Yo, I’m a dog walker! Help me Help You, and your Dog

I sit here on yet another yelling raid with my phone. At my phone is actually more accurate. I have a Galaxy S5. Admittedly, I am not one of those people who need to have the newest of everything. Especially when it comes to gadgets. To the contrary, I’d be that one who will hold on to a device until it’s last dying breath, or blink is probably more fitting… until it’s last dying blink.

But I’m yelling at my phone more frequently because it either doesn’t want to respond to my fingerprint, freezes when I need it the most, or the Wag app crashes. So, this is the perfect segue into my first 28 days with Wag.

I’d been on the hunt for the ideal side gig for me for a while, but I knew I’d have to wait until school was over. So as the days to completion wound down, I reached out to my pet sitter about the possibility of jumping into the pet care business. It made sense to me – I love animals, animals love me, people pay folks to take care of their animals when they can’t, I now have free time. Seemed like a win-win to me!

The vetting process with Wag takes some patience. There are several steps you have to complete before going on to the next level toward acceptance. When I was finally approved I felt proud and nervous – did I really just do this?

The nervousness subsided until my account was active and I started receiving my first requests for walks. A guy friend of mine was over and we were chopping it up about life, eating better, and the old days. Typical Saturday wine talk.

Notification: __ wants a walk ASAP at __ zip code. Request/Decline?

Notification: __ wants a walk at 5:30 at __ zip code. Request/Decline?

Notification: __ wants a walk at 8:30 at __ zip code. Request/Decline?

They were coming in back-to-back.

“I guess it works!” I remember saying to my homeboy, but I was not in a state to drive to or walk anyone’s dog so I just chalked it up to “Ok. So now I know!”

The next day, I received another request. It was a Sunday. And the walk was 0.68 miles away – perfect! I was just relaxing at home anyway. I hopped in the car, but before leaving texted my sister and friend saying, “On my way to my first dog walk!” I was beyond excited!

I pulled up to the address, parked around the corner, got out the car and hit “Tap when arrived” the way I was explained to do to alert the pet owner I’d arrived.

Then I got a text, “This is Wag. Your walk at __ has been cancelled. Let us know if you have any questions.” Canceled? Huh? But, look at me – I’m ready!

Of course I have questions!

Why did they cancel? Was it my profile? Could they tell I’d never done this before? Did I arrive too late? Can you call them and put them on the phone with me? What about me?!

But I made $10. It’s the standard cancellation fee if you’re already on the way and an owner cancels the walk.

That kind of consoled me. But I was still sad and felt rejected. I pouted for a moment. I’m human.

Over the next few days I would receive several notifications, and many would not get accepted. What I’ve come to learn, though, is that it has very little to do with me. There is such a small window from when a pet owner submits a request to when a walker has the chance to accept. So I figure some walkers are either inherently fast, never not looking at their phone, or their phones can handle far more tasks than mine can.

I love my phone. Not like “Oh my god, I love this phone, I will never part with it” but more like “It serves its purpose; I’m good” kind of love. But it probably isn’t the best for this kind of flash-request business.

Herein lies the most frustrating part about Wag. Their Android app needs a Lot of work. There are several bugs, the notifications are inconsistent, better yet, the notifications most times are downright nonexistent. You literally have to be staring at the app all the time, and even still can still miss a request. There have been moments when I’m looking at the app, just making sure it’s still active and I get a text notification for a walk, but nothing in the app until moments later. It’s extremely frustrating. Especially because I want to work. I want to build my clientele up. But, as a contractor of this company, I’m at the mercy of their technology.

Several of my previous clients have specifically requested me, but if I happen to walk away from my phone for a second to check the copier, go to the kitchen for more water, or god forbid go to the bathroom and wash my hands – yes, all actual events – I miss the notification. You literally have 1.5 seconds to decide when you see a request if you’ll accept it.

So, this, then leads me to the next frustration. Driving. I hate driving. Unless it’s a road trip, and even then I tap out at 5.5 hours. No lie. I turn into a two-year old who needs a potty break, a stretch break, and food. Actually, I’ve offered to cancel a vacation altogether and just camp out where we are because I don’t want to sit through 2 more hours of riding, looking out the window at grass and gravel.

