I have been a dog walker over the last twelve years, and I love my job. My relationship with the families I work with makes my career very unique and special. Some of the families I have known for over a decade. Our relationship begins with me being their dog walker initially, but over time deep friendships have developed.
Recently I received a call from a local woman in the neighborhood who needed her dog walked once a week. She had heard about me from a neighbor and wanted the 411 on what I could provide for her and her dog walking needs.
I could sense the love that she had for her dog even over the phone, and reassured her I that could provide references. I heard from her that her dog had not wanted to go on a walk with her previous dog walker, and told her that it was smart to follow her gut feeling. After all, we always have to be our dog’s advocate since they cannot talk!
We chatted on the phone and I could feel her starting to trust me. Tonight I sent references to her, and this lead me to think of tonight’s post.
I had a few flashbacks as I wrote down some names for her to call. The names each have such different stories and all have become dear friends. My role as “dog-walker” often becomes blurred over time as I share life’s ups and downs with my clients.
I remember getting a call from a single Dad down our street years ago asking if I would consider walking his new dog, a young lovely retriever named Cailley. His daughter was the same age as our youngest daughter and both were in the same kindergarten class together.
Cailley had arrived overweight to join them in her forever home. She pulled horribly on leash and I wondered what I had gotten myself into. The first year or so Cailley would chew random household objects, and I dreaded for this family of two what I would find each day, when opening their door. I have found shoes, a Gameboy, Halloween candy, a TV remote and countless other objects left in mini pieces on the floor.
Cailley has boarded with us over the years and become very dear to me as one of the first dogs that I walked. Time has flown by, and our daughters are now eighteen and Cailley is a darling senior. Her chewing calmed down years ago and she is the most even-keeled dog that I know. I don’t think I have ever seen her hackles go up or a growl. She became a delight to walk.
Another of my first dogs to walk was Sunny, a cute mixed breed. He is part Terrier, Jack-Russell and Shih-tzu, which when put together equals the Energizer Bunny that we see on TV. He is full of beans, especially off leash park, egging on other dogs at play by running close behind them and barking.
His owner was home schooling her son and needed my help with letting Sunny get exercise while they concentrated on school work. Sunny was a fan favorite at the dog off leash as he had no fear of big dogs and could run like the wind. He generated many smiles for people of all ages.
Recently one of Sunny’s owners retired so I was not needed to dog walk any more. Luckily I see Sunny being walked in our neighborhood and occasionally have him at our house for a board overnight. His owners attend my church so we still have opportunity to catch up on each other’s lives.
Over the years I have also experienced families losing a loved one to cancer. The dog often comes my way when hospital visits become more frequent or families need to travel for funerals. This is another time when the line from dog walker to friend becomes blurred. I cannot help but get caught up in the emotions family members are feeling when dropping off their dog. The dog often is the glue in some families, holding the normalcy of daily routine when things are going well.
I have compared my job to a delicate dance at times when dealing with people. I am drawn in to each and every family despite the many differences that they have. I share in their joys and their sadness over the years. Their dog winds its way into a special spot in my heart over time, just as our personal friendship grows.
I have walked dogs for wonderful seniors, new mothers, empty nesters, single parents and those living on their own. My life becomes part of theirs as we share along the way. My father is now in long-term care and the support of my clients has been a gift as I adjust to this new circumstance.
When the dogs have died of old age or illness my partnership with the families becomes severed. The dog as the brilliant connecting piece is gone, but for the friendships that remain, I am so very grateful.
It was a pleasure and honour writing down names as references for a potential new client. They each have a story to tell and I hope that she will be added to my list.
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