This week’s latest call began with a chance encounter, when a Worcester Magazine reporter looked down the sidewalk as he strolled through Elm Park and noticed a business card reading ‘Professional Dog Walking’ lying face up on the sidewalk. This business card belonged to Michael Cronin, who spends his afternoons walking dogs in Worcester’s many parks part-time. Last Call called the phone number on this card and caught up with Cronin to chat about dog walking apps, furry friends and the city he calls home.
Can you tell us about your current gig?
I only have about five clients in Worcester and I can cycle there. I guess it’s not ironic, but I wrote the word “professional” to reassure that my business was going to be professional. I like being independent, and it’s easier for me to do that and more low-tech. I just meet the person, usually by text, and keep all the profits. I do not take photos or videos. That’s how I like to do. I wanted to go do it myself last fall, which seems a long way off now. I had the idea to do it in the summer and really started working last fall.
Did you also walk dogs before that?
I was doing the dog walking apps before that, Wag! and Rover. Few people are on Rover. Wag is much easier, but my Wag days were when I decided I had to go. I was in Boston and took many walks, sometimes two a day, and eventually got kicked off the app. Their criteria for expulsion are quite broad, so I had three different cases of “I can’t do this, I can’t do that”. The error is human. I don’t miss the app and it was really chill to be let go.
A lot of people use Wag to earn some extra cash by taking care of their neighbors’ pets. What kinds of things would you advise them not to do, given your experience with the app?
I had a dog off leash, I had a big, big dog that bit a smaller dog on a walk, and the third thing that got me fired was bringing a dog back to a doorway of a house when I was supposed to be at the other door. I brought the dog down the hall and had to go to the other end of the house. Sometimes a dog doesn’t want to be walked, like the off-leash dog. It was a tiny little dog that let me down.
What types of dogs do you walk?
I have a golden retriever who is amazing, no problem. I have a Shih Tzu from time to time. There is a Boston terrier. I wish I had more. It’s just nice to exercise, for me and the animal, and then I can also befriend him. I can’t walk some dogs. Huskies are really big, pit bulls are really big. I haven’t walked a Doberman, but…
Do you notice any differences between walking dogs here and walking them in Boston?
I got more than one range in Boston. I’ve also had two at a time, walking two dogs at a time. I think before I had to leave the app I had done over 50 walks. I miss it, and I miss being used to being able to do that. Worcester has been better for me than Boston. When I came back to Worcester I really wanted to enjoy it and get around, meet people, do what I can, and start a fun business where I can make friends – human friends and animal friends.
What else do you do when you’re not walking the dogs?
I have two other part-time jobs, and then this one. It looks like I’m going to get a full time job, I don’t want to specify where. I add a lot more stuff to everything I start doing, but it was something I really wanted to do. I try to be as flexible as possible, and I never said no at any time. I don’t get any weird requests, nothing that would be weird. I was lucky.
Are you from the area? Did you grow up in an animal-friendly home?
I’m from Worcester County, Lunenburg. I didn’t grow up with dogs. I didn’t grow up in a city where there would be all these people you can meet. That’s what I love about Worcester, the size. It is the second largest city in New England. I don’t go out of town. My wheelset is my bike, and it can take me anywhere in Worcester. That’s what’s great.
Among the cities where you lived, which one did you like the most?
I would say Worcester feels more at home than anywhere I’ve been. I’m turning 30 next month, and the best times of my 20s were easily at Worcester. It’s still pretty awesome. Boston is fine, Fitchburg is fine, but I think Worcester is my favorite.
At Worcester Magazine, we can understand that. What makes it your favorite?
There is breadth in Worcester. There’s room for you to do your thing. I think it’s a clean city and has many strengths. For me, parks are great. Elm Park, Crompton, Green Hill Park, it goes on and on. That’s something I love about dog walking – it really gets me out there and takes me somewhere where something good could happen. Dogs are like rock stars, and we’re getting a big reaction among the kids. Everyone is usually very happy to see a dog, especially if it’s a surprise. You are around the corner with a dog.
What range of people have you been lucky enough to meet while walking dogs?
Can’t be too specific, but definitely nice people. People who want their pets to have a good experience. It’s social. I meet people, and that way it gets me out of the house. I like to do everything, really. I don’t know how to tame lions, but I can walk most dogs.
Readers looking for a dog walker can contact Cronin by emailing him at email@example.com or texting him at (978) 602-0326.