LOCAL DOG WALKER WALKS THE WALK
Interviewed by Jo Reynolds
How long have you lived in the area?
26 years. I was born in Manchester but when I was seven my mother came back to London to look after her father with my two brothers. My grandfather was originally from Nigeria and came to London and became a road sweeper.
What do you like about it?
I love the people. Everyone talks to each other and it’s a real good community. Owning a dog I feel bridges a gap between people.
Dogs leave paw prints on your heart
What was your first experience of dogs?
I bought Foxy for my girlfriend at the time, but unfortunately she was too busy to look after her. When we parted ways, I kept Foxy and, soon after, she had puppies, one of which was Major. Two years after, Foxy had more puppies, one of which was Gizmo. Unfortunately Gizmo is the only one left as I lost his sister (Major) last year and his mother (Foxy) this year. That was a very sad time for me, but I gained comfort knowing they had good lives. To be honest with you, before I had dogs in was a bit lost in life. If you’ve ever owned a dog, they leave paw prints on your heart.
Do you have a favourite breed?
It used to be Staffs but since becoming a dog walker I go for personality rather than breed. I’ve become breed blind. I’ll take on any dog because they’re all beautiful to me.
Have you ever been bitten?
No, I’ve been nipped but nothing bad. You don’t have to shout and scream to take control but show them who’s boss by being assertive.
What got you into the dog walking business?
People saw me with three well-behaved dogs and assumed I was a dog walker. One day this gentleman approached me and asked me to walk his dog, and now I’ve got 55 customers. I don’t walk all the dogs weekly, but I walk 10–20 per day. I’ve seen some dog walkers being pulled in all directions or putting dogs in cars or vans but I don’t do that. I prefer to walk the dogs to the park from their house. I have seen good and bad dog walkers. Some bring water for the dogs and some don’t. I tend to use my own leads as I know they won’t break and I buy dog toys on a regular basis. I have recently purchased cameras so I can take pictures of my customers' pets. You have to be professional, have insurance and be police checked. I myself have studied canine psychology and canine first aid.
Do some breeds have distinctive traits?
Hounds always stare into the distance searching for something. Terriers are wanderers and are always scavenging. Lapdogs like to stay very close. Customers trust me to match the dogs up in the best groups. I usually match the dogs up depending on their traits and speed and ability.
Should dog owners require a licence?
Everyone is entitled to own a dog, but not everyone has the skills to own a dog. To own a dog, you must care for it, love it and give it affection. Some owners think their dog needs to experience motherhood. Breeding should be left to experts as some owners have no idea when they're spreading dangerous hereditary conditions. My opinion is a puppy should be sold by a professional breeder and the puppy should be already neutered. Think of all the poor dogs dumped in shelters because the owners can’t afford vet bills due to the dogs having hereditary conditions.
Can people be classed as either dog people or cat people?
I believe cats are for people with busy lives. Dogs need cuddles but cats don’t really get depressed if let alone. Dogs are always waiting for you when you come home. If I didn’t come home to Gizmo I’d be quite lonely. Cats don’t always hang around for you. Nighttime is their time, but I’d love a cat. I love it when cats and dogs get on. They can have a real special bond.
Your job didn’t exist a generation ago. Is it a sign of changing times?
With the rise in the cost of living, people are forced to have careers instead of families but, as we all want something to love, we get a pet to fill the gap. I class Gizmo as my little boy.
Have you never wanted a child, Deek Junior?
Believe me, I’ve been trying. But if I’m not meant to have my own children, I want to have a stable home so I’m able to adopt.
If you had the choice would you prefer the company of dogs or people?
Dogs, one hundred per cent. That’s maybe why I’m still single.
With which person would you most like to go for a walk?
I have to be careful here because I know my mum is proud of what I do but I’d really like to walk with my nan, my mum’s mum, Gillian. She lives in Manchester. I’d love to walk with her so she can see how I conduct my business. I try to be professional at all times as I am in the public eye a lot. I am polite and respectful to everyone at all times. I would like my nan to see that.
Thank you, Deek. It’s been a real pleasure to meet you.
Interviewed September 2016
Headshot by Teresa Walton © teresawaltonphotos.com