I don’t kiss dogs, why you shouldn’t either

I started my own dog business in 2004. I moved into a friend’s 250 square foot Mother-in-Law apartment and had very little money at first. I wore many hats and had many different jobs. In addition to being a dog trainer, I merchandised Hallmark cards, magazines and sunglasses. Worked at a mattress store, briefly, and started walking and boarding dogs too. At first, I worked for other dog walking companies, before eventually building up my own part time clientele. I thought it would be an easy way to make some extra cash. “All I have to do is walk!” I thought, “How great!” What I learned along the way is it’s not such an easy way to make money. While some pooches are easy-going, some are difficult and some are downright stressful to walk.

Over time I started to make enough money with my own business and eventually stopped working for anyone but myself. I still walk dogs part-time, but now my roster of clients leans towards those stressful dogs. The dogs that need someone a bit more knowledgeable about canine behavior. It can be trying at times, not to mention hard on the body, but I learn something new from every doggie customer.  

However, Friday was a lousy day. Most of the time I love rain, Friday it was a cold constant downpour that instantly drenched and made me miserable. One dog dragged me down into a large puddle, while another tried to off a small poodle. Friday I thought long and hard about my life choices. Most of the time I feel lucky. “I am doing what I love.” I think while wearing a smug smile. “Look at all those suckers going to an office every day.”

Then the universe gives my uppity butt a reality check. Friday was one of those days. It made me recall a day when I first started. On that day I didn’t like dogs, wanted nothing to do with another four-legged friend again.

Here’s why…

I was working with a pair of Weimaraner. Most people know them from the William Wegman’s photography. He made them seem pliable, calm and almost human. They really aren’t by any stretch of the imagination. They are large game hunting dogs originally from Germany. They are intelligent, protective, athletic and can be a BIG handful.

Photo by Tatiana Rodriguez on Unsplash

Back then, twice a week, I’d pick up two of these dogs, put them in the car and take them to a very nearly vertical deserted forest service road. Here I’d let them run off their beans for an hour. It was exhausting. When I’d get to the house, they would attack me.  They barked in my face and then the female would turn, jump on top of the male and hump him like a horny sailor.

That day was no different. Fending them off with one hand, I leashed them while pushing the female off the male repeatedly. We got in my car and took off. On the way to the trail we saw a doe and two small fawns. As I paused to watch them, I was hit from behind by two snarling spitting barking beasts. The deer ran off while I pulled up to the trail and managed to get both dogs out of the car.

Once on the trail I let them drag me several hundred feet before taking off their leashes. Once I did, they would take off and I’d get a small amount of peace. Not that day, I released the hounds of hell and they took off. As I walked, suddenly, I was ambushed from behind a bush and was treated to a speed hump from the female. This was an 80-pound dog but I managed to extricate myself and kept going, only to have to repeat the process four more times along the way.

As we walked, I realized there were workers on the trail. The dogs had no reliable recall and when I called, they didn’t come. They greeted the workers with tongues and paws. Fortunately, the workers were good natured and waved us on. As we neared the bottom of the trail there was a man with a Boxer who was afraid of other dogs. So, I resorted to turning tail and running into the forest to get the dogs to chase me. They did and I was rewarded with yet another quick hump. After making sure the other pair was gone, I turned back.

When we got almost to the point where I knew the workers were, I see the dogs off the trail eating something. “Oh god,” I thought, “is it something dead?” I should have been so lucky.

Apparently one of the workers had a call of nature. It happens, no judgement on my part. But it was being enthusiastically consumed by both dogs. Fighting my stomach, I pulled them away and got them going again. They ran ahead to say hello to the workers. I rounded the bend to see one of the workers about to allow the dog to lick his face before I screamed startling everyone into stillness

I drove them home, that day, with my head out the window. That was the day I discovered that walking dogs as a job is more difficult than it looks, that walkers earn every penny they make, never let dogs off leash (even when the owner tells you to do so) and that I will NEVER, EVER allow a dog to lick my face again. I guess Friday wasn’t such a bad day after all.

Photo by Nathalie SPEHNER on Unsplash

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