Wag!, a tech startup that touts itself as an Uber for dog walkers, has its tail between its legs this week.
A dog walker hired through the new app that connects pet owners with walkers lost a Brooklyn couple’s Chihuahua, who subsequently was hit by a car and killed.
Morgan Stuart and Mischa Golebiewski had a regular dog walker, also through Wag!, but when that dog walker called in sick on Nov. 18, another Wag! walker was assigned.
The woman was supposed to take out the couple’s oldest dog, Chicken, and check on Duckie, but apparently she either misunderstood the instructions, or Duckie slipped out of the building.
The couple said they cautioned the new walker that Duckie, who was adopted two months earlier, was fearful of strangers and would probably be too anxious to go for a walk.
“We had a text conversation explaining the situation,” Golebiewski told the New York Daily News. “She said she could do it and was comfortable.”
The California-based company claims on its website that all their dog walkers are “certified” and “rigorously screened/vetted.”
The couple spent the next seven days searching for the dog.
Wag! executives contributed to the search, calling upon other dog walkers to help.
They also installed motion detecting cameras in nearby Prospect Park and set traps near where Duckie had been spotted, the Daily News reported.
“We do have a plan in place in the .00001% chance something like this can happen,” said Wag! co-founder Joshua Viner.
According to Wag! representatives, Wag! co-founder Jason Meltzer flew in from Los Angeles to search the park for a day, and the company’s New York manager spent 18 hours a day in the park for a week.
On the day before Thanksgiving, Duckie’s owners got a call from a veterinarian saying the dog had been fatally struck by a car on Seeley Street, near the edge of the park.
“We feel terrible. It hurts us,” Viner said, offering an apology that sounded pretty self-centered. “This literally stopped my week.”
(Photos courtesy of Morgan Stuart and Mischa Golebiewski)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 2nd, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, app, brooklyn, chihuahua, dog, dog walker, dog walking, dogs, dogwalker, dogwalking, duckie, lost, pets, technology, uber, wag, walkers
They may be well-intentioned and address a real issue, but these parking crates for dogs that have appeared on the streets of New York worry me.
The woman behind them hopes to have 100 of them in place in Brooklyn by next spring, place them throughout New York City and, eventually, other cities across the country.
It works like this: You sign up for a membership, and receive a member card in the mail that unlocks the temperature controlled doghouse. Then you’re billed through the mail at a rate of 20 cents per minute.
Chelsea Brownridge told Fox 5 the idea grew out of her own concerns about leaving her dog Winston tied up when she has to run into a store.
Of course, that’s a troublesome practice, too — and more than a few dogs have been stolen after being left tied outside stores in New York, and elsewhere.
Dog parkers are now in test mode outside of two Fort Greene businesses, including Baguetteaboutit on Vanderbilt and DeKalb, where a spokesman welcomed the idea.
“A lot of our customers will open up the door and yell out to us, ‘Can you bring me out a sandwich? Can you bring me a menu? I don’t want to leave my dog.’ And we’ll accommodate them. This gives them an opportunity to take care of their dog while they come in and take care of themselves.”
Seems to me taking steps to accommodate dog-walking customers outdoors would be an easier solution — as would people leaving their dogs at home when they have the need to shop.
My main objections though come from being claustrophobic, and a technophobe.
The dog parking crate reminds me a little bit of those newspaper boxes (which you can probably get a pretty good deal on nowadays) — and simple as they were they often malfunctioned.
Dogs can see out of the boxes through a small plastic window, but the boxes still seem uncomfortably confining. And anything that is “temperature controlled” can see its temperature go out of control.
On top of that, anyone who has had to return to the hotel lobby three or more times to get one of those key cards rejiggered — so it actually opens the door to their room — knows those cards can’t be trusted.
What’s going to happen when a dog owner can’t get his dog out of the box?
An app is in the works that will allow customers to reserve boxes, but they otherwise will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Will New Yorkers end up fighting over them too, as they do parking spaces and taxi cabs? Will Uber dog parking boxes surface, charging only 10 cents a minute?
