Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.
I read something recently in the New York Times about a guy whose business is to walk the dogs of guests at ritzy hotels. He has some kind of deal with the front desks — when their guests need their chihuahuas walked and coddled, they call him. I think the article said he makes upwards of $300 a day.
Maybe THAT’S my calling! Dog walker! Flexible hours, cash in hand, little contact with human beings, and playing with dogs! I’m SO there.
First, I decide, I need to come up with a name. I decide on “Doody-Free,” but then am told by a close friend that people may think it’s a free service. Then I change it to “Doody Calls.” The name is already taken by a DC dog-walking service. There’s no more time for puns — I have dogs to walk! I decide on “Chelsea Pet Pals.” Simple, snappy, memorable, alliterative.
I scour the craigslist pets section to get a sense of other people’s rates. The going rate in the city seems to be between $12-18 per half hour. One smartass donates a percentage of his earnings to the ASPCA. Other walkers promise trips to dog runs and organic treats. I decide $10 per half hour is fair and will lure people in. As a bonus, I throw in a “buy 10 walks, get one free” deal for new customers.
I quickly order a thousand cheap business cards, make signs, and take out an ad in the New York Press. I post a sign downstairs in the laundry room.
After the sun goes down, I creep around the neighborhood with signs and a roll of electrical tape and start slapping signs all over phone booths, deli doors, mailboxes, parking meters, and random poles. If there are other dog walking signs up, I pull them down and put mine up in their place. This is no time for guilt; this is business! You snooze, you lose. (Karma alert: By morning, all of my signs have been pulled down.)
A few days pass without a nibble, and I’m feeling slightly down. Then, a call comes in. It’s Susan, a woman in Union Square who needs her twin Jack Russells, Mr. Pibb and Mary, walked twice a day for a week while she goes on vacation. I accept the job and head over to her apartment to meet my new clients.
The walk from my Chelsea studio to her one bedroom in Union Square is a hearty one, and I decide to kill two birds with one stone and turn it into a power walk.
When I get there, Susan greets me at the door and immediately pummels me with questions. How long have I been walking dogs? (One day.) Do I have any references? (Um, sure.) What would I do in case of an emergency? (Cry?) Am I insured? (No, but I’m working on it.) Do I know pet CPR? (EWWW!)
I muddle through her questions as best I can and seem to appease her. She hands me the keys and says I am to start in the morning before 10am. We agree on $120 for the week (14 walks at $10, plus two free walks.)
I set my alarm for 8 and power walk-it over to Union Square, with a supply of plastic baggies and hand sanitizer in my pocket. After fidgeting with the keys in the door for what seems like hours, I finally unlock it and Mary and Mr. Pibb bound out of the back room. I smell poop. I investigate, but don’t find the source of the smell. If the dog poops in the house before I’ve even started my job, it’s not my fault, right?