Laboratories to Labradors: Why it’s never too late
Published by Hayley Hilton

Laboratories to Labradors: Why it’s never too late

by | Be kind, career change, Dogs | 0 comments


Just like a Labrador, I talk to people whenever I get the chance because I see it as an opportunity to listen and learn, and although I need my alone time, I also thrive from those little interactions both online and in-person.

This is one thing I have learnt about myself in recent years, along with the fact that i much prefer chatting 1 on 1 and truly interacting with a single human or a single dog, rather than being in the middle of a huge group of people feeling insignificant and amongst too much noise (dogs and fireworks anyone?). 

Don’t get me wrong, I love to let loose every so often but I am no longer the person who everyone relies on to be “The Life and Soul of The Party” and that suits me (and my ageing energy reserves) just fine. I prefer ‘quality’ interactions rather than ‘quantity’.

I suppose I have learnt that about myself since I started business networking about 6 years ago.

The emphasis of getting as many people in the room at once because you never know who you are going to meet or what opportunities may come your way.

But all the large events made me feel was overwhelmed… and then shameful afterwards because I couldn’t follow up with everyone in the room so found myself with piles of business cards and reams of emails with people just selling me stuff and going no deeper than “Buy my stuff!”.

So I stepped away from the traditional weekly meetings to gather my sanity and chose to keep in contact with those who are my kind of people… yes, quite often dog people at heart.

I also learnt the same lesson from my Rottweiler Lola who loved socialising with other people and dogs but also loved a cosy night of cuddles in front of the TV being fed homemade popcorn like a princess (Those who know, know!).

But when I changed direction to start working with animals, I was actually nearing my 40th year, and after nearly 2 decades working in laboratories, it felt like such a breath of fresh air (and rain and wind and snow) after years of stress.

However, no-one close to me could understand why i would want make such a drastic career move: 

“But you’re a scientist???” 

“But you have so many qualifications, what do you want to waste them doing THAT for?”, 

“When are you going to get a proper job?”

After 7 years working with dogs, i STILL get the same questions and because I am still working on increasing my financial success as a Canine Massage Therapist, the comments have gotten stronger and more hurtful… even though i know they are only saying these things out of a place of love and concern.

But that’s the difference between talking to people and ACTUALLY listening to them. Yes, working with dogs has had its ups and downs, but so does every business, especially during these past few years of uncertainty. It doesn’t mean that it is a failure.

I know in my heart that I am in the right place every time i am truly connecting with a dog and/or their owner during one of our massage sessions… when they audibly sigh as the pain leaves their body and they enter a blissful state of relaxation… or when they stretch and shake their entire body afterwards and go play with their toys that they haven’t picked up in months or even years.

I have recently received some amazing testimonials from clients that have assured me i am not just great at my job but also fulfilling my life’s purpose at long last. And so many of my old business networking friends STILL believe in me, now more than ever because they see the positive changes i continue to make and can see the passion I have in my work. (My Google Reviews)

Please don’t misunderstand me, I enjoyed the first few years of my time working in analytical chemistry laboratories; a sense of accomplishment when a batch of antiseptic hand-washes had been tested and was ok to be launched to help patients and doctors fight the war against MRSA in hospitals across the globe. But when the regulations got stricter in the name of patient safety, my brain and creativity didn’t seem to matter anymore, making me feel like a lab rat who was just there to make up solutions (ironically i prefer solutions to problems but that’s a different blog!) and a signature to say it was a valid test…. just a Human Doing rather than a Human Being.

After breaking down in tears during an audit in 2014 because of all the stress that piled up in the following years trying to find my way, I was made redundant. 

However, that gave me the opportunity to find what else I wanted to do, so my Rottweiler Lola helped me recover and taught me how to “Be More Dog”, connecting with what i now know to be my life’s purpose: 

To reduce physical and mental pain in dogs and dog owners so that they can both live happy, healthy lives together.

I want and NEED to keep going for my own mental wellbeing, despite the current financial climate because i know that the value in my treatments FAR outweighs the cost. Owners who love their dog as much as I loved my Lola would rather see any pain reduced and expensive surgery prevented if at all possible. 

I owe that to Lola who sadly passed away suddenly in October 2021 and took my purpose and confidence with her for a while. Getting back up from that grief (combined with the grief of inevitably losing many other beloved canine clients over the years) has taught me that I can bounce back yet again. Knowing in my heart that i made a difference to each of those dogs and their owners with the palliative care makes my job even more important to this world than ever before.

I just hope this blog (sorry for it being a bit long) helps those who are close to me to believe in my vision and believe in what makes me truly happy. In short I’d like them to trust in me and my choices. Even if they cannot imagine doing this job themselves or if i do it in a way that seems alien to them.

And I hope it shows Others that they too can change direction if their heart is not in their current role. Instead of saying “i can’t do that”, why not start telling yourself “What CAN i do to get there?”. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day… take small steps, like looking up course options or talking to other people who have made a drastic change before too.

If this resonates with you then please connect with me on, I’d love to chat and brain storm some ideas with you or signpost you to someone who can help with specifics. I believe you can do whatever you put your mind to.

Obviously connect with me too if you believe in Canine Massage Therapy already and want to recommend me to a dog you know that may need my help. Because this therapy, and Hands On Heart, is here to stay.


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