If a key card is able to open any dog parking crate in the city, might thieves just maybe figure that out and sign up for membership?
There are just too many questions. It might be easier to just make all business establishments dog friendly.
Until then, always walk with another friend when out with your dog, or leave the dog home, or — difficult as it may be — skip the baguette.
Posted by John Woestendiek December 1st, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, boxes, brooklyn, crates, dog, dog parking, dog walking, dogs, dogwalking, key cards, membership, new york, new york city, pets, stolen, stores, thefts, tie, tied, tied up, walking
Yesterday I suggested, half-seriously, that a Dog Walker Hall of Shame be established, and that an aspiring actor in Los Angeles who left a client’s dog in his parked Jaguar be made a charter member.
It only took a few minutes, once I put a link to the post on my Facebook page, for one reader to nominate what she thought was an even more deserving candidate.
(I have nothing against dog walkers; I am one. But I’ve always felt — even as a journalist — that it’s up to members of a profession to help weed out the bad seeds, or at least shine a spotlight on the dangerously dim bulbs certain occupation sometimes attract.)
Last Tuesday a dog walker in Langley, British Columbia, reported to police that six dogs were stolen from the back of her truck, parked just outside an off-leash area. She said she went to the bathroom and returned 10 minutes later to find all six dogs were gone.
That led to a week-long search — by authorities, doggie detectives, and the individual families who owned the pets.
In a heartbreaking development, police now say the dogs weren’t stolen, but died of heat exhaustion in the dog walker’s truck. Police are looking into charging the woman with public mischief, according to the National Post. The SPCA is also investigating.
The bodies of the dogs — five belonging to clients, one belonging to the dog walker — were found in Abbotsford, police said.
Alesha and Al MacLellan, of Petsearchers Canada, who were assisting in the search for the dogs, said the dog walker, Emma Paulsen, admitted to them that the dogs died.
She “disclosed that on May 13th, all six dogs were in the back of her vehicle with the side vent windows open and water available, as she had done hundreds of times,” Alesha MacLellan said. “Sometime during the outing, all six dogs perished from heatstroke. Upon arriving at the location and seeing her beloved charges deceased, she went into a blind panic at the thought of notifying the families and the possible repercussions.”
Initially, Paulsen said of the disappearance of the dogs, “It’s just unimaginable. If somebody thought they were doing the right thing by saving theses dogs out of a hot truck, I can understand this perspective. But enough already, bring them home. Everybody’s just tortured at this point.”
The missing dogs, dubbed the Brookswood 6, gained widespread media coverage in B.C. Money was donated for rewards, and there was a rally for them at a Langley dog park.
The dog walker’s own dog, Salty, was among the deceased animals, according to The Province. The other dogs were Mia, a 15-month-old pit bull; Oscar, a six-year-old Rottweiler-husky mix; Buddy, a Boston terrier; Molly, a five-year-old German shepherd-blue heeler cross; and Teemo, a poodle-Bouvier mix.
The owners of the pets were devastated to learn that the dogs they thought were missing were dead, Mrs. MacLellan said.
“There’s always that sliver of hope. Until we talked to them today, we were also hopeful that if something bad had happened to some of the dogs, maybe one or two were hidden away somewhere safe. It’s pretty devastating that all six have perished.”
“Each year we attend hundreds of calls to rescue dogs in distress in hot cars,” said SPCA spokeswoman Lorie Chortyk. “Animals can suffer brain damage and death in as little as 10 minutes in a hot car, even with windows left open. The SPCA issues this warning repeatedly in warm weather in the hopes of averting such tragedies but sadly, we still continue to see animals left in hot cars.”
You’d think a professional dog walker would know better.
Louise Scott, who owned Molly, said she’d been hopeful her dog might return. She learned what happened from a neighbor, whose dog was also among the six.
“They said they’re all dead,” said Scott, 80. “I’m too upset to say anything. And I’m very, very mad. Angry is the word.”
