Dec 15, 2012

Are Dog Walkers Seen As Losers?

Am I A Loser

Am I A Loser?

Four. That's the number of times I've been called a loser because of my job.

I've been called a loser for other reasons, and I'm sure I've been called a loser many times behind my back - and probably will again.

What I don't understand is being called a loser because I walk dogs for a living.

A few years ago, I was in an apartment building. At the time, I took care of over 25 dogs in the complex. I was riding the elevator with four dogs when a guy got in on the 18th floor and started up a conversation. First he said, "Wow, that's a lot of dogs, are they all yours?" Me, being the nice person that I think I am, responded "No, I'm a dog walker. I'm just taking them out for a walk."  His face got all screwed up, and he tilted his head to the side, then said "People pay you for that?"  I replied "Yes, I just started a dog walking business….." Before I could finish, the elevator doors started to open and he started shaking his head, walking out saying really loudly, "Fucking loser." 

I am not an easy person to shock or annoy. I am usually quick witted and generally have a smart retort to whatever is thrown at me. But as this Gentleman (asshole) left the elevator, I just stood there dumbfounded. And that's just not like me. I was having a hard time trying to link everything together. I cocked my head from side to side as I tried to place all the bits of information into something that to my brain resembled a logical pattern, but it just would not happen.

Onwards and upwards. A year or so passed, and my business had grown phenomenally. I was overly busy, flat out, balls to the wall. I was doing any where from 15 to 26 dog walks a day. Anyone who knows anything about the dog walking world will know that that's a lot. But I was feeling good about myself. I had a job that I loved, and I was making good money doing it.

Am I a loserI picked up my dogs for playgroup - six in total that day. I took them to a little island park right near downtown Boston.  There is only a bridge as an entry/exit point, so it's easy to let the dogs run off leash and still be super careful that nobody runs away. In the middle of the island is a hill where most people stand to get a 360 degree view. I approached the hill, the dogs going crazy all around me. There was a guy already there. His dog ran down to meet my group, and they all started the chase-me game. I smiled on the inside. 

"Are they all friendly?" He asked.  I understood his concern. I had been to this park before, and I had had problems with other people and their dogs. Mainly the people, but that's another story.

"Are you a dog walker?" he asked. I hadn't had a chance to answer the first question yet, but I said yes. "No offense..." he said. "Uh-ho, here it comes," I said to myself. "...but I'd rather have a girl walk my dog. I trust them more." he finished.

Fine by me. If you're paying for the service, then I guess you're entitled to have a girl walk your dog if that's what you want.

"Could you not find another job?" he went on to ask.

Confused, I asked him what he meant. He then went on to explain that he was a fireman and it took him a ton of training to get his job.

"Don't you feel like a loser? Doing a girl's job, with no future to look forward to?"

I started to stumble over my words - yet again I was taken aback. I was wracking my brain, trying to come up with a response. But I was blanking. No words came out. He continued to talk about how wonderful he was. He felt great that he was doing something that served people well. He felt respected in the community. Blah blah fucking blah - all I could hear.

He was the reason I wrote the post It's A Real Job

The next one was not really a loser quote but I think it's in the same group.

This one was quick. I was at the crosswalk with three dogs, and a car pulled up to the red light. The guy noticed the logo on my sweatshirt, and he figured out that I'm a dog walker.  So he felt the need to roll down the window and shout, "Get a real job, you faggot!"

Now, for anyone who knows me, I AM a faggot. But as it is in other minority groups, it's only acceptable for people of the same persuasion to use that term. So either he must have known me really well, and I just did not recognize him, or, more likely, he was trying to be rude.  Now I get to call him a loser.

So that brings me to yesterday. I drove to Hull, MA - a beautiful beach town - to drop home two dogs that had stayed with me. I decided to take my dogs and their friend Moxy for a walk on the beach.

I got out of the car with Moxy first - she was the youngest and probably needed to pee the most urgently. I started to walk towards the beach, but I noticed an older guy walking towards my car with his dog. I turned around and headed back, waiting for the inevitable barking to begin as my dogs spotted his.

