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Meet two Concordia grads on the front lines of pet care

‘I love seeing smiling faces and wagging tails’
December 18, 2020
By Marco Buttice

Dogwalker Allison Gautheir, BA 12, in a car with two big dogs in the back seat. Allison Gauthier, BA 12, worked for Wagging Tails for two years before taking over the business.

If nothing else, the coronavirus crisis has changed the way we navigate public spaces.

Allison Gauthier, BA 12, understands this all too well — she’s been a dog walker and pet sitter with Wagging Tails for more than two years when she took over as owner operator in March.

The past several months haven’t been a walk in the park, however, for the Department of History graduate, who holds a minor from the School of Irish Studies. Quarantine controls threatened her business, which operates primarily in Montreal’s Sud-Ouest borough.

“We usually do daily private and group walks for clients around the neighbourhood,” explains Gauthier. “At first, I was left alone, but now I have two part-time employees.”

The first lockdown period, which began last March, curtailed the need for Wagging Tails’ services.

“A lot of clients were working from home and wanted to walk the dogs themselves because they were sick of being indoors,” says Gauthier. “We lost a lot of business initially, but business has been progressively picking up.”

The pandemic forced Gauthier to re-evaluate and alter some of her habits as a walker.

“Now some of our clients bring the dog outside themselves and we use our own leash and harness to reduce the chance of contamination,” she explains. “We also wear masks whenever walking into a private residence.”

Gauthier gets attached to her furry companions in more ways than one.

“Walking a puppy and watching it grow is truly amazing,” she says. “I love seeing the progress the dogs achieve in terms of socialization with humans and other animals.”

The challenges of COVID-19 aside, Gauthier considers herself fortunate.

“I used to be worried that I would never find a job I loved,” she says. “But if you hold on and are determined, I truly believe there’s something for everybody.”

‘Concordia showed me how I wanted the world to see me.’

Chuck Altman poses outside his store, resting against the sign After the pandemic, Chuck Altman, BA 02, pivoted his business online.

Like many small retailers, Little Bear, a pet supply store in Westmount, Que., has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sales are definitely down,” says long-time owner Chuck Altman, BA 02. “There’s reduced foot traffic in the area.”

Altman started as a part-time employee at the shop as a Department of Communications undergrad at Concordia. He enjoyed the work so much that he later purchased the business.

“It’s a community store that’s evolved with the neighbourhood,” he says. “Most of our customers have been with us for years.

“I try to have what they’re looking for instead of telling them what they need. And if I’m not comfortable giving it to my own pets, I won’t sell it.”

The pandemic has jeopardized that sense of affinity and forced Altman to make some adjustments.

“We’ve been working to increase our online presence since the first lockdown measures were put in place,” he says.

Altman credits his alma mater for providing him with some of the skills he’s needed in these unprecedented times.

“Concordia showed me how I wanted the world to see me. I learned how to deal with setbacks, manage my expectations and become a beneficial member of society.”

Altman wants current students and recent graduates to know that life is full of surprises, so you have to be prepared.

“I always thought I would leave Montreal and pursue film production. I thought working at Little Bear would be a good way to learn about myself until I figured out who I wanted to be when I grew up. Well, I never had to grow up. This is exactly who I want to be.”


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