Wed, March 21, 2012
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She's a dog's best friend

2012-03-21 03:48:57 GMT2012-03-21 11:48:57(Beijing Time)  China Daily

Ma Wendi, a 25-year-old full-time dog walker, walks 12 dogs in her downtown Beijing neighborhood last month. [Provided to China Daily]

Ma Wendi is used to curious glances when she walks six teddy bear dogs at the same time.

They are not all hers - the 25-year-old veterinary graduate is a full-time dog walker.

"I have to take care of 12 dogs at most," said Ma, a graduate of Jilin University.

She lives in a 70-square-meter apartment in downtown Beijing and keeps the dogs in her sitting room.

Just like a dog kindergarten, the owners drop their pets off in the morning and pick them up in the evening.

She charges 500 yuan ($80) a month per dog, and most customers leave their dogs at her house for a week.

She has served more than 50 customers, a dozen of whom are regular ones.

The busiest time is around Spring Festival, because many people go back to their hometowns for family reunions or go traveling.

"Compared with people who have to be in their offices during the day, I don't have to get up early to squeeze into the subway carriages in rush hour, and I still make a decent salary," she said.

"But it's a tiring job. I have to work whenever there are dogs at home, and no time to enjoy myself. Sometimes I want to go out for a meal or shopping, but I can't do so because I worry about them," she said.

Most of the dogs she takes care of are small, including Pomeranians and poodles. She knows all the dogs' names, and when she calls one's name, the dog instantly knows she's referring to it.

Ma walks the dogs three times a day in the neighborhood, bathes them, feeds them and sometimes grooms them.

"I walk male and female dogs separately, or they will start to mate. Each time I bring six or seven dogs at most because the leashes may become twisted. To avoid dog fights, I choose dogs that have good relations with each other," she said.

"The instant I bring them out, they are all excited and begin to pee. I have to hold the dog leashes tightly and ensure they don't eat dirty things on the street," she said.

"They are clean and clever. When you give it a piece of newspaper, they will poop on it, and two dogs share one piece."

"The thing I'm most afraid of is that the dogs will suddenly get sick. Puppies are susceptible to illness, so I rarely accept puppies," she said.

Ma originally came to Beijing for an internship and after graduation in June she started to take care of a neighbors' six dogs for free.

"I had no job at that time, so I had time to help him. Then he insisted on paying me and suggested I look for other customers in the nearby community," she said.

She took the advice and put up posters in the neighborhood, with unexpected success. She has more customers because dog owners in the neighborhood are satisfied with her and recommended her to their friends.

In her spare time, she makes costumes for dogs.

"I'm an online game fan. The costumes are from an online game and the dogs look lovely in them," she said.

"It's a lucrative job, but there are not so many people doing this. Some pet stores are doing a similar thing, including pet foster homes. But the dogs are often locked in cages. Customers believe me because I'm a veterinary major and treat dogs like my own pets," she said.

"Ma provides a better and cheaper service, compared with pet stores," said one of her customers, Xie Yang, a freelancer in the capital.

"She is professional and careful. I don't have to send my toy poodle dog to the hospital for some minor illness, because she can deal with it. The costume she made is cute, too."

"It sounds like an interesting job. I'd be glad to have someone like Ma walk my husky when I'm busy or on a tour," said Sun Yimiao, a French teacher in Beijing.

Ma said her customers are neighbors and know each other. She will check a dog before accepting it to ensure it's healthy.

"I don't worry about bites or scratches from dogs, because it's quite normal for veterinary majors. It's uncommon that small dogs attack people. Moreover, I know their habits and characteristics and can avoid such a situation," Ma said.

"But sometimes I'm at a loss. It's profitable, but I was wondering if I should spend the rest of my life walking dogs for a living?"

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