Medical retirement hit me instantaneously; suddenly I knew the time had arrived. My old friend multiple sclerosis had boxed me into a corner. I had spent the last 15 years working as an international contract analyst programmer travelling all over the world. I had SPMS but retirement at 58 was not on my horizon. I had discovered methods to cope with the problem of MS but my OOMPH was definitely now oomph but I coped.
The Next Contract
I went to an interview for a new contract in London in January 2012. If I landed this contract then I had a daily three hour commute on top of a very full working day and had to do this every day, each week. The contract was renewable every six months. My work was either full-on or not at all, no pussyfooting around with the four-day week. After the interview The Wife had a chat with me and we agreed this life was not going to be a viable option.
A one-way street called medical retirement
I did not get the contract. MS fatigue was the issue and now it had forced me to call it a day. Multiple sclerosis had also destroyed my employment prospects. Who wants to employ a disabled 58-year-old man with a progressive disease? Bang, suddenly my not insignificant income was history.
The Wife had a job doing specialist typing services at home. Her work was excruciatingly boring and she was dying to quit but realised that her income was now essential.
We considered our options
I’m not an entrepreneur so prospects of starting my own little business were not good and I did not have the energy or drive to start something from scratch.
Another option: sell the house and move to a much cheaper part of the country. We ditched the idea because we love our house and the location plus we would not have the energy to make new friends.
I was told to identify my transferable skills. Not allowed to drive so unless the job is local then travelling was going to be an issue. MS now prevented me doing anything manual or being on my feet for long. My prospects did not look encouraging.
There was a vague possibility but an idea to think about. We live in the middle of a town, we have a very secure garden and don’t object to a chaotic lifestyle. We had owned dogs for many years. Was an opportunity staring at us in the face?
We talked it through
This idea ticked so many boxes. No capital outlay or training required to start the business. Our own dog needed a walk every day so let’s walk other dogs as well. Dogs are social animals and it is not right to leave them on their own for very long so why not entertain them in our house.
How do you market an idea like this?
The hardest part was deciding how much to charge for ‘doggy-day-care’. We soon discovered you can place an advert on Google for free but word-of-mouth in much more reliable. We decided at the outset that The Wife would run the show. My role, just the jam in the doughnut. I don’t drive, walking the dogs was a total nonstarter but I would supervise them at home.
We told a few friends and it started very small. Personal recommendation and the numbers grew. We made the odd mistake but that happens to everyone. It’s called life experience.
I do not miss my old job at all. This work is based at home and I can easily fit in other engagements. When the owners collect their dog I try to have a quick chat with them. Social capital is happening without any need to work at it. We both feel that we are an integral part of the town. The entire venture has given me a feeling of worth and self-value. My new life style works very well with my advanced MS.
Both of us have managed to reset our work compasses after my medical retirement. I have surprised myself to find that I do have transferable skills. I now give presentations to trainee nurses who want to hear about my lived-experience with a Long Term Condition.
Some of you will say that we have been lucky. I will say that we created our own luck and it did not happen overnight. A positive and determined outlook by me made everything that little bit easier.
By Patrick Burke