Amy Abdelsayed arrives at Joseph Thomas’ apartment for an outing with Princess packing the tools of her trade: Plastic bags in her purse, comfortable shoes on her feet, and Wag, the reason she and Princess are meeting in the first place, on her phone.
Princess has packed a few things for her play date with Abdelsayed, too: An effusively friendly demeanor, enough nervous energy to run a small city, and a tongue that happily will slobber on anybody or anything that comes within range.
Princess is Thomas’ 8-year-old blue pit bull. She and Abdelsayed met through Wag, a smartphone app that has been described as a sort of Uber for dogs that fetches walkers for dogs rather than rides for people. Wag was unveiled in January 2015 and recently came to Las Vegas.
Jonathan Viner, president of Wag, said the service is designed to help busy dog owners whose schedules don’t allow them to walk their dogs as often as their dogs would like or to find fill-in walkers when something arises to prevent them from walking their pets. (Dog sitting and boarding services also are available.)
Wag is available in more than a dozen cities across the country. Why Las Vegas? “It’s always warm, and there’s tons of dogs in Las Vegas,” Viner says.
Thomas moved to Las Vegas from California in February and doesn’t know many people who can serve as fill-in dog walkers. Thomas also cares for his father, works 40 hours a week and runs his custom sports apparel business, “so I have a really busy schedule,” he says.
After discovering Wag through Facebook, he researched the app and decide to give it a try. He’s been using it for about three months to arrange walks for Princess when he works late or can’t walk her himself.
“The nice thing is because it’s a mobile app, it’s on my phone,” he says. “I do business in California, so a week or two weeks ago, I was in L.A. and wasn’t going to make it home to walk my dog, so I scheduled her to be walked.”
Thomas likes that the app allows dog owners to designate preferred walkers and that, if he’s not home when the walker arrives, the walker can gain access to his home by a key stored in a lock box.
Owners can order a 20-minute walk for $14, a 30-minute walk for $20 or an hourlong walk for $30, and walks can be scheduled for regular or recurring days and times, or on-demand with a lead time of as little as 30 minutes, the company says.
Owners even can accompany their dogs virtually by following the walk in real time via smartphone GPS. Dog owners love that, says Abdelsayed, one of Wag’s charter Las Vegas walkers, who also sends the owner a summary of the walk and even photos or videos.
She even can “leave pins and notes when the dog potties, which is pretty important,” Abdelsayed adds. “That’s the most important reason why people want their dogs walked.”
That feature comes into play during Princess’ recent walk with Abdelsayed, whom Thomas has ranked as Princess’ preferred walker and whom Princess apparently has designated as a favorite, too.
Abdelsayed says her outings with Princess always include a stroll around Thomas’ apartment complex, as well as a trip outside it to explore the neighborhood, too. Thomas appreciates that, adding that the one walker so far with whom he was less than enthused just walked Princess around the immediate apartment grounds for 20 minutes.
Princess appreciates the chance to explore. During her walk with Abdelsayed, she pulls forward continually, stopping suddenly only to check out a passing car or explore the scent of something along the way.
For Abdelsayed, walking for Wag is “an easy way to make some extra money. And it’s easy for me. I love dogs.”
Viner estimates that walkers can make as much as $17 per walk, including tips. But, Viner says, “we do a lot of surveys on this, and through all of our surveys and focus groups, we find (walkers’) motivation is because they love dogs. A lot of walkers just think it’s very cool they can have a job that allows them to be outside and exercise.”
Thomas also likes it that Abdelsayed and other Wag walkers have been vetted by the company.
“When I signed up for it, they did a background check and asked for references, and I filled out a questionnaire which was, like, why would I make a good candidate,” Abdelsayed says. “And I know they called my references.”
“Then there are a few quizzes they have you take. It’s everything from how do you put on different harnesses to scenarios about, like, when you’re walking the dog and another dog on a leash is being aggressive. So if you’re not a dog person and don’t know how to handle a dog, it’s going to be very hard to get past this stuff.”
Abdelsayed — who also works in retail and volunteers for an animal rescue organization — says she likes having a job that offers her the latitude to accept or decline assignments based on everything else that’s going in her life.
And, then, there are the dogs she gets a chance to meet.
“One of the fun things I like about this is how different the dogs are,” Abdelsayed says. “If you’re a dog lover, it’s cool because there’s a new dog every day. Princess is one of my favorites.”
Does she have an absolute favorite canine client? “I don’t,” she says, smiling, “only because they’re so cute.”
Contact John Przybys at reviewjournal.com. or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.