Zara Hunt

It’s that family feeling again….

Meeting Zara for the first time you are immediately struck that this is someone who won’t let you down, something she has in common with all of the Team VIPPIES – straight forward people who love the animals and will go out of their way to make sure they are well cared for. However, with Zara there is an added dimension, she also adores her human clients as well and sees them as a further extension of the family feel that being part of Team VIPPIES generates, “ I have got a whole new set of ‘Nans’ whose dogs I walk and who I enjoy a chat and cuppa with when the schedule permits,” she said. Many dog walks are carried out at times when the owners are at work or away from their home but the older clients are often at home needing that little bit of extra help with their dogs because of their own short or long term health needs. Zara has quite a number of such clients and it adds to the pleasure she derives from her work that these folks are as thrilled as their dogs to see her; she maybe the only other human they will see or speak to that day.

VIPPIES got lucky when a new cleaner came into their life a few years ago in the shape of Zara. She had quit her career  as a contractor at RAF Waddington and was working for a former RAF person in their cleaning business. Sheena spotted Zara’s potential straight away and began a campaign to persuade her to become one of the dog walking team. “It took a while to persuade Zara as he didn’t want to let her employer down, something I learned is an important part of what makes her so trustworthy and reliable,” said Sheena. “She fitted in with us all so well – a bit of a big sister and friend for Jade and a fellow Imps supporter for Jake, I knew we needed her in the family team”. A little over three years ago Zara moved to Team VIPPIES and her only regret is that she didn’t do it sooner as she loves the job and it has helped her move on in her life.

Zara is one of the busiest walkers and can easily find herself walking ten individual dogs in a day for anything from 30 minutes to an hour at a time in rain, hail, snow, wind and sunshine. Most of her walks are out in the open fields and parks around Lincoln which is just an added bonus to the unconditional love the dogs give her in return. On odd occasions she allows her husband of ten years to tag along, “but to be honest he hasn’t got the stamina and is flagging after just one walk! There aren’t many jobs that give you such a good workout in such good company and allow you to have positive headspace.”

At home Zara looks after her rescue cats (as well as hubby) so cannot have a dog of her own. Some of the cats have had a really tough time – Peanut was found dumped in a box on the side of the A46 so has a real thing about confined spaces, great when you need to get him to visit the Vet. She confesses that animals are her babies and has a particular soft spot for one regular client, Blue the Beagle who has featured in a previous article, she has built up a real bond with him.

A typical day will start at 7.30am and finishes around 3pm covering a wide patch round Cherry Willingham, the Carlton Centre, Yarborough and South Common. As well as walking the dogs she also drops in on the odd local cat and is Denise’s back up for cat car care. Most of her walks are regular and so she has also built up nodding acquaintances with dog walkers on those routes plus a few regular ‘chat buddies’. What is difficult is if she meets these same people out of context, she admits that “if they haven’t got their dog and walking gear I can take a while to realise who they are!” .

Now and again Zara also steps in at VIPPIES HQ to help with the foster care breakfasts. That can be fun sorting out the different meals preferences,” she says,  “and also the dogs who need medication making sure they get the right thing in the right way – some will only take meds sprinkled on their food, others have to be bribed with it hidden in a sausage and a very few just take it like a treat!” She is a key team member who can help out at short notice most of the time – so long as it does not interfere with watching her beloved Lincoln City Football Club fixtures and also does not involve reptiles.

Most of her doggy clients are pretty strong – Labradors and the like and Zara acknowledges she has to have her eyes everywhere watching out for the thing that might spook them or another animal they might not like. She favours extendable leads and only lets dogs run free if the area is secure and she has a strong bond, “it’s amazing what you can achieve with the right tone of voice to instil a bit of discipline.” One thing she is very firm about is making sure she interacts with her dogs when walking, the phone is for taking photos only, and at the end of the walk she gets a real buzz writing up the notes for the absentee owners so they know what their dog has been up to.

One of Zara’s special clients is a local lady who rescues Romanian dogs reaching the end of their life. Only very few of these dogs need a walk but because the lady cannot drive it a different service that Zara provides, driving the dogs to see the vet. It’s back to that family feeling.

“I feel blessed to have found this job, or should I say for it to have found me. My clients, Sheena, Jade and Jake are part of my family now; as are the rest of Team VIPPIES”