Photo by John Rizzo
What made you decide to get into this business?
I’d been doing office work for about ten years, but, after 9/11, and being laid off a few times, I decided I didn’t want to count on corporate America for a job—and I wanted to do something that made me happy. I’d always loved animals since I was a kid.
How did you establish yourself?
Having worked in offices, I understood that people were spending a lot of time on their computers for personal things like booking vacations or looking for dog sitters. So, in 2003, I set up a simple website through my AOL account—I was the only one in the area—and it shot off like a rocket. I didn’t have a day off for an entire year.
What’s your earliest animal memory?
When I was four, I thought I was going to marry the great big German shepherd that lived next door to me.
How many families and pets do you work with?
Over the past ten years, I’ve helped more than one hundred families. In a typical, week, I’ll work with ten to fifteen families or fifteen to twenty different animals.
Do you take care of any pets other than dogs?
Right now, all my regulars are dogs. On vacations, weekends, and holidays, I’ve added in such pets as cats, gerbils, hamsters, bunnies, and even three rats, which I actually grew quite fond of.
What’s the most unusual pet you’ve cared for?
A sugar glider—it’s like a little flying squirrel. He was very cute. He had a bedroom as his habitat, and he would swing himself from one end to the other.
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What’s your funniest pet story?
A sixty-five-pound English Bulldog named Winston—he had a lot of personality. When I walked him, he’d attack anything that had wheels. Once, he dragged a UPS hand truck full of boxes thirty-five feet down the sidewalk without dropping any. I couldn’t stop him and I was just doubled over laughing.
How long and often is a typical visit/walk?
With a typical client, I’ll come in once a day for thirty minutes, twenty-five minutes of which is the walk.
What’s the maximum number of dogs you’ll walk at any one time?
Two, if they know each other and get along, plus maybe my own. Big group walks like you see in Manhattan are not safe. If something happens to one of the dogs, what are you going to do with the other eleven while you get help for the first?
How many miles a day do you walk?
Everyone always asks me that and I really have no idea. I should wear a pedometer.
Have you lost weight since you started?
No. My legs are in great shape but not the rest of me. It’s not an aerobic type of exercise because it’s always stop and go, waiting for the dog.
How much do you charge for your services?
For dog walking, twenty dollars for a single visit. For an overnight vacation stay, sixty-five dollars a night.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about the dog-walking business?
That it’s recession-proof. When the economy tanked, all these newspaper articles were saying, ‘Lose your job? Start a dog-walking business!’ I lost fifty percent of my business in late 2008, early 2009. People lost their jobs, were home to walk their dogs, and weren’t going away for vacations or business trips.
When you do sleepovers, do you let the dog sleep with you?
If they want to—it’s up to the owner. I follow the house rules—whether they sleep in a crate, in a dog bed, or on the owner’s bed.