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13 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Dog Walkers

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Dog walking is more than just exercise and picking up after your pet. The people who walk your pup are masters at multitasking: while holding a bunch of leashes, they maneuver multiple dogs around a city block or park, checking for danger and making sure the dogs are having a good time. Check out these insights for a glimpse into the lives of professional dog walkers, who routinely deal with everything from canine clothing to random dogs suddenly befriending them.

1. THEY KNOW HOW TO ROCK A FANNY PACK.

Dog walkers need their hands free to hold leashes, open doors, and sometimes control a pack of dogs. That means their tools need to be readily accessible, and a fanny pack is often their tool belt of choice. The gear stashed inside usually includes keys, a phone, plastic bags, extra leashes, treats, collapsible water bowls, and citronella spray (to deter coyotes or aggressive stray dogs).

2. SOME OF THEM ARE ACTUALLY DOG CHAUFFEURS.

Although most dog walkers pick up your dog for a walk, some are more properly referred to as dog drivers. “People call me a dog walker, but because I’m in Los Angeles, I’m really a dog chauffeur,” says Chris Franciosa, the owner of dog walking and pet care company Weezie’s Walkies. “I pick up dogs all over the Westside, drive them to an amazing dog park, and let them frolic and socialize and have a ball.”

3. YOU MIGHT SEE YOUR DOG WALKER ON TV …

Law student Rachel Russell worked as a dog walker in Brooklyn before starting law school. “Many creative people (writers and actors) have day jobs as dog walkers,” she tells mental_floss. Because of the flexible hours and potentially temporary nature of the job, dog walking appeals to creative types who have an irregular schedule or regularly audition for gigs.

4. … BUT DOG WALKING CAN BE A SOLID, FULL-TIME JOB.

“People are usually surprised to hear that dog-walking can be a full-time job that one can make a good living doing,” Christine Neely, the owner of San Diego’s Have a Ball Pet Sitting & Dog Walking, says. Although not all dog walkers are able to earn enough income to make it their full-time job, many dog walkers in larger metropolitan areas can make it work. “I make a living, support my family of four, and even bought a house in Los Angeles while putting my wife through graduate school,” Franciosa says.

5. SOME OF THEIR CLIENTS TRY TO GET AWAY WITH NOT PAYING.

Although dog walkers have big responsibilities, some clients see them more as friends than employees. “People will sometimes try to get away with not paying their dog walkers, viewing the dog walkers as their friends,” Russell says. It should go without saying, but even if your dog walker clearly loves their job and your dog, they need to earn money just like any other worker, so don’t stiff them.

6. THEY CAN SPOT EARLY SIGNS OF ILL HEALTH.

Because dog walkers spend time with your dog on a daily basis, they can quickly spot unusual behaviors. Jordan Kaplan, the owner of New York City’s Petaholics, explains to mental_floss that dog walkers may be the first to spot ticks, rashes, or unusual spots on a dog. “Often we see things before their parents do. Diarrhea is common, whether they ate something or picked up something,” Kaplan says. And if your dog develops a limp that slowly gets worse or has difficulty urinating, your dog walker can tell you and suggest that you bring your dog to a veterinarian.

7. THEY’RE PROBABLY FAMILIAR WITH CANINE CLOTHING.

Some dog owners have specific sartorial requirements for their dogs, depending on the weather or the season. Before taking these dogs on a walk, dog walkers may have to spend extra time fitting four little boots onto a dog’s paws or maneuvering a doggie sweater onto a pooch. It can be time-consuming, but the results are usually pretty cute.

8. THEY APPRECIATE HOW MUCH YOU TRUST THEM.

“The amount of trust given to dog walkers is impressive: you’re giving a stranger your key and entrusting them with your beloved pet,” Russell says. Dog owners entrust dog walkers with their pet's health, safety, and security, which is already a lot of responsibility. Additionally, most dog walkers keep a copy of their clients’ house keys so they can pick up and drop off each dog at home. That’s a lot of trust, and dog walkers know (and appreciate) it.

9. THEY MIGHT AVOID WALKING CERTAIN BREEDS.

According to Kaplan, most dog walkers will work with any breed, but some petite dog walkers ask for smaller breeds so they don’t have to handle a dog that’s larger than they are.

But size isn’t the only thing that matters. Dog trainer Ted Terroux tells Care.com that dog walkers should consider how their temperament meshes with certain dog breeds. “Some breeds tend to be territorial and some are predatory, while others are adventurous or independent,” he says. A laid-back, passive person might not be best suited to walk an aggressive guard dog, for example.

