It was so tempting for Lindsey Grant as she stared at a pile of pills. “Would her antidepressant work for me? Could I steal it?” she recalls.
The medications weren’t from a pal, though, but had been prescribed for a dog in her charge, an Australian shepherd.
A vet had diagnosed the animal as depressed after she took a leap from a third-story window, and put her on a regimen of medication.
Grant was instantly envious. “I have always been on antidepressants, but had no health insurance at the time, so I couldn’t afford them,” Grant recalled, “but she had doggie health insurance.
“It started to feel so bizarre, because I was living a poorer, shabbier life than the dogs I was taking care of,” Grant said, of a gig working as a Bay Area dog nanny that paid her $30 per night. “It was so surreal.”
Surreal is one way to describe the exclusive world of dog nannies; a growing trend for wealthy pet owners to have someone to look after their beloved hound’s every need.
In London, an ex-pat American billionaire advertised for a full-time dog nanny with an annual salary of $127,000 a year.
The agency which did the advertising was so overwhelmed with responses to the anonymous dog owner’s ad that it pulled it shortly after publication.
Grant saw the surreal world up close for several years of dog nannying during, and after, grad school in California a decade ago.
She turned the experience into a memoir, Sleeps with Dogs, named because she sometimes had to bunk down with her charges, in their bed or the owner’s.
Grant stumbled on the role after excelling at part-time dog walking which led to recommendations for contract dog nannying.
Her charges were usually the pets of double-income-no-kids professionals — think lawyers, doctors, architects — who wanted a stand-in to keep their pet reassured, whether they were traveling or simply too busy.
One client lived in a home so large that he complained that he never knew whether or not Grant had taken care of his dog. “So, I had to start leaving little notes to say I’d been there — I constantly saw gardeners, cleaners and contractors, but we’d never bump into each other.”
One of the few families with children for whom she dog-nannied took an extreme approach to the inconvenience of having a pooch in the house.
“The poor little dog went missing, and we launched a search but when we found him, the husband came clean and said ‘I let the dog out, hoping someone would take him, I can’t handle it’,” Grant said.
“I shielded their 8-year-old from this horrible betrayal by keeping the dog until we re-homed it.”
Usually it wasn’t neglect which was the problem, it was over-attentiveness.
The most stringent food instructions she received, though, weren’t for dogs, but a flock of exotic birds that lived with the pooches she’d been hired to look after.
“Each bird had its own menu, so you’d have to wake up at the crack of dawn to do cracked peanuts for one, unshelled pistachios for another,” she says.
“And one loved buttered toast. The really unnerving thing was that some of these birds talked, and that one? He got cranky with me if I ever ate my own toast first.”
Dog nannies all told The Post it can be a tough gig.
Grant had to be with the animals 6pm to 6am, which killed her social life, and was paying rent for her own place despite spending most nights with at her clients’ homes.
Eventually, she moved on, but still loves dogs, and has her own now — a one-year-old sheepadoodle called Ludo.
Cynthia Okimoto worked much the same gig in New York City, via her company New York Dog Nanny, for more than a decade; she started four-legged nannying after landing in the middle of the Great Recession out of grad school.
Her team was typically seconded to a client four nights per week, tasked with feeding, walking, bathing and playing with dogs for around $50 per hour.
Instructions were always ferociously detailed. “It was because we were never dealing directly with the owner, but their personal assistant, who was very detail-oriented and wanted to make sure their boss was happy.”
Take the client with several dogs where walks were mandated three times daily at 7am, noon and 10pm, seven days a week, without interruption. “I swear to God, they never went on vacation, either!”
Okimoto folded her full-time caregiving business as a result of the pandemic, segueing instead into training and healing, often reiki-based.
She will still occasionally take on a dog-nannying gig for the right client, though, costing between $125-300 for every 24 hours.
“But it’s never about budget, once they find me, we have an interview before I’ll take them on,” she said. “If the animal is here, I can see that maybe their teeth are a little bit in need of TLC, I’ll do reiki on their mouth, or if they have anxiety, I’ll calm them down.”
That’s why one client hired a pet nanny from South Florida-based Rachel Charlupski’s firm, The Babysitting Company.
They were staying at a local hotel with their pooch, and it was barking so ferociously once left alone, the property had sequestered it in a storage room; one of Charlupski’s nannies was dispatched to sit in the suite with it, keeping it quiet enough to avoid incarceration in the basement.
Rachel says that she had no idea when she started her freelance nannying business (for humans) 17 years ago that dogs would be a key revenue source; now, around one third of her gigs are for four-legged, rather than two-legged, charges, with rates starting at $50 per hour.
Charlupski’s Mary Doggins are often booked a year or so in advance: think a months-long Hamptons gig, a common request, with a family which is based out there for the summer, but where one or both parents commutes into the city for work.
She’ll also happily respond to last-minute requests, as from one owner who panicked when the weather was so hot on a day they were scheduled to fly private to their home in Arizona.
Once the mercury hits 85 , they knew, it wasn’t possible for their dog to fly, per airline rules. “So, we had a sitter meet the pet at a private airport, and transport them somewhere.
“They left the dog with one nanny, and then when the weather eased, another nanny took them on the plane to Arizona. They turned around and came right home, because we had someone else waiting to take over duties at the destination.”
These nannies are professional pooch-watchers, but sometimes a gig like this happens by accident – as it did for Rochelle Peachy.
The longtime expat Brit, who now lives in Orlando and runs a dating website, was sitting playing with her own dog at a café near her house when a man next to her struck up conversation.
“I could listen to you all day,” he said, apparently swooning at her accent. Happily married, Peachy politely batted him away.
But it turned out, he was not propositioning her. Instead, he told her, “I need someone to help look after this little dog we’ve bought. I want my dog to understand and respond to a British accent.”
After a discussion with her husband — Peachy called the man to discuss the offer and found himself sitting at his home in Golden Oakes with his wife and their little Pomeranian, Haatchi. Could Peachy, in her plummy British tones, play ball with him and swim with him in the pool?
“He said that Haatchi needed a little friend, and he paid me $1,000 every time I went there,” she said. “And when I said I’ll lose my job if you have children, when you get a British nanny, they told me ‘Oh no, you’re Haatchi’s nanny.”
Her side hustle as a part-time pet companion continued for several months until the couple decided to decamp full time to another of their homes in Texas.
But Peachy’s poochy gig continues, after shifting to virtual sitting. “Now we do FaceTime at least twice a week,” she told The Post. “And he pays me in gift cards.”