New business offers pet-sitting, dog-walking and more

By Shelley Widhalm

The Surveyor

Karen McManus of Berthoud wants to take Dogs Out Walking and turn a hobby into a business to give others a service she originally wanted for her shepherd dogs Sadie and Tief.

McManus launched her pet-sitting, pet-care and dog-walking business in mid-November that also includes small farm animals, crop and garden care, vacation home security, and personal assistance services.

Courtesy photo – Karen McManus of Berthoud, owner of Dogs Out Walking, takes her shepherds, Tief on the left and Sadie on the right, plus her son Dylan Meints’ dog, Tia out for a stroll.

“I want to give people a chance to get away and know that when they come home they don’t miss a beat and things will be taken care of the way they left them,” said McManus, a member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. “What I’m really doing is giving peace of mind to those owners. Routine is so important to animals and people as well.”

Dogs Out Walking, which serves Berthoud, south Loveland and the Carter Lake area, provides a number of animal-care services that include daily neighborhood dog walks, cat and other pet visits for birds, fish, turtles and other animals, and yard waste removal. The tagline for the business is “a dog-walking and pet-sitting service” for those going on vacation, taking an overnight trip, working long hours, or needing someone to help with their pet care.

“Number one, I love animals,” McManus said. “They’re always so happy to see us. All they want is some love, attention, and to be taken care of. They deserve that. … It just brings me joy.”

McManus works out a plan for each client with fees varying based on the number of animals needing care and the types of services requested.

For her dog-walking service McManus walks dogs from the same household, giving them a 30-minute walk one or more times a day. She spends another 30 minutes at the client’s home, making sure the dogs are comfortable, their gates are latched and they have full food and water bowls.

“If I am going out dog walking I’m not going to walk them and put them in your house,” McManus said. “I will be there so they can readjust to their home environment before I leave again, so they’re all comfortable.”

For her pet-sitting services, McManus spends time playing with the animals, letting them outside, checking their bowls and, if it is a cat, cleaning up their kitty litter.

“I’m available all day long for clients, but for Berthoud clients I’m willing to go earlier and later in the evening,” McManus said.

In the area of personal assistance, McManus takes pets to the veterinarian and delivers pet food and supplies. She also will feed and water small farm animals and water and harvest crops and gardens to allow her clients to get away and not be tied to the growing seasons. And she will take out the trash and bring in the mail.

Shelley Dahme of Berthoud, owner of a pet-sitting business called The Contented Pet, hires McManus to pet-sit her own animals; two dogs, a cat, six ducks and eight chickens.

“She definitely has a good knack with animals,” Dahme said. “She can read what they’re feeling, especially if they’re fearful or not feeling good.”

McManus is in tune with what the animals need and enjoys being around animals, Dahme said.

“You definitely have to enjoy being with animals all day long, because we’re never with people,” she said. “We’re with one animal after another animal all day.”

McManus originally offered her pet-sitting and pet-care services at no charge to family and friends but decided she wanted to make a business out of it. She was the go-to person since her college days for taking care of animals, she said, adding that during one Fourth of July holiday she took care of 10 dogs from different owners.

“My goal is to be their animals’ other human that they love,” McManus said. “I’m just being that person they can’t be when they’re not home.”

McManus, who is originally from Washington, D.C., moved to Fort Collins in 1978 to attend Colorado State University, where she studied anthropology and archaeology. When she graduated she worked as an organic vegetable farmer for 25 years and, once she left farming, got into her own gardening.

About 10 years ago McManus started donating her extra produce to the Food Bank for Larimer County, a Feeding America food bank. She joined the board nine years ago and two years later became the food procurement manager on the staff. She worked for three other Feeding America food banks in the same type of position, lastly the Community Food Share in Louisville, which she left in October to start her business.

“It was a good time in life to break off and do this,” McManus said, explaining she was commuting to work two hours a day and missing her animals. “I love living in Berthoud, and I want to work in Berthoud. I want my life to be here and not there. I was leaving my own pets at home.”

McManus struggled to find somebody to care for her animals, but realized the options of pet boarding and doggie day care didn’t work for her.

“I could offer my clients what I was looking for myself all these years, which is a loving, compassionate person to take care of my animals and keep them safe when I’m not there,” McManus said. “For my animals, keeping them in their routine and their home was my priority.”

Dogs Out Walking can be reached at dogsoutwalkingcolorado.com, dogsoutwalkingcolorado@gmail.com or 843-834-0042.

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