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Monday, September 30th, 2013, 08:42 PM | Updated: 09/30/2013, 08:42:01 PM | (Anonymous) [0 Comments]

As a student of human nature and someone who enjoys people-watching, I am fascinated by the way pets bring people together.  Whether you’ve moved to a new city and are looking to make some new friends or you simply wish to expand your social network, one of the best ways to connect with others is to step out with your pet.  Of course, this is ideal if you’re a dog owner.  Whether it’s a visit to your local dog park or taking your pooch for a walk, you are sure to meet other dog owners and inevitably strike up conversations.  Initially these conversations center on our pets.

It is this exact scenario through which I met Pat.  I can’t recall the first time Pat and I actually spoke and introduced ourselves.  But we first encountered each other one morning when Pat was walking her Maltese, Sam and I was walking my two Shih Tzus, Lucy and Ethel.  It was an instant doggie love-fest.   To describe Sam as adorable is an understatement.  How could I not reach down to pat his head, scratch his bum and rub his tummy as he rolled over on his back exposing himself?  Last year, Pat and her husband Larry expanded their family by bringing home a second Maltese named Sadie.  Sam and Sadie make a perfect duo. 

And so, on most mornings, Pat and I would meet on our respective dog walks and we would talk.  I do not recall the substance of every conversation; however, I do remember a compliment that Pat once paid me.  She looked me straight in the eye and said that Sam and Sadie clearly adored me and that was because I must be a good person.  She believed (as I do) that dogs possess a heightened ability (far superior to humans) to sense authenticity and kindness in people. 

Over the months, our conversations continued.  On occasion, I had the opportunity to visit Pat and Larry at their home, and even walk Sam and Sadie.  And through this all, my admiration and friendship for Pat and Larry grew.  What most attracted me to Pat was her larger than life personality.  She was a powerhouse!  The kind of person you could never forget once you met her.   Physically she was slight in stature with red hair, so visually she should stood out amongst others.  But it was her personal demeanor that captured one’s attention.  Her warmth and genuine kindness coupled with her high-pitched voice, sharp wit and one-of-a-kind laugh were magnets that would draw people to her.  When she would see me, her face would light up.  And my own heart would skip a beat with joy in anticipation of our conversation to come.  While we always talked about our four-legged children, our conversations also broached other topics.

Last week, Pat passed away after a brief illness.  I’ve wanted to post a tribute to Pat in my blog since then.  However, every time I tried, the words would not come as I choked up with emotion and sadness enveloped me.  Until now.  The most fitting tribute I can offer to Pat’s life is that going forward, every time I walk my own dogs or my clients’ dogs or for that matter, place my hand on a kitty client or some other adorable pet and gently stroke its head, I will think of Pat and the indelible mark she left on me.  She and I were like-minded.  We met through our pets, we grew to admire each other and developed a “simpatico” of implicit understanding.  It truly is amazing how pets bring people together and forever change our lives.  The word “simpatico” best describes my friendship with Pat.  Moreover, her name is embedded in the word.

May her memory be a blessing!

Friday, August 2nd, 2013, 04:11 PM | Updated: 08/02/2013, 04:11:17 PM | (Anonymous) [0 Comments]

As I provide dog-walking services around UTC/La Jolla and nearby neighborhoods of San Diego, I have observed a disturbing trend.  The pattern doesn’t originate with my four-legged clients, but rather with motorists on our local roads.  I’ll get right to the point.  A substantial number of motorists in the neighborhoods I frequent disregard the electronic walk signs for pedestrians and do not yield the right of way to individuals in the roadway.  Specifically, an increasing number of motorists seem to think it is okay to drive around a pedestrian who is in a marked crosswalk with the electronic “white hand” sign flashing.   It should be common knowledge that this walk sign indicates that it is safe for pedestrians to cross the street.  Furthermore, when this walk sign flashes, drivers are expected to come to a complete stop and allow pedestrians to pass. 

