The following article was written by Marc Rapport and appeared in Lake Murray Magazine, May 2000.
Debra Hall’s business has gone to the dogs. In fact, it goes to the dogs, cats, birds, fish and sometimes even pot-bellied pigs every day.
Owner of Pup Strutters pet-sitting service in Irmo, Hall decided to start her business eight years ago after doing some soul-searching while recovering from surgery. “I thought about what I could do that would allow me to work with animals and make a good living at it,” she says.
Hall was already an active volunteer with the Animal Protection League. Armed with endorsements from that group and local veterinarians, she produced marketing materials and started making phone calls.
From that first referral and $100 check, her business has grown to nearly 1,000 clients across the Midlands. With the help of 10 associates, Hall cares for all kinds of pets in the homes of their vacationing owners.
“It took time for it to grow, but now we are known by all the vets in town, and a lot of my clients come from their referrals. Word has spread that you can count on Pup Strutters,” she says.
Horses, birds, fish, even farm animals have come under her care.
Visits include taking care of all the animals’ needs, including walking or watching while they’re in a fenced backyard to make sure “they take care of what they need to take care of,” Hall says.
Hall’s business quickly grew to the point where she could not do it alone. “I only hire people I know personally or are highly recommended to me by veterinarian friends,” she says. Each client family has its own representative, a person they get to know and trust.
And she also interviews potential clients. “We need to be comfortable with each other. And we won’t take the job if we’re not comfortable with the situation,” she says.
That comfort leads to relationships. “We bond with the animals we care for,” she says. “They get 100 percent of our attention and we attend to all their special needs.”
There are some dogs, Hall admits, that she won’t take on as clients. “Full-blooded chows are one. And I turn down pit bulls,” she says, but quickly adds, “some of my best clients are rottweillers.”
Hall lives in Irmo with husband, Wayne, a real estate broker and mortgage consultant, along with three Labrador retrievers and four cats. “All our children have four legs,” she laughs.
“People love their pets like they do their children,” she says. “These are their babies. I hear that all the time, and that’s why they choose us. They don’t want to stress their animals out anymore than they have to when they go on vacation.”
Melbourne Beach, FL