PugetPets Confidential: True Stories of an Off-Duty Dog Walker

The following events are true stories of a PugetPets dog walker. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

It’s rough on the streets, and dogs don’t walk themselves. Cats do. But trying to catch a rat can get a cat into trouble. I know. I work for PugetPets. Every dog walker has a story. This is mine.

December 12, 2016, 2:08 p.m. I leave my vehicle with the mechanic and head into Ballard on foot. I run a couple of corgis, give them a treat, and leave them tired and happy. It’s an ordinary day as a PugetPets dog walker. These guys are my last walk of the day. I put my lanyard of keys into my fashionable fanny pack. I’m off duty.

2:56 p.m. Heading to the grocery store to pick up something for dinner, I cut through a school parking lot. The scene is hectic from the start. School’s out. Kids are getting off for the holiday break. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a high-capacity vehicle or a frazzled parent. In the middle of the mayhem, a black SUV turns into an open parking space. The driver, I note, is a mom in an elf costume. Before she’s even fully parked, the back hatch opens and out shoots a black lab puppy. That’s what we call a Pet Flight Risk. We’ve got a PFR in progress.

Another driver slams on his brakes. Onlookers gasp as the black blur speeds to the opposite end of the lot. The youngster, we’ll call her “Roxy,” has seen her family’s kids and isn’t going to wait to get to them. Before the gathering crowd can exhale, elf-mom is in hot pursuit. Stern shouts of “Roxy! Roxy!” fill the frantic air. This elf isn’t so jolly. Roxy sees mom. Assuming she’s going to get in trouble, she leaves the kids and zings off in the opposite direction, headed straight for traffic. But Roxy isn’t counting on me. And I’m right in her line of fire.

There’s no time to think. I crouch down, pat my thighs and affect a happy, excited tone: “ROXY! C’mere girl! C’mon! Good girl, Roxy!!” Roxy did what any lab puppy would do: she made a beeline for the friendly person inviting her to play. “Gotcha!” I scratch her ears while I slip a finger under her collar. PFR apprehended. Unaware of the danger she’d been in, Roxy’s just happy to meet a new friend. “Thank you SO much!” exclaims elf-mom, “She pushed the ‘door open’ button!” Now I could hear the fear in her voice. I knew it had all flashed through her mind: her puppy running into traffic in front of her little kids on the day of the Christmas pageant. “I’m a dog walker, ma’am. I’m just doing my job.” I hoped the ignition wasn’t a push-button.

3:17 p.m. Leaving the grocery store, I proceed on foot back to the mechanic. A few blocks into my walk, I stop, certain I’ve heard something. I tune in to the sounds around me. I’d know that one anywhere. Sure enough, a tiny, high-pitched cry is coming from somewhere. But where? I look around. Nothing. I listen again. Then it hits me. I look up. The victim is a female, a gray and white short-hair. She’s got herself up on the second rung of a tree and is too frightened to come down. Even for a cat, the jump’s too far. Fortunately, it’s a cherry tree, so I won’t be needing Fire Department backup.

With temperatures in the low 30’s, Gray-n-White’s got herself in a real pickle. I do what any professional dog walker would do: laying my fashionable fanny pack on the ground, I climb the tree. “Easy, now, darlin’. You’re going to be fine. Just try and stay calm.” The victim’s starting to panic and she wants down. Now. She wastes no time in climbing onto my shoulder. The claws in my back tell me she’s scared. Scared enough to bolt. “There’s nothing to be afraid of, sweetie. I’m going to get you down from here,” I tell her. And I don’t let go. I’ll deal with the claw wounds later. Together we reach the foot of the tree and safety. After a disgruntled shake she rubs my hand and purrs. Luckily, I also speak fluent cat.

You learn some things on the street. Puppies may know how to operate a vehicle, but they aren’t very good at dodging them. And what goes up doesn’t necessarily always come down, at least not without a little help. So, if you’re a pet in a bind, remember: we’re PugetPets dog walkers and pet sitters. We’re out there. And we’ve got your back.