steps, circle, few steps, circle. It’s when he’s excited, which is always the first 5 minutes or so of a walk, and it just cracks me up. I love it. What’s the best way to cope with the crazy Chicago weather?

Cynthia: Gear, a good attitude and making the weather a personal challenge. If you’ve got the gear and the right outlook on things, there are no worries. What sets your company apart from other local dog walking companies?

Cynthia: I like to think of Chicago-Pets as a more of a “boutique” pet sitting service. We’re a very personalized service. I’m not interested in getting really, really big or franchising. We’re very discreet, no logo’d t-shirts are worn by our walkers and sitters. The pets we care for, and their owners, are members of our family, and I’m a nut about making sure that is sincerely demonstrated through very attentive care and customer service.

Another thing is I believe that consistency in care for pets is really important. Pets need consistency just like kids, I think. One, or two tops, Pet Care Specialists are assigned to each pet household. And it’s only two if the frequency of visits requested requires more than 1 person. This is of the utmost importance to me. I can guarantee all of this also because the people who work with me are employees, vs. contractors. What this means is that I can require certain actions of and train my Pet Care Specialists — this is not allowed, by law, if the staff is made up of independent contractors. Consistency is key.