On being a dog walking billionaire

Dog walking billionaire

The billionaire and her car, aka her bundle buggy. Photo by Ann McBride.

Back in the day, I was watching The Young and the Restless, and Victoria, who was pregnant, said to Brad, the presumptive father, "I don't care if our child grows up to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a dog walker..."  A re-write of the American Dream, from "Anyone who works hard can get rich," to "Anyone can choose whatever work they want, even dog walking."

I have found that people think dog walking makes me, if not rich, at least better paid than I should be. When I walk by a construction site, I don't get the typical catcalls. Instead a worker yells something like "Twenty-five, fifty, seventy-five, one hundred, one hundred twenty-five dollars -- five dogs, that's one hundred and twenty-five dollars right there!"

I find myself wondering whether lawyers have their fees hollered at them as they hurry into court. Or whether cashiers get comments like "I've been in this line for 15 minutes -- what did you make in that time, around three bucks?"

It's not just construction workers who speculate on my finances; people from all walks of life, so to speak, feel free to inquire. Next to "What kind of dog is that? Is s/he smart?" the most FAQ I get is "Dog walkers make good money, right?" A very different question from "What would you charge to walk my dog?"

The other day a drunk guy was looking for empties and stopped to look at the dogs standing on the porch. "What does that pay, per dog?" he asked, clearly contemplating a career change. And a guy biked by me and my dog pack and yelled, "Do you own a mansion in Rosedale yet?" Even a casual acquaintance recently speculated that I was "probably rich enough now to retire."

At such moments I've been known to tell people I'm a fuckin' billionaire.

All this goes against my early childhood training, which was to never to talk about money "outside the family." Inside the family, we were told that we weren't rich, we were well off. So being accused of richness, when I'm not even well off any more, rankles.

I know it's not personal. Bewilderment about what others are (over)paid seems to be part of our zeitgeist. But dog walkers are not part of the infamous 1% -- not even those who own dog walking companies that exploit, oops, I mean employ, non-unionized workers.

I do not let the catcalled calculations go unchallenged. I stop and say something like, "Two of these dogs are mine.  They do not pay me. Two are discount dogs, who get a cheaper rate because of multiple walks. Only one dog is being charged the whole shot - which is $15, not $25.  This walk will make me $41."

The last construction worker to whom I explained this looked taken aback, then grinned. "But you have more fun than I do."

I smiled. He was right about that.


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