Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Art of Hiring a Dog Walker...or not.

Earlier this year I was incredibly lucky to join a firm that put me in a position to stop commuting and move ten minutes from my office. Astrea grew up living in a condo, but I was apprehensive to move her into an apartment setting. Her temperament has changed so much over the past couple of years, I was terrified that she'd be that problem child dog barking all day long. LUCKILY she has adjusted very well. She rarely barks at the normal apartment sounds and people walking by, loves all the walks we go on everyday, and I think the smaller space has helped her confidence because it's easier for her to navigate around. Since moving, with the exception of a handful of days, I would come home at lunch every day to take Astrea out for a potty break and give her a snack. I knew eventually I'd have to hire a dog walker, but I put it off and off and off. After an incredibly busy week, I decided it was time to finally suck it up and look for a dog walker.

In the midst of reading profiles and reviews I sent one of my friends a message that said, "Omg. I'm interviewing a dog walker Saturday, I'm terrified. I'm definitely going to have to be a stay at home mom, because I think hiring day care will give me a stroke." I'm not kidding. This has been the most nerve wracking experience. When we lived in Folsom we were frequent visitors to the Doggie Daycare in the Petsmart Pet Hotel. That decision was so easy. We had taken puppy classes in one of their day care rooms and frequently spent time hanging out with the staff at the hotel. When it came time to leave Astrea for the first time we both knew so many of the staff members that there wasn't a moment of hesitation in leaving her behind. Couple that with the fact that I could drop by at any moment and see exactly what Astrea was doing by looking through the huge viewing windows and there was no real reason for me to be worried. This is completely different. This person is a total stranger. They will be coming into my house when I'm not here and taking my special needs dog out for a walk without me. Astrea cannot tell me if anything goes wrong. This is a complete leap of faith for me.

We started with an interview. Just one. Why just one? Because I only found one dog walker that was available for individual walks. Almost everyone else I came across picks up groups of dogs and takes them on long hikes or walks two or three dogs that live close by. Astrea is not a candidate for that. Astrea is an independent doggie and she does not want to follow anyone else's rules. She likes to go on her walk, but many days is happy just go to potty then relax on the grass. She's very easily distracted and would hate to leave any exciting scent behind. She's also not afraid to let you know that she's not a huge fan of strange dogs. So, that left us with one option.

The morning of the interview I took Astrea on a long walk in an effort to exhaust her and, hopefully, get some nervous energy out. Astrea was asleep when the dog walker arrived, but the second the she heard a knock on the door she was on guard. We were meeting not one walker, but two, the weekday walker and night/weekend walker. Astrea barked when I let them in, just to let them know who was in charge. They sat on the floor to let her check them out, and I knew pretty quickly how things were going to end.

Astrea LOVED the night and weekend walker. She was totally into him. Climbing in his lap, letting him pet her, and over all willing to do whatever he wanted. The weekday walker, the one I needed her to love, not so much. She would not stop barking at her. There was no real reason. The woman was doing everything right, but Astrea felt incredibly threatened by her. So, after a few more scratches and pets from the lovely night and weekend walker we got a few names for other dog walkers that do single dog walks and we sent them on their way. I was a little defeated that we weren't able to find a dog walker that day, but figured we would try another soon, or not.

A few day later, I came home at lunch to walk Astrea and saw a puppy on his first walk with his dog walker. I've never seen dog so terrified in my life. This poor puppy was trying desperately to get away from the walker. All its hair was standing up and he wanted nothing more than to be done with this walk. Astrea was extremely concerned. She heard the puppy's cries and would not leave until he calmed down. We talked to the dog walker a bit because I couldn't get Astrea to budge and she told me it was pretty typical for a first day with a dog walker. For the record, Astrea hunted down that puppy the next day, and it was doing much better. Not freaked out, still learning to walk on a leash, but much more relaxed. So even though I saw what a difference a day could make with a dog walker, I just couldn't imagine putting Astrea through that, not even once. I'm pretty sure she would be completely ruined. So...we continued with me coming home at lunch while we figured out our next move.

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