10. RANDOM DOGS BEFRIEND THEM WHEN THEY’RE OFF THE CLOCK.

One dog walker in San Francisco reveals that dogs often approach dog walkers when they’re off-duty, treating them as if they’re another dog. Whether these dogs are responding to scent on the dog walker’s clothing or intuitively sense the presence of a dog lover, most dog walkers don’t mind being one of the pack.

11. THEY TAKE PHOTOS OF YOUR DOG.

You might have a ton of photos of your dog stored on your phone, but your dog walker most likely has some too. When they’re out and about with your dog, some dog walkers can’t resist the urge to take a selfie with your pup. As dog walker Nicole Zalat writes, dog walkers enjoy sharing photos of their day with their friends and family: “Your dog gave me a high five? Shared ... I love walking your dog, and I love telling everyone about her.”

12. THEY’RE EXPERTS AT READING CANINE BODY LANGUAGE.

Dog walkers are always on alert for potential dangers—coyotes, stray dogs, or kids who might run up and startle their charges. Good dog walkers are also highly attuned to canine body language and can tell when a dog is frightened or ready to bite. When something goes awry, they know to walk quickly to the other side of the street or distract their dogs.

13. THEY CARE DEEPLY ABOUT YOUR DOG’S SAFETY AND HAPPINESS.

Most dog walkers truly love animals, and they care very much about your dog’s quality of life. Dog walkers may sing to your dog, hug and kiss it, or call it special nicknames. Frankly, dog walkers may even enjoy spending time with your dog as much as you do.

All photos via iStock.

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Pop Culture
5 Bizarre Comic-Con News Stories from Years Past
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At its best, Comic-Con is a friendly place where like-minded people can celebrate their pop culture obsessions, and each other. And no one can make fun of you, no matter how lazy your cosplaying might be. You might think that at its worst, it’s just a series of long lines of costumed fans and small stores crammed into a convention center. But sometimes, throwing together 100,000-plus people from around the world in what feels like a carnival-type atmosphere where anything goes can have less than stellar results. Here are some highlights from past Comic-Con-tastrophes.

1. MAN IN HARRY POTTER T-SHIRT STABS ANOTHER MAN IN THE FACE—WITH A PEN

In 2010, two men waiting for a Comic-Con screening of the Seth Rogen alien comedy Paul got into a very adult argument about whether one of them was sitting too close to the other. Unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion with words, one man stabbed the other in the face with a pen. According to CNN, the attacker was led away wearing handcuffs and a Harry Potter T-shirt. In the aftermath, some Comic-Con attendees dealt with the attack in an oddly fitting way: They cosplayed as the victim, with pens protruding from bloody eye sockets.

2. MEMORABILIA THIEVES INVADE NEW YORK

Since its founding in 2006, New York Comic Con has attracted a few sticky-fingered attendees. In 2010, a man stole several rare comics from vendor Matt Nelson, co-founder of Texas’ Worldwide Comics. Just one of those, Whiz Comics No. 1, was worth $11,000, according to the New York Post. A few years later, in 2014, someone stole a $2000 “Dunny” action figure, which artist Jon-Paul Kaiser had painted during the event for Clutter magazine. And those are just the incidents that involved police; lower-scale cases of toys and comics disappearing from booths are an increasingly frustrating epidemic, according to some. “Comic Con theft is an issue we all sort of ignore,” collector Tracy Isenhour wrote on the blog of his company, Needless Essentials, in 2015. “I am here to tell you no more. It’s time for this garbage to stop."

3. CATWOMAN SAVES THE DAY

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Adrianne Curry, winner of the first cycle of America’s Next Top Model, has made a career of chasing viral fame. Ironically, it was at Comic-Con in 2014 that Curry did something truly worthy of attention—though there wasn’t a camera in sight. Dressed as Catwoman, she was posing with fans alongside her friend Alicia Marie, who was dressed as Tigra. According to a Facebook post Marie wrote at the time, a fan tried to shove his hands into her bikini bottoms. She screamed, the man ran off, and Curry jumped to action. She “literally took off after dude WITH her Catwoman whip and chased him down, beat his a**,” Marie wrote. “Punched him across the face with the butt of her whip—he had zombie blood on his face—got on her costume.”

4. MAN POSES AS FUGITIVE-SEEKING INVESTIGATOR TO GET INTO VIP ROOM

The lines at Comic-Con are legendary, so one Utah man came up with a novel way to try and skip them altogether. In 2015, Jonathon M. Wall tried to get into Salt Lake Comic Con’s exclusive VIP enclave (normally a $10,000 ticket) by claiming he was an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and needed to get into the VIP room “to catch a fugitive,” according to The San Diego Union Tribune. Not only does that story not even come close to making sense, it also adds up to impersonating a federal agent, a crime to which Wall pleaded guilty in April of this year and which carried a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In June, prosecutors announced that they were planning to reduce his crime from a felony to a misdemeanor.

