Search & Replace S03E23: Kenny Hills

Kenny Hills is an animal lover who turned his childhood passion into Uncle Kenny’s Pet Sitting and Dog Walking in Los Angeles. Although there were bumps along the way to creating a thriving pet care business, Kenny’s journey is a testament to the power of pursuing one’s passions. His advice: believe in yourself and take that leap of faith. Get ready for a heartwarming story of what happens when you follow your dreams on Search and Replace. 

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[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialists at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode. 

[00:00:11] Joe Taylor, Jr: What if you find a dream job, but it’s always got a little hint of sadness underneath it.  

[00:00:17] I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search and Replace. 

[00:00:27] Kenny Hills knew he wanted to work with animals from a young age; even if he was so young that he didn’t realize some of those animals were imaginary. 

[00:00:36] Kenny Hills: When I was real young, my friends would wake up to watch cartoons and I would watch, like, Crocodile Hunter, like all these different animal movies or shows. And then it just, kind of, grew from there. When I was little, you know, they ask you what you want to be when you grow up and I wanted to work at Jurassic Park. Then I realized I couldn’t, it wasn’t real.  

[00:00:54] So I started volunteering at the shelter, and then from there it, kind of, just took off. I ended up working at that same shelter when I was old enough. I just saw how hard it was for the animals to make it out the shelter. I don’t know how I didn’t lose my job. You know, it’s just the overpopulation of pets is, it’s just crazy. 

[00:01:13] So they did their best but you know, there were days where we had to do euthanasias and they would go look for a dog and I would hide the dog somewhere else in a different kennel because they were very strict on it because it’s non-profit, so they’re very strict on time. So if it went past 5 pm they’re like, all right, you know, gotta wait till tomorrow. So at least I got dogs and cats that, you know, one more day to try to get someone to come in and adopt them.  

[00:01:32] Joe Taylor, Jr: As Kenny matured, he realized that he had to dig a little deeper to find the kinds of animal-related jobs that brought him the most satisfaction. 

[00:01:41] Kenny Hills: The vet hospital and the shelter were probably the two most depressing jobs, when it comes to having to see animals be put down, especially healthy animals that have behavior issues or something like that. When I moved to LA, I decided to get into more of a pet boarding, dog daycare. So I came down here with 500 in my bank account, lined up a job interview in an apartment for one weekend, drove down here, didn’t even tell my mom. 

[00:02:05] Love my mom to death, but she’s so, she worries about me so much about it, told her she should’ve never let me leave. And I came down to LA, landed both the apartment and the job. Made the move, worked at that facility for about a month or two. But it was just really the same thing over and over again. It was such, it just felt like a robot. So I applied at a dog daycare, luxury dog hotel, I should say. And from there, I put in 13 years there. I left that to pursue my own business, which is Uncle Ken’s Pet Sitting and Dog Walking.  

[00:02:35] Joe Taylor, Jr: That’s a business that sounds pretty demanding to most of us, but not Kenny. 

[00:02:39] Kenny Hills: Working with animals for me has always been super easy. It was just me believing in myself, which I lacked the confidence at the time of just understanding, like, you know, people love you for who you are and, you know, they trust you with their animals.  

[00:02:54] Another aspect was I had a pit-lab named Kaiya and she was my soul dog. And when I lost her, that really made me dive into my personal development. It was a journey, so there was a lot of reading, and then, you know, I was doing dog walks and stuff. And that’s the best time to really clear my mind, and it’s almost like a meditation for me to go on a good dog walk. So, you know, with my own dogs, cause, you know, I got four dogs, cat and a bird, so it’s like, I got three big dogs that need a lot of exercise. I got bloodhounds, so they gotta walk for at least an hour or they’re not gonna be tired. So I’d put on an audio book or a self-help podcast, something like that, and just put the right kind of stuff in your mind so you’re not talking to yourself because you usually are your self sabotage. 

[00:03:38] I didn’t listen to outside people that affected negatively. I never believed in negativity. So I don’t want to be a negative person to somebody else. I don’t want to shatter nobody else’s dream and I’m not going to listen to somebody that, kind of, has that same mindset or even the ones that you know, if I’m trying to learn how to build confidence I don’t want to be around people that haven’t learned themselves yet because we’re just gonna keep pulling each other down. So just surrounding myself with the right people.  

[00:04:02] Joe Taylor, Jr: Surrounding himself with the right people and the right pets has made a big impact on Kenny’s life. 

[00:04:08] Kenny Hills: You know, it’s just all been a blessing. But the biggest thing that I’ve noticed is my happiness. I’ve always been really big on making sure my happiness became before any financial, you know, any money or anything like that. So, you know, LA is not easy to live in by yourself. So there was times where I had three jobs at one time. 

[00:04:26] I actually volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club in Culver City. And that’s where I, kind of, saw the happiness that brought, like, I’d rather make no money than, and be happy than, you know, make a ton of money and be miserable. So, that was the biggest thing I’ve seen is just my happiness since I don’t have to answer to nobody. I don’t have to be places.  

[00:04:43] You know, I get to do what I love. I have fun with the dogs. You know, I’m not the most sociable person, so I’d prefer to be with dogs than people. So this gives me the opportunity to do so. Especially when pet owners trust me and they board their dog with me, it’s just, you know, we’re just hanging out at the house and we go out back and play, we go on walks, they get to play with my dog, stuff like that. 

[00:05:01] So it was more of just the mental aspect of it that I’ve seen the biggest blessing. And just being able to help people. I always want to help people. And you know, some people just don’t understand dogs the same way. And you know that when they say the dog whisper or you know how to talk to animals, each animal species has their own language. And once you learn how to, kind of, understand it. You build a stronger relationship with the dogs. You can understand when they’re not feeling good, when they’re, you know, upset, they’re nervous, and how to help them through those situations. And once you help a dog through a situation, you’ve got their trust for life. So, it’s just really been fun just to help people understand their dogs.  

[00:05:41] Joe Taylor, Jr: Whether you share a passion for pets like Kenny, or you think your dreams might take you in a different direction, Kenny thinks your paths might look a little similar.  

[00:05:49] Kenny Hills: Have faith and believe in yourself. Just, you got to go get it, it’s never going to come to you. It’s never going to make sense. It’s one of those things where you just got to let go and let God.  

[00:06:00] Every time I feel stressed, I tell myself it’s going to be okay and, you know, something happens where it’s okay. So it’s just, kind of, letting go, not talking yourself out of things, not listening to the people around you that don’t have dreams or passions. So if you don’t have a dream or passion, I don’t, I can’t listen to your advice to me.  

[00:06:20] My biggest advice is just you got to jump, in you got to try it. That, you know, there’s blessings and there’s lessons; there’s never a loss. So people get scared of, like, what if I don’t make it? You learn from it and then you fix what you can. You can only worry about what you can control and then you try again, and just get back up.  

[00:06:37] Joe Taylor, Jr: That’s Kenny Hills, founder of Uncle Kenny’s Pet Sitting and Dog Walking in Los Angeles, California. Kenny’s collecting rescue stories for a book that’s releasing soon and we’ve got links to that and to other resources for pet lovers in our show notes and on our website at  

[00:06:55] Today’s episode was produced by Nicole Hubbard and the entire Podcast Taxi team. I’m Joe Taylor, Jr 

[00:07:05] Announcer: This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production.  

[00:07:09] Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialists serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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