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Monday, March 22, 2010

Perks of the Job

Sometimes things happen that give you a brand new perspective on your life. They can be good or bad, but when they occur, you feel a shift, and it changes something in you. One such thing happened over the past 24 hours to me. I received a phone message from one of the first clients I got on my own after starting my business. They are related to a close family friend of mine, and they are a wonderful family that has managed to avoid New York's tendency to make people obnoxious. Yes, they are VERY well off, and live in an incredible apartment in the heart of TriBeCa. No, they are not stuck up or pretentious. I've walked their dog (an Airedale) since she was a tiny, 3-month old pup. She'll be 2 this May. They have 3 daughters; one only a few years younger than me, one in middle school, and the youngest is 9. I recently signed on to pick her up from school during my second walk with the dog every day. They are a warm family, and they involve me in their lives more than you typically would a dog walker.

The phone message I received yesterday was from the mom, sounding a bit frantic and distracted, asking me to return her call ASAP. I did, to no answer. I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that was confirmed this morning: her husband's mother had died and they had to rush upstate, bringing the dog with them. She was apologizing for having to cancel the walks last-minute, and concerned that I had already left for work (the dog is my first walk every day). It was touching that she was so concerned about me despite the family's personal tragedy. It was also startling how upset I was over the fact that she had died. I've never even met the woman, nor do I see the husband as often as I see everyone else in the family. But still, I felt their deep sense of loss, and my immediate thought was that I needed to send flowers or a gift basket. (Mind you, I don't make a whole lot of money.)

It occurred to me that as a dog walker, I get a little sneak peek into people's lives that not many other professions get. I come into these people's homes every day, and because most of my clients tend to work from home (I'm not entirely sure why that is...) I get to chat with them while they're going on about their lives. Maybe it's because I care for their dogs, who are extensions of their families, or maybe it's just the kind of person that I am, but I feel like my clients open up to me more than they do with other people. I've found myself occasionally complaining to friends that I wish my clients had normal 9 - 5 jobs so I didn't have to stand around and make small talk with them, but I'm starting to realize that I'm fortunate to be able to share in these moments. When they are excited about new job prospects, they include me in their excitement. When they are concerned about their children, they ask me for advice (which is silly, since I'm the same age as some of their kids). These people are not my "friends", because we don't hang out or grab dinner, or talk on the phone about the latest gossip. Our interactions are limited to the context of my job, but our relationships go much deeper. It's as if they are paying me to walk their dogs, and I'm throwing in therapy for free. And somewhere along the way, I've started to like that feeling of being able to help them with more than the occasional extra walk.

1 comment:

  1. These are the things that serve as a reminder that what we do is important, even if other don't see it.