At 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, I found myself scaling a poorly lit, three-story staircase at the back of a Minneapolis apartment building. I had to use the flashlight on my phone to find the lockbox and let myself into the unit, where an 80-pound dog was waiting for me.
There’s more to being an app-approved dog walker than picking up poop.
To research my story on dog-walking apps, I filled out Wag’s application to be a walker, paid $25 for a background check and took two online quizzes and sent in five recommendations. Within 10 days, Wag approved me and sent me a work agreement as an independent contractor. I uploaded my picture, wrote my profile, and started looking for walk work.
Turns out, it wasn’t all that easy to get.
When I got my first alert (an owner seeking a 30-minute walk), I took a few seconds to click on the profile to see what kind of dog I’d be walking. By the time I tried to accept the job, someone else had taken it. That happened several times.
Finally, after a week of trying, I was quick enough to land a midday gig. Once the owner selected me, Wag gave me an address. I got to the downtown condo, asked the doorman for the key, and took the elevator to the 5th floor, where Gidget was prancing with excitement.
Three days later, after multiple failed efforts to get another assignment, I snagged the late-night gig with Harry, a plump, mild-mannered golden retriever who lived in that Minneapolis apartment three floors up. After figuring out how to secure his complicated harness, I set out down the steps, through the alley and marched us out on a stretch of an avenue with no streetlights.
Halfway through a 30-minute walk, Harry’s owner sent a message requesting to extend the walk by 30 minutes. I tapped “Yes” before thinking it through. By the time the 60 minutes was up and I mounted the three-story staircase, Harry and I were both tired. He flopped down in front of his kennel, refusing to move. It was all I could do to tug, cajole and push the big lug back into his crate, as the owner had requested.
For my two Wag walks, I earned a total of $30, including the $4 in tips.
About enough to cover a bag of chow for my own dog, whom I will continue to walk. By myself. For free.