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  • Writer's pictureNora Curry

London's Number One Dog-Walking Agency

"We had been through turmoil and upheaval, a national crisis that rocked our confidence and made us question our priorities, but once all that dust had settled, once we remembered who we were again, we saw our dogs standing there, steady, dependable, their breath still awful and their farts just as bad, and we knew that, when all was said and done, our dogs made us happy... because they are a symbol of everything that is wholesome and right and true in the world: constancy, loyalty, love. We all needed reminding of that."

Kate MacDougall penned the above words about Londoners beginning to awaken from the 2008 recession, but might they resonate now just a tad (if you're a dog lover, that is)? Now a journalist and mother of both dogs and humans, MacDougall uses her newly published memoir (London's Number One Dog-Walking Agency) to recount her years running a dog-walking agency, from the time when professional dog walking was virtually non-existent through its boom across the pond. The book's charm is that it is both humorous and heartfelt, scathing and sarcastic yet deeply earnest. Throughout the Covid-19 and its quarantine, many a person across the globe may have gotten out of bed and outside just to walk the dog or may have found peace only when outdoors seeing the world through a canine's eyes. Whether it's a recession or a pandemic that has made you anxious or socially distant, you're not alone, and Kate MacDougall is here to remind you that being a person is hardbut fear not: she's going to be funny while doing it.


After flubbing an unfulfilling job at Sotheby's once again, MacDougall decided, against her traditional mother's wishes and her dog-skeptical boyfriend's to launch a dog-walking agency in London. The idea was driven by a lifelong love of dogs, but it soon became apparent to the entrepreneur that she had really gotten herself into the people business. And thus we're off, into a narrative that takes us through nearly a decade of the author's personal life as well as into the home of some of London's wealthy and, quite frankly, most ridiculous residents. MacDougall talks a lot about the importance of the dogs, how they bring us out of ourselves with their abundant joy, unencumbered by Panic the way she and so many other humans often are. But again and again, hers is a story about peopleher own search for a bustling family life to replace the one she missed growing up, interwoven with a witty review of London's dog owners across a wide variety of neighborhoods. From visiting American VIPs to Russian oligarchs to young native Londoners with unrelenting sets of demands, MacDougall and her recruited walkers tackled the best and the worst of caring for dogs: the fulfilling moments of bringing dogs out of their shells and forming bonds and the less fulfilling moments of cleaning up diarrhea, picking up the dry cleaning, and becoming entangled in jealously-inspired spying missions.


The title won't mislead you if you're fond of the canine species; London's Number One Dog-Walking Agency is indeed about dogs. But more than anything, it's about growing up. Caught between her mother's expectations of gravy boats and secretarial ambitions and self-comparisons to her own often more financially and domestically stable clients, MacDougall feels like she's far from the ephemeral concept of adulthood. It's not just financial and employment stability that she seeks. The author writes of London, "Unless you're born there, or in another city, you are always aware of the calling back to the soil." Yes, there is a frantic moment when she's seeking a (highly insured) dog that one of her walkers let bound off in the city, but throughout the entire book, she is seeking a true feeling of home, of settling somewhere with a full and bustling family and "a sky so clear and studded with stars that it looked like a pot of glitter had been lobbed into the air." You'll have to read her memoir to find out if she ever starts to feel like she has achieves adulthood or a sky of glittery stars, but here's one spoiler for you: no matter how much of an adult you are, the quality of your character might just be measurable by the way you treat your dog. And their walkers, of course.


Click here to request MacDougall's memoir for a read that is both light and thoughtful.

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