"Hey, how are you?" I said in my nicest voice. "That's a lot of dogs you got there," he responded as the barking from inside the car grew ever more frantic. I opened the door and "shushed" the dogs, and they quietened down.
"Only four are mine." I let him know, trying to convey that four is a normal amount of dogs and that I'm not an animal hoarder. "This little girl is a client's dog" I told him. "A client's dog?" he questioned. So I started to explain that I was a dog walker and that we took our client's dogs overnight into our house when they were traveling. He started to walk away, turned and pointed at me with a bag of poop in his hand and yelled, "It's liberal hippy losers like you that have this country ruined." Then, barely audibly, he muttered "fuckin' dog walkers…." as he walked off with his mangy-looking mutt. This time, I just cracked up laughing and thought, "I can't wait to be old."

On a serious note, though, is being a dog walker looked down upon? Do people see what I do and think I somehow got here through some unfortunate circumstance? Not that this is something I choose to do and love doing? The folks mentioned above don't realize that I'm actually a small business owner, providing full-time jobs for my four employees.  I pay their payroll taxes, provide worker's compensation, give them uniforms and gas money - heck, I even buy them breakfast most mornings. Even with that being said, if I were just a regular dog walker, why would that make me a loser?


  1. My old dog walker got caught not walking the dog.

  2. I find it crazy that people feel the need to say those things to you. I happen to know several dog walkers who are all a.) awesome people, b.) really hard workers, and c.) making great money running their own small business. How this translates to loserdom or 'liberal hippy losers' ruining the country, I just don't know.

    The flip side? - I work from home in a neighborhood where many of my neighbors have decided it's okay to buy dogs and leave them locked up all day (and night) while they go to work or go out partying. The dogs bark incessantly, they're miserable, I have a hard time getting work done... if the neighbors would employ a dog walker, everybody would be happier. Maybe I should start dropping flyers on their doorstep?...

    Thanks for this post - keep up the good work (bloggin AND dog walking).

  3. I find it incredibly sad that there are such jerks in this world. Unfortunately, I believe it (I know many of the folks I've worked with in corporations would say such horrible things). It's why I am not working with them, and afraid to go back. I just can't stand being surrounded by so many of them!

    People underestimate the importance of doing something you enjoy for a living, and how that is so much more valuable than money. But you are earning good money at something you enjoy - double bonus! You will have the last laugh. But it sure is sad to know there are those disgusting people in this world, all the same.

    Thank you for writing this post!

  4. People are jerks. Dog walking = awesome job! Kudos

  5. I do think there is a misconception that dog walkers can't get a "real job" and that's why they do what they do. People that feel that way tend to be small-minded. Hiring you to walk Colde will allow me the freedom to work a 40 hour week and not have to worry about Colde. It allows me to earn a living, and provide for myself and my pup. I wouldn't be able to work like I do if I couldn't hire someone to take care of Colde. It's unfortunate that you have to deal with such ignorance.

  6. if you lived where i live i would love to have you as a dog walker. ive always wanted to be one myself but im so small 5ft and 6 1/2 stone that i can barely walk my own dog (american bulldog) let alone any one else's :P

    and in no way are you a loser! you have your own business and earn a pretty penny from it! i doubt many of the people who have scrutinized you have any where near such a fulfilling job as you. im quite envious as it goes haha.

  7. Thank you Steffy jo. Size does not matter in this business, I know a lot of small people who have a dog walking business, my sister in law is only 5,1" and she has a huge doggie business with over 10 employees.

  8. This was really well written and I SO appreciate that you took the time to write it! I'm leaving behind my dog walking business after 6 years. I know all too well about the attitude of MANY people on professional dog walking. I really took exception to the comment about it being a "girl's job". That's insulting and ignorant on SO many levels, I don't even know where to begin! It's a very physical job. There is a ton of driving (and here in MA, that's no picnic!), and we spend hours outdoors -year round- in New England! You have to be a tough cookie and have a real love for the job to be good at it, no matter what your sex! People THINK you get to "play with dogs all day". They nicely describe it as "cute" and its insulting! The reality IS- we made a CHOICE to work at something that we enjoy, that we value, regardless of what society has collectively deemed as "success".. Because darnit- I'll be damned if I'm going to slave away at a job that I HATE 40+ hours a week in order to eek out a living- just so I can say OTHERS think I'm successful. And that's why we have haters. Just because they're willing to live like that doesn't mean I have too. And it's not my fault if they don't have the gumption to break the mold and go their own way. So there!! :-)

  9. I found this post after being linked to your Chewing problem post from the G+ Dog Park. I think I'll be following your blog more. :)

    I don't currently have a dog, but I'm looking to get one. I work in the city and live in the burbs, so one of the items I am of course budgeting for is dog walking.