When a request pops up that I happen to catch I can see the distance it is from my house, but not the location.

So, in this now 3rd week I’ve been with Wag, I’ve learned a lot about zip codes. It’s gotten to the point now that I can gauge by the zip code if the drive and walk will be worth the stress I’ll have to endure in traffic. But the first week, I didn’t. And I drove all over the place!

Traffic. Rain. Accidents. Rush-hour. Construction. Every obstruction to a straight drive. When Google tells me how long my ride should be, then I activate the location settings and see red lanes I just want to ball up and cry.

That’s the hardest part though. The part that I love, the reason I actually got into this in the first place – the dogs – is a joy. Even my most challenging client was a learning lesson for me. His name was Duke. And I will never, ever agree to walk him again. But, that’s another story. (In short, when owners know their dog only responds to their commands, they should walk their own dog. If your fur baby isn’t leash-trained, spend a little time and money to have them trained! It’s for the safety of not just the walker, but your dog. Dogs who don’t listen if danger is approaching or near can be harmful. Ok. Again. Not here. I’ll discuss that later.)

I’ve had dogs of all sizes and ages. Most times it’s just one dog, but I’ve also walked two at a time. I’m working up to doing multiple dogs, but I think I have what it takes! My goal is to grow my presence, expand my clientele, and restrict my travel to within 3 miles of home. And I feel confident that will happen. It’ll take some work, but doesn’t everything worth anything?

I’m grateful to Wag for this idea, and this opportunity. The primary issue I’m noticing is that there are far more walkers than there are walks. Atlanta’s client base for dog owners needs to grow. We’ve got to get the word out better. Wagwalking.com; enter promo code: DANIELLE2775

It’s not that Atlanta isn’t a dog-loving city, because oh my, is it ever! But Wag’s presence is still very much in the start-up phase, although they’re very established in several cities across the nation. Wagwalking.com; enter promo code: DANIELLE2775 I think as Wag grows its presence here to attract more dog owners, the pressure to eyeball your phone at every moment will decrease. And, thus, the verbal phone abuse all walkers’ devices must experience like mine when you miss a request by the inkling of a second. Wagwalking.com; enter promo code: DANIELLE2775

So, get the word out, y’all. If for nothing else, do it for the phones, whose entire existence is to make our lives easier. Let’s all make lives easier. That’s what I’m here for – one paw at a time! Wagwalking.com; enter promo code: DANIELLE2775

And, even if you’re not in Atlanta but Wag is present in your city, you can use my code. Get to it, and you receive a $20 credit toward your first service! Wagwalking.com; enter promo code: DANIELLE2775 Sharing is caring folks.

So, before I go, I’ll touch on one obvious concern I’ve seen floating around about the Wag service: Strangers in your home. Yes. It’s a thing. Maybe it’s because I’m an honest, responsible person, the thought of stealing something or harming an animal or cutting the walk short in any way never occurs to me. Of course, there are some a-holes in the world; I can’t speak for them. I actually prefer not to, hoping they’ll form a cluster and want to live in Antartica for the rest of their lives together, away from everyone else in the world.

Other concerns:

  • Aren’t you afraid of going into someone’s home? No. I went skydiving for my 30th birthday. Adventure flows through my veins! Plus, I don’t like to give fear too much control. It already takes credit of so many things, I don’t think I’ll contribute beyond what’s necessary.
  • You aren’t scared you’ll get bit? No. Again, the fear thing. And, I think I actually might be a dog whisperer. Case and point: the difficult dog I mentioned earlier, Duke. He was one big, stubborn dog. It took us 13 minutes just to cross the street. I had an eye-to-eye with him and said, “Listen. It’s not your fault. Your parents didn’t train you. We only know what we know. I’m not blaming you. But it’s hot out here homie, let’s get across this street ok? And you can have the rest of the day to do whatever the hell it is you do, deal?” He didn’t cave immediately, but I know he understood me. About an agonizing whole minute later (that’s a long time when you’re just standing on the sidewalk in the humid heat of Atlanta), he motioned he was ready. I said, “Thank you,” and we were off to home. I know why dogs get aggressive. I have a spirit to read animal behavior, and I’ve also completed a pet training and care course to learn more about the intricacies. If a dog bites me, the poor thing is probably hungry.
  • Do owners really trust strangers in their home? Yes. And for all I know there could be a nanny cam somewhere. Not my concern. I’m there to pick up the dog, make them comfortable with me, walk, and take them back. The owner’s fears outside of my brief visit is not my business. But, rest assured, I’m out here to make extra money and grow; my reputation is on the line too!

