GANDER, NL – There isn’t much long-time Gander resident Walt Gill hasn’t tried in his working career.
Self-described as someone who likes to keep busy, Gill started working an early age, pumping gas at City Motors in Gander at age 13. His work ethic was rewarded with a full-time summer job at 15.
Trained as an auto-body professional, Gill decided not to pursue the profession as the work environment interfered with his health and the remuneration was not what he expected.
Gill opted to work with sheet metal instead. Subsequent jobs include working with building supplies, Service Canada, the national defence base in Gander, and the recreation department for the Town of Gander.
In 1983 Gill changed direction by becoming his own boss to run a dog boarding and grooming business, Luferdan Kennels. It was a successful operation that ran for 20 years, and Gill put his heart and soul in it.
It seemed like a natural progression for Gill to start this business, having grown up with dogs including his favourite breed, German shepherds.
The initial hurdle was convincing the town of the idea.
“Selling the idea was a problem, but after much talking to the town and with agencies, I finally had the go-ahead,” Gill said.
It was a good time to open a pet boarding and grooming business in Gander.
“I was the only person in this area outside of Grand-Falls Windsor, and they had a groomer, so I became a professional groomer too – and I had never groomed a dog in my life!” Gill chuckled.
“I worked hard then,” he said, recalling the long hours, commitment and attention given to the animals.
“It was a fairly big operation — we housed about 25 to 28 dogs, and 12 to 15 cats. I started work at 6:30 in the morning and called it the day at 11:30 at night.
“I was not constantly doing something, but I was on-site all the time,” Gill said.
Some nights Gill would spend all night dog sitting, especially when there were thunderstorms and the dogs were spooked.
“I enjoyed it while it lasted, but it got the better of me,” he said.
Despite a successful business and growing clientele, the pressure of running a business with limited help compelled Gill to shut down the operation on the advice of his doctor.
“I got burnt out,” said Gill. “My doctor advised me to create more time to myself or I would have a heart attack. I was 42 at that time, and my blood pressure was constantly high.
“I reluctantly gave up the business and freed up time for myself.”
It was by chance that Gill watched a documentary about a renowned photographer who went through a burn-out phase and picked up photography.
The story spoke to him.
“I thought to myself — I could do this, and I picked up photography strictly as a hobby, and it gave me something to do,” Gill said.
It also gave him the opportunity to enjoy other aspects of the hobby as well, by “being out in the fresh air, and socializing in a group,” he said.
“When I go out and come back with a picture I like, it’s a bonus. If not, it was good to be out.”
Gill drives a school bus these days, and says he embraces each day as it comes.
“Three years ago, I ended up in hospital for 12 days — first time in my life in a hospital, and I had a lot of thinking to do."
“The cameras are all wonderful to have, but it means nothing if you don’t have your health. I don’t take anything for granted. I get up in the morning and thank God for every morning I get out of bed, and I thank God for getting my health back after my two stents in March.”