Nuala and Ninja

How do you know when you’re really ready for a dog? ­­­Slowly over the past year, all of the obstacles between my future canine friend and I have dropped away — I’m no longer freelance and have a steady income, I work from home, and my cat’s shown an interest in visiting pups. Still, as a single girl living in San Francisco, it’s not a decision to make lightly… and yet that need for a warm dog at my feet while I work hasn’t gone away.

Enter DogVacay. As a former TaskRabbit (an online service that connects you with local people to help you cross things off your to-do list), I was already sold on the concept of neighbors helping neighbors. There are hundreds of dogs living in my neighborhood, and wouldn’t it be perfect if instead of paying a boarder or dog walker, their owners paid me to have puppy time? They get a tired-out happy dog at the end of the day; I get my dose of slobbery dog kisses.

Getting Started

Applying was pretty easy — fill out a form online, have a phone interview to make sure you’re not a dog hoarder or puppy thief, and you’re set. They even have optional liability insurance plans to make sure everyone is taken care of in an emergency. Clients can view dog sitter’s profiles and send them a message to set up a meet-and-greet with their dog. Once approved, a reservation is made. I listed my services as lower than most to maximize my puppy-potential, and was on my way.

Meeting the Mutts

My first DogVacay dog was not a “dog” at all — she was a roly poly, very hyper, oh-so-charming 11-week-old German Shorthaired Pointer puppy named Ninja. And oh, did she live up to her name. Every time the house fell quiet, I’d find her silently destroying something. Four walks, two accidents on the carpet, and 12 hours later her owners came to get her, and I handed her over, exhausted. As I trudged back upstairs, I realized my apartment seemed so … empty. And full of shredded paper. I was hooked.

Up next? A meet-and-greet with Max, an 11-year-old Shiba Inu/Cattle Dog mix. I'd grown up with Cattle Dogs and had worked at shelters, so I felt up for the challenge of a “nervous rescue dog.” Max has some aggression issues, but walking him around the park seemed to calm him down a little; he was even wagging his tail at me when he left. We’ll be hanging out next weekend, and I think we’ll get along just fine.

Up Next

Next Wednesday is a Weimeraner named Winston who lives a few blocks away, and since his owners have a baby on the way, he and I are going to be spending a lot of time running through Golden Gate Park to burn off some energy. 

And suddenly my life is full of dogs — Ninja, Max, and Winston are just the first of a slew of canines I’m going to get the honor of hanging out with. The pay is good, ranging from $40 to $55 a day or overnight. I get to meet my neighbors, and we all go home happy. And the responsibility of 24/7 dog owning? That can wait.