5. MAN WALKS 645 MILES TO COMIC-CON, DRESSED AS A STORMTROOPER, TO HONOR HIS LATE WIFE

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In 2015, Kevin Doyle walked 645 miles along the California coast to honor his late wife, Eileen. Doyle had met Eileen relatively late in life, when he was in his 50s, and they bonded over their shared love of Star Wars (he even proposed to her while dressed as Darth Vader). However, she died of cancer barely a year after they were married. Adrift and lonely, Doyle decided to honor her memory and their love of Star Wars by walking to Comic-Con—from San Francisco. “I feel like I’m so much better in the healing process than if I’d stayed home,” he told The San Diego Union Tribune.

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Words
10 Pieces of Lying Lingo from Across the United States
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Maligner. Fabricator. Fibber. Con artist. There are all sorts of ways you can say "liar," but in case you're running out, we’ve worked with the editors at the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) to come up with 10 more pieces of lying lingo to add to your storytelling stash.

1. HASSAYAMPA

This term for a liar originally referred to a gold-rusher in Arizona, according to DARE. It can also be used to describe an old-timer, especially one who likes to exaggerate. The word hassayampa (also hassayamper) comes from the Hassayampa River, which is located in the Grand Canyon State. According to the Dictionary of American Folklore, “There was a popular legend that anyone who drank of the Hassayampa River in Arizona would never again tell the truth.”

2. JACOB

“You’re a Jacob!” you might say to a deceiver in eastern Alabama or western Georgia. This word—meaning a liar, a lie, and to lie—might be based on the Bible story of twin brothers Jacob and Esau. Esau, the elder and firstborn, stood to inherit his parents' estate by law. At the behest of his mother, Jacob deceived their father, blinded in old age, into thinking he was Esau and persuaded him to bestow him Esau’s blessing.

3. LIZA

Liza or Liza Jane can mean a lie or a liar. Hence, to lizar means to lie. Like Jacob, Liza is an eastern Alabama and western Georgia term. However, where it comes from isn’t clear. But if we had to guess, we’d say it’s echoic of lies.

4. STORY

“What a story you are,” you might say to a prevaricator in Virginia, eastern Alabama, or western Georgia. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), story, meaning a liar, is mainly used in the phrase, “You story!” Story as a verb meaning “to give a false or malicious account, lie, tattle,” is an English dialect word, according to DARE, and is chiefly used in the South and South Midland states. “You storied to me about getting a drink,” you might tell someone who stood you up.

5. LOAD

To load or load up means to trick, mislead, or “deceive by yarns or windies,” according to cowboy lingo in northwest Texas. The term, which can also be a noun meaning a lie or liar, might also be heard in northwest Arkansas and the Ozarks.

6. YARN

To spin a yarn, or to tell a long tale, began as nautical slang, according to the OED, and comes from the idea of telling stories while doing seated work such as yarn-twisting. (The word yarn comes from the Old English gearn, meaning "spun fiber, spun wool.") By extension, a yarn is a sometimes marvelous or incredible story or tale, and to yarn means to tell a story or chat. In some parts of the U.S., such as Arkansas, Indiana, Maryland, and Tennessee, to yarn means to lie or tell a falsehood. “Don’t yarn to me!” you might say. Street yarn refers to gossip in New York, Kentucky, and parts of New England.

7. WINDY

Telling a windy in the West? You’re telling an “extravagantly exaggerated or boastful story,” a tall tale, or a lie, says DARE. Wind has meant “vain imagination or conceit” since the 15th century, says OED.

8. LIE

In addition to being a falsehood or tall tale, a lie in the South and South Midland states can refer to the liar himself.

9. STRETCH THE BLANKET

You’ve probably heard of stretching the truth. How about stretching the blanket? This phrase meaning to lie or exaggerate is especially used in the South Midland states. To split the blanket, by the way, is a term in the South, South Midland, and West meaning to get divorced, while being born on the wrong side of the blanket means being born out of wedlock, at least in Indiana and Ohio.

10. WHACK

In the South and South Midland, whack refers to a lie or the act of lying. It might come from the British English colloquial term whacker, meaning anything abnormally large, especially a “thumping lie” or “whopper,” according to the OED. In case you were wondering, wack, as in “crack is wack,” is probably a back-formation from wacky meaning crazy or odd, also according to the OED. Wacky comes from whack, a blow or hit, maybe from the idea of being hit in the head too many times.

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