Meet Petey, a rottweiler/basset hound mix, and Ruby, a goldendoodle. They are part of the pack veteran dogwalker Johan Amaya has brought for an average, mid-afternoon run at Walter Pierce Dog Park. Walter Pierce is one of the few official such parks in D.C. There are lots of unofficial ones, of course: Rock Creek Park, Glover Park, Marie Reed’s kickball field, and countless more green spaces dotted with poop. But “the heat,” as Amaya refers to National Park Police and other cops, is cracking down on unleashed dogs. And, he adds, professional dogwalkers are their No. 1 targets.
“There was a bust two weeks ago at Glover Park,” says Amaya, 22, who recently avoided cops by lying on the ground, gathering his dogs, and snapping leashes on them. He thinks dogs should be dogs, free and in a pack. “I’m more comfortable with them in the forest. They like to play in the creek. It’s the one time of day they get to act their nature,” says Amaya, owner of Caninos Pet Services and resident of Dupont Circle.
A friend of his, Mary, “also a veteran dogwalker,” was recently fined $250—-$25 per unleashed dog. He heard about another of his colleagues arrested and cuffed by a park police officer now known by name to the dogwalking community. Amaya is playing it safe today. But Walter Pierce is familiar territory.
“I used to come here all the way from Germantown in Maryland,” he says. Amaya has no dogs of his own, but hopes to get a farm in Montgomery County where dogs can roam off-leash. He grew up in Colombia, on a ranch and with dogs. “It’s hard when you live in an apartment,” he says.
His rates are reasonable, $15 an hour. He walks, on average, 25 dogs a day. In addition to Petey and Ruby, he has Minky and Addy this afternoon, all of them from around Adams Morgan.
Amaya says he learns all of his charges’ names. “It’s like when you have kids, or if you’re a teacher. You’re not going to know them the first day, but after you spend time with them every day, you get to know who they are.”
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery