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Great Jobs for Animal Lovers

Passionate about pets and looking for a little extra cash?

Great Jobs for Animal Lovers- Linda Waitkus owns the shop, Great Dogs of Great Falls in Virginia

Linda Waitkus with her dog, Dolly, at her pet store in Great Falls, Va. — Photo by Charlie Archambault

En español |For years, Linda Waitkus’s job was working as a manager in retail department stores. But her passion was taking care of her Golden Retriever, Soleil. Ultimately, she decided to find a way to turn her love of being around dogs into a second career.

When Waitkus learned that a local pet shop owner wanted to sell her business, Waitkus began to map a strategy to buy the store and spent a year developing a solid business plan and getting advice from other pet store owners and suppliers.

See also: Looking for an eco-friendly job?

Three years ago, Waitkus officially retired from a major retail store and bought the pet shop. At 57, she has no regrets about taking an early “retirement” and starting over as an entrepreneur. “I ran a $75 million department store, but had to learn how to sell a bag of dog food,” she says with a laugh.

Waitkus’s story is not uncommon. Since 1996, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity belongs to the 55-to-64 age group, according to a study by the Kaufmann Foundation (PDF), a Kansas City, Mo.-based entrepreneurship institute. Kauffman's latest study shows that about 23 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2010 were in the 55-to-64 age group, compared with 14 percent in 1996.

Since its first year of business, Great Dogs of Great Falls has turned a profit, and Waitkus has been able to pay herself a salary. Today, she employs two full-time groomers and two bathers, plus an assistant manager for the six-day a week operation. “I did retire, but I planned carefully, and the gift I gave to myself is freedom of doing what I love – playing with dogs,” Waitkus says.

If you love cats and dogs and are looking for a job, consider these five possibilities. Pay ranges are primarily derived from U.S. Department of Labor data.

1. Pet shop operator

The nitty-gritty: Running your own enterprise isn’t for slackers. But if you have a head for business, you can tap into the fast-growing $52 billion a year pet care industry and blend work with your passion. Having the capital to invest upfront can be daunting. And as any small-business owner can attest, running your own retail shop can be time consuming. You will want to be physically present on-site to build rapport with your customers (both the four-legged and two-legged variety). You must also stay on top of licenses required by state and county regulations.

Median pay: This will vary widely. Salaries might run $25,000 a year in Washington, D.C., to $27,000 in San Francisco, according to job postings on Indeed.com. When it’s your own shop you have wiggle room – higher and lower – depending on your bottom-line.

Qualifications: Experience in the retail trade as a sales clerk, buyer and manager all are key ingredients. Cash flow is king, so accounting and bookkeeping acumen comes in handy — unless you plan on hiring someone to help you manage the finances. Great people and pet skills are indispensable. Understanding inventory control is vital. Food, for instance, can go bad. To get a sense of whether you’re ready to start a small business, go to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s resources, which are designed to help would-be entrepreneurs over the age of 50 with writing a business plan, getting professional counseling and locating financial services.

Next: Not afraid to get your hands dirty? Read on. »

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Dogs are the most popular pets and one-third of owners say they exercise with their four-legged friends, according to an AARP Bulletin survey. Watch

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