What I see happen more often than not is that when I step off the curb with one or more dogs by my side, motorists do not completely stop.  Rather they tend to slow down or coast, edging forward in order to make the light before it turns red.  If they think they can make their turn prior to me getting close, they go for it.  So often, I’ve had cars skirt in front of me, behind me or take some other creative path around me just so they can get through the intersection.   On one occasion, a motorist actually honked his horn as a call that I should pick up my dog-walking pace [let it be known that I am not a slow pedestrian].  It is disappointing to admit it, but I’ve even seen San Diego police cruisers (clearly not in an emergency situation) engage in these around-about-the-dog-walker maneuvers.

Let me shift gears for a minute!  Pedestrians walking dogs have to be especially careful; not only do we have to look out for ourselves, but we also have to hold onto our dogs’ leashes and be cognizant of the dogs’ exact positions as we cross the street.  Imagine having to factor in another variable to this equation: that of moving vehicles.  The situation immediately becomes fraught with potential danger. 

In my dog-walking experience, there are some pets that get frightened by all the sounds and activity around them as they walk across a busy street.  It can be challenging for a dog-walker to respond to (and help manage) a pet’s emotions and reactions under these circumstances.

And so I urge our local motorists to not only follow traffic laws but also practice common courtesy while on the road.  When you see a pedestrian with dogs crossing the street, please allow the person and his/her pets to make it safely across before accelerating forward.  Kindly put down your cell phones and wait to have your conversations at another time when you can them give your full attention.   If you arrive at your destination a few minutes later than anticipated, your life will go on.  But if you cut corners and try to get around pedestrians, you may injure a human and/or a pet.  I hope that we can all still agree that there is nothing more precious than life.  This includes human life and the lives of our pets.

Thank you!

Friday, July 26th, 2013, 07:04 PM | Updated: 07/26/2013, 07:04:03 PM | (Anonymous) [0 Comments]

Every occupation has its own unique history including where and how it originated, and how it evolved over time until the current day.  This even applies to the profession of dog walking.

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported the death of Jim Buck.  Mr. Buck was a native New Yorker who is credited with having started the first dog walking business in the city (and in the U.S. for that matter).  He operated “Jim Buck’s School for Dogs” for approximately 40 years.  Jim ran his business with the help of more than twenty assistants.  Together they provided daily walks for over 150 New York dogs.  He and his dog walkers rambled up and down city streets and through Central Park providing each owner’s pet with at least 12 miles of exercise.  The dog walkers themselves walked approximately 25 miles each day and fanned out across Manhattan in pairs, each person commanding the leashes of six or more dogs at one time.   

I did some of my own research about Jim Buck and located a “Talk of the Town” segment about him in The New Yorker magazine from 1965 and a newspaper article from 1996.  What a fascinating man!  In the course of reading about his life and his business, I immediately felt a strong kindred spirit.  Why?  Because there are several common threads to our lives – traced back to place, physical traits and personal style:

(1) Both Jim and I spent time as children in Connecticut; he trained horses there and I was born and grew up there.
(2) The New York Times referenced his lifelong slim physique and weight of 145 pounds.  A photograph reveals his long legs suitable for making strides and going for extended walks.  I also have a trim physique and consistently maintain a body weight of 145 pounds.  When I lived on the East Coast and frequently spent time in New York, going for long walks in the city was one of my favorite pastimes.
(3) Jim was typically seen sporting fine clothing, often wearing grey flannel and tweed as he walked Manhattan with his canine entourage.  Those who know me well can attest to my own personal fashion sense.  When I lived in Boston (and travelled to New York for business and to attend theater), I enjoyed dressing smartly often wearing tailored wool suits, crisp dress shirts and fine leather shoes.  At the time, the only thing I lacked was a well-groomed dog by my side.

But of course, I feel most connected to Jim across the decades given the occupation we share.

Today I walk dogs in and around La Jolla, a far cry from the towering cityscape of Manhattan.  But since reading about Jim Buck’s life, when I now set out to walk a dog, I think of Jim and his groundbreaking efforts to professionalize dog walking.  When people ask me what I do, I proudly explain that I am a pet care professional and have my own business.   As I speak these words, I think of Jim Buck fondly.  And so, I say “Thank You Jim” for turning your love for dogs into an occupation and setting the course for dog walking history more than 50 years ago.


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