There and Back Again, minus the Hobbits and hairy toes.
…a Tale in Four Parts.
Its time to document the Dogs or Dollars journey. As opposed to blogging when all this really happened, like I should have, circumstance now require a little back story. How I got here is a long and sordid tale. Well mostly long, but there are some pivotal points. Four of them actually.
Part I: The Layoff
This blog really should have started in June 2008. That’s when the whole Dogs or Dollars question formed, by way of a layoff announcement.
If you’d asked me then what my chances of getting laid off were, I’d of said, slim to nil. Up until that time, I’d had a steady well-paid corporate IT gig, since I was 18 years old. While not a job I enjoyed, I experienced moderate success at it. I was an integral part of my team, and proud of it.
Because of this; the success, the youth, the just always had, my job was something I took it for granted. I hadn’t worked for minimum wage for a very long time. I had spent many years taking 2 hour lunches and sitting in comfy computer chairs. I dropped out of college to pursue this line of work. It is not a decision I regret, but I always anticipated I would go back to school or end up somewhere else. That this ‘career’ was somehow temporary.
Yet, there I sat. Stuck. All through my 20′s I built a life dependent on those big paychecks. I acquired a house, a pack of mutts, took some expensive vacations, and pretty much purchased what I wanted, without much concern.
In retrospect, the lay-off was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Up until this time, layoffs in my industry were few and far between. I had always secretly hoped for one. It would be my Deus ex Machina. My golden parachute. My way out of a life I just sort of slipped into. My excuse to do something different. I’d take my severance package and run, run, run to the life I should have had.
Wished for or not, when the news came it was unexpected. And the circumstances strange. I wasn’t being ‘laid-off’ per say. Rather my job was being out-sourced to another company. I was offered a job with that company, or I could opt to take my severance package.
Being familiar with the outsource company, I had absolutely zero interest in accepting their position. My severance package was 6 weeks of pay for the first year of employment, then 1 month for every year beyond that. For me that meant 3-1/2 months of pay. Plus, my vacation pay out. A hefty sum to turn down.
At the time, the job market was robust. My own management was making a lot of noise about bringing me back as a contractor. I thought my chances of landing on my feet were good. Worst case scenario, I would hang out at home for a few months, which didn’t sound very ‘worst’ at all.
As of November 1, 2008 I was no longer a corporate citizen.
I didn’t try too terribly hard to even look for a job until after the New Year. By too terribly hard, I mean pretty much at all. I can’t say that I did anything great with that time. I should have, but mostly I was lazy. I surfed the internet and tinkered with my resume.
Financially speaking, we were in good shape. I banked the vast majority of my severance package, using a small portion to fund our holidays. All told, I saved almost 30K. I paid off The Husbands car, our only non-mortgage debt. Except for the big fat Mortgage. The Husband was working. I had unemployment, and I promptly went out and got myself a part-time job. At a pet store.
Pssst! This is the Dogs part of the equation.
The lay-off had brought forth this choice. The idea that I could actually do something different with my life and how I spent my time. That maybe I didn’t need to make so much money, if I could do something I enjoyed. What a novel concept.
I contacted the owner of the local high-end pet supply store where I’d been a customer for years, and asked for a job. She was happy to oblige. It was just Saturday’s and the odd fill in shift. At a whopping $10/hour it wasn’t enough to impact my unemployment income. As a fringe benefit I got our pet supplies at deeply discounted rates. With the pack of mutts, this was more than a little helpful.
See, I’ve always been a Pet Food Geek. Its a odd niche, I realize. I often refer to the Mutts, as an obligation, which they most certainly are. An obligation I enjoy. I grew up with dogs. I participated in dog 4-H as a youth. I’d trained dogs and fostered them. Dogs are my thing. What we feed dogs, and the products we use for them is an extension of that. I had always thought that talking to people about dogs all day would be awesome. I was right.
I dove right into this gig. I’d never had a traditional Customer Service job before. I smiled. I rang people up. I stocked cans, and 30lb bags of food. Happily. My dog experience came in super handy, time and time again. At this little community based store, the customers took to me. I enjoyed it, and thoughts began to percolate. Well, they were already percolating. We started to get to a rolling boil.
The owner was looking for a store manager.
But… (lots of buts at this point)
How could I willingly accept such a pay cut? This job would pay about 1/3 of what my old job paid.
Could we survive on that little money?
Was this what I really wanted to do?
Could I bring myself to do it?
Stay tuned for Part II: The Leap