in which i learn that dogwalking is harder than i anticipated
I made a Rover account this week, per one of my friend's recommendations. Since I love (most) dogs, the idea originally crossed my mind a few years prior, but I didn't like how much personal information I had to give away in the application process. Why do I have to give you my social security number just to walk somebody's dog?
I am in a different headspace these days. Desperate to get out of the house and make a bit of cash, I requested testimonials from friends, paid the $35 registration fee, set my rates slightly below market, and waited.
I was pleasantly surprised to get a message from Shana today asking if I could walk her dog Thor in the afternoon. Thor's Rover profile told me that he was a four-year-old, leash-reactive Weimaraner weighing a hundred pounds. In hindsight, I don't know why a dog named after the Norse god of thunder and Shana's warning that he was "huge" and "leash-pulling" didn't raise any alarm bells in my head. I was a competitive powerlifter in college, I thought. How bad could it be?
Shana surprised me by answering the door when I arrived. Why would you pay someone else to walk your dog if you're at home? I would soon have my answer, because as soon as Thor got out the door I was nearly pulled down the stairs headfirst. He then proceeded to drag me around the apartment complex at will, barking venomously at humans and dogs alike. Even with both of my hands tightly gripping his heavy-duty leash, it took all of my might to keep my balance, and Thor still managed to bowl me over multiple times (once into incoming traffic). When he wasn't testing my grip strength, he would dig without warning, spraying my pants and shoes with wet mud and grass.
With twenty minutes left in our hourlong walk, I remembered that Shana had requested a photograph of Thor from the walk. (Apparently, many owners do this on Rover to make sure you actually go on the walk). I fished my phone from my pocket with my numb fingers and tried to open the camera. I was fumbling around with the camera app when I felt the leash go slack.
Thor had slipped his head out of the collar by pulling backwards on it. Within seconds, he had put fifty yards between us. I knew from my experience watching other dogs that chasing would only make things worse. Thor would find the chase a fun game, and there was no way I was ever going to catch him. Shana hadn't given me any treats to lure him back either. So after walking behind him for five minutes, calling his name, and only watching him get further and further away, I called Shana and told her that I'd lost her dog.
To her credit, Shana was very understanding, which makes me think that this was not Thor's first stunt. She had me put her on speakerphone and tried to call for Thor, which was no use. I could only see brief flashes of gray as he streaked by; how was he supposed to hear his owner's tinny voice over the phone?
Wiraqocha must have heard me praying in despair, because on one of Thor's passes he got close enough for me to call his name and get him to stop. Maybe he got bored of running around or simply took pity on me, because he let me buckle his collar back on relatively tamely. I had all of fifteen seconds to bask in my overwhelming relief before Thor nearly dislocated both my shoulders trying to assault a border collie.
By the time I made it back to the apartment, my shirt was soaked with sweat, my boots were untied, and my jeans were flecked with mud. After dropping Thor off, I staggered to my car and put on some classical piano as I tried to process what just happened. Was I really one stroke of luck away from losing someone's dog? Had my dogwalking career ended over before it had even started?
The saddest part of that whole ordeal is that because I paid Rover $35 to make an account, I'm still $15 in the hole after an hour's worth of work. Do I want to get pulled around like a sled and risk losing someone's pet again to break even? My friends say no way, but $20 is $20...