Tails From the Bark Side: Hazards of The Job

At an office job you might get in an argument with a coworker, as a doctor you could come down with the latest cold, but as a dog walker, the risks are a bit more unique.

By | Posted: July 8, 2014, 8 a.m. PST

When I started my dog walking company 19 years ago, I thought I might get a little dirty and wet during the rainy season but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be submerged into the San Francisco Bay. As it turns out, it happens often when your first instinct is to dive into the water to retrieve a swimming dog.  After 19 years of dog walking I no longer have this instinct.  My instinct is to stay dry.  My age and experience has taught me that I don’t need to go swimming after them anymore, but 19 years ago, I was young, carefree and very naïve.

Dogs at the Beach. Photo by Lisa Gates

And when you're young and naive, things like this happen.

It was Jimmy the Labrador’s first day of dog walks.  The owner had forgotten to mention that he can’t go off leash at the beach as he tends to swim out and not return in a timely fashion.  I take him to Baker Beach.  The moment that leash is off, he is gone.  He just keeps swimming further and further out.

I’m screaming his name, yelling "cookies,” and throwing tennis balls at him with absolutely no reaction, not even a twitch of his head.  I yell about hot dogs, steak, anything to get him to come back.  In a panic, I call his mom to make sure she gave me the right name.  She apologizes telling me about his issues with the beach.  She advises me not to go in after him that it is not worth risking my life.  

I hang up the phone, grab the nearest guy I can find and hand him the six other leashed dogs in my care.  I head into the water and just when I am about waist deep, Jimmy starts to turn around.  I look back and the poor guy is standing there, wrapped up in leashes with dogs wrestling and playing around him.  They somehow managed to tie the poor guy up.  After coming out of the sea, I thank him profusely and he says to me "No speak English.”  He is visiting from Germany. Welcome to America!

And while you might think this would be enough to keep me out of the water, it wasn’t.

Probably one of the most memorable swimming incidents was with Dixon, a goofy black Labrador who was not exactly Einstein.  When out at the beach one day, Dixon spots a bird and immediately dives into the water after it.  The bird keeps diving down and popping back up farther and farther out, luring Dixon out to sea.  

At this point, I have been walking dogs for only 6 months and have zero experience as to what to do.  All I know is the dog is going farther and farther out and there is no end in sight.  I am in a complete state of panic and like any normal panicked person I dive into the water to swim after him.  

What I completely forget is that I have six other dogs with me at the time. Luckily, like the good sports that they are, they all dove into the Bay with me with enthusiasm. To my right is Tucker, a Golden Retriever who is in a complete state of euphoria that his dog walker is swimming with him.  To my left, Dixon’s brother Mason is keeping up and behind me are Bear, Willard, Blacky and Buddy all swimming to catch up to the excitement.  It’s quite clear that these dogs think this is the greatest thing to happen to them since dog bones. 

Seeing our paddling group, another dog walker, Anna, dives into the water to help me.  Anna and all 8 of her dogs swim towards me.  There we were, Anna, me and 14 dogs all swimming out to get Dixon. Finally noticing the commotion, Dixon suddenly realizes we are much more entertaining than a stupid bird and turns towards us to join the fun.  

With Dixon in tow we all return to the beach where a crowd had gathered for obvious reasons.  Some were shaking their heads at the out of control scene, some were clapping and most were laughing asking us if we were ok.

I load up the dogs, dropped them off at their homes and headed to the airport to pick up my dad who is flying in for a visit.  He can’t wait to hear about my new dog walking business.  I pull up to passenger pick up, he gets in the car, takes one look at me and says "oh dear, hazards of the job?”

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Lynn   San Francisco, California

7/13/2014 1:15:27 AM

too funny- still laughing picturing the scene!

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Captain   Vail, Colorado

7/12/2014 1:59:03 PM

Imagining that scene made me grin from ear to ear....

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jeanine   Mill Valley, California

7/11/2014 10:54:42 PM

That is really funny!! Don't know what I would have done in that situation....

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