Walking the dog isn’t just a Yo-Yo trick for Winthrop’s Mary Ruane, it’s a way of life.
Ruane – also known as the Pet Nanny – knows just about everyone in Winthrop, but she knows even more about their pets. She has been operating her mobile pet care service to Winthrop and surrounding cities for over a decade, giving her experience with just about everyone.
Walking through the neighborhoods one day last week, Ruane pointed to one house and mentioned that she once took care of a turtle there. Following that, she mentioned that another house used to have a parrot that she visited.
Of course, every other house had a dog she has walked or a cat she has visited at some point over the years.
“My client list is definitely in the thousands by now,” she said. “I will take care of anything that doesn’t require me to feed it a live animal – like a snake or something.”
Though by day Ruane is popularly known as the Pet Nanny – as her business is titled, in her free time she is also a world-class athlete, formerly a runner and now a cyclist. She also has a degree in the fine arts and has training in painting and historic preservation.
In fact, it was that background that got her into the pet business in the first place.
She had been working for some time doing city and town planning for historic preservation districts.
That work was time consuming, and she said that she was looking for more time to paint.
“I wanted to have time to paint and wanted an opportunity to do that,” she said. “I was a starving artist and was running out of money. I wanted to do something that didn’t require a lot of thought and didn’t take up a lot of time…I started out doing pet visits with another company and really loved it. I had a chance to go out on my own, and at the same time I was offered a big historic preservation contract. I chose this.”
Now working on her 15th year in business – and making a remarkable comeback from a serious cycling injury last year – Ruane said that she is doing quite well operating the business.
Such a market burst upon the scene over the last 20 years as pet owners began working more hours, began to be away from home more hours, but still wanted to maintain ownership of their beloved pets.
For dogs, being cooped up for hours on end is devastating. They need a release.
Also, more recently, Ruane said there has been a big market for elderly residents who want to keep their companion dogs, but don’t have the physical ability to walk them as often as necessary.
So, out of those needs the Pet Nanny service was born.
Ruane said she makes anywhere from 12 to 15 pet visits around Winthrop every day, and other employees make about 15 more per day.
“Some dogs can go 12 hours if they get good exercise in the morning and good exercise at night, but that’s a lot of effort to put in for an owner that’s working full-time,” she said. “Most dogs need a release period during the day, especially a hyper dog like a Jack Russell Terrier. They need to get out and I think one of the advantages I have is that if they really do need a lot of exercise, I can run with them all day long. I’m doing a half marathon soon and I don’t have to train for it because of my job.”
Ruane typically spends 30 minutes or so on a visit and she’ll take a dog on a long walk around the dog’s neighborhood. For a cat, she feeds it and plays with it and gives it attention. The same for any other animal. She knows her client’s habits and preferences and treats them with loving care.
She said that it is rather calming to be in a business that focuses on the needs of animals – a business where you talk mostly to pets rather than people.
“It’s a lot less pressure than being around human beings all day,” she said with a laugh.
And with 14 years under her belt, she said she has no regrets about her choice; she loves her job.
“I do really enjoy this job,” she said. “I never wake up and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go to work today.’”
For information on the Pet Nanny, contact Mary Ruane at (617) 846-3035.