Denise Gilliat

Teamwork is at the heart of what we do

VIPPIES longest serving employee is Denise Gilliat who, in 2008, thought she had retired from the hustle and bustle of the world of work.  Her 30 year career in the industrial first aid business travelling the length and breadth of the UK was pretty high pressured as the National Sales and Recruitment Manager and she wanted to join her husband David in a more leisurely lifestyle.

However, someone who is now in their sixties with their head in their forties is not the kind of person to put their feet up for long. Her career did not make it easy for Denise to  have pets of her own but she grew up amongst a variety of feathered and fluffy friends in Chesterfield. Always keen on keeping fit and walking for pleasure Denise couldn’t believe her luck when she saw an advert in The Works for someone who liked walking and liked pets. That was in the late summer of 2009 when VIPPIES (then known as Very Important Pet Services) was just starting to grow from its modest start with Sheena and Rob. In October of this year Denise will celebrate ten years of getting paid to enjoy herself.

Sheena owes a debt of gratitude to Denise as she quickly grasped the business model and helped develop VIPPIES to the resounding success it is now, “Initially she was known as the cat lady but she looks after all sorts as well as helping to grow our customer base.” Now Denise is known as the ‘treat lady’ as she knows the way to keep her charges on side!

Denise has seen many changes over the last decade – the current Directors of J & J Pet Care (VIPPIES) – Jake and Jade were still at school and supporting Rob with his deliveries of The Works Magazine, Sheena’s parents were helping out with the animals and there were only a couple of other part time pet carers fitting the job around their family commitments. Now the team has grown with dedicated administration support, pet carers and foster carers plus a reliable system to cover any problems or absences. And that is just a part of the change “so much has moved on so that VIPPIES is fully rounded service for pets,” said Denise. All the staff are trained in pet first aid, foster caring has become a much bigger part of the work plus there is the added value of raw food sales and great relationships with local vets. VIPPIES also has an eye to doing the right thing with regular fundraising events to raise money for a charity nominated by customers – the annual birthday garden party and organised walks contribute to everyone – staff, customers, pets – all being part of the team.

The VIPPIES model has teamwork at its heart, everyone mucks in and every voice is heard  but there is also independence and flexibility; Denise values this ethos enormously. Initially she thought it was going to be a part-time role but it soon became a fulltime commitment with visits to her charges at all times of the day and late into the evenings. Visits to pets at regular intervals throughout the day from 7am -8.30pm is not unusual. “The variety is great, apart from dogs and cats my animals include guinea pigs, rabbits, hens, ducks, geese, birds in aviaries, a gecko lizard, pigmy hedgehog, hamsters, parrots, fish and have even been on a farm to make sure the animals are safely tucked up in the pens for the night and back in the morning to let them out again.”  It is clear Denise loves her charges as if they were her own as she freely admits that the adorable cuteness and the cuddles more than compensate for the cold, rainy days. She is also part of the  ‘meet and greet’ team accompanying colleagues to visits with potential new customers and making sure there is a good fit between the pet and the carer.

The Hykeham Senior Pet Care Assistant (Denise) lives near to many of her regular clients, consequently she and her husband David have made some new friends as a result. They also enjoy the regular VIPPIES nights out when staff and their families really see what it is like to be part of a team. Oh yes, the Ten Pin Bowling can get quite competitive – in a good way!

Over the years Denise has met some lovely animals, and still does. But of course she has also had to say goodbye to quite a few. She tries hard not to be over emotional but she has some heart melting, happy memories of a few special dogs who are no longer with us  – Dolly, Winston, Lottie, Ozzy, Peggy, Troy and Flick.  Denise doesn’t admit to favourites but did confess that  “David and I will always have a special place in our hearts for Shez (Sheringham Brown) an African Grey Parrot who used to come to stay when his owners went away; they remain our friends.”