Julie Totino, left, and Mandy McGowen of Brooklyn Dog Runners take two Boxers for a jog on White Street, a weekly ritual that keeps the dogs in shape while their owner is stuck at work. — Photo by Diego Cupolo
Everyone’s heard of dog walkers, but how about dog runners? Basically, it works the same way, just at a faster pace and with more heavy breathing (and maybe more slobber).
The service has been available in Manhattan for years, but since September, local residents Mandy McGowen and Julie Totino have been bringing the alternative form of canine exercise to this side of the East River. The East Williamsburg- based friends both share a love for running and dogs so, like many dream of doing, they turned their passions into a business, the Brooklyn Dog Runners.
It started a few years back, when McGowen was thinking about opening her own dog running service while working at Running Paws, a Manhattan-based company. Now, after filing for insurance and joining numerous pet organizations, McGowen and Totino are at the helm of a steadily growing business — and they’re just warming up.
“I think the owners get more peace of mind knowing their dog went on a run if they were out of the house all day,” Totino said.
Single run prices range from $30 for 30 minutes to $40 for a 45 minutes, but monthly contracts come with discounted rates and Brooklyn Dog Runners also offers pet sitting for $70 a day. Though most of their customers are concentrated in North Brooklyn, the two will run dogs in any part of the borough.
Before taking dogs on their first run, McGowen and Totino meet with the owner and talk over their pet’s needs and limitations. They give every dog a chance, even the moderately aggressive ones, but are any dogs too small to run the streets?
“Oh no, one of our best clients is a Chihuahua named Beast who will run all day if you can keep up with him,” McGowen said.
“Yeah, he’s in better shape than I am,” Totino added.
In the future, the two would like to organize dog running clubs and raise money for local pet organizations and shelters. In fact, the two are so dedicated to improving animal welfare that they make weekly visits the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition (BARC) in Williamsburg to take stray dogs for a jog around the neighborhood.
McGowen and Totino average about five miles a day each and seem pleased with their new venture.
“This really is a dream job since you get to be outside and exercise all day,” McGowen said. “It’s just you and the dog out there. It’s very freeing, a therapeutic kind of work.”