Who's Walking Your Dog?
Today’s post is a throwback to 2015 when I started taking notes for future blog topics. The beauty of this specific post lies in a few key highlights: Referencing Commodore, a beloved Frenchie who passed a few years ago and whose family I hold very dear to my heart; joining a walk with our employee Matt, a delightful human who helped us broaden our perimeter to the West Village in 2012; and thinking about my puppy Lucca, walking with the initial dogs who joined TBM, fully seeing and fully enjoying the exercise of a young sprite. As many people are adding dogs to their family during COVID-19, it is my hope that they align their dogs with caregivers who have the best interest of a dog in mind. Especially if you live in NYC, I hope you will consider TBM to be your dog’s walker, trainer, and boarder -- we are here to be their advocates. The next month of posts will be focused on choosing the right humans to join in the journey of caring for your dog throughout their life. From veterinarian to walker, from grooming facilities to boarding overnight, I hope to offer some insight as more pups find themselves in their forever homes.
I popped into a Chelsea coffee shop this morning while waiting to join a staffer on their pack walk. The shop had a walk-up window where a young woman, let's call her Lee, was ordering coffee while holding three dogs on a leash and one dog in a travel bag. Lee certainly was a regular here, considering she and the barista chatted for numerous minutes without acknowledging the other customers waiting to order (patience is not a virtue I have before my morning coffee). While they caught up on weekend events, a gentleman and his dog strolled up to the window behind Lee. She turned around and, seeing a familiar face, began a conversation with him, thankfully freeing up the barista to take my order. As she walked off with her four dogs and a coffee, Lee reassured the man that she would see his Fluffy later. Ah, she’s the dog walker.
Perplexed by the situation, having been an independent dog walker for over four years, and now responsible for a handful of employees, I wanted to understand why the man felt comfortable paying Lee to walk his dog. After all, he and I both witnessed a solid 7 minutes of her at a coffee shop window and that's nearly a quarter of a 30-minute dog walk. I approached the man with an inquiry as a dog parent in need of a dog walker and, with reluctance, he obliged me in a dialogue.
"May I ask why you feel comfortable paying someone who isn't necessarily walking the dogs?"
"Well, I've known Lee for five years ever since she began walking Fluffy. I didn't hire Lee to give my dog exercise -- I'd hire a different kind of walker for that -- rather to have Fluffy socialize.”
I was glad to learn he knew she wasn’t there to walk for exercise and, at the same time, I wondered why the dogs weren’t outside to also get exercise while their parents were at work. Those were young, healthy pups at the end of the leashes.
Believe me when I say that we see a fair share of walkers who do not walk their clients' dogs. It's appalling and may be one of my biggest pet peeves since moving to NYC. I can not tell you how many times I have commented to fellow walkers that they aren’t being paid to read a book on a bench, with their seven dogs sitting on the sidewalk, tightly knitted due to their tangled up leashes. Uptown is notorious for large packs (we are talking dozens of dogs at once); these same packs are left alone outside of buildings, leashes attached to a pole while the walker enters a building to pick-up/drop-off a dog. They’re clearly in a precarious situation. Due to theft, New York City advises to never leave your dog unattended. Beyond that, dogs can be triggered by a number of things and if one dog acts out, you now have a dozen dogs intertwined and possibly going at each other. It irks me to know these dogs have no choice and can not advise their parents of the unsafe conditions they are in while out with their walkers.
Now, there is a difference between a slow-moving dog walker who still loves the dogs and a dog walker who posts up on a corner, motionless, as they count the minutes until they can begin to return the dogs home. Lee seemed exceptionally friendly and probably the former type of dog walker. The fact that she was carrying a dog in its travel bag reflects the level of care she has for these pups because that is no easy feat to accomplish, especially while leading three more dogs on leashes. However, for all the walkers out there who are dishonest with their clients and fail to care for their dogs, I hope that we can find ways to advocate for the voiceless so those pups get into the hands of those who are in the business out of love for the dogs. Our motivation at TBM is the health and safety of your dog -- that guides us every day.
As I sipped my latte and met up with Matt to join him on his walk, Commodore put on the brakes and splayed across the pavement (his go-to move as seen in the header photo for this blog post) in an attempt to return home just minutes after the walk began. We had a choice: do we let Commodore win and take him home early so he isn't "uncomfortable" in that moment of battling for authority, or do we take ownership of the walk and use leash pressure to stand our ground so Commodore can enjoy a full 30 minutes of proper exercise, socialization with his dog friends, and love from the both of us. After all, that is why his parents chose TBM -- to make the right decision for their dog rather than letting the dog make the decision for us. I think we made a good choice that day as we moved along Ninth Avenue to pick up his packmate Theodore.
I started TBM with Lucca in mind. What would I want in my dog walker if I needed one for Lucca? (Confession: I did need one when I first started walking Oliver Lim because I lived too far from him and Lucca was a puppy who needed a relief break before I could get back home-- a story for another day.) When Lucca was younger, she could be a stubborn walker at the start of the walk; she prefers to go back inside after she eliminates. It's ironic considering I am a dog walker by trade but that's Lucca's personality -- she would rather sleep -- and I wouldn’t change a thing about her. However, what I did expect from Lucca was to walk if we were moving down the block. When TBM staff arrived to walk Lucca, she knew to get a move on, that resisting the walk when Matt showed up would do no good -- it was pack walking time. She got her exercise, socialization, leash etiquette training, and relief break within those 30-60 minutes under TBM's care.
The same applies for each of our clients.
If you want a walker who allows your dog to dictate the walk, sniff every tree on the block, mark buildings and plants, bark at dogs and humans as your dog sees fit; and if you want a walker who spends the duration of the walk talking on their phones, walking at a snail's pace without paying attention to your dog’s needs, who does not serve as your dog’s advocate in exchange for a lower walk price, then TBM is not the right fit.
TBM is here to walk. TBM is here to keep your dog moving, to keep your dog safe, and to keep your dog healthy. We are here to serve as the pack leader so your dog can live out their days as a good dog, a calm dog, a happy dog.
Every dog wants an advocate. We’re in!
In Memory of Commodore,