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Walking The Dog
New Yorkers love their dogs. And why not? Few cities can boast a larger array of dog runs and parks than the Big Apple, or a wider variety of canine-friendly services. It should come as no surprise, then, that professional dog walkers have emerged as handy, secondary caregivers for New York City's leashed and glamorous.
Kristina Neumann, the founder of City Pet Care, Inc., a Manhattan-based company that serves some of the city's most affluent neighborhoods, explains that because pets are of prime importance to their human parents, their care is no trivial matter. "I won't just hire anyone off the street," she says. "You have to do criminal checks, and you have to look at their resumes to make sure that they have experience with animals."
For this reason, Neumann looks for potential employees whose interest in dogs extends far beyond their on-the-clock hours. "You have to love dogs," says Bogdan Huzum, a dog walker who has worked for City Pet Care for about a year. Huzum is a dog enthusiast who has 10 dogs of his own.
This kind of affection comes in handy when a walker has to not only walk the dogs, but sit in for owners who are on vacation, as well. Whether it's managing two Italian greyhounds or his own 10 dogs, Huzum says that negotiating personalities is always a chief concern. "When we have older dogs and younger dogs, [for example,] we can't walk them together," Huzum says. He also points out that different breeds are not always compatible. And what's more, when it comes to dog-walking, size does matter. "We will never walk a big dog and a small dog together," he explains.
City Pet Care's standing policy is that dogs are not to be walked in groups larger than three. "We like to give them individualized care," Neumann says. "And dogs can pick things up off the street and get very sick" when unattended in large groups, she says.
"A lot of things can happen when you walk
lots of dogs at once," adds Eddie Bimonte, the owner of Eddie's Pet Service
and a five-year-veteran of dog walking. "The more dogs you take, the less
control you'll have."
Dog walkers can charge anywhere from $15 to $30 per hour, or per dog. Bimonte, who may handle 70-100 walks per week, charges by the dog and offers specials for dogs that live together. City Pet Care charges by the hour and by the dog.
Dog walking offers Bimonte more than just financial advantages, however. Not only has he tugged the leashes of canines with some very famous owners, but he's also managed to use the job to make an important lifestyle change. A former musician who has toured with such names as The Drifters, Screaming Jay Hawkins and Mick Taylor, Bimonte says that he quit his music career for the peace of dog walking. "It's just more relaxing," he explains.
Nothing can substitute the love of a pet owner for his or her animal, but dog walkers are filling a void in the life of New York City's pets one step at a time.
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