(Photo: National Post)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 21st, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, british columbia, canada, deaths, died, dog walker, dog walkers, dog walking, dogs, dogwalker, dogwalking, emma paulsen, hall of shame, heat, heat deaths, pets, petsearchers canada, six, spca, truck, walkers
How many dogs should a dog walker walk at once?
After half a century as an amateur dog walker, and three months as a professional one, I’m prepared to give a qualified answer to that question.
It depends on the dogs. It depends on the dog walker. But three at a time should be plenty.
Many a dog walker might scoff at that — and view the idea of limiting the number of dogs a person can walk at one time as cutting into their profit margin.
It would be nice if dog walking was the one industry in the world not obsessed with upping its profits. But it’s not.
Many dog walkers balked when San Francisco — one of very few cities that regulates professional dog walkers — suggested limiting them to walking no more than eight dogs at once.
I can’t imagine doing that.
I can’t even imagine walking all three of the small dogs I walk for residents of at an assisted living facility all at once.
Their leashes would get tangled, I’d trip and fall, and, given a couple of them tend to snarf up anything that resembles food — including Punkin, the handsome Boston Terrier to your left — I wouldn’t be able to monitor all three at once.
So — even though it takes three times as long — I opt for walking them one at a time. Bean counters and efficiency experts would say that’s stupid of me.
But then again, I’m 60, and not as agile and speedy, maybe, as once I was.
Here’s a news item that came out of Mill Valley, just up the road from San Francisco, this week:
A 71-year-old dog walker who fell more than 200 feet down a ravine in California was found by rescuers — with all six dogs she was walking huddled around her.
Carol Anderson fell into the ravine near a remote fire road during a storm Tuesday in Mill Valley, KTVU reported.
It’s not clear from news reports whether all six dogs fell with her, but she did manage to hold on to her cell phone during the tumble, and use it to contact one of her dog walking clients.
A Mill Valley Fire Department official said Anderson told the client, “I fell down, I don’t know where I’m at. I have the dogs. I’m dizzy. I’m nauseous, come help me.”
Authorities were able to track her down through her cell phone signals. The first rescuers to arrive found all six dogs curled up around her, which authorities said probably protected her from the cold. Firefighters climbed into the ravine and hoisted Anderson back up.
Anderson was hospitalized in fair condition. All the dogs were returned safely to their owners
It wasn’t the first time the dog walker has run into some bad luck.
In 2007, three of seven dogs Anderson had been walking — all at once — all got sick and died, just hours later, from what turned out to be strychnine poisoning intended to exterminate gophers.
After a morning walk on the Alta Trail above Marin City, the three dogs experienced high fevers and seizures. Two died at an area pet hospital, and a third was dead on arrival.
Walking six, seven, eight or more dogs at once strikes me as asking for trouble — no matter how well behaved the dogs are, or how experienced and physically fit the dog walker is.
I don’t think the rest of the country needs to go all San Francisco and regulate the industry. Dog owners can do that themselves, simply by asking, or insisting if necessary, that their dog not be walked in a group the size of a baseball team, or jury.
The dog walker who refuses to comply with such a request is probably more of a money seeker than a dog lover and may be better off avoided anyway.
(Top photo, a dog walker in San Francisco, by Mike Koozmin/ San Francisco Examiner; bottom photo by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 4th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, asking for trouble, attention, california, carol anderson, courting disaster, dog, dog walker, dog walking, dogs, dogwalker, dogwalking, fall, group walking, how many, how many dogs, mill valley, monitoring, numbers, pack, pets, professional, profits, ravine, regulations, rescue, san francisco, walker, walking
Oftentimes, when to pursue your own dreams and interests you stop working for “THE Man” — as I did six years ago — you end up, unfortunately, without “THE Salary” and without “THE Benefits.”
That — the no more health insurance part — is why I haven’t seen a doctor in six years.
