Bow Wow Wow

Her business is always picking up

By Magazine staff  |  Photos by LaKaye Mbah
Zimmerman walking dogs

Kelly Zimmerman, ’99, may not always be looking out for number one. But she always watches for number two.

As co-founder of Walk the Dog, a dog walking and pet sitting business in Baltimore, Zimmerman has to be ready to scoop up after her panting, tail-wagging clients—using biodegradable bags, of course. And her customers are always delighted to see her, greeting her enthusiastically with happy barks and ready tongues when she arrives at their homes.

After graduating with a psychology degree, Zimmerman worked as a temp before taking a position with an advertising agency. When the agency closed, she started casually walking dogs with her friends. As the demand for dog walkers led her to make it a full-time occupation, Zimmerman and two friends launched Walk the Dog, now one of the largest dog walking businesses in Baltimore. Each of the more than 20 dog walkers walks 10-15 dogs a day.

Doggedly Determined

Not every aspect of running your own business is a walk in the park, and Zimmerman is happy to turn to her husband, T.J. Klement, ’98, for help with accounting and payroll. Klement runs a photo finishing business, FotoImage, in Reston, Va.

“It’s a lot of work, but I really, really love it,” Zimmerman said. She has learned to market the business through veterinarians and pet stores and respond to hecklers who yell, “Pick up that poop!” Hazards of the job come with the weather and overly exuberant dogs—as claw marks on a leg and bruises on an arm demonstrate. She has only had to turn away one dog who kept biting her; most are thrilled when she arrives and offers a walk—a highlight of any dog’s day.

“We usually do a half hour. It’s enough to get a little sweaty. It’s enough to get a ‘one’ and a ‘two’ out.” Zimmerman laughed as she described what she considers a real treat for a dog walker: “Sometimes if I’m walking dogs and they all poop at the same time I only have to use one bag. That’s like a special occasion.”

What does a dog walker do when it rains? “I get wet,” she said. “I get a rain jacket and umbrella and then I’ll try to get the dogs to go outside and go to the bathroom. Then we’ll come inside and play.”

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