Unless you’re extraordinarily abstracted or unobservant, you’ve probably noticed that our Hudson River communities are packed with dogs. Mutts or Westminsters, they’re tagged and leashed and walking with their “handlers.”
That’s right. That attentive human petting and scolding, talking doggie talk and dispensing treats could very well be a pro.
If a dog walker is doing a good job, you probably won’t see anything like the picture on this page. We set it up with All Wagging Tails owners Heather Gaida and Rebecca Alison because we thought it would be a cute shot. But any reputable dog walker will tell you that eight is too many.
Heather started the Hoboken company in the spring of 2007. While working in corporate America and going to school to study elementary education, someone else was walking Heather’s dog. “I wanted to do her job,” Heather says, “out in the fresh air, working with animals, being able to walk my dog all day.” Heather’s dog is a Kerry blue terrier named Blue.
Rebecca was one of Heather’s first customers—she has a 90-pound lab/shepherd mix named Cooper—and soon became a partner, for many of the same reasons Heather went into the business.
ON A BEAUTIFUL SUNNY DAY we meet at the ferry slip in North Hoboken for the shoot. Rebecca is the photographer, Heather the dog walker, and they bring a helper. While we’re unloading the dogs from Heather’s SUV, one fairly large one back flips out the door, while a very tiny one makes a break for it. I commit one of the cardinal sins of human behavior—running after it.
Heather says that’s a sure way the dog will keep running. Better to stand your ground. “We know that dog, and he will follow us anywhere.”
Dogs are increasingly seen as family members. “The pet used to be chained outside in the dog house in the freezing cold,” says Heather. “Over time the family realized what a dog has to offer to your life. As this was happening, more services became available. The average person works 15 hours a day in the city and couldn’t have a dog, but now they know someone good is caring for the animal, and they can come home to the pet they love.”
If you own a dog, you know that the most important traits in a dog walker are trust and integrity. You wouldn’t leave your kid with a dodgy individual, and the same goes for the dog. “People trust us to go into their homes,” Heather says. “We feel we provide an honest service.”
“BOTH HEATHER AND I ARE ANIMAL LOVERS,” Rebecca says. “I volunteer for the Liberty Humane Society, and have two cats, and I used to have an iguana, bearded dragon, and birds, and Heather had a bird. Through having animals you instinctively learn what to do and anticipate how they will react. Both of us wanted to be vets. I shadowed a vet during a neutering surgery and volunteered for a groomer, and Heather used to bathe some of our clients. When you see and deal with so many different types of dogs, each one has a different personality.”
“I like them all,” Rebecca says. “Every dog has its own quirks. I have a passion for terriers. They’re very curious. They stick their nose into everything. They’re different from labs, which are eager to please. A terrier will test you. You’ll tell it to do something, and it will go ‘hmm. Do I want to do that?’”
The company has built up quite a caseload of human clients. “We screen their dogs to see how they interact with other dogs,” Rebecca says. “It’s important for dogs to live healthy in society in a city environment. You have to be really careful about a dog’s temperament.”
The women say there are two types of dog walkers—those who belong to pet sitting associations, and independents. Those who belong to associations are creditable and in it for the long haul, Rebecca says. With independents you may or may not get high-quality service. “There are some individuals who want to make a quick buck when they have three or four months between jobs,” Heather says.
All Wagging Tails strives for consistency and longevity. “Dogs get attached,” Heather says. “We want the pet and the owner to be comfortable.”—Kate Rounds All Wagging Tails(201) 446-1559
hobokendogs.org is a good resource for dog walkers in Hudson County but warns that it is just that—a resource, not a recommendation. Check references before entrusting your home and your hound to a dog walking service. The following are services outside Hoboken.
4 Paws Nanny ServiceWeehawken
Hounds on the Hudson
River Pet Resort & Rehab
Woody’s Animal Adventures
Serving Hoboken, Jersey City, and Weehawken