Walking the Dog

There’s an art and a business behind a dog’s daily walk.

Jay Barrett understands what a dog needs.

Barrett’s company is Fetch! Pet Care, a professional dog walking and pet sitting business. “Our business is pretty evenly split between clients who use us for recurring midday dog walks while they are at work and clients who use us on-demand when they travel or need pet care. Most of our services are done in the client’s home which allow the pet to stay in a familiar environment.  In-home services also provide for an extra level of security as we do checks each day, bring in mail packages, and rotate lights. Our team also provides pet taxi services to doggy day cares around town as well as vet and grooming appointments. We care for all sorts of pets but most are dogs and cats. Technology is now huge part of what we use to provide care. GPS tracking, timed visits and easy two-way communication are all done through an app on the employee’s smart phone,” Barrett says. 

Prior to opening Fetch! in Birmingham in 2008, Barrett was an executive working in the financial services industry in Atlanta.  “My role required a great deal of overnight travel. I had just gotten my first dog as an adult and needed reliable pet care. An online search led me to the Fetch! location in Atlanta in 2004. I was a weekly client for about four years and adored our sitter who became like a member of the family. In early 2008 I moved back to Birmingham and found there weren’t any companies structured like Fetch! so I looked into purchasing the franchise. We opened for business on November 1st, 2008 with three employees. Today we have 33 employees in Birmingham and 80 employees in Washington, D.C. metro. We are the highest revenue producer in the Fetch! system today,” Barrett says. 

Fetch! Pet Care was founded in 2002 in California and grew pretty quickly to have just over 75 locations today. 

So what makes a good dog walker?

Jay Barrett of Fetch! with
dog walker Jane Cooper Sparkle- who is owned by Fetch! client, Jeff O’Bryant

“Dog walkers come in all shapes and sizes and ages. The first thing that we look for in a dog walker is passion for life and pets specifically,” says Barrett. “They should also be personable and friendly but also someone who enjoys being independent and outdoors. We find that semi-retired people, stay-at-home moms and graduate students make awesome employees. Organization and communication are both required for success in our industry. Pet care is an intimate business, meaning a client must trust us to care for their furry family member as well as their home when they are not home.  Building and maintaining trust is instilled into each of our employees starting at the point of hire,” he says.    

“Our current team is made up of 33 amazing employees. Seventeen have worked for us over five years,” Barrett says.

Fetch! has clients in all corners of Birmingham Metro with concentrations downtown, Highland Park, Mountain Brook and Homewood. 

“It’s really hard to name just a few neighborhoods because we really are pretty well distributed around the metro area.  Currently we have over 900 active clients and perform an average of 40-50 walks or visits per day.  Our next big push will be spring break and Easter followed by Memorial Day, 4th of July and summer family vacations. We stay busy year round with recurring dog walks with service spikes around the different holidays,” Barrett says. 

Barrett is a dog owner himself.

“Currently I have two very special dogs named Edie and Roxy.  Both are elderly rescue pups. I lost my original dog, Eddie, who I rescued in 2004, on November 4, 2018. Losing a pet is one of the most difficult things a pet owner faces. I miss him every day. Eddie was the “face of Fetch!” and still can be seen on our website pictured with me from an event in 2009. We also have two very cute cats named Buddy and Tobie.” 

Birmingham has been Barrett’s home off and on for the past 25 years. He went to Northeastern University in Boston and studied business. Barrett and his husband have been married since 2014 and have a 20-month-old son. 

“Birmingham’s revitalization and rebirth over the past 10 years has really made dog ownership in the city more fun. Today most restaurants and venues allow dogs. Avondale Brewery is an early example of a pet-friendly venue that encouraged folks to come hang out with their dog. This led to pet events being held at the brewery which boosted their business. Dog walking and pet sitting has evolved with Birmingham. A decade ago most folks either found a neighbor to care for their pet or boarded at their vet in a concrete run. Today dog owners have tons of options from in-home sitters to doggy day cares. Pet related events are now huge parts of our community like Doo Dah Day, Mutt Strut and many others. Pet owners nationwide now think of their pets as family members and demand the best in care,” Barrett says.

2 Responses to “Walking the Dog”

  1. Lorrie Culp says:

    Very nice article. Did they approach you about this or you them?

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