Healing From Childhood Trauma One Dog at a Time


I hopped off my bike while our instructor conducted the post-class cooldown. Kate blotted her forehead with one of Equinox’s famous eucalyptus-scented towels. “Where are you off to in such a rush?”

“I have a dog-walking client at eleven.” I looked over my shoulder at the clock on the wall. I had fifteen minutes to shower and pick up one of my regulars, Jude, an adult Havanese on Eighty-Sixth Street.

Kate furrowed her brow. “You walk dogs?” she asked, incredulous.

“Yes.” I snatched my phone and water bottle from their respective holders, not looking at her.

“Like, for a living?”

I bristled. Gotta love the Upper East Side, man. “Yes. Part-time.”

I dashed from the studio, partly out of necessity, mostly from frustration. That exchange is not uncommon where I live. It’s either that or people cock their heads, confused at the idea of, you know, working. I belonged to a luxury gym near Park Avenue, after all. Why did I have to walk dogs?

Because I love it. Because it fills a void inside of me. Because it makes me feel like I matter. And, yes, because I need the money. Coaching and running a small business are lucrative ways to earn a living, but cash flow for both can be, and often is, very volatile. Having a job that allows me to control exactly how much I make and pays every week at the same time is a necessity if I want to pay bills on time.

By the time I get to Jude, I’ve forgotten about Kate’s comment. Nothing matters in those moments. For thirty minutes, I am consumed by this four-legged creature that rushes out the door, her Mom still holding the leash, to greet me.

“Here she is!” Jude’s Mom says. “She gets so excited when she sees you.”

The feeling is mutual.


I grew up privileged and still, when I walk into some of these Uptown apartments to pick up a dog, I feel out of place. Picture every apartment from Gossip Girl. The chandeliers. The cast-iron spiral staircases. The mahogany banisters. The marble.

Another comparison is a now-famous cinematic moment from the movie The Devil Wears Prada. Picture it: Andie Sachs tip-toes into her boss Miranda Priestly’s pricey townhouse. In her sweaty hands, she clutches The Book, a mock-up of Runway magazine’s next issue. She’s not sure where she’s supposed to leave it for Miranda’s review.

And I’m Andie, nervously scouring the perimeter of the expansive kitchen, terrified of walking about too much and tripping off an alarm, looking for poop bags and a leash.

One of my favorite clients, a Labradoodle named Leia, has her own bedroom, complete with a child’s bed and toy chest. Before I drop her off, I enter the room to refill her water bo