The life of a dog walker is rarely glamorous. Most days you can find me in my gym clothes, walking anything from three tiny Maltese pups to a giant Great Dane through the crowded streets of Manhattan. I’m probably sweaty, with a flyaway ponytail covered by a baseball cap, and navigating the whims of whatever dog I happen to be walking that day. I deal with slobber, poop, and even vomit on a regular basis. Any other professional dog walker could tell you it’s the same way for them.
The difference for me is that I walk dogs in some of the richest neighborhoods in the world. I live in downtown Manhattan and, on any given day, I could be picking up dogs to walk in a sprawling SoHo loft, a West Village palace with Hudson River views, or a stockbroker’s swanky pied-a-terre in the Financial District. Of course, not every dog I walk lives in such rarefied circumstances, but many do. You’re about to hear the tale of a day in my life as a professional dog walker for Manhattan’s elite—and their furry friends.
10:00am: I wake up and get ready for one of my regular walks. Even though I know I’m going to be entering an apartment that costs over ten million dollars—yes, sometimes I look them up on real estate websites—my priority is always going to be the dog. That means I have to dress for comfort, in sneakers, running shorts, a tank top, and no makeup.
I know that I often look out of place to the doormen and residents of these luxury buildings, but I try to remember that the dogs don’t care what I’m wearing. As long as I’m holding their leash and some treats, they’ll always be happy to see me!
11:00am: I arrive at the building on a shady SoHo corner. It’s large but not ostentatious, until you realize that unlike most apartment buildings, this one only contains ten apartments—one for each floor. The lobby is covered in marble, with discreet gold touches and floor-length mirrors. Luckily, the doorman here knows me by now. He greets me with a smile and swipes his special card on the elevator to ensure that I can access the ninth floor.
11:05am: The elevator opens directly into the apartment’s foyer, which is decorated with abstract oil paintings and is roughly the size of my entire studio apartment. To the left is a wide outdoor terrace with a Jacuzzi overlooking Sixth Avenue. To the right, a long hallway with a series of four bedrooms culminates in a wide-open living space.
Maisie, a huge white Samoyed who resembles nothing more than a cloud with a face, bounds up to me eagerly. “Hi Maisie!” I scratch her ears as I put the leash on. From somewhere deep inside the apartment, a voice calls, “Thank you!”
“See you in an hour!” I reply. I’ve never actually seen one of Maisie’s owners, just heard their voices from somewhere inside their cavernous home. I feel very Charlie’s Angels-esque.
2:00pm: Having successfully taken Maisie on her morning jaunt through SoHo, I’m off to my next walk. This one takes place in the West Village, in a white tower overlooking the water. I’ve never been to this building before, so I’m not sure what to expect.
2:15pm: The doormen ask me to sign a form stating my name, the date, and my reason for entering the building. Once that’s done, one of them accompanies me to the elevator to press the button for me. Again, I find that the elevator opens directly into the apartment, and wow. You might think nothing would faze me, since I just came from a place worth $10 million, but this is something else. I can’t even begin to imagine how much it costs.
The space is two stories, with a spiral staircase standing freely in the middle of the vast living room. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows offer a completely unobstructed view of the New Jersey skyline and even the Statue of Liberty. From where I’m standing, I can see two separate balconies and an opaque door to what I think might be a wine cellar.
Suddenly, I hear the scrambling of paws on a white tile floor. Two Goldendoodle puppies appear, falling all over each other (and me) in a mad dash to get outside. As I’m putting their leashes on, a girl my age strolls around the corner wearing leggings and a hoodie and eating a cup of Greek yogurt. “Make sure you have them back by 2:45” she remarks, then turns and strolls toward the kitchen. I can’t help but wonder what she does to be able to live in a place like this. Definitely not walking dogs (As much as I love it, it’s not a good way to get rich!).
6:15pm: My last walk of the day is another regular. The owner isn’t exactly a celebrity, but he’s a higher-up in the film industry. This allows him to live at an exclusive membership club/hotel in the Meatpacking District that’s only for people with a lot of money and jobs in the arts.
6:30pm: I pass through the lobby and check in, but on my way to the elevators a bald man in a tight-fitting suit and a large gold necklace blocks my path. “Excuse me,” I murmur. He doesn’t move. “Excuse me!” I say again. He looks at me, slowly scans my shorts and tank top, and then stares directly into my eyes while not moving a muscle. I roll my eyes and flatten myself against the wall to get past him. This happens rarely, but I do sometimes run into snobby people who think they can treat “the help” however they want.
Luckily, the dog’s owner is a total sweetheart, and so is his tiny Yorkie, Timothy. The owner greets me wearing nothing but a towel, having just stepped out of the hot tub that sits in the middle of his suite. Timothy greets me wearing a harness stamped with Louis Vuitton logos, wagging his tail and ready to go.
7:30pm: It’s Saturday night, and the hotel has a popular rooftop bar. This means that when it’s time to drop off Timothy after our walk, there’s a line of people down the block. They are all young, beautiful, and dressed to the nines—I think you have to be in order to get in.
When Timothy and I cut to the front of the line and greet the security guard at the door, I catch one or two looks of surprise and annoyance. These looks are only multiplied when I scoop Timothy up and get on the elevator with a crowd of beautiful people. I smell like I’ve been on the streets walking dogs all day. They smell like Chanel perfume. Luckily, I get off on the second floor.
In one day, dog walking has allowed me in and out of three of the most fabulous residences in Manhattan. I’ll always consider myself lucky to be able to do the job I love in such a crazy setting. I find it funny that the dogs I walk have no idea how privileged they are—as long as they’re getting to go outside, sniff around, and receive pets and cuddles from me, they don’t notice that their dog food is organic, their dog bed is Memory Foam, or that they live in a 10,000-square-foot apartment. I love getting these glimpses into the lives of the super-wealthy, but in the end my love for the dogs I walk is the reason why I do what I do. Any other dog walkers out there? Share your favorite stories in the comments below.