    Because of my full time job and my long commute via train/bus (a typical day is 12 hours door to door), it's not something that is optional for me. So I respect people who create dog walking businesses. You are providing a valuable service that someone like me can't have a dog without.

    I'm honestly surprised people would react this way. I chalk it up to the fact that they are people who are walking their own dog during the time most people can't. That means they either are much better really close to home...or have an abnormal work schedule. They are not the norm. They are stuck up snobs and just ignore them. There's so many people in this world that rely on people like you performing these valuable services. I would think the vast majority find your services to be valuable. You're not a loser in my book.

    And for the record, I love my job, as I get to do what I love to do, web development. I love the commute too...downtime before and after work means I can relax no matter how stressful the day was.

  10. Thank you Thor. I could use your help on my business website.

  11. I can't believe how rude people are. I don't believe for a second that you are a loser otherwise I would be one also because I am a pet sitter. I wonder who he would think is the biggest loser between us? LOL

  12. Thanks for sharing this site, it is very informative for the business personals.

  13. Oh my gosh! This is what my friend and I who run dog walking businesses go through on a daily basis! I call it FAQ and want to put a pizza bill board on me. Top 2 I am over, are all these your dogs? that's a lot of dogs! People ask the most intrusive questions as well. I wish we could just pickup our dogs, walk them and return them home - wouldn't it be nice. This job is like an invitation for unwanted coversation :(

  14. Oh my gosh! This is what my friend and I who run dog walking businesses go through on a daily basis! I call it FAQ and want to put a pizza bill board on me. Top 2 I am over, are all these your dogs? that's a lot of dogs! People ask the most intrusive questions as well. I wish we could just pickup our dogs, walk them and return them home - wouldn't it be nice. This job is like an invitation for unwanted coversation :(

  15. Hey Mark, as someone who is just getting back into dog walking and pet sitting business after a long hiatus as a web designer, I have often wondered if people in my chosen profession are looked down upon, and now I know! However, whenever I get strife about it, or it's too cold, or too hot, or someone cancels with no warning, I know I will still think, "it's better than web design!" I think that's going to work for a long time :). Great blog!

    1. I just thought this was great.. as a self taught programmer and someone with a degree in Web Design & New Media I have chosen to run a dog business instead... at least for several years. It's hard to travel - the only gripe of the job. Hope to scale and sell then invest and program occasionally as freelance while I travel. I do agree compared to web development in an office it is better I'd say.

      - San Francisco Native

  16. It's real good article I loved it, Want to see more about Dog Walkers then

  17. I don't know where you live, but it seems very conservative. You can make a good living dog walking. I started my own business. And I have a college degree! People at first have a stigma about dog walkers but then when you say I own my own business and they see that you're making a good living. Ultimately they become a bit envious of you especially on nice days. Everyone has dogs where I live and I have too much business. I hope now a days you are doing much better. As long as you have a hustlers mentality, people can respect that. Those who don't are miserable and wished they could walk dogs.

  18. Ah yes, I recently started dog walking and sitting, and find that I have to justify doing it to nearly everyone I meet. They assume I can't find work or don't aspire to do better. I have a degree in graphic design and still freelance, but I couldn't take the office environment any more. I see you're from Massachusetts as well. Yes, people here tend to be so judgmental. Keep doing what you love, most people can only dream of doing that!

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  23. That you had to stay at home, and all you had for entertainment was a rag rope and a soft ball, you might go stir crazy too, so I don't get how people can't understand the dogs basic needs. They are more of a pack animal than their owner!

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  24. That's because being a dog walker is not a real job. It's a dream job!

    But in all seriously, they're just projecting their own insecurities. Knocking you down makes them feel like they're superior to you. Don't sweat it.

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