The story behind Small Paws Outdoors
How did an unexpected 28-hour journey from Oman to the UK result in me setting up Small Paws Outdoors?
Here you will discover more about me and my love for animals, what it was that caused me to rescue a Pomeranian from overseas and how a number of obstacles inspired me to start my own business, offering tailored dog walking adventures to small and toy breeds in Southampton and Winchester.
Where it all began
My affinity with animals became apparent as soon as I was born when I became inseparable from two cat toys my mother had sewn. They were called Boody Boo and Miaow Miaow (I still have them somewhere).
I’ve always had pets; our first family dog was a German Shepherd called Mandy and I was completely devastated when she died. Unfortunately, she had an aggressive nature and, after my parents explored all avenues, they made the upsetting decision to put her to sleep. I found out when it was too late.
As you can imagine, this is heartbreaking enough for an adult, let alone a child. I didn’t understand and sometimes I still don’t. I believe it was this painful experience that defined the moment I decided I never wanted to lose another animal again. Animal welfare became my priority and is still extremely important to me today.
To help fill the void a while after we lost Mandy, my parents decided they were ready to get another dog. This time, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. His name was Monty and he was a lovely little dog with a beautiful nature.
As I was growing up, I spent time in the garden saving wildlife that had been injured by other animals and at the age of 12, I became a vegetarian. My sister and I had pet chinchillas and I also accompanied my mother on her pet-sitting duties. I was in my element.
Continuing into adulthood and with my own home, I adopted two cats. One was unwanted by a next-door neighbour and the other was a rescue from the RSPCA. It’s funny how life goes full circle… here I was again, completely inseparable from my two cats (except this time they were real).
Then my life took an unexpected turn…
Planes, trains and automobiles (and it wasn't a movie)
In January 2015, I got married and moved to Oman in the Middle East to join my husband who was working out there on a short-term contract. We had a pretty large apartment and soon after I moved in, I bumped into this tiny Pomeranian who was owned then by a man from South Africa.
I instantly fell in love with him and, much to my surprise, my husband commented saying he might end up being mine. I laughed it off thinking he was being ridiculous. Why would this man let me have his dog?
Little did I know, my husband and the man from South Africa were serious. This guy was due to leave Oman and return home… and his comment that he wasn’t prepared to pay the cost of taking his little Pom home with him because (and I quote) “I could buy two German Shepherds at home for the price it would cost to take him back” did not resonate well with me.
Alarm bells started ringing and I was silently furious. I quickly realised this man was not a responsible pet owner.
A new addition to our family
So, I had a serious discussion with my husband, jumped in my car and off I went to visit the local vet who specialised in exporting pets back to the UK. I wanted to do this properly because so many pets get dumped in Oman and I wasn’t prepared to foster him short term, only to leave him behind when it was time to come home. The vet explained the costs to me and the decision was made. This little Pom was now a part of our family.
And what a relief, as we later discovered the previous owner had planned to put him to sleep if we hadn’t adopted him. I was shocked.
A few months later and earlier than expected, the contract my husband had been working on came to an end, and so I was scheduled to fly back home to the UK. Fortunately, my little dog was small enough to fly in the cabin with me and, as the move was classed as a relocation, the company paid for business class seats (yes – my Pom had his own business class seat next to me).
Exporting your dog takes a LOT of planning and the lead up to this was probably the most stressful few months I’d ever experienced in my life with several obstacles to overcome.
The pet export process begins
Firstly, my dog was required to have a titre test where his blood was sent to Europe to check he had enough antibodies against rabies. This was a three-week wait – three weeks of waiting and hoping that his antibodies were high enough to be protected against rabies. The relief I felt when his results passed the test was amazing.
Then I had to wait another three months for him to be cleared to travel.
You’d think I could relax after getting the all clear, but no. Endless emails to government agencies, vets, the officials at Eurotunnel, making enquiries and getting everything down in writing in case of any mishaps. I was petrified something would be wrong with the paperwork and I’d get stopped at every transfer and he’d be refused entry.
Thankfully, the vets in Oman are highly skilled in animal imports and exports as they are inundated with abandoned pets and strays, rescuing and rehoming them around the world on a daily basis. So we paid them to sort everything out for us with the ministry, with copies of paperwork in Arabic, English, French and German. You see, even though my dog could travel in the plane’s cabin with me, the UK doesn’t allow live animals to enter the country in this way. And so, I made an epic 28-hour journey with about five suitcases and my Pom in a dog carrier on my shoulder.