Like I said, Wag’s name is on the line, they do a pretty extensive vetting process. I had to do a background check, several quizzes, and a personality match to make sure I was a good fit. I recognize everyone isn’t a good person, but I honestly don’t think of the worst. It can make you go effin crazy!

So, there you have it. My experience so far with Wag. I’ll be doing an update after my first month. Wish me luck! And, remember the phones! Share, share, share this new business! Save me from this misery…Screenshot_2017-06-21-17-35-32-1

If you know dog owners with pets at home all day, they’re perfect clients. Or, when you want to skip out to happy hour or brunch but remember Max needs a relief break – Insert Wag! And then, insert my code. I’ll treat you to $20 off the first service: DANIELLE2775

See you around the city!

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You want fries with that guilt?

I think the most annoying part about being a vegan or choosing a plant-based diet is the assumption that you’re judgmental of meat-eaters. We’re not all that way. I’ve seen it, granted. Some vegans really go hard for their beliefs. They want to shame you for your decision to consume flesh, hold this I’m-better-than-you imaginary cloud over you, and maintain a self-righteous aura as if their crap doesn’t stink too. But coming from a household of a suffocating religious lifestyle allowed me to accept the pain that judging another for their choices could bring.

I have no desire to go into a full-blown conversation about my decision to convert my eating habits to a plant-based diet. I have zero desire to debate with anyone on why not eating meat is boring or time-consuming. I couldn’t care less about convincing others to do the same when the discussion is really just an argumentative platform for why any other of my vices is just as bad. Folks will really go to great lengths to defend themselves, won’t they?

It’s beyond annoying.

If someone asks, then I’ll disclose. My reason for doing so has a spiritual basis. After learning about the torture methods that meat is produced under and the harsh conditions our demand for their flesh has created for their lives, I couldn’t in my good conscience be ok with it. But I’m not judging you if you don’t. In the words of Jay-Z, “What you eat don’t make me shit.”

In all fairness, I do care about awareness. I don’t mind sharing – if my opinion is asked – but I don’t offer it voluntarily. At this very moment, my barber is reading The Happy Vegan, by Russell Simmons, which I let him borrow at his request. When the topic of food came up, breakfast specifically, he asked if I liked eggs because a spot he goes to every morning has “the best eggs,” to which I simply replied, “Oh, ok. Nah, I don’t eat eggs.” He followed up with “Oh! You don’t eat meat at all?” and when I answered no he wanted to know more.

I keep my explanations very brief. I haven’t been a vegan for long, number one, and no one wants a lecture on diet when chopping up casual conversation (and besides, the introvert in me gets extremely drained by small talk). I prefer to direct people toward the truth and let them take their own action.

At the end of the day, my decision is really more about awareness.

And when you know better, you should do better. Period.

To me, being a vegan is about compassion. And that’s not to say that meat-eaters are not compassionate. I’ll be hitting a year on my official vegan journey next month, which wasn’t easy. At first, I did it because the guy I was dating wanted to. And it was for the wrong reason so it didn’t stick. When we broke up I ran to a basket of lemon pepper wings and fried fish!

As I learned about the meat-processing industry, how our Earth is changing rapidly because of our over-consumption of and demand for meat, and the treatment of animals I was overwhelmed with sadness and guilt. No, I can’t save the ribeye that’s already packaged, or return the milk to the mother of someone’s now burger, but I could control my own carbon print in this world.

We all start somewhere. And sometimes we have setbacks. What’s important is your why, and remembering that everyone has their own truth.

I’ve come a long way from the woman I was ten years ago, and I’m sure the next ten years I’ll be able to say the same thing. But the only person we are required to hold accountable is ourself.

Judgment is neither your job nor your responsibility. This world would be such a better place if everyone was more gentle with one another. I’m an avid supporter of “Do you!” provided such doing doesn’t harm you or others. And you’re welcome to take that however it best pleases your palate.

Be easy.