Walking the dog has become a booming industry!
By MELISSA DRIBBEN
PHILADELPHIA — Last summer, Rebecca Davis and her boyfriend were at one of the outdoor tables at Vesuvio in Philadelphia, having coffee or wine or whatever, that’s not the point. The point is that when she wasn’t gazing lovingly into his eyes, she noticed a dog getting a short walk around a small park.
“The owners seemed disinterested,” Davis recalls, “and the dog looked frustrated.” Davis is a marathon runner. “I thought, that dog needs a run. Maybe I should start a dog running service.”
Three days later, with her computer-savvy boyfriend’s help, she set up a Web site for Run Philly Dog Run, offering, for $40 an hour, to take dogs for a leashed cardio workout at their pace of choice.
The first person to respond to Davis’ Web site was Zeth Weissman, who owns PhilaPet.com, one of Philadelphia’s largest pet-sitting operations. Zeth and his wife, Deirdre, refugees from the dot-com bust, moved from Boston to Philadelphia in 2003. Deirdre was about to start veterinary school. Looking for a way to make a little money before classes started, she went to a dog park and casually asked around.
Deirdre is now in her fourth year of vet school and Zeth works full-time running the company they formed in 2004. They employ 45 pet sitters and three full-time managers. On Christmas Eve alone, PhilaPets’ crew walked 40 dogs. Last year, their business grossed about $650,000.
This year, Zeth Weissman says, “we’re hoping to make a million.”