Off we go on our 28-hour adventure
Our journey finally began with the first leg flying from Oman to Qatar. After a short wait, we flew onto Germany where we had to change planes and my little pooch had to go through security again – another nerve-wracking moment. Our final flight left Frankfurt and flew into Paris.
Shortly after arrriving in Paris and departing the plane, I discovered they weren’t even fussed about my paperwork after all that worry and I headed straight out of arrivals and into the train station.
From Paris we travelled by rail to Lille on the fast train, then changed at Lille and took a passenger foot train to Calais. This leg of the journey was not fun in the slightest, as I discovered my Pom didn’t like people on bicycles – and there were a lot of them getting on and off the train at every stop (we were seated by the door which didn’t help matters). There had also been heightened security at that time due to terrorist threats, so we were also being closely watched by a group of police with guns – awkward! The scenarios that kept running through my mind on that journey…. *wipes brow*.
Finally, we arrived in Calais where we waited for my best friend and her husband to arrive in their Bongo. I needed a car to cross the channel with a pet and hiring a vehicle in one country and dropping it off in another wasn’t possible. So my friends very kindly offered to come and pick us up (a favour I will never forget).
Eventually we travelled through the Tunnel and made our way from Folkestone, driving along the UK motorways to our final destination. I have never felt such relief as I did when we finally made it to English soil. I was in awe of my little travelling companion. The journey – and all the preparation – hadn’t phased him one bit. Me on the other hand…
One of the greatest discoveries a person makes, one of their great surprises, is to find they can do what they were afraid they couldn’t do.
Some time later, my husband and I decided we would buy a house. We’d been living in temporary accommodation for a few weeks so wanted to try and find something as soon as possible. My mother-in-law had been helping us look after our Pom when we were out and about.
One afternoon, I got a frantic phone call. It was my mother-in-law telling me the one thing no dog owner ever wants to hear. He’d been stolen. Someone actually broke into her garden and took him. My world crashed around me; I was devastated. I immediately went into panic mode, screaming at my husband to get in the car. We anxiously drove over to see her to try and find out what the hell was happening.
Someone was watching over us that day.
Our little dog had been handed into a local vet by a lady who’d seen him running around by himself.
It was an actual miracle.
Shortly before this happened, we’d made the decision to have our dog neutered. We truly believe the only reason we got him back that day was because his wounds were still fresh and those who stole him realised he couldn’t breed. I’d been comtemplating whether or not we were doing the right thing by having him neutered. But from then on, I was so relieved we’d gone ahead because, if I’d changed my mind, I don’t think we would have seen him again.
Health problems - a new obstacle
Thinking the worst was behind us and I could finally enjoy my time with my darling little rescue dog, I had another setback when I discovered he’d developed a respiratory illness. Unfortunately, he’s been in hospital twice with pneumonia and is now on medication for life.
Please, enough now. No more bad news.
It was around the time of his diagnosis that I wished I could be at home with him more. I wanted to monitor his health and generally keep an eye on him full stop, so I started to wonder what other people did in this situation. He needed looking after and I wanted that someone to be me. But how could I when I worked full time with bills to pay?
It suddenly dawned on me there must be other pet owners in a similar position to me; like-minded people who will do anything for their beloved pets, but who also need to go to work and pay the bills.
And that’s when I had my lightbulb moment. I’d always wanted to work with animals but had always ended up in office jobs. I decided there and then to start up my own dog walking business. That way, I could help other pet owners look after their dogs, still pay the bills and be in a position to look after my own dog.
It ticked all the boxes.
Small Paws Outdoors is born
I’ve spent the last couple of years speaking to other small dog owners and planning my business. I’ve personally experienced the fears many dog owners face and I’ve felt the anxiety dog owners fear.
Now I want to help you.
I decided to specialise in walking small and toy breeds because of my Pomeranian. I know how vulnerable small dogs are, how delicate they are, and I get scared about the same things you do.
If you’re lucky enough to have a small dog in your family and you need a dog walker, let’s talk. I can identify with the feelings of anxiety you experience when somebody else takes care of your precious pooch, so I know exactly where you’re coming from.
Make an enquiry
Why I’m not your average dog walker and how I relieve you from your fears and anxiety as a small dog specialist.
How I can help
Here I explain the benefits found on my dog walking adventures and how they help you and your little dog.