Personal Assistants for Dogs?
Personal assistants are no longer just for movie stars, presidents and CEOs. Entrepreneurial service industry experts like Manny Apolonio, founder of San Francisco-based At Chore Service are providing specialized care for dogs that goes above and beyond traditional dog walking and canine boarding.
“I don’t just walk your dog around the block and then call it a day,” explains Apolonio. “For example, one client asked me to change the filter on his furnace, drop off groceries at his house, replace batteries in his smoke detectors, water his plants and deliver his black lab, Bamboo, to his office in the Financial District because he missed her.”
Apolonio shares what his very untypical typical days are like, along with advice on how you can find, hire and make the most out of such professionals.
Dog Personal Assistants Come to the Rescue
Personal assistants like Apolonio can help out with even the most challenging dog-related problems. Consider one of Apolonio’s clients, Tanya, who lost her sight 10 years ago. Tanya’s Seeing Eye dog, Chancey, a golden retriever, “is a picky peer,” says Apolonio, “meaning we can’t just go outside for a stroll around the block and expect Chancey to just do her thing. She has to go where other dogs go.” Tanya’s neighborhood doesn’t have many suitable parks, so Apolonio drives several miles to where Chancey relaxes and does her thing.
Pet Sitter Plus
Personal assistants like Apolonio don’t just cater to wealthy clients. They are often available for more temporary assignments that require a specialized touch. One family, for example, recently contacted Apolonio to see if he could care for their pets while they went on a camping trip in Northern California. Why wouldn’t a standard pet sitter do? The family has a self-described mini zoo at home that includes two rottweilers, two Siamese cats, two rabbits and an iguana. The type of service Apolonio provides prevents this type of situation from going awry.
Dogs Help to Choose Their Assistants
The best personal assistants are sensitive to not just the dog owner’s needs, but also to those of the dog. For example, Little Lady Agency -- which operates out of Minnesota, California, Washington and New York -- begins the initial business stage by asking a lot of questions via email.
The next step is the face-to-face meeting. “You can tell right away if the dog will want to work with you. They’re usually the decision-makers in this instance,” says Apolonio.
How to Find, Hire and Work With a Personal Assistant
In addition to being aware of your dog’s comfort level with the prospective new assistant, Apolonio says keeping the following tips in mind will help to ensure that you select the best helper for your needs:
1. Request references and follow up with the provided named contacts.
2. Ask for proof of insurance or bonding.
3. Thoroughly interview prospective candidates in person, inquiring about their experience and time on the job.
4. Follow the advice of friends. Often personal assistants get their clients via networks of friends and business associates.
5. Trust your instincts.
Personal assistants, for both pets and their people, are becoming more common these days given busy work lives and the growing need for help at home. One of the best compliments Apolonio says he receives is that his good care is comparable to the companionship that owners provide to their dogs. He says, “I’m essentially a home owner and pet owner proxy while my clients are away.”
Jennifer Viegas is the managing editor of The Daily Cat. She is a journalist for Discovery News, the news service for the Discovery Channel, and has written more than 20 books on animal, health and other science-related topics.
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