Forget hiring the neighbor kid to take Fido on a walk. At mixed-use developments like Ink Block Boston in the South End, residents rely on specially-trained professionals to do everything from walking their dogs to brushing their pet’s teeth.
These specialists, nicknamed “dog concierges,” spends their days catering to the every need of the building’s animal residents. Noah Urton, 23, is one of the dog concierges at Ink Block. He knows each animal down to every last detail, ranging from which dogs refuse to go out in the rain, to which ones are terrified of baby strollers. He sports disposable booties to ensure he won’t track any dirt into each apartment, and takes each pet for a walk or run before returning to the building and wiping off their paws.
“Every dog has their own little quirks,” says Urton, who recently graduated from art school. “We don’t let (them) interact with dogs you don’t know. We don’t go into the dog park if there’s other people there. It’s important to us that the dogs stay safe and the owners are comfortable.”
The pet care services are run by a Boston startup called Baroo, which is the technical term for the way a dog tilts its head after hearing an unusual sound. After interviewing hundreds of pet parents and property managers, and then utilizing animal specialists at MSPCA-Angell Memorial to determine how to deliver the best care, the company was officially founded. Now, Baroo does everything from setting up doggie playdates and trimming nails to conditioning fur and walking cats on leashes.
Friends Lindsay Hyde and Meghan Reiss founded Baroo after realizing all the ways raising a dog in the city is different than in the suburbs.
“My co-founder and I both were living in the city with our dogs,” says Hyde. “We started to look for ways to meet the unique needs of pets and pet parents living in the city.”
But rather than focusing on going from house to house like a traditional dog walker, Baroo’s services target larger urban apartment buildings, like Ink Block Boston or Hanover CambridgePark. That’s a conscious decision by Baroo’s founders, who say the growing number of city-dwelling pets is redefining what it means for apartments and condominiums to be “pet-friendly.”
“What we find is that it also creates deeper connections among residents,” says Hyde, who adds that Baroo will expand their services to ten Boston-area buildings in the next three months. “It leads to informal conversations in the hall, setting up play dates, and sharing stories. Even people who do not have pets themselves enjoy having them as a part of the community.”
Ink Block Boston resident Dennise Gonzalez relies on the building’s dog concierge to help care for her 6-year-old shepherd, Reggie, while she’s away. When she’s at work, Dennise is sent a photo of Reggie on his daily walk. When she returns home at the end of the day, she reads Reggie’s “report card,” which describes everything from how he feels that day (options range from “polite” to “playful”) to what kind of bowel movements he had.
“It really brightens my workday when I look at my phone and find that picture of my happy pup enjoying her walk,” says Gonzalez. “And the report cards keep me updated on her daily wellbeing.”