A Dog Walker in Winter

February 15, 2011

-By Penny Cherubino

Dan Hazelwood is an “essential person” who must work through snow emergencies. He’s better known around the neighborhood as “Dan the Dog Walker.”

With storm after storm making it hard to get area dogs the exercise they need, Boston Pet Sitters owner Jennifer North said she woke up each day expecting that someone on staff would say, “Uncle!”  She was pretty sure, it wouldn’t be Dan.

He Loves His Job

“I feel a little guilty because I have the best job in the world,” Dan said. While friends are tied to desk jobs and struggling up the corporate ladder, “I’m just having fun everyday and getting paid for it.”

He worked at a boarding kennel in high school. On college breaks, he became “Daycare Dan” at an upscale pet resort, where he enjoyed working with the same pack of dogs each day.

In his senior year at Boston College, he started working part-time for Boston Pet Sitters. “I graduated, and Jennifer said, ‘Hey, you don’t really want a real job!’ and I said, ‘No, I don’t.’ and I kept on full-time after that,” he said

Winter’s No Problem

While others howl about the weather, Dan says, “I love it! This has been the best winter. It’s all about how you dress.” He has shoes for every possible condition from hiking to snow boots, plus a collection of warm hats and scarfs. He’d rather be out in a snowstorm than in a 100 degree day. That’s partly because, “the dogs hate it.” And, the dogs are important to him.

Knowing the Pack

If you’ve ever stopped to talk to Dan as he walks with three or four dogs, you know that he’s proud of his packs. He’ll introduce the canines by name and tell you a bit about each one. He has to know which dogs are scavengers, so he can be on alert for scraps of food on the ground. He knows which dog goes crazy at the sight of a squirrel, and who hates bicycles and skateboards. It’s all part of the job.

What Makes a Good Dog Walker?

Dan always has his eye out for the next great dog walker. “It’s not just people who love dogs, because loving dogs isn’t going to get you through every rainy day, or snowstorm, or 100 degree day.”

He says you have to be reliable because people trust you with their keys and their pets. And, you have to communicate well with the customers. Dan finds that writing good notes for a dog’s family helps him do a better job. “I’ll look back on the last couple of days and think, ‘We’ve been on the Mall a lot this week.’” Then, he’ll make a switch and take that pack somewhere special, like the Esplanade. It keeps life interesting for him and for the dogs.

Cat Care Too

Feeding and playing with cats gives some variety to his days. Cat care is especially welcome on hot or rainy days when it lets him slip off his shoes and spend a little time inside. Some cats cuddle up and let him know they’re glad he’s there. Others hide and make him check under beds. He says he likes to catch sight of them, “Even if they hiss at me.”

Dan isn’t saying he’ll do this forever, but right now he’s a contented man. He loves his job, his boss, his coworkers, and the animals in his care.

And, this has been a winter when the people he works for really appreciate what he does to make their days easier.

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