“It was pigeons that started it all, not dogs.” So begins Kate MacDougall’s charming coming-of-age memoir, London’s Number One Dog-Walking Agency. After knocking the heads off some ugly porcelain pigeons at her desk in the antiques department of an auction house, she decided to change careers—and, it must be said, her life. She’d recently had a conversation with a dog walker, so she chose that as her next job. Her mother was blunt: “This is a GHASTLY mistake.”
Still, MacDougall plunged in. Her first client was an impossibly energetic Jack Russell named Frank (a girl) who loved her special ball more than anything. It started fabulously but didn’t end well—a Rottweiler ate Frank’s ball—and with that first mishap, the young entrepreneur began to grasp that while dog walking sounded simple enough, there were challenges galore when it came to getting clients, keeping them happy and making enough money to live on.
As MacDougall figured out her new career, she realized that humans were often harder to handle, especially where their beloved “dog children” were concerned. One owner sent a stern email with the subject line “Mud.” It read, “Winston is NOT allowed in mud—as you know. I presume this was an awful accident?” Needless to say, the blissfully mud-rolling Winston had not been consulted about this rule.
Each chapter of this lively memoir features a dog (or two), some humans, adventures, laughter, tears and a running tally of how many dogs MacDougall has walked (beginning with one in 2006 and ending with 100 in 2014). There were some setbacks, including the 2008 recession. But there was love and growth, too, as she and her boyfriend married and acquired their own dog, Mabel.
If MacDougall is as skilled with dogs as she is with a pen, it’s no wonder her agency became number one. London’s Number One Dog-Walking Agency bounds along with the energy of a rambunctious pup and exudes the wisdom of a beloved canine with an old soul (you know the type). MacDougall’s writing sparkles with humor, joy and wit. And for dog lovers, of course, the best part is: It’s all about dogs.