When you think about walking a dog it doesn’t seem like work, right? A casual stroll on a nice, sunny afternoon, blue sky, clouds floating by…some days, yeah, that’s what it’s all about. Others, well, let’s just say it ain’t all sunshine and lollipops.
As my business progressed it seemed I attracted more and more ‘special needs’ clients because of my background working with animals in the veterinary industry. Some people called me ‘The Dog Whisperer’ and ignored my protests that it really wasn’t true. I simply love animals and am willing to communicate with them, that’s all. But it was for this reason that troubled owners called me, needing my help. Seemingly overnight my business suddenly catered to dogs that didn’t behave on leash (because of the lack of training), animal aggressive dogs, and people aggressive dogs. This became the norm for me. Sure, I still had some ‘normal’ dogs, but gradually the majority was in the former category. I was forever crossing the street whenever another person or a person with a canine came my way, constantly struggling to keep these bucking dogs from tangling their leashes around my legs as they strove to get at the dog or person or rabbit or squirrel or whatever. I really had to stay on top of it during some of the walks, couldn’t day dream, talk on the phone, or listen to music. If I listened to my Ipod I sometimes didn’t hear people and their pets coming and a skirmish would occur. Ditto with the phone. I had to stay focused! But there was another angle as well. If I wasn’t paying attention some of my dogs would eat things off the ground that might harm them. I took care of a chocolate lab that ate everything. When I say ‘everything’, I mean EVERYTHING. Nothing was off limits. I was forever pulling such things out of his mouth as: bottle caps, coins, paper clips, empty lighters, dead animals, nails, poop (yech!), tar (yes, wet tar), paper cups, food wrappers, waste of any kind, leaves, clumps of grass, dirt…the ground contained a veritable smorgasbord for that guy. He was always hungry, obviously. When I walked him I had to keep my eyes on the ground several feet in front of him, watching for something he might pick up. But what a human might not construe as a possible snack, well, a dog may think otherwise. I learned. It took time, but I learned.
Another logistic of the dog walk is poop. Being a professional, I always carry plenty of bags. That is not the problem. The difficulty sometimes lies in where to dispose of them. Some neighborhoods I work in don’t have public trashcans, and the clients I am walking for don’t have an available can at my ready disposal. One of the perks of my service is that the client need not worry about that end; in fact I never mention it at all. So, over the years, I’ve had some interesting things happen with bags of dog poop. In the early days I’d toss them in my trunk to get rid of later. I don’t recommend this. It only takes an hour on a hot day and your entire car reeks. Sometimes I’d toss them in a bush to retrieve later; it seemed someone ALWAYS saw me, and I felt like I was littering. You can store it in your khaki pants pocket but I can’t tell you how many times I had a bag of crap in the thigh pocket and forgot it was there. I’d be in line at the store, library, gas station etc. and at once the smell of feces would waft up to my nostrils. Once (this is the most ridiculous) I had no other place to put a bag of crap so I put it in the breast pocket of my flannel shirt. Moments later I came upon a cute girl with a dog and we started chatting. You can pretty much guess the rest from there.
Dog walking is an awesome profession if you can get it (depends on location, location, location!) because of the fresh air and free time it allowed me to write my novel The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World (except when I got really busy). Just give some thought about where the poop is going to go and you’ll be fine.