How this Bellingham retiree is meeting locals and helping dogs with her yard

Jill

When Jill retired in the middle of the pandemic in 2020, she realized she could go anywhere and do pretty much anything she wanted. Where did her heart lead her? To Bellingham, Washington, in the same town her daughter calls home. “I had lived in Olympia for over 30 years, but my kids are both pretty much up near Bellingham,” she said. “No one was meeting at restaurants or doing all the things we used to do, so I decided to move.” 

Aside from being within close proximity to her kids, having some space of her own for her and her dog to share was important to Jill, which she was able to make happen with the home she chose. “I have a dog so a fenced backyard is important to me.  That’s  one of the first improvements I made on my home,” she said of the now fully enclosed space she has listed as a Dog Paradise on the “Back Forty.” “It’s a 40-year-old home that’s had very few improvements  so we had to update it and the yard. There are about five trees on the property and a couple of plants and that’s it, so it’s perfect as far as running and playing.” 

Using her time for good 

Now retired and living in a new town, Jill was left to find something to fill her days, which wasn’t a terribly easy task during a time when the world was discouraged from socializing in public spaces. “My daughter is here, but she works full time and has a busy life, and so that meant I had time on my hands, and wanted  to meet people,” she said. Not exactly sure how to meet that need, she was presented with a solution after learning about Sniffspot, which would allow guests to visit her space while still maintaining distance for health and safety reasons. “I’ve met a number of people, all of them nice, and it’s just been a great thing for me and the community. I thoroughly enjoy the people who come to my backyard.” 

Jill was a bit surprised that renting a backyard on an hourly basis so that their dog could run and exercise was something people were actually willing to do. “I told my daughter I was amazed that people pay to bring their dogs here — I wondered if  $8 or $12 an hour several days a week may impact them,” Jill said. “But she said ‘no, that’s just the cost of having a dog, we recognize that and we pay for services  like that.’” With a need for space to run their dogs and a willingness to pay for it, and ample space to share, Jill has continued to host dogs and their guardians, which has been mutually beneficial for everyone.” 

Slow and steady 

Jill just started hosting in January of 2021, and has seen a regular growth in bookings since then. “My expectations were honestly quite low, I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. During these early days she couldn’t help but notice a trend in her clientele, and credits the increase in bookings with the fact that her space is fenced and secured, allowing visitors to rest easy when there. “What I found is that the majority of people who come here are people who are either fostering or have recently adopted dogs and they need to build trust. They need to train their dogs and know that they’re not going to run away from them,” she added. “There’s a local dog trainer who is recommending my Sniffspot to people for that reason.”

Not only are dogs getting the benefits of having an outdoor space to play and run freely, Jill states that the people who book with her are also allowed a brief reprieve from a locked-down world, in which they get to visit with and even socialize with other people in search of connection. “I have one woman who comes pretty frequently, and one day I noticed her behavior was different. She was on the phone a lot and then the next thing I know, there’s another woman walking up to the house,” she recalled. “I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it was a meet up. If you’re having your first meeting with somebody in a pandemic you can’t go to a restaurant, and you may not want them to come to your house, but you can come to this place and play with the dogs for hours. I’ve seen other couples have date nights here with their dogs. I love that my backyard provides a safe place for people.” 

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about how your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

Jill’s secret to success 

Doing things because you truly love to do them,, is the ultimate key to success,. “Well, the location is pretty good — I think I’m about the only Sniffspot in the Bellingham area, and several of my people that come here walk over, so that’s nice,” she said. “I also always make sure that there’s fresh water available, and I check the yard a couple times a day to make sure that everything is clean.” Personal touches seem to go a long way with her guests as well. “The first time people come I put a note out on the gate to welcome them, and if they’ve given me their dog’s names I write the people’s names and the dog’s names and I have a little welcome sign in my backyard, and a few toys.”

Safety, as evidenced by the fenced-in perimeter of her yard, is of utmost importance to Jill,. “I have some potential  trip hazards, so I got orange paint and spray those areas  ” she said. “I like to provide people with the ability to just exercise the heck out of their dogs and play with them in a safe, clean space. That’s my community piece.”

Staying engaged with her guests on her Sniffspot profile further extends that sense of community, where she’s able to express her gratitude to her visitors while gathering ideas about what she can do to make for a better user experience. “I’ve read Sniffspot’s checklist, so a number of the things I’ve done have been because you guys have said you might want to do this, like you might want to put a sign out welcoming them, so that sort of thing helps,” she said. “I do ask guests to post pics, and if they posted pictures I try to write back and thank them.”

Soft plans for the future

Because Jill loves what she does, she aims to do more of that in the future, with little need to change much else, although she is open-minded to ideas. “I’m not sure I see much changing, 

In the meantime, Jill will continue to use her earnings to maintain the space,“It’s nice extra change in the pocket and I put it into a separate account,” she said. “I need to spray a preservative on the whole fence, and what I make in six months of hosting at Sniffspot will pay for that. It’ll be nice to know that it’s been paid for by this.”

For now, Jill plans to keep doing what she’s doing, and providing a space where everyone can enjoy some time outside, herself included. “Because of the pandemic and because I’m retired, I’m home much more than I ever used to be, and I love sitting here in my living room and watching people pull up and get their dogs out of their car.” she said. “I give people privacy, but I do occasionally look through the back window.  I enjoy seeing dogs and their guardians playing and running around the yard. I love it.” 

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about how your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

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