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Dog walking becomes the newest hustle in town

By XN Iraki | August 25th 2021
By XN Iraki | August 25th 2021

A man walks a calf size dog along Lenana Road in Nairobi's Kilimani area [Phillip Orwa, Standard]

An advert somewhere in the leafy suburb of Loresho calls for a dog walker.

The job description is not given, but it is probably about taking the dog for a walk every day. I’m not sure how many times. 

Such jobs were rare in Kenya, but someone who lived in Britain told me that by law, a dog must be taken for a walk every day. But why do we need dog walkers now? 

Dog walking is now a status symbol. Owning a pet is cool.  I nowadays meet lots of Kenyans and foreigners walking their dogs and some running. It’s not so surprising that some of the dog walkers are very young men and women. They are quick to adopt new status symbols including cross-racial children.

Modernity is about status symbols and we keep inventing or adopting new symbols. Cars are nowadays everywhere, they ceased to be status symbols and so are residences. We want something visible like a dog.  Rarely can you stop a car to see who is inside, but you can see the dog walker or the dog itself.  

Even the antiquated horse is a status symbol, way above the cars and other “dead symbols.”  The dog is hard to copy as a symbol, just check the cost of dog food. You need to have enough space to keep it and walk it too. Pet dogs are pricy too. Rearing dogs is a very lucrative business nowadays. 

The dog owners beyond the status symbols see it as a companion, as we age and children leave home. For the youngsters, it could be a coded message that children can wait. 

In New York, a dog walker can earn about $10-150 (Sh1,080-Sh16,200) per hour, my majuu (abroad) sources tell me.  I am yet to receive feedback on a typical dog walker’s pay in Kenya. 

We can extrapolate dog walking into economic analysis.  Does the advert for dog walkers indicate that Kenya is slowly becoming a developed country? Remember dogs used to be a source of security in most homes but are now mostly pets. I can recall how mesmerised I was when a mzungu once introduced a dog to me along with his children. 

Does dog walking symbolize inequality as some people move ahead economically as others struggle to get the basics? Let’s talk to dog walkers and owners. What do dog walking and ownership mean to you?


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