From 10-pound terriers to Newfoundlands that weigh well over 100 pounds, Hope Fraser of Orleans has walked them all.
Fraser, 26, owns Walks & Wags Dog Walking Cape Cod, a small dog-walking business.
The idea for the business came a few years ago when Fraser was living in Belmont and working as a nanny. Being out of the house all day, she was forced to put her own yellow lab, Mia, into day care all day, “and it was costing me an arm and a leg.” To find out more about other options, she took a job at Active Paws in Belmont, a company that specializes in dog walking and dog sitting. Fast forward a couple of years to when Fraser returned to her roots on the Cape. (She is a 2010 graduate of Chatham High School and her parents and sister still live in town.) The problems again came up about leaving Mia at home for hours—and this time, no solution seemed to be available in any price range.
“I didn’t have anywhere to put my own dog when I was on the beach,” she said during an interview in the West Chatham Dunkin’ Donuts. So in May 2017 Fraser established Walks & Wags, which will mark its second anniversary this May. The business is registered in Chatham.
Fraser specializes in clients from the Chatham, Harwich, Orleans and Brewster areas. She has taken a course in canine CPR and first aid. “Dogs are animals, and they will get into stuff,” she notes—something any dog owner knows only too well. Her CPR certification course also covered topics such as how to safely break up a dog fight.
As she got established, Fraser left flyers at groomers and veterinarians. She has also advertised her services over Instagram, Facebook and Google.
Her typical method is to set up a “meet and greet” with a new client. At that meeting she meets the dog and gets “the lowdown”—knowledge of the dog’s food, equipment such as bowls, as well as a key to the house or code to the garage. She picks up and drops off the dogs at their homes—an essential service for people who are away from home working during the day.
Various plans are available. A 20-minute group walk is $15. This will typically be through the dog’s own general neighborhood. A 45-minute group walk is $25. (For an additional $5, a second dog in the same home can be added.) For the 45-minute walks, Fraser will drive around and pick up her load of dogs and head out to the beach. During the off-season when dogs are allowed on the beach, Fraser will let them run off-leash. She says she has no trouble getting the group back together and on-leash again for their trip home because “they are pack animals.” Also, Fraser has a pocketful of Charlee Bear natural treats that come in four flavors including one that seems tailored to Cape Cod dogs—turkey liver and cranberries.
A group usually consists of four dogs. She attaches the leashes to harnesses instead of collars because the dogs are easier to control that way. “I want to go and keep everyone together,” she says. When the group visits a park “they kind of just walk. They keep together.” It’s that pack thing again.
As Fraser grew up, her family always had Labradors, golden retrievers and bichon frises. “I always enjoyed dogs,” she says. One of the things she loves about her work is that it keeps her outdoors for most of the day in all types of weather. The dogs in her care get plenty of exercise as well as the opportunity to explore some of the area’s great conservation trails.
Over the months, the dogs have made BFFs in the group. Fraser has observed these friendships and groups these dogs with their favorites. And of course, if the dogs make friends, they can also make enemies.
“All of a sudden someone will go after the same stick and it’s an issue,” she says. But those problems are rare.
At this time of year, many of Fraser’s clients are teachers. When the teachers are off for the summer and no longer need their dogs walked, Fraser will take on summertime dogs. She might get a call from someone who wants to go to Nantucket for the day. She begins her own days at about 9 a.m. and walks straight through to 5:30 p.m., six days a week.
Fraser’s website offers overnight pet sitting at $50 a night but this is a service she may phase out. After two years, her business has grown to the point that she is at a crossroads. Soon she will need to decide whether or not to hire a full-time employee in the summer and whether or not to incorporate as an LLC.
For more information, visit www.walksandwagscc.com or email Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also view a lot of cute dog photos on the website.