It Takes a Village (Or Major Metropolis Centre)
To successfully submerge into Toronto’s West End culture one needs to adopt a roster of personal services. Manicurist, therapist, nutritionist, investor, dry cleaner, trainer, chiropractor, life coach, house keeper, naturopath, mechanic, handyman, landscaper, masseuse…the list goes on (or does it?). And for the West End dog owner, a dog walker is essential.
Although they would love to, no Toronto professional can make their beloved four legged friend’s afternoon pee break a priority. Enter the need for a dog walker. But not any service will do, and why should it at $11 – $20 per walk.
As Yoda Would say, Choose Wisely you Must
Finding a Dog Walker is easy, I dare you to unearth a telephone pole or community notice board that isn’t advertising some type of dog care or dog walking service. As always, there’s, The Google, and best of all word-of-mouth. Toronto dog owners adore retelling stories and sharing photos in a quest to prove their dog walker is superior.
As a freelance writer, I have the luxury of working from home. While I’m transforming clients bullet points into masterful website copy, Johnny keeps an eye on the building’s courtyard, falls into slumber, and carefully watches my every move. He’s watching for me to get up and walk towards the hallway closet where his stylish leather leash from Timmie Dog Outfitters is nicely hung. Once at the closet he bounds towards me, ready to hit the dog park, a time for him to play and socialize, and for me to observe.
As much as I love freelancing, I’m being tempted by clients with full-time offers to work from their office. There’s a chance I’ll trade in the solace of my home for the buzz of a downtown Toronto office, therefore, requiring a dog walker.
When (if) the time comes to procure a dog walking service, I’m ready. Heedful observation leads to the conclusion that dog walkers fall into one of five categories.
Category One: Humble and Hot
This is the dog walker of any gay man’s dream…well, my dream. He’s straight, so straight he wouldn’t be allowed to be gay even if he asked. There’s nothing metrosexual about this guy at all, well not until he finishes with his dog walking duties for the day.
His attire consists of baggy basket ball shorts, a muddy paw stained white t-shirt, and severely beaten, mud-caked Nike cross trainers. Yuck, I know. But this is his dog walking wardrobe, night falls, the pack is put to bed, a quick shower, shave, tight pair of jeans, fitted black v-neck t-shirt, and BOOM! HOT!
Physically, he hits the ‘gym body sweet spot.’ He has the ideal amount of muscle on his arms, legs, and chest. His stomach is seven craft beers and two Wilbur burritos away from a six pack. Perfection. No man should be too cute or too muscular – I’m the pretty one in this fairy tale.
His eyes have a glint, teeth are free from any snaggle tooths, overbites or overly disgusting stains, and body hair is light and sparse. He’s balding, but a shaved head looks sexy on him and you dream of holding it in your lap while lying on a sun-kissed beach in Bali.
How is he with dogs? He’s awesome. He plays fetch, gives hardy belly rubs and commands respect with his deep slow voice and soft smile. Your dog comes back exhausted from a full-on ass-kicking dog park adventure.
Category Two: Reporting for Duty SIR!
When it comes to motivating others and getting what I want, I’m a sound believer in inspiring others, not whipping them into shape. Some dog walkers like their packs completely on edge, waiting with bated breath for their next command. Not falling in line with this dog walker results in the loss of a cookie and a public berating heard across the dog park.
Although it’s not a uniform, it could be. A pair of cargo pants and utility belt are housed with traditional and grain-free treats, a portable water dish, choke collar, whistle, training clicker, tick remover, compass, map, extra cell phone battery, gas mask, emergency blanket, first aid kit and a three-litre jug of water.
She or he is easy to spot in the dog park. Not only are they the loudest, but the one using the most powerful hand gestures. Sit, stay, wait, lay down, and no are all accompanied by hand, arm and even foot movements that could break the sound barrier.
Seeing her enter the park I immediately correct my posture and fight the urge to salute.
Category Three: Pony Tailed and Polished
I’ve yet to see the male version of this dog walker; I’m sure he’s out there somewhere, waiting for me to find and flirt with him.
Her look is striking:
- Hair pulled back, matching cap, shoes, and mini-backpack in either bright red or black.
- Tights, turtleneck or fitted t-shirt (season dependant).
- Apple Watch.
- Tasteful makeup, typically suggestions from her friends at MAC.
Her tone is magical, and it keeps her four-legged-tail-wagging crew at her side at all times. Watching her is like viewing a scene from Walt Disney’s Snow White. How Snow White attracts the animals and mesmerizes them into helping her do chores and stitch her dress for the ball, well, the same tactic applies to your pooch.
Upon hiring this dog walker, don’t be surprised to find your kitchen floor scrubbed and clogged bathroom drain snaked by no other than your dog. It will always be a mystery how she inspired Fido to complete the daunting task, but hey, you use electricity every day and don’t know exactly how that works – why question this sorcery.
Category Four: Medicinal Use Only
This individual is basically a walking hug. Although you wonder how he actually gets through life, you’re glad to know your hound is with him. You’re not exactly sure what the scent is wafting around him, but you’re confident it’s grown in BC and sold in Ziplock bags by a guy with bloodshot eyes.
His shaggy hair billows about underneath a washed out base ball cap he’s had sitting on his head since graduating Western University (eight years past). Saggy track pants, a wrinkled and torn sweatshirt (with a drop or two of lunch sitting near the collar), brown leather bracelet, and flip flops (no matter what the weather) complete his look.
I was privy to an excerpt from one of these dog walkers last month. A black Lab with nails a bit too long and a bit too sharp jumped up onto a dog walker ripping through his paper thin red fabric sweat pants. The entire park enjoyed a view of his Costco bought Joe Boxers. What did that puppy get in return? Nothing but a smile and a bear hug. How can you not love this guy?
He never has a bad day. Life is lived one day at a time and joy is found in the little things. He happily accepts tips in the form of Burger King and Subway gift cards.
Category Five: Born This Way
Some people were meant for one thing in life, this group of dog walker is destined to serve your pooch. Your pup could be the meanest on the block or drool in puddles; this dog walker has the same love they give to the flawless, expertly trained pure bred.
With over twenty dogs on her daily roster, they never miss a beat. Names, medications, treat preferences, allergies, and any other quirks are remembered with ease. That feeling you had as a child Christmas morning, they deliver every day to your pooch upon entering your home.
There’s no need to rely on wardrobe, scent or physical characteristics to pin point this dog walker. You’ll see them tangled in a mess of leashes laughing at the mess, coaching not instructing a fellow dog walker or dog owner who’s pup has gone awry. And always there found bent or kneeling, at eye level, praising and correcting behaviour.
All in the Family
However you choose, remember, a dog walker becomes part of the family. You go months without ever seeing them, they enter and exit your home each day, building a bond with your best friend. It’s hard to say the same thing about a dry cleaner (no matter how well-pressed the shirt) or a manicurist (no matter how well filed the nail).
Peace out friends.