Incredible Concord Business Inspired by a Puppy on a Golf Course
Z Animal Lover, owned by Zane Flynn and Lisa McCormick may be the world’s best dog walkers. Residents who live near the Cal State East Bay Campus may have seen either walking large groups of dogs at once. It is quite the spectacle to see. A recent video that went semi-viral shows Lisa walking a record-breaking 39 dogs at once. The feat seems unimaginable.
Even more unimaginable is how a puppy on a golf course is responsible for starting a popular dog walking business. A few chance encounters paved the opportunity.
Lisa was born and raised in Concord. After graduating from University of Hawaii, she went to work within the family business, Genova Delicatessen. Zane, a financial consultant, came into the deli for lunch. They met when she took his order at the counter. That was five years ago.
Zane was unsatisfied at his work and with the industry in general. One day, he was playing golf when a puppy came running on the course and made a beeline to Zane. He saw where the puppy came from and returned it. A little later in the afternoon, on the other side of the course, the puppy appeared again and went straight towards Zane. This time Zane spoke with the owner who voiced disinterest in the puppy, so Zane kept the puppy and named it Cali. Zane loved dogs and animals in general.
A week before Zane could get Cali spayed, she got pregnant. Since Zane’s work required much travel, he decided to quit his work, so that he could reliably care for his pets.
One day, he took Cali and puppies to Fort Funston, a dog beach in San Francisco. He noticed quite a few dog walkers on the beach and met a few. He found out how much a dog walker made. It was enough to make a living in San Francisco.
Having a degree from Santa Clara in economics and business, Zane purchased a business license the next day and ordered business cards. He then distributed them on doggie-bag receptacles everywhere. It worked, the calls came in. That was four years ago.
“Zane was so happy.” Lisa said. “Each day he enjoyed being outside, coming home and sharing his dog stories with me every night.” At this point, Lisa had left the family business and in search of a career. Lisa decided she wanted to walk dogs too. Lisa has now been walking dogs for two years.
“There’s quite a need for small dog walkers. Because their owners don’t want small dogs to be around larger dogs,” Lisa said.
Lisa is still adding clients but Zane is maxed out. He has had a waiting list for two years. He has a limit of dogs based on how many dogs he can fit in the vehicles. Zane drives a Honda Odyssey and picks up 28 to 30 dogs. He hopes to buy a larger van.
Lisa has her own client list and still has openings. “When we have an opening in the pack, we do a meet and greet first. We invite them to come over and observe the dog on how they interact with our dogs, and how they interact with their owners. I put them on a leash in the back yard to see if they know how to walk on a leash. You can tell if a dog is aggressive or not. “
Walking that many dogs is a full day’s work. It begins with two-plus hours just picking them up. Then, at the end of the walk, returning them to their owners. That’s four to five hours a day driving around Clayton, Concord, and the Walnut Creek area, with a van full of dogs.
One has to wonder how they handle the bathroom breaks of 20 to 40 dogs. They hold all the leashes in one hand, which gives them a free hand to help an individual dog. “If one needs to go, we make everybody sit. The other dogs recognize the routine, and they sit. We let go of the leashes and pick up the mess.” Lisa says. One of Zane’s dog wears a backpack, and that’s where he stores the days business until they return, when he tosses it away.
A big part of what makes Zane and Lisa successful is their training. “Sit and stay are the biggest key. Many dogs don’t come to us well-trained, but they will leave us well-trained, “Lisa says.
“We look forward to our work every day. We are so happy and so grateful. This is our career. We want to grow the business, but our challenge is we can’t fit anymore dogs.”
Dog walkers from all over California, and different parts of the country, New York, New Jersey, even other countries, such as Spain, and Argentina come to see how they do it. “One growth challenge is that once you train another dog walker, that person eventually branches off and starts their own business.” Then there’s the liability of employee mistakes. It adds more stress than they care to have.
Lisa and Zane think with all the interest in their abilities, that they are considering writing a “How to” book and charge for training other dog walkers.
About that video of Lisa walking 39 dogs at Cal State East Bay Campus that went semi-viral, it was on the night of game four of the NBA Championship. We thought that we could break the world record of dog walking 35 dogs on the same night the Warriors were about to break a record. The video snowballed once KTVU-TV shared it.
You can still view it on their Facebook page. It’s an amazing sight. To see more images, go to their website at www.Zanimallover.com.