That — the no more salary part — is why, in addition to being an author, freelance writer, photographer and blogger, I recently became a bartender and, even more recently, a dog walker.
I suppose I should be thanking our President for finally being able to get myself some health insurance. He’s the one who made it possible. But Lily, sweet Lily, made it doable.
If being paid to spend time with Lily makes me a gigolo, then call me a gigolo. True, I come calling on her twice a day, three times a week. I knock on her door, give her a hug when it opens, and then wrap her coat snugly around her, making sure her fluffy white ears don’t get caught inside.
We ride the elevator down to the first floor of the assisted living center in which she and her owner live and go outside for a 20-minute stroll — during most of which she walks daintily along the top of the curb, like a tightrope walker. She fastidiously poops in the same spot each time, in the woods on a vacant lot. She stops when I stop, goes when I go, and has never once caused the slightest tug on her retractable leash.
After the walk — and I’ve never met a dog who’s easier to walk — we go back inside. Then we sit in the lounge area and snuggle for maybe five minutes. That is my favorite part and, though it may be vain of me to think so, her’s too.
My other favorite part is seeing the reaction of residents when a dog comes into the room, the smiles that instantly appear and the hands that reach out. It’s amazing the change in atmosphere one dog’s presence can produce.
I’ve often thought it would be great to run some kind of program that not only brought dogs into facilities for the elderly, but found them homes there, and provided support and help to residents who wanted dogs of their own, but had concerns about whether they could manage it.
That would be fun, and noble, and help homeless dogs, and assist in bringing immeasurable joy to people.
But it wouldn’t pay my bills — much less provide health insurance for me.
I charge Lily $6.50 for each session.
In a month, that earns me enough to pay my $137.67 monthly health insurance premium, as determined by the Affordable Health Care Act, based on my income.
That income pales in comparison to what I made as a newspaper reporter, back when I worked for THE Man. I left my last newspaper job in 2008 to write a book, but also because, amid continued shrinkage and cutbacks, it had become nearly impossible to do a story justice and give it the attention it deserved. After that my dog and I traveled the country, and I tinkered with another book, while continuing to write this blog.
We ended up in North Carolina, and last year moved to the little town of Bethania.
A few months ago I started working the bar and grill at a golf course down the street from my rented house. Not to bore you with my finances, but that two-day-a-week job, coupled with my newspaper reporter pension, makes it possible to pay my rent, bills and other debts. I wasn’t bringing in enough for health insurance, though, and — after countless hours wandering around healthcare.gov — I had pretty much decided I would continue do without, pay the penalty fee, and treat any diseases or disorders that arose with chicken soup and ibuprofen.
One afternoon, at the golf course, the aunt of another employee visited and told me about her dog-walking business — business maybe not being the right word. It’s sort of more in between a business and volunteering. She helps residents of an assisted living center with chores, ranging from shopping trips to dog walking, charging a rate that does little more than pay for her gas.
She, like me, feels strongly that dogs can improve the lives of elderly people, especially those who live alone. I told her if she was ever in a pinch, and in need of a fill-in dog walker, I’d be glad to help out.
A few weeks later she called, and I began walking Miss Lily — at first temporarily, then regularly.
The insurance plan Lily has enabled me to get is not the kind that pays for everything.
It’s more, as I understand it, the type that, after I spend $3,000 or so I don’t have on doctors, will kick in and pay 60 percent or so of my qualifying medical expenses. Even with it, one good medical crisis will probably still send me into financial ruin. But at least it’s something, and I’m abiding by the law, and it might make me more likely to visit a doctor.
And even if I don’t, I’ll still be reaping some health benefits — between all the dog cuddling, which is good for the heart, and all the dog walking, which is good for the heart.
I’m sure there will be much confusion, red tape and arguing ahead when it comes to my health insurance. There always is. And with my income being of the fluctuating variety — depending on the stories I sell, the dogs I walk, the beers I serve — I don’t understand how we will determine the premium I should pay in the future. Is it based on last year’s income? Or this year’s income, which I won’t know until the year is finished?
