Shut your eyes……what would you want to do everyday if you didn’t have to go to a job? What would your ultimate day be? What makes you the most happy? One girl did just that and six years later she is still living that dream. Tish Tralka was an animal lover since her childhood and pursued Marine Biology and Zoology in college. She continued that passion working in as a Veterinarian’s Assistant in Hawaii. She realized she didn’t love animals as much when they were sick or hurt, she loved them when they were happy. It was at that same time that she met someone special and was telling him how her first car, a 1969 VW Westfalia, caught on fire. She fell in love with that someone, a nomadic surfer-type guy with a VW van addiction, and they began to travel, mostly in VW Vans around the Western U.S. and working season outdoor guiding jobs and tracking birds in the wilderness. After marriage and life in Hawaii, the couple and their dog Kalei found themselves living in North County San Diego. He had a job and Tish was scratching her head. She wasn’t used to all the “laws” about leashes and where you can and can’t take your dog, so she spent her days with Kalei at a place called “Dog Beach.” She was going everyday with Kalei and soon friends asked her to take their dog, than neighbors, and it was time to get a vehicle. Naturally, she found a VW bus and the rest is history. We caught up with her at low tide and asked her a few questions.
Tish, you have your dream job. Talk about the beginning and how you got the idea and actually started such a unique business that encompasses all your passions.
I’m a Northern California/Hawaii girl and when we move to Encinitas, I was shocked that you could only take your dog to a specific beach, so I went there….a lot. Everyday, actually. To me dogs are so fun and free and meant to be off leash and just be dogs. I also have a high energy Labrador mix that is addicted to fetch and the beach. Dogs are just like humans (especially my husband), if they don’t get there stoke on, energy starts to get pent up. My neighbors started noticing me going to Dog beach and asked me to take their dogs.
What about the vehicle?
My husband (and I) are VW Bus freaks, I thought he was gonna propose the night we met and I randomly told him a story about my first car, a VW bus. It’s funny, the original Doggie Beach Bus, six years ago we found a 1969 Transporter VW Bus on Craigslist for $500. Van life wasn’t so popular and you could still find VWs for reasonable prices. We went to look at it and the lady said it was her ex-husband’s and it had been in the yard for 4 years. She knew nothing about it, other than it reminded her of him so it had to go. My husband got it running on the spot. It had a photocopy machine and all types of random junk in it. My husband and I cleaned it and actually spray painted it red and white and stenciled the name and phone number on it (don’t laugh it looked good). We just named it the Doggie Beach Bus, because that’s what it was.
After a year in that old bus, I needed an upgrade, so I bought a 1986 Automatic Vanagon. I found that for a couple grand and had it painted down in Mexico. My husband was traveling on business, and came home and was very impressed that I found, bought, and painted a van on my own. I had a friend make decal stickers this time, no spray paint, and I sold the original van for more than I bought the Vanagon for!
It must be funny when people ask you what you do for a living!
Yes, people usually smile. Actually, I make smiles. If you measure wealth with smiles, I’m Bill Gates status. I do take dogs to the beach for work, but I am stoked and so are the dogs and so is the community that sees a VW bus filled with wet dogs going down HWY 101. It’s very So California-ish. So, I feel good and thats important to me. I also do hiking adventures, and dog sitting. I have great dog owners and relationships with the owners. You have to really trust someone to let them take your dog. I don’t have employees because my dogs and their owners love me and I love them. Plus, you know what it’s like letting someone else drive your van!
It just sounds and looks so glamorous and fun. What advice do you have for someone who want to do something like this?
Well, its like Instagram, you only see the good parts. I pick up a lot of poop. I have wet dogs shaking in my car. Some dogs drink too much salt water and puke in the van. The Van breaks down (its a VW). I’ve been around dogs my whole life, I’ve bred them, trained them, I’m even certified in animal massage therapy. I understand the pack mentality and know what dogs go well with one another. Plus my dog is my co-pilot and she is the pack leader, so she is my unpaid intern. My husband tried to work for me one day. He said it was the worst day of his life. He was sweating from chasing a dog down the street, had five dogs poop all at once and with one poop bag. He forgot the ball thrower (crucial tool) and Roxy ran through a screen door when the van pulled up at her house. So, like I said its glamorous but it does take a certain person.
My dog is my co-pilot
What do you plan to do next, are you looking for more business or a fleet of vans?
Well, it would be nice to find a few employees that are the perfect fit. Getting more Doggie Beach Buses out there only spreads the stoke to all dogs and owners. I am a mother of two boys and I also run a Vintage Trailer Photo Booth called the Camera Camper, but that is a whole other story. I am happy with my business and proud to be self-employed. I live simply and with more vans, employees, and dogs, I may get overwhelmed, so I am content where I am today, which is rare. I don’t want to inspire others to start a dog walking business, I just want people to look at what I do and be an inspiration that you can do anything you want in life, just follow your passion.
Mahalo, Tish, great talking with you. And if you ever need a co-pilot, let me know!