Hundreds of satisfied clients and 8½ years in the business have made Kelsey DiGiacobbe one of the highest-rated dog walkers and pet sitters in the county. The Laguna Niguel resident is a one-woman dynamo, walking pups one household at a time between visits to other critters, including her own dogs—two miniature dachshunds named Tucker and, of course, PeeWee.
How do you split your time between dog walking and pet sitting?
Dog walking is what I call my bread and butter—it’s usually Monday through Friday for people who are at work and can’t walk their dogs. Pet sitting is more seasonal, when people tend to take vacations, and might involve dog walking or just visits to feed and play with the animals.
Does that include cats?
About a quarter of the business is cat sitting. I look forward to the cat visits because they are a relief physically. It’s nice to just play with a cat with a laser pointer after a busy day of walking.
How much time do you typically spend walking?
I probably walk for five to six hours on a busy day. That’s not including traveling or anything else. I have no idea how many miles I do. I don’t bother putting on makeup anymore—I’m just going to sweat it off!
Do you ever look after other types of animals?
Birds, chickens, rabbits. I looked after some goats when I used to live in Fullerton.
How about your own dogs?
I plan my work schedule so that I don’t leave them at home for more than five hours a time. I was getting so busy at one point that I had the thought of hiring a dog walker for my own dogs! Then I realized that was nuts.
Any celebrity clients?
I’ve had clients who were big on Instagram. The dogs, I mean. There are two mini dachshunds from Brea named Dash and Piper that have (14 thousand) followers. And State Senator Josh Newman was a client for five years when I was in north O.C. He has three feisty Chihuahuas.
Advice for someone who might want to start a dog walking or pet sitting business?
Some people say, “Oh I want your job—I hate people. I want to work with animals.” But the thing is, I work with people too. I’m always interacting with the (human) clients. Some are even home while I’m there—maybe they work from home, maybe they are physically unable to walk the dog. Also, it’s a dirty job. I’m covered in bruises from being jumped on. You have to have patience. Sometimes the animals are so nervous at first. You have to stay calm and take your time. If it takes me half an hour to get the leash on a dog the first couple of times, that’s OK.
Any other lessons you’ve learned along the way?
I was walking a pair of Bernese mountain dogs—big dogs. The first time went OK. The second time, a cat ran by and they took off. Most people would probably let go of the leash at that point. But I couldn’t do that—I was responsible for their safety. So I was basically skiing across the grass. Luckily the cat disappeared and I gained control. But I realized that I probably shouldn’t be walking dogs that weigh more than I do.