A former advertising executive gave up her near 30-year career to start Britain’s first taxi service – for PETS.
Samantha Bird swapped her job in advertising for shuttling Shih Tzus and transporting terriers, after seeing her mother struggle to get around with her dog.
Unable to drive, and with most taxis refusing to carry pets, her elderly mother was often stranded at home because she could not leave her Shih Tzu and terrier on its own.
So after 28 years in a high-flying award-winning career as a project director at top advertising firms, the 46-year-old decided to start The Pet Guardian – and now drops dogs off at kennels or takes pets to vets on their own.
Her customised van, which offers air conditioning and seatbelts, collects pets and takes them to vet appointments, relatives houses and groomers.
But it’s not only animals that are allowed on board – so are the owners.
Samantha, who lives in Watford, Hertforshire, said: “My husband thinks I’m having a midlife crisis.
“But it just felt right. I turned my back on an award-winning career because I needed to follow my heart and do what I love.
“Although my career was rewarding in its own way, I never felt as though I was making a difference. Now I can see the difference I make and how it helps people.
“A lot of elderly people are lonely but put off gettting a pet
“I’ve always loved animals – I grew up surrounded by them. And I watched my mum struggle to get anywhere with her dog, and didn’t want anyone else to be in that situation.”
Irene Frasier, 75, suffered a stroke three years ago, is unable to drive and struggles to walk.
Calling her Shih Tzu, her “baby”, Irene uses the taxi service not only to visit vets, but also to collect food for seven-year-old Geordie and take him to see her family and friends.
Samantha also take Geordie on long walks and look after him while Irene is out.
Samantha said: “Without the service, Irene would really suffer and her life would be so restricted.
“Her dog is her life. Geordie is her baby and she likes to know he’s being looked after. With my help, Irene can properly look after her dog but also lead a life of her own.”
People thought Samantha was barking mad when she wanted to set up a pet taxi service, but six months down the line, she has the market covered.
But there’s more to her business than chauffeuring cats around, as Samantha is also trained in animal first-aid and provides a stroller service for obese and disabled dogs.
She added: “You wouldn’t leave your baby with somebody who wasn’t fully trained, so I don’t see why people should be expected to leave their pets.
“I’m trained in CPR so that if any animal is in trouble, I can be there to help and I can recognise when an animal has caught a disease.
“The stroller is there so that dogs of any ability can experience the outdoors.
“They’re very sociable animals; they like to be around one another. Just because one might not be able to walk properly, they should still get to see other dogs.”