I Quit My Job and Became a Professional Dog Walker

Fun fact: Children, cab drivers, bus drivers and all people that are humans CANNOT see a dog go to the bathroom and not stare.
Publish date:
October 23, 2012

I quit my marketing job in April. It was horrible.

I was working as an assistant, and my responsibilities consisted mainly of press releases, product pitching to major fashion magazines and copywriting, all for a popular New-York City-based hair removal salon and product line. (Read: lots of innuendo about cats, carpets, and fruit).

I was excited for the opportunity to write for a living, having been plucked from the tiny, windowless closet I was previously working in at the call center of one of the salons. It was my first real job, the kind of job where they still pay you to go to your doctor’s appointments. I had benefits, my own desk and got to say things like, “Ugh, her again? Can you just forward it to my voicemail?”

After almost 15 years of way below mediocre jobs cleaning bathrooms, serving pizza, telemarketing, and assisting school portrait photographers, I had finally reached my immigrant mother’s idea of success; I had a title. I no longer had to write “clerk” on my income tax return.

Yet something felt off. For starters, there was a lot of forced socializing with other people for whom marketing was a passion. They did things like talk about their cleaning ladies, and eat cheese -- good cheese too, brie cheese. Way out of my league cheese.

We had weekly meetings, and I was expected not only to pay attention to what other people were saying, but to say my own things as well. I had to demonstrate hair removal techniques at boutiques, and smile while doing so. Couple these with the fact that I find anything marketing, advertising or public-relations-related to be morally reprehensible, and my already naturally cynical and negative self was headed toward someplace far darker and more dismal than I ever thought possible.

I made it two months before quitting with no notice.

I decided I’m probably much better suited to walk dogs for a living.

My brilliant plan was to start walking part-time, leaving myself ample time during mornings, evenings and weekends to “get my writing thing going.” It soon became very clear that I had no idea what “thing” I needed to do in order to be a writer, and the part-time schedule that had me living a hand-to-mouth existence for the first several weeks quickly became a full-time responsibility.

Here, I will display for you a brief summary of how I feel about dog walking.

Best things about being a dog walker:

1. No humans.

With the rare exception that one of my clients happens to be working from home, I never have to interact with anyone other than the doormen; I just show up and walk my tiny friends. I’m probably the best part of their day, other than when their owners come home, when it’s time to eat and when it’s time to eat again. I like to think of myself as the “cool aunt” -- nothing but good times when I come around. I would totally buy cigarettes and beer for them if they told me Brian’s parents were out of town for the weekend and they only needed me to do it “just this one time.”

2. I get to work outside all day!

This is great, except when it’s really hot, really cold, raining, snowing or any other such climactic event other than “nice” out.

3. Dogs.

Simple as that. I love them. Trying desperately to understand their place through such sad eyes, taking every word and action so seriously in the moment, yet never so attached that they cannot forgive us for our missteps. The perfect creature: every moment, blissful.

Worst things about being a dog walker:

1. Number twos.

You end up seeing and scooping your fair share of it. Some dogs poop multiple times in one walk, to which I’m like, “What the fuck are they feeding you?”

2. Some dogs are bad.

This makes walking them down crowded NYC sidewalks troublesome. Couple this with the fact that some (horrible) people don’t care for dogs, and you’ve got yourself a good, old-fashioned street fight. (“Ey! You’re takin’ up the whole fuckin’ sidewalk!” ... “YOU’RE takin’ up the fuckin’ sidewalk!!!”).

3. Dog hair.

Especially when you’re allergic, like me.

Little known facts about dogs:

1. Seventy-five percent of female dogs are named Zoey (this conclusion is based upon the small sample I work with on a daily basis.)

2. Children, cab drivers, bus drivers (or anyone stopped at a red light, really), and all people that are humans CANNOT see a dog go to the bathroom and not stare.

3. Hot dog vendors hate dogs (irony?), and will just slam your bottle of water on the cart and not even look at you when they take your dollar.

So I write a bit less and walk quite a bit more than I had originally intended when I came up with the impulsive decision to quit my job five months ago. While the money isn’t all there, and I no longer have the luxury of sending people to my voicemail (except for that bill collector -- I know who you are, 877 number that calls me six times a day!!), I like my job.

I’m growing a deeper appreciation for the city I live in now that I’m not stuck working 45 hours a week in a tiny, airless crawlspace. I’m in a pretty good mood most of the time. I don’t dread having to go back to work as soon as I leave work. I no longer have fantasies that an air conditioner will fall on my head as I’m leaving for work one morning, allowing me to “chill out” in the hospital for a few weeks.

Now I just have to work up the courage to tell my parents what I’ve done.