Dog-Walking on the Rise in Bellingham and Beyond
By David Dunbar
“Walking the dog
I’m just a-walking the dog
If you don’t know how to do it
I’ll show you how to walk the dog.”
- Rolling Stones, 1965,
Walking the Dog
For ages, humans have been walking their dogs… and even singing about it. More Americans also have dogs to walk since the COVID-19 pandemic, as an ASPCA survey found one in five households adopted a dog or cat from March 2020 to May 2021. Relatively new on the horizon is the possibility of paying a professional to walk the dog for you. According to Ibisworld (www.ibisworld.com), the $979 million US dog-walking industry has grown in recent years, not only due to higher dog ownership, but also due to the trend of treating Fido as a family member.
A Google search of “dog walking services” brought up 301 possibilities “near me” in Bellingham. One of them was Critter Visits.
“Critter Visits was created by pet lovers to give you peace of mind when you are away from your pets,” according to its website. “Our Critter Visitors ensure that your animals are safe, comfortable and happy by providing fresh food and water, love, cuddles, grooming, play time; daily exercise such as walks, playing Frisbee or ball, cleaning up accidents or other messes, on time administration of medications or supplements; poop scooping for your yard.”
Carin Cohen is the owner of Critter Visits in Bellingham. “Wednesdays are our busiest days when we do 40-60 visits. We walk dogs for people who are at work or at home on conference calls, or on vacation, and we may do several visits a day.”
Critter Visits has been caring for pets of all kinds; dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, chickens, turtles, fish and more since 2002. Cohen started walking dogs at age 12 and is still doing it now at age 52.
Patty Fisher is also a professional dog walker. Located in Bellingham, she has about 15 regular clients including schoolteachers, firefighters, work-at-home people, nurses, veterinarians, and dispatchers. She doesn’t work for a company, preferring to work directly with pet owners “because I can better know the pets and the clients.”
“I love dogs especially, but cats, too,” she says. In fact, she recalls, “I had to do an overnight visit with just a cat!” She will “meet and greet” a pet owner and evaluate the pet care needs. Depending on what she finds, she will charge $15 to $30 per visit.
Meaghan Powell is employed by Critter Visits and does about 20 dog walks per week. “I’ve always loved animals and my greatest joy is seeing them happy. They are loyal creatures, and if you give them love, they give it back. There’s no judging, and that gives me joy!”
“We’re always looking for good people,” says Critter Visits’ Cohen. Her employees can earn from $100 to $1,000 every two weeks, and of her 16 employees, the longest has been with her for 12 years.
“At the end of every dollar we make, there is a waggy tail or furry butt,” she smiles.