From the corporate world in London to caring for animals on an Australian farm
Evie, a small and elegant tabby cat slides past me, as I sit down in Cameron and Trevor’s kitchen. Two eager dogs peer at me from the garden, their dark eyes glittering with curiosity.
I feel happy and relaxed.
Today I’m at Lady’s Pass, 10 minutes North of Heathcote, Vic. I’m here to interview Cameron and Trevor, the new owners of Heathcote Boarding Kennels. The pair live on site as well as managing the boutique dog boarding facility that overlooks 40 beautiful acres, replete with a dam.
Prior to Lady’s Pass, the pair were living overseas when they realised something was amiss. “We were in London for Cam’s work,” Trevor says. “But something wasn’t right. It wasn’t being away; it was city life and our corporate careers”.
Trevor, a real estate and property development professional, and Cameron, a finance manager, started discussing their options. Conversation was fanciful at first. Having both grown up in the regional Victoria, they knew they loved animals, especially dogs. But being able to work in the industry seemed like a far-fetched next step.
On a whim, Cameron suggested owning and running a dog kennel. Dismissing the idea as fantasy, a short period of time passed. But the idea had stuck. A quick online search from their London flat revealed that four dog kennel businesses were for sale in Victoria.
“One was in Heathcote / Lady’s Pass,” Trevor said. “It ticked the boxes, we couldn’t stop thinking about it”.
The pair returned to their house in Melbourne’s inner West soon after. And in the short time they were gone, both noticed a palpable difference. “Even in just a year,” Cameron says, “things had changed. There was more traffic, more congestion. It was awful”.
The pair knew a big decision had to be made. “I never wanted to put a suit on again,” Trevor says. Within a matter of weeks, they had sold up in Melbourne and were the new owners of Heathcote Boarding Kennels. The facility, which accommodates up to 28 dogs is located on 40 acres, where Trevor and Cameron exercise the animals by walking up to 15 kilometres a day.
“We’ve both lost 12 kilos,” Trevor says. “All because we’re not sitting at a desk,” Cameron confirms. “We can walk up to 4 hours a day”.
The pair say that no formal training was required to move into the industry. “The kennels had a really good reputation when we bought it,” Trevor explains. “But in this industry, you can’t afford to rest on your laurels. Word gets around quickly”.
In just 8 months the business has grown by over 15% but there are no plans for expansion.
“We moved here for a total change of pace,” Cameron says. “Our mortgage here is tiny compared to what it was in Melbourne”. And although their salary is ‘far lower’, the pair say it’s a trade-off they’re willing to make.
Listening to Cameron and Trevor, it’s clear that they love what they do. Every dog is known by name, and the duo can tell amusing anecdotes about dogs’ personalities and behaviour. Although the job is 6 days a week, with early starts, Cameron and Trevor say that the fulfilment of caring for other people’s “fur children” outweighs any negatives.
“Caring for someone’s dog carries a lot of responsibility, especially if they’re going away for one or two months at a time,” Trevor says. “Drop off can get very emotional. We’ve had men cry, too.” Cameron adds, “we can get emotional, particularly if a dog has been with us for a while, too!”.
When I ask if they will ever tire of the daily routine, much of which involves cleaning, the men shrug. “The previous owners were here for 17 years,” Cameron says. “If we want a break, they’re more than happy to come back and help us out”.