By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi
I was in Argentina to attend a Child Labour Conference. Buenos Aires has wide roads, green trees which are almost the same as what we have in India. It is Jacaranda season and purple blossoms cover the pavements. The scent of magnolia flowers wafts through the city. Fresh air, fresh air, fresh air!!! I can breathe again after choking in Delhi.
On the way to the 8.30 am meetings, I see a new thing: Young people with at least 15 dogs each walking in the parks, crossing the road, or on the wide pavements. The dogs are of all sizes and they walk docilely cheek by jowl with each other. I see at least 14 groups of dogs being walked on just one stretch of road.
The driver informs me that this is a common occurrence in the city. Young people join dog walking companies. They are trained on how to handle dogs, how to hold them, talk to them and to pick up their faeces with a scooper as they walk. These companies even give diplomas on dog walking. The walkers are taught rudimentary first aid in case there is a traffic accident. The company gives you an App. With that you can see the start and stop times of the walk, a map of where your dog was taken, along with pee, poo and water breaks. You get pictures and, sometimes, a note talking about what your dog needs.
Apart from dog walking, companies offer services like pet taxis, which will take the dog to the vet on specified days or as an emergency service. Pet vet visits are also arranged for the home. Dog day care can be arranged daily, either at the company’s site or the person will come home for a specific number of hours and look after and play with the dog while you are at office or away for the weekend.
There are drop in visits where the person will come for only 10 minutes to check on the dog twice a day.
The companies are registered, fully insured and police checked. Each member of the staff is trained — even if it is a young person doing it for their summer holidays — and registered with the police. The company has both, pet sitters and dog walkers, and both know pet nutrition as well.
There are different rates for half an hour onwards for walking. There is another rate, which is less, for something known as a toilet visit. At a specific time, the person will come to your flat, take the dogs out, wait till they relieve themselves, and then return them to your flat. No walking. Pet vet visits, pet taxies and dog day care are given in a rate card.
Sometimes, when you are at work, you cannot go home for lunch but your dog walker can come in at that time to give your dog a thirty minute walk. Most companies vary the times according to what you need and some offer the dog walker as many as three times a day on whatever days you need them. You can cancel and exchange days according to your convenience. You even have play dates when the company will arrange for your dog to meet a friend at their house, or bring him/her to yours. People who want to recruit these services are encouraged to meet the dog walker first and see them in action.
Whether a stroll around the block with an older dog, or a fast-paced walk with a fit youngster, the companies tailor their services. If you have an older dog who can’t walk far, then it’s just a short easy walk and lots of petting.
(To be concluded)