What started out as a walk in the park has grown into a 30-people strong business for Pet and Home Care (PHC) founder and owner Tiffany Lewis. In 20 years, the firm has served more than 3,000 furry, feather-ful and reptilian clients and the humans who love them.
Perhaps the most expressive, dogs give PHC two paws up. Gaithersburg resident Jane Hahn started with PHC 10 years ago. When the family travels, Hahn boards their three rescued beagles at the PHC Pet Resort in Clarksburg. “They absolutely love going there. … They actually come and pick the dogs up in a van to take them to the resort, and our dogs jump up and down and spin around in joy when they see the van pull up.”
Lewis started the business in her Potomac basement bedroom when she was 17 years old. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would turn into a company,” she said.
The business grew out of her babysitting jobs. One day, a babysitting client asked her to take care of the family’s dog. Then she received more requests for dog walking. “It spread by word of mouth,” she said.
She created flyers and copied them at her grandfather’s office. The local vet took some; she posted others around the neighborhood.
“It grew naturally and organically in high school,” she said, “and in college I scheduled classes around my pet visits.”
Eventually she found herself putting in 15-hour days and still not being able to keep up with the volume of requests. “I hated saying no to people, so I said OK, I need help. I hired family friends and more friends and more friends. It kept growing and growing,” she recalled.
PHC now has 30 employees, and the company serves anywhere from 120 to 200 clients a day, located as far South as Northwest DC and as far North as Urbana. PHC began offering health insurance to staff this year.
“With all of the uncertainty, I really wanted to make sure that my people were protected. We contribute to the premium based on how long they’ve been with us. I think I’m the only pet sitting company that offers health insurance to employees,” Lewis said. “I’m doing everything to have this be a career for my staff.”
Jennifer DuBowy has worked for PHC since February 2014, ever since she left her job as a research analyst because of chronic migraine. “Tiffany skillfully balances the needs of both clients and sitters,” DuBowy said. “She cares about the wellbeing of her staff and is willing to put in the extra effort to help us get our needs met.”
DuBowy said that she loves her job. “I am doing something important and helpful within my community. … I also love getting to know a variety of animals and their owners. We have a lot of absolutely wonderful people as clients.” Lewis credits her business’ success to being flexible and always going the extra mile for clients. Calls are answered 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and “our customers can book and cancel pretty last minute.”
When Hahn started with PHC 10 years ago, she had recently moved to the area and had three elderly dogs. “After our move we had no family or friends locally that could help with the dogs,” she said. “I don’t remember how I found out about Tiffany, but I did and after we met, she started mid-day visits with our dogs to allow them some outside time and exercise while we were all out of the house with work and school,” she said.
Dog walking is built around the client’s schedule, and PHC sitters do cat and small animal visits, too. “We will care for basically any pet,” Lewis said. “We don’t have any snakes right now, but we have dogs, cats, small pets like birds, fish, turtles, reptiles, even some horses. One sitter does all of our horse care for a handful of customers.”
In addition to dog walking and other animal visits, PHC offers daycare and boarding at its Pet Resort in Clarksburg. This includes pet taxi service to and from clients’ homes.
Urbana resident Faith Wright schedules cat visits for her feline friend, Amber. “Our cat is afraid of everyone she doesn’t know but PHC finds a way to calm her and after a visit or two, she looks forward to them coming and petting her,” Wright said. “Our cat will even follow them around the house as they do their checklist.”
Wright, a PHC client since 2015, noted PHC’s customer service. “They bring in the mail and leave status notes each day,” she said. “They are available on short notice; super easy to schedule and pay.”
Ijamsville resident Lisa Allen also appreciates PHC’s ease of use. “The setup for scheduling is online and very easy,” she said. “You can cancel up to 24 hours before, and if you think of it in the middle of the night, you can do it then online.”
She started with PHC two years ago. “I love this service. They’re fabulous,” she said. “We have two corgis and Tiffany and crew came in when the puppies were young. We were working full time and they came every day at noon to walk and play with them.”
Recently, the company expanded to offer home cleaning as well. “This is very popular. It works with pets,” Lewis said.
For Lewis, PHC is a labor of love. When she was younger, she wanted to be a veterinarian. Eventually, she realized that caring for pets was more fun. “The dogs are happy that I’m here,” she said.
She tried to name her favorite breed of dog but couldn’t limit herself to just one. “I have a Shih-Tzu, Millie, who is seven years old—they’re such sweet, chill dogs. I love dachshunds, so cool and they look neat … also chihuahuas, Frenchies, miniature pinschers. … With the big breeds, I love golden retrievers.”
For more information, visit the Pet and Home Care website at petandhomecare.com.