ST. ALBANS CITY — Michelle Saine is pretty hard to miss in downtown St. Albans. You’ve probably seen her. She’s the lady walking four dogs — some tiny, others huge — all at the same time.
Saine, quite a sight with her four legged companions, is fairly new addition to the community. P.A.W.S. (Petsitting And Walking Services) by Michelle began business in February, two years after Saine, 26, moved to the area from Boston.
Offering services such as “The Potty Break,” “How About Meow,” and “The Triple Dog Dare Ya,” Saine walks and plays with dogs, visits cats, pet sits, and tries to do whatever else is needed for St. Albans’ pet community. Though P.A.W.S. by Michelle has only been up and running for six months, Saine said she has a full schedule most weeks.
“I do it full time,” Saine said in an interview last week. “Right now, I probably have a dozen dogs I walk daily.” She added that she regularly goes to Swanton and Fairfax for her work, and she also does simultaneous pet sitting jobs. Eventually, Saine would like to open up a doggie day care.
“It’s obvious that this is really a need up here,” she said.
Walking is caring
Saine began walking and caring for dogs and other animals in college, when she said she missed the critters she grew up with at home – dogs, cats, rabbits. “I had a hedgehog once,” she said.
Though Saine doesn’t have pets of her own, she said she feels like her job allows her to act as an owner to 20 dogs – or at least a part-time owner.
“It’s awesome – I get to work with so many dogs,” Saine said.
Aside from liking dogs, Saine said she feels its important that she can offer a service that can allow owners to better care for their pets – or “fur kids,” as some call them – and feel at peace about animals at home during the workday.
“I’ve seen how important it is for dogs to get outside in the middle of the day,” she said. “Could you imagine being cooped up for 8 hours a day without being able to go to the bathroom?”
In addition to letting dogs out for a bathroom break, Saine spends time with her clients’ animals to give them attention and love in order to keep them happy and healthy. “A lot of dogs actually suffer from separation anxiety,” she said.
Saine added that if weather is bad or conditions are unaccommodating for a long walk, she’ll take the time she normally would take walking inside, playing with the dogs.
“They’ll still get the same amount of attention,” she said.
One of the most important tasks for Saine with every new client she receives is to try and best meet the needs of the pets: when they should be walked or played with, whether they should be around other animals, and any other important details. “All the dogs are very different,” Saine said. For instance, she would never walk a dog in a group if that dog doesn’t get along with others.
“I’m not going to put anybody at risk,” Saine said.
She can adapt the type of care she provides for pets, and Saine said she is also open to negotiating prices for her services when financial difficulties are present. “I try to be flexible,” said Saine. “Really, if they’re wanting to take care of their dog, that’s the most important thing for me.”
Out and about
On a half hour walk last week, Saine took Danni the great Dane, Peanut the Chihuahua, and Fernie the greyhound for a jaunt around Taylor Park. At regular intervals, passerby stopped Saine to meet her and the dogs – something Saine said is a regular occurrence.
“Everyone smiles and waves,” she said. “That’s one thing I like – I still get to interact with people. I’ve met so many people doing this.”
In addition to people, Saine said she and the dogs, on whichever route they walk on a given day, also run into a lot of the four-legged residents around town.
“I know a lot of the dogs [in the area],” said Saine.
One of the most satisfying parts of the job for Saine is working with dogs who need help – Fernie, for instance, is a rescue greyhound, and had to be picked up and brought outside when Saine first met the dog.
“He was so afraid,” she said. After visiting, working, and playing with the dog on a regular basis, Saine said that Fernie, who is still a bit skittish but friendly, has made a lot of progress.
“He’s a completely different dog,” she said. “It was really cool to see his transition.”
The other great part of her job, said Saine, is that she has the time and ability to do activities for the community. In addition to all the people she meets and interacts with through P.A.W.S., Saine has been helping fundraise for the St. Albans Raid 150th Anniversary Commemoration event in September and is on the St. Albans Arts Council.
“I really like to be involved in the community,” said Saine. “What a friendly place [it is] up here.”
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To learn more about P.A.W.S. by Michelle, visit www.facebook.com/PAWSVT.