Spending your days doing something you love
Dee Singleton has been with VIPPIES for almost three years now. It is probably no exaggeration to say it has been a significant turning point in her life joining the team as she can now fill her days with a pleasurable pursuit rather than ‘just working’. Whilst it doesn’t quite fulfil the childhood ambition to become a vet it comes a pretty good second for someone who acknowledges she did not excel at the sciences.
There is no doubt that Dee loves animals of every kind but dogs are her absolute passion. She currently has three dogs living with her –a pair of black Labradors called TJ and Boo plus Doodlebug an elderly Staffie cross, oh and four cats. The values of VIPPIES shine out in the household, originally a client Doodlebug was ‘orphaned’ in her late teens (a rescue so not sure if she is 16 or 18) when her owner died but the team at VIPPIES could not stand by and watch her go into kennels or worse, they took her on and found her a loving home with Dee’s family. She is arthritic and developing dementia but she is loved and comfortable.
Dee is experienced with dogs that need that extra bit of tlc, TJ’s Mum, Molly, was Dee’s dog as well until she died late in 2018. Molly’s final years saw her go blind and deaf, finally succumbing to cancer, but Dee made sure she had a happy time as a proper dog – still chasing her jingling ball until the last few days. Whilst Dee has always been surrounded by animals – especially dogs – Molly was the first one she had from a puppy so will always have a special place in her heart “She instinctively knew what to do, never grumbled and I can see some of those laid back charms in her son TJ” said a misty eyed Dee.
It is that kind of devotion that Dee gives to the animals she walks and visits, spending a good five hours a day visiting and walking dogs of all shapes and sizes, feeding cats and the odd reptile as well as grooming and mucking out Monty the horse. On top of all that she helps out at VIPPIES HQ sorting out the timesheets for the twenty carers on the team – an Excel nightmare! TJ and Boo often go along as well although Doodlebug prefers to say at home on the doggy-cam. Sheena and Jade really appreciate Dee’s place in the team “Dee is fab fun and she joins us at the dogs shows where she gets to meet and cuddle even more dogs, she is a big support to Jade and I at the shows.” Not just cuddling of course, setting up the stands, talking to the visitors and showing what VIPPIES can do to help.
Over the years Dee has learned to read her own animals and applies that knowledge to the dogs she walks. “Some have had difficult starts in life as rescues, one may even have been a bait dog, and that means they need extra care when walking around other animals and people.” One of Dee’s regulars howls at sirens and can be very bouncy round others but she knows what the signs are and can make herself ready to brace! She sets great store by the meet and greet visits and discussing care plans with owners so that she can be confident she is doing what the owner wants and what is best for the dogs. These visits also make sure there is a good fit between the main walker, dog and back up walkers.
Dee’s car is a veritable wardrobe of delights for both Dee and the dogs. She keeps a variety of leads, harnesses, collars, waterproofs and towels to ensure that she can manage the dogs even if the owners forget to leave something out. She has a two hour window for her visits which will include not just walking but getting the dog ready, cleaning them up afterwards and writing up a note for the owner that is not just a bland “pee’d, poo’d and walked” message! It can be quite a logistical challenge as everyone wants a lunchtime walk.
The VIPPIES walkers have a WhatsApp group so they can support each other in what might otherwise be quite a solitary job – mind you Dee prefers the company of animals to humans! But it is proving to be a great support when a dog plays up or if you come across a problem, as well as a means of swapping giggles and happy snaps. All the carers hate it when one of their dogs die, Dee was just six months into the job when her first charge Jack died – she remembers bursting into tears. Hamish the chihuahua was also a sad loss, especially as Dee took him to his owners wedding just a few months before, sporting his tartan bowtie. VIPPIES now have a memory tree in the garden at HQ with little clay hearts and bones with the names of animals they have loved and lost. Dee explained why they do this, “I can’t get over how grateful owners can be, they often write and thank us for being part of their lives, it is very humbling to be so appreciated and we want to treasure the memories as much as they do”.
Dee has made some good friends since being part of VIPPIES and loves her ‘office in the sunshine’ (and rain). The animals are the focus and the team is there to give owners confidence that whatever happens – sickness, bereavement, flight delays, weddings – their animals will be looked after.
Dee’s final words on this latest phase in her life “It’s a dream job, a way of life and something I love”.