February 1, 2022
After ten years of quality dog walks and pet care, Rover-Time is saying goodbye. As its owner, I’m grateful for this opportunity to share more on the decision and I deeply appreciate your curiosity in what brought us here.
In this post, I’ll explain why Rover-Time is closing for good and will answer some of those FAQs that have come in since our announcement.
Why is this happening?!
Rover-Time had many years of success and the journey was ok. Over the years, I have seen this company grow, shrink, and then sustain through a relentless global pandemic. But many of the choices I’ve needed to make during this incredibly stressful time in history (when mothers and other caregivers are bearing the brunt of so much societal dysfunction) are rooted not in my core values, but in our society’s deeply unmet basic needs. And that hasn’t been much fun.
As we enter into our junior year of this pandemic, I simply could not sustain a profitable business without putting a strain on my family, which wasn’t fair to them. While Rover-Time made it two years through COVID, I hated that I couldn’t do more for my employees. They deserved more and the pet care industry simply does not provide what hourly workers need these days.
But it never really has. And I’ve been writing about that since 2014. It’s heart-centered labor that only serves people that are emotionally and physically healthy. The pandemic amplified everything that hasn’t worked, for hourly workers.
We did it for the dogs.
At its largest, my team was never huge. But I did grow the gang to just under twenty people in pre-pandemic times. It was nice. We could share work, collaborate on fun projects, and enjoy one another, in real-life and not over Zoom. We had a company culture.
On this day, I’m still recovering from the sting of our newest hire ghosting us. They simply stopped communicating with her managers after getting COVID, with only a couple of solid weeks of working for us.
That left us with three walkers. Three wonderful walkers. Amazing in fact. And two managers, who have worked their tail off to oversee the daily shuffle, which by the way, all of us hate. Ideally, we’d have a team of workers that could work every day, with the same clients, just the number they need to stay happy in the field.
But life, right?
Everyone deserves time off. And when they feel rotten, they should stay home and rest. We’ve been dealing with this labor shortage since August 2021. Once the economy rebounded, hourly workers went in a direction that served them better than the pet care industry. AS THEY SHOULD. I couldn’t blame them! But this deeply affected our recruitment. Take no offense, because you have to know this, but a $22 walk does not provide health insurance to our workers.
We all, including myself who’s given 14 years of my life to the pet care industry, sacrifice necessary benefits. When we say, “We do it for the dogs,” we honestly mean it.
“Aren’t you just grieving, isn’t that why you’re closing?”
Forgive me. I’m doing a lot of inner work on the loss of a parent. And much of what I’m reading is aligning perfectly with the experience of closing Rove-Time.
One of my favorite books on grief has a chapter on what to do with friends and family that don’t know what to do for you during your time of loss. Megan Devine writes in her book It’s OK That You’re Not OK, “If you’re like most grieving people, the response from people around you has been clumsy at best, and insulting, dismissive, and rude at worst. We talked about the deep roots of pain avoidance and the culture of blame in earlier parts of this book. It’s also important to bring it all back to your personal life, to help you understand — and correct — the unhelpful support of the people around you.”
She goes on to say, “If we’re going to get better at supporting each other, if we’re going to get what we all want – to love and be loved – we need to talk about what isn’t working. It’s not easy, but it’s important.”
I’m not going to lie: some folks have not been their best selves in response to my announcement. And while I wish we could have hung in there so much longer than this, because I loved being a business owner and I’m good at finding good people to work in your homes, oh my… let’s just say those folks have made this decision a little easier for me.
But for those of you that responded with compassion, with tears of appreciation, with love, kindness, your understanding support of my decision, showing us your beautiful heart during this moment of loss for you… YOU affirmed how truly wonderful these ten years have been for me.
My grief did not bring us here. A pandemic did. I miss my Dad, but whether I’m gainfully employed or not, I’m going to always miss him. Just like I’m going to miss many of you.
FAQ #1 answered.
“Ok, but what’s with the short notice?”
I deeply regret that we couldn’t give you more notice. I very much wanted to give more time to plan for our replacement, but we didn’t have the team available for walks beginning February 7th. That’s the hard truth. But life, right?
This is certainly going to be a new beginning. It will be for everyone at Rover-Time. But everyone will be ok, it doesn’t feel like that now, but it will get easier. We’ll either keep walking dogs (because every single dog walking company in Chicago is desperately seeking good people) or we’ll find new work that takes care of us better than the pet industry did. And if there’s a lapse in employment, everyone on the team is eligible for unemployment compensation.
And this will be a new beginning for all of our customers. I hope that your search for our replacement goes easy, and isn’t long, that you find what you need in your neighborhood, that you don’t need to rely on Rover or Wag. That you fall in love with another reliable small business that educates their team as well as we did.
FAQ #2 answered.
We will miss you.
Rover-Time’s customers are simply wonderful and have been a delight to work for or they have dogs that we’d do literally anything for. Thank you. We have appreciated you and have felt gratitude for all the ways you supported this small business.
In closing, I wish you good health and peace. Take care for now.
Julia Rohan founded Rover-Time in January of 2012 and received her formal training at FetchFind Academy, a program for aspiring dog trainers, based in Chicago. Julia lives in Irving Park with her husband Mark. Together they co-parent Archer, who’s turning SEVEN(!) in April; Lou, now three and a half; and Chauncey Billups Vanderhoff, an over-confident, territorial, and anxious 8lb. Chihuahua-Terrier mix. All her boys melt her heart hourly. She loves dogs the most but also really loves the COVID vaccine, the privilege of homeschooling Archie, and is excited to finally choose family over fatigue for the first time in ten years.