A Dog's Eye View Of The Economic Recovery
Next month will mark six years since the official end of the Great Recession. There are many measures and signs of recovery and today ideastream Reporter David Molpus sniffs out one of them with the help of a trusted friend.
DEE SHEDLOW: "Come here cutes..."
That's dog walker Dee Shedlow picking up my dog Willie and some of his pals - Pandi, Finn, Ginger and Tanner - for a trip to Forest Hill Park.
SHEDLOW: "Willie come on. Pandi let's go. Good girl."
Shedlow, a former medical researcher, takes four different groups of 5 or 6 dogs at a time on walks and runs every weekday. Business for her company, Safe At Home Pet Care, is good but when the recession hit virtually all her clients cut back or cancelled. It got really bad the summer of 2008.
SHEDLOW: "And it was, it was a little scary. Ya know, honest to goodness I thought I was gonna go down the toilet. I thought oh I'm going to have to go back to sitting in an office all day long and I don't know that I can do that."
SOUND OF DOG PANTS:
SHEDLOW: "Come on Tanner"
But within a few months of that scare - clients starting coming back, and new clients started calling - enough that she took on two more full-time dog walkers.
SHEDLOW: "I found that my services were more in demand. I don't know if it's because people took second jobs, or two people in a house starting working or committed to be gone for longer but I was busier than ever."
CHRIS RAMSAY: "Pefect. So he comes out behind her. (door shuts) Just gentle walking, verses racing her out."
Chris Ramsay, of Shaker Hound Academy, says he didn't see any dip in demand for his dog training services during the recession. Here he's teaching Lauren Dominico and her 1 year old dog Andy the proper etiquette for exiting from the house - as the so-called "pack leader" Dominico always has to be in front of her dog.
RAMSAY: "He's just gotta be calm and collected. When the door opens he can't pass by her. It's not ok for him to do that."
It's not uncommon for Ramsay to be seen walking five of his canine pupils around the neighborhood - all of them off leash and at heel. That's kept his customer base strong. So did the Polar Vortex two years ago. He had to work seven days a week to keep up.
RAMSAY: "Because everybody stopped walking their dogs. 'It's too cold. Can't walk my dog. Just let 'em out for a little bit.' Well, dogs being canines and patrollers and hunters, if they don't get to do their job, they go a little crazy.
SOUNDS OF DOG PANTS, RAMSAY SHUSES DOG AND SNAPS FINGERS; THE DOG QUIETS INSTANTLY.
When money's tight people do cut back on expenses. But Ramsay says his clients don't necessarily see dog training as a luxury. Sometimes its a necessity - even at $75 an hour.
My final stop on this unscientific survey of the dog care economy was at Rainbow Veternary Clinic in Cleveland Heights. Dr Linda Mitchell, Willie's vet, says she did see a decline in business, especially annual check-ups, vaccinations and other preventative care.
LINDA MITCHELL: "So we've just now started to see patients we haven't seen in 3 or 4 years. Maybe they had bad teeth for 3 or 4 years but they hadn't been able to do anything about it. Now they can."
Dr. Mitchell suspects that's because more clients have jobs and can afford the pet care. She still has room in her appointment book though.
A survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association last year showed only 51% of vets were working at full capacity and that was the good news. In 2012 only 35% were doing so.
If we can measure the strength of the economy in dog health, it has more wag than bark but behavior is uneven.
So that's how the people are doing six years after the recession officially ended? How about the dogs?
DR. MITCHELL: "Oh, I think the animals have made it ok. I don't think animals feel the recession. They probably are feeling less tension because their people are feeling less tension and they are very big on picking up on our stress. They just want to be loved and fed and get belly rubs and spend time on the couch with their people."
Yep, I could get used to that.
SOUND OF HOUND DOG HOWLS