Tuesday, 19 January 2021
DOGWALKER Lucy Melzer lives in Greys Hill, Henley, and runs her own business, RG9 Dogs (www.rg9dogs.com)
HAVING started the business at the beginning of 2020, I thought things looked promising until covid-19 arrived on the scene.
I absolutely love my job — spending time with dogs, walking with them as we explore varied and interesting places locally (with a maximum of four dogs at a time). So when the March lockdown happened I was devastated.
When restrictions began to be lifted, I started to breathe a (small) sigh of relief and, towards the end of the summer, things were almost ticking over.
But just as clients were coming back to me with enquiries, we got hit by another lockdown. “Lockdown 2.0” I call it.
The main difference this time is that there are proper government guidelines for dogwalkers. In other words, we are allowed to work. Rules include hand washing before and after, not touching garden gates or doors during pick-up and drop-off, minimising touching dogs, maintaining social distance while walking and dogwalkers using their own leads.
So far, I have not come across any infected household or infected individual and, even if this should happen, the guidelines state that I can still walk their dogs. I just have to walk them individually. So that’s good, at least.
But the main sad thing for me — apart from no doggie cuddles, of course — is that I’m not allowed to use my phone to take photos and videos of the dogs during our walks.
Pictorial content is a big part of what I offer and it kept me busy posting on my business Facebook page and matching Instagram feed.
Clients do really love to see what their pooches get up to on their adventures — where they go, what they see, who they meet. So it’s such a shame that I can’t offer this.
I usually do one dog walk in the morning and one in the afternoon, exploring all the walks around Henley and RG9 villages — anywhere from Hambleden to Hurley and Bix to Binfield Heath.
I continue to love all our doggie adventures, but they are really not the same when I know I have to be careful of letting the dogs mix with other dogs we may come across.
The Government says there are no confirmed instances of transmission of coronavirus from pets to people. However, the virus could be passed from person to person via a surface such as a dog’s fur, collar and lead.
The other thing that concerns me, as a dog lover, is how young dogs — I’ve heard of so many covid puppies — will cope once their owners eventually do go back into the office. I’m really hoping owners have already thought about this. Dogs only have a limited time to get used to all this — roughly six months to two years, according to the Kennel Club of Great Britain. After that, dogs struggle to become well-socialised (ie, happy and confident in their environment, and able to communicate effectively and or appropriately).
Many dogs will have a hard time adjusting to a change in routine unless they have the experience of being left alone for hours at a time, being looked after by other people and experiencing different environments. Being exposed to livestock and wildlife, as well as people wearing glasses, hats and so on, at this age is also vital.
I’m really hoping things will ease on December 2 and we can all get back to a more usual routine. But maybe not.
For the sake of all Henley’s businesses, including mine — and for the sake of all dogs who might desperately need learning experiences while they’re still young enough — I’m keeping my fingers crossed and my paws folded.
23 November 2020
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