I started walking my neighbor's dog for $10 an hour several months ago. It's a nice side gig. The dog is a sweetheart and I can listen to audiobooks while I walk. $10 an hour is barely minimum wage (I live in California), but it's not nothing. In most cases I would rather be underpaid than have no work at all. (This! This is the problem with the American economy!) Dog-walking is also good because it forces me out of the house, meaning I have to figure out how to be put-together and presentable. If I'm not going anywhere, the urge to stay in my pajamas all day is frighteningly strong. As nice as it is to be comfy and nap-ready at all times, it doesn't do wonders for my productivity. Although, I must admit that I've walked Button — that's my neighbor's dog's name — while wearing my pajamas. I mean, it's suburbia; who am I trying to impress?
As always with fashion, the most important person I can impress is myself. When I do manage to impress myself, it boosts my mood and my confidence, making me feel better and making me more pleasant to spend time with. Taking a walk with a nice dog always puts a smile on my face, but especially when I can show off a snazzy ensemble. ("Show off" is an exaggeration because hardly anyone else is around in the middle of the afternoon. They're off doing grownup work.) What are the components of a dog-walker's perfect outfit? I thought you'd never ask!
1. Lay The Foundation With Sunscreen
This is an oft-repeated beauty tip that should seriously be repeated more often. Sunscreen is essential! I am lazy about this and it is awful, because I'm fair and prone to sunburn. I don't think wrinkles are such a bad thing — bodies change as people grow older and that's totally okay — but skin cancer is probably worth the effort to avoid. Dog-walking means spending a lot of time outdoors, the sun's rays bombarding you with free radicals or whatever, so slather on the Coppertone.
2. Bright-Colored Sneakers That You Don't Mind Getting Dirty
You're not necessarily going to step in poop, although I have stepped in poop, and probably everyone who visits a dog park regularly has stepped in poop. The fact is, dogs poop everywhere, completely unashamed of what dirty disgusting critters they are. Most dog-owners don't bother to clean up (which I have mixed feelings about). So I advise picking sneakers in a pretty bright color, for your own sanity, but not wearing your best shoes, also... for your own sanity. Another thing: If you end up walking a Bad Dog, which is inevitable, you're going to end up running after her, slipping on the mud in someone else's garden. Which leads me to...
3. Dark Denim With Plenty Of Pockets
Jeans are the perfect pants in so many ways. When I have a pair that fits well, I don't want to wear anything else. (Fun fact: I still own and wear a pair of jeans that I bought in fifth grade. They were too big for me back then.) Jeans are comfortable, functional, and durable — plus your butt looks beyond cute. As a dog-walker, dark denim is key, because the dog is going to get wet and dirty, and then rub her gross face all over you as an annoying-but-endearing expression of love. Aw, puppy!
4. Cardigan Over Tank Top Or T-Shirt, The Essential Layering Combination
Layering is a staple fashion technique, and it's the dog-walker's best friend. I always get hot halfway through the walk; if I'm wearing a long-sleeve shirt or a difficult-to-remove sweater, I regret it. After all, I can't put down the leash. I need to be able to maneuver out of my heat-trapping clothes without relinquishing control of the unpredictable dog. The same cardigans that I can wiggle out of while driving are perfect for dog-walking.
5. Accessorize With A Retractable Leash
If you're not using one of those self-adjusting leashes, you are behind the curve. Get with the times, sister. Modern gadgetry is all the rage; haven't you see the kids with their iTubes and Android Nooks? No, seriously, though. Dr. Becker warns against them, but retractable leashes are soooo much more convenient than what people used back in the Iron Age. Rope is barbaric. Ugh! You have to be careful not to give your dog too much room to run, lest she dash into traffic, but if you're not an idiot you can probably handle it. Just keep an eye out for mailmen.
That's it. You are now equipped to be a Fully Professional Dog-Walker, and please don't tell any prospective clients I told you that. No, I cannot provide a reference. I can't even remember to follow Rule No. 1 — I literally just scratched my neck and it hurt because I have sunburn.
Images: Author; Flickr/Lena; Getty