Meet Fleur Durrant – Team and Client co-ordinator at Hampsteadsitters
Fleur has been with the company since its launch in 2014. Here she talks about her career change, celebrities and her favourite places to visit in beautiful Hampstead
Where were you born and where do you live now?
I was born in Auckland, New Zealand and have Maori in the family, I’ve always been really proud of that – I just really dislike my large Maori nose though! I grew up in Australia and have done lots of travelling, but now I call Hampstead home.
What was your first job?
My first job was with my Dad when I was 13-14 years of age. He had a successful commercial cleaning business, he’s now retired. As soon as I was able to work, he’d have me up early at weekends – when I wasn’t busy with school or sporting commitments I was cleaning offices. I hated it at first but then grew to enjoy it. It was fun spending time with dad and he’d always bribe me with a McDonald’s breakfast! But more importantly he taught me life skills from an early age. He has had a huge influence on my work ethic for which I’ll always be grateful.
When did you decide you wanted to work with animals?
I was working in travel for a while, but then around 2013 felt I had outgrown it and began to hate working in an office environment. I had heard stories of people changing direction with their work and wondered whether I could do the same. I looked at being a dog walker just to get a gauge on what work was available and if it was for me. I deliberated for an age, but then in 2014 took the plunge and got a job based in Regents Park walking dogs. I then went on to join Hampsteadsitters when it was launched that same year and I have been with the company ever since.
Did you have any training?
Having worked with dogs for over 7 years I have gained a huge amount of experience and continue to do so. I was a regular volunteer at The Dogs Trust so I learnt a lot there. I have First Aid Training which is important if you are with animals every day. Of course, Christiana, the Founder of Hampsteadsitters passes on her skills, so much so I am able to work with a variety of dogs from the biggest to the strongest!
What do you specialise in?
I’m good at helping nervous dogs reach their potential. I’m quite calm on the whole, and I like to think that helps when looking after dogs that may need a bit of extra care, encouragement and reassurance.
What is your role at Hampsteadsitters?
As Team and Client Co-ordinator my role is really varied. I ensure that each day runs as smoothly as possible making sure the wellbeing of the animals we work with is top of the list. I spend time on Hampstead Heath walking and exercising the many dogs we look after and speak to clients on a regular basis to ensure they are happy with our service. I can get very busy with our popular house sits especially if there are dogs and cats to look after. I also support Christiana in the business side of things.
In one paragraph describe a typical day?
No two days are the same, ever! Which is great as it allows for variety. A typical day involves collecting dogs from home and heading to the Heath in any weather that is thrown at us. We have our regulars, but other clients have different needs and schedules, so sometimes we’ll get a call or text asking if we can take their dogs last minute. It keeps us on our toes! Depending on which dogs you have and what they have booked in for the day, I’ll stop off for coffee with them after a walk too, which they all enjoy. I also liaise with team members during the day who are busy with other dog walks and housesits.
How many pets do you look after in one week?
Lots! I often have cat visits to do along with taking the dogs out, so it can vary. On a normal week I see to about 5-6 dogs per day, and a couple of cats throughout the week. Holiday times are particularly busy for us when clients head abroad and we stay with their dogs and cats, so there is lots for us to delegate to the team in terms of the workload.
Is it fair to ask if you have any favourite dogs or cats that you look after?
I shouldn’t have favourites and I won’t name names, but yes is the answer to your question!
Do you have a funny story about your job you can share with us?
There are lots of funny, silly moments that make my work life really enjoyable, but here’s one that sticks out for me.
I was out a little while back with Clementine, Winnie and Buffy – three dogs! They were having a wonderful time getting filthy in the mud, and I knelt-down to watch them enjoy themselves. Clementine (A British Bulldog) came running over at full speed, jumped up at me to say hello and sent me flying backwards, and down a bank. Winnie (A French Bulldog) must have seen it happen and heard me laugh, the next thing I know she ran over to investigate, didn’t stop in time and landed on my head! Suffice to say I was bulldozed by the Bulldogs and spent the rest of the day filthy.
What makes Hampsteadsitters special and is there any particular part of your job you like doing the most?
For me it’s is more than a job it’s a lifestyle and I really love what I do. We take a genuine interest in providing great care for our hounds and cats, and they become a huge part of your life. One of the most rewarding things is helping nervous/anxious dogs come out of their shells. On occasion when I meet a dog for the first time I think will I ever be able to have this dog off lead? Then after a couple of weeks of calm walks, fun and building trust, they show you that if you’re prepared to persevere, they completely transform and are the most loving and happy dogs. I also have a brilliant, fair and fun boss. I feel very lucky to be involved with Hampsteadsitters, and so proud to see what it has become, having been involved from the get-go when it was a dream and vision.
Hampstead is a fantastic place to work – do you have any special places you like to visit? And can you recommend any favourite restaurants or coffee shops in Hampstead?
The woods by Kenwood House are stunning and I spend a lot of time there on the longer walks we provide. It sometimes feels like I’m in the middle of nowhere away from the busier parts of the Heath. I’ll often pop in to Boulangerie Bon Matin, they do great coffee and pastries.
A little birdy tells us there are lots of celebrities in Hampstead do you ever see any?
I do but that would be telling! We do bump into Ricky Gervais as he is out and about a lot, but on the whole they tend to keep themselves to themselves, and if I do see anyone I leave them be.
Lastly, what advice would you give to anyone who would like to start a career in your industry?
If anyone is thinking about a career change and wanting to work with dogs and cats, take the plunge. There’s lots of scope for learning and training, and generally just having a great time in the outdoors!