Just last month, two more dogs showed up at the assisted living facility. First came a Boston terrier named Punkin. I take him for three walks a day, three days a week. Then came Gretel, a miniature schnauzer who is 13, and the fastest walker of the bunch.
For the record, Republican leaders, that doesn’t sap me of any incentive. I still want to have as much money as you. I’d still like to have the kind of health insurance you have.
But at least I can take a rebellious sort of pride in the fact that I’m not working for THE Man.
No. Not me. I’m working for a kind and gentle, polite and refined, sweet and loving curbwalker. I’m working for THE Poodle.
(Story and photos by John Woestendiek)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 4th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: affordable health care, animals, assisted living, benefits, costs, dog walking, dogs, dogwalking, elderly, escort, gigolo, health, health care, insurance, lily, newspapers, north carolina, obama, obama care, pets, poodle, premiums, president, salary, the man
Dogs. (Then again, they see the bright side in pretty much everything.)
With their owners spending more time at home, the pets of furloughed federal workers are likely getting more attention, more dog park time, more time to snuggle while watching daytime TV on the couch.
Let’s just hope no one gets too used to it.
The shutdown, while already hurting some pet-related business, is helping some others. The Huffington Post reports that business is booming, for example, at Muddy Mutt, a self-serve dog wash next to Shirlington Dog Park in Northern Virginia.
“I’m getting more business because people aren’t working,” said Andrew Low, owner of the Muddy Mutt, where dog owners commonly bring their dogs in after romping in the river. Low said the business is usually quiet during the week. But since the furlough? “Twenty-five on Monday, 14 on Tuesday, 23 yesterday… We don’t even ever come close to that.”
The furlough might be bad news, though, for professional dog walkers in the DC area.
Christina Bell, owner of Doggy Daze DC, said that business is down by about half since the shutdown went into effect. JJ Scheele says her business, Dog Walking DC, has also taken a hit.
“All the walkers are down anywhere from one to three dogs,” Scheele said.
At Just Walk DC, a dog-walking cooperative, Meg Levine said the decrease of customers, three days into the shutdown, has been slight. But between government-employed pet owners having more time, and less income, a protracted shutdown could hurt dogwalkers badly — not to mention the rest of the country.
“There certainly is a sense of frustration from a lot of my clients, who feel that this is just needless roadblocking,”Levine said. “For the most part, we are continuing to chug along and feeling very hopeful this will end soon. I like D.C. when it functions. Oh, this town.”
(Photo: Dog walker Meg Levine, courtesy of Just Walk DC)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 4th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, business, dc, dog walking, dogs, dogwalkers, dogwalking, economy, effects, employees, federal, federal government, furlough, furloughed, government, government shutdown, home, pets, politicians, ripple, shutdown, washington
I want Muttens.
A friend sent me the link to the website for Muttens, which are basically retractable gloves that allow you to pop your fingers out and do what you need to do with them — pick up poop, tie your shoe, answer the cell phone — then recloak them in warmth when you’re done.
But they’re made primarily for dog walking — developed in Chicago (necessity is the mother of invention), by Jim Devers, who got tired of freezing his hands off everytime he had to scoop up the poop of his Pomeranian, Bailey. You know the drill — you take off your mittens or gloves, or at least one of them, pick up the poop, tie the bag, toss it in the trash can, then realize you have only one glove left.
With Muttens — sort of the convertible version of mittens — you can free your hands for all those tasks that require some nimbleness — like hooking and unhooking the leash, poop disposal, getting your key out of your pocket. You can even hold the leash — even a retractable one — inside the mitten.
The cleverly named hand warmers run $19.95 a pair, or six pair for $60.
(Photo courtesy of Muttens.com)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 16th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: chicago, clothing, cold weather, dog, dog walking, dogs, dogwalking, fingers, gloves, hands, jim devers, mittens, muttens, poop, products, retractable, scoop, tasks, warm, winter, winter wear