GUY RAZ, host:
There's a job that pays in the low six figures. There is no dress code, no cubicle, no office politics. And it's a job that, even in a recession, is pretty secure. Now, the customers can be a bit of a handful, but it's nothing a few treats and a long walk can't satisfy.
Reporter Josie Holtzman got an inside look at a business that's bucking the recession - or at least walking it off.
JOSIE HOLTZMAN: It's 10 o'clock in the morning in downtown New York, and Casey Butcher is ready for work. But he's forgotten his paper.
Mr. CASEY BUTCHER (Dog Walker): Shoot. You don't have the paper, do you?
HOLTZMAN: A lot of New Yorkers start the day with the morning paper. But for Casey, the newspaper serves a different purpose.
Mr. BUTCHER: Mochi, the Moch-meister(ph).
HOLTZMAN: Maybe not for him, but for his first client of the day.
(Soundbite of a dog barking)
HOLTZMAN: Mochi, a French bulldog puppy. See, Casey works for a company called Club Pet NYC. He's in the dog-walking business, and Mochi is about to take care of his own business.
Mr. BUTCHER: A lot of dog walkers invest in the blue poop bags. I prefer using an amNewYork when I can. I'm a little aware of my carbon footprint. I can go through like, 20 bags a day.
HOLTZMAN: It's not the most glamorous way to start a day, but even in this economy, poop pays. How much it pays? Well, that can be a little controversial.
An article in the 2004 New York Daily News asked, people how much do you make? A dog walker named Sammy Swale reported about $50,000, which prompted some pretty dismayed online responses such as, I went to grad school for five years for a Ph.D., and I still make less than the dog walker? Then someone else wrote in: The dog walker's lying; we make much more than that. Casey agrees.
Mr. BUTCHER: My friend got me this job. He's making right - just about six figures. Somewhere like, between $90,000 and $100,000. And that's with the company taking half. So just the work he does walking dogs generates, you know, a little under $200,000 a year.
HOLTZMAN: But not just anyone is cut out for this line of work. Walkers say it's a lot harder than it looks. First, there's the physical toll. Sherman Ewing, the guy who started Club Pet NYC, said his foot grew a size and a half in his first year of walking dogs. He walked about 10 miles a day. There are also the logistics, like the keys to 200 apartments.
Mr. ERIC HAHN (Dog Walker): I can tell if any are missing, just from the sheer weight of it.
HOLTZMAN: That's Eric Hahn, who has worked for Sherman for the past seven years. He considers himself somewhat of an expert walker. But even so, walking five dogs at a combined weight of 350 pounds, that can get a little bit tricky.
Mr. HAHN: There is a method. Everybody kind of sees you with a bunch of dogs and they think it's just random. But whoever is full and has not been emptied yet is on the outside. It's a matter of rotation. I need to keep track of who's empty and who's full because when a dog is about to go and you go into a lobby...
HOLTZMAN: Well, you can imagine what happens next. But what makes dog walking truly challenging is you have to be good with dogs and with people.
Mr. HAHN: I have people where their kids call me Uncle Eric. I've had dinner with my clients. Really, you know, it's not like I'm the help, necessarily, you know? It's more of extended member of the family.
HOLTZMAN: The people at Club Pet won't call dog walking recession-proof, but it certainly will never require a government bailout or a stimulus package because unlike the banking industry, dog walkers can always count on a high rate of deposit.
For NPR News, this is Josie Holtzman.
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