By Doug Hare EBS Staff
BIG SKY – It’s been a little over a year since Jessica Wyman and Billy Langer decided to buy Hiking Hounds, the local dog walking and pet sitting service, from Renee Schwenn, who was moving back to Belgrade after growing her business in Big Sky since 2013.
The couple remembers the exact conference—held by the Asia-Pacific Economic Commission—in 2011 when they met while both working conference services for the resort. Getting up extra early in the morning to walk their own dogs before their 6 a.m. shifts is what initially got them started thinking about the needs of pet owners in town.
“It was a pretty quick decision. We approached Renee with an offer, and things moved pretty rapidly from there,” Langer said about acquiring the business.
Wyman has been managing the administrative aspects of being a small business owner, while Langer can more often than not be found on local trails, typically going out with groups of four or five dogs, often including his own Emmet, a reservation rescue, and Louise, a Red Heeler, in the fun.
“They get out more energy when they run around in a pack,” Wyman said. “The more play time the better.” Hiking Hounds typical services include daily 20 or 40 minutes walks on trails such as the Reflector Loop, Porcupine Creek Trail, or Ulery’s Lake; small pet care visits; and in-home dog sitting while families are away.
“It’s definitely a personal business. People are trusting you with their favorite animals and letting you into their homes,” Langer said. “So much of what I do is build trust from our clients.”
The couple says they like giving families the freedom to take a day off to fish or ski, and they enjoy building relationships with the pets.
“The most rewarding part might be seeing a dog that is stoked to see you,” Langer said. “Some of them know the sound of my car and can barely contain their excitement when they know they’re going on a walk.”
While business is steady, Wyman and Langer do not have plans to hire an employee in the near future.
“We get calls all the time about opening a doggie daycare, where people can drop their dogs off and maybe going skiing for eight hours. But with the brick and mortar being so expensive, nothing like that is on the horizon,” Langer said. “All I know is that we feel like we can grow along with this town.”
Reflecting on the first year as small business owners, Wyman said, “As of now, we feel like a part of the Big Sky community that contributes a valuable service that doesn’t leave a big footprint, and we look forward to the year ahead.”