Students walk doggos all over city as part-time job

by Joseph Boudreau / Beacon Correspondent • October 27, 2016

Courtesy of Reed Kneski
Courtesy of Reed Kneski

Imagine the brisk October air on your cheekbones, a scarf tossed over your shoulder, the smell of rotting leaves, which is oddly comforting, wafting up your nostrils on an autumn stroll in the city of Boston. And bonus—there’s a furry, four-legged mate romping at your side. Double bonus—you’re getting paid.

Meet the app of your animal-adoring, skimpy-wallet-bearing, collegiate dreams: Baroo. The  technology, launched by two women, is like a Tinder for dog-walkers and pet-owners, providing a match made in doggy heaven for students looking to make some money by caring for Bostonian’s pets.  

 In Boston, Baroo employs about 50 dog walkers. The app has a clean and user-friendly layout, making navigation easy for customers and dog-walkers alike. 

Reed Kneski and Emily O’Leary, two Emerson junior visual media arts majors, discovered they could make money while doing one of their favorite hobbies. Now, Kneski and O’Leary walk at least five dogs a day and get paid $12 an hour to do the duty, and pick up doodie.

“This job is definitely way better than retail or food services, which I’ve worked in for too long, said O’Leary. “Also, you work with dogs, so it’s therapeutic.”

 A typical day for a Baroo employee consists of walking all different breeds of dogs, in all different parts of Boston. Baroo allows its workers to choose what areas in Boston they would like to walk, and also which breed of dogs they would prefer to walk with. Dog owners create profiles for their pets, explaining their breed, temperament, eating habits, and fears. Dog walkers then can metaphorically swipe right for these dogs and then possibly be matched. 

 Supervisors—the managers of this currently local app—handle most of the scheduling, and it's typical for first-time pet parents to meet their dog-walkers. In this "meet and greet" session, pet parents will introduce their dog(s), his or her habits, and the things they would like the dog-walkers to do each time they come to visit.

 Pet parents have a choice of a 15, 30, or 60-minute walk. However, during that slotted time, dog walkers do a lot more than walking.

 "After the walk, I text the pet parents saying, 'Hey, Mia was a little slower at the beginning of the walk, low energy, but she sped up as it went along,’” said Kneski, “Then I'll say whether or not they went to the bathroom, and some other things." 

 These other “things” include sending a text to the owner prior to the walk, saying you’ve arrived at the house, a refreshing the pet’s water and food bowls, administering animal medication, snapping a picture of the pup walking outside, and issuing a report card updating the pet’s parents on their dog's progress. It’s certainly a stacked list of responsibilities, but pet parents love it.

 With detailed updates on all parts of the walk and assurance that their dogs were fed and cared for properly, pet parents have no doubts that they're getting the best care and love for their pets. Nowhere is this more apparent than on social media and Yelp reviews, where the app averages an almost perfect five-star rating, and yet their company is still in its infancy stages. 

Although the app is only a year old, it has expanded to three major cities—Boston, Chicago, and Washington, DC—and plans on spreading even further. 

 "My supervisors always say it was so different a year ago. There were maybe 15 people walking in all," recalled Kneski. 

 This app is giving many college students the opportunity to make money while taking a stroll through new areas of Boston with some happy dog company.