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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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15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
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People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

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That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

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2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

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ThinkGeek

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

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4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

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5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

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6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

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7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

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This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

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8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

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9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

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Amazon

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

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10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

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11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

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12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy comping on your mug to worry about humans.

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13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

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14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

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15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

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16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

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17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

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18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

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