Who are we?
After a 20 year career in an office environment, working primarily in IT and electronics, it was time for a change and for a focus on something more worthwhile. A year out travelling around Asia put life more into perspective (a cliche, I know!), and a couple of months during that year working at a gibbon sanctuary in Thailand, and then at a bear sanctuary in Laos reaffirmed my ambition to work with animals. Taking on the challenge of two puppies on our return, the decision to start a dog walking and pet sitting business was an easy one. In addition to running Chocolate Tortoise, I (Chris) have also volunteered at our local RSPCA rescue centre and at Wildlife Aid. I have also been a motorcycling instructor on the odd weekend and in my spare time, if any exists, I do some website development work (such as this one!). Whilst I am the main drive behind the business, I could not do it without the emotional (and financial!) support from my wife, Emma. And, of course, the affection from our two dogs, Charlie and Champa.
Who works at Chocolate Tortoise?
Currently, Chocolate Tortoise is just me, Chris. We have no plans at present to expand and take on other staff.
Why the name "Chocolate Tortoise"?
My wife likes chocolate. She also likes tortoises. Easy decision. There are many pet businesses out there with clever names like "Paws for Thought", "Big Paws", "It's a Dogs Life" etc - great names, and possibly more memorable than "Chocolate Tortoise" for a pet business. But we wanted a name that meant something to us. We came up with the name while sitting in the Lazy Gecko (another great name) cafe in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and it just clicked. No, it's not simple to remember, and no it's not quick and easy to type into a web browser, but it's our name and we love it!
Why choose us?
We love animals. But then so will all other pet businesses in the area. So why are we different? We're not setting out to be different, we're setting out to provide a good service. We are very ethically-minded - the whole concept of dog walking and pet sitting is to help the pets. We use biodegradable poo bags, we limit our coverage area to avoid long car journeys and we only walk very small groups of dogs at a time. We are also not setting out to create a big profit-making business. If we cover our costs, and a little extra to keep us in coffee, that will be fantastic. As a dedicated business, rather than someone providing dog walking in their spare time, we can offer a professional, insurance-backed service at a competitive price. There are other great dog walking and pet sitting services out there - we are not looking to beat them, but to work alongside them.
What are our aims?
As a business, we do need to cover the costs of the business. However, we are not aiming for a big profit - the welfare of the pets comes first and we will not compromise on this. This is why we do not take out lots of dogs at a time for our dog walking service, and any initial walk will, where possible, be one-to-one so we can get to know the dog and vice versa. It is also why we spend up to a full hour petsitting, and why we offer to clean out pets on a daily basis while owners are away - while it will make more money for the business to spend as little time as possible pet sitting, or to walk many dogs at once, each pet would then get less attention and less care.
Ethics are important to us, and we will take every opportunity to take the more ethical or ecological option - biodegradable poo bags, short journeys, recyclable marketing material etc.
Our key aim is to give pets as good a service as possible: walks where they would otherwise not have one; a long walk where otherwise they would have a short one; company at home where otherwise they would be left alone; the ability to remain in their home where otherwise they may need to be uprooted to a friend or boarding house for a while (after all - they don't know their owners will be coming back soon!).
How long have we been around?
The idea for the business came to us while travelling around Asia in 2010. On our return we spent many weeks researching and planning for the business, finally launching in early 2011. Since then, we have become a well-established, long-term business offering quality care for your pets.