Someone like Joseph Dillinger is used to getting weird looks. Like when he casually says he ran 10 miles to work that morning.
“And this is a lighter day,” Dillinger might say, and his words might raise a surprised face on anyone he talks to.
The bearded 32-year-old attracts curious eyeballs when he steps out and stops wearing his signature orange dress.
It consists of a neon long-sleeved shirt and neon visor, both emblazoned with the name of his company: Who’s Walking Who?
The most dramatic complication happens when the Dellinger is at work, when passersby see him running, sometimes running alongside dogs of all speeds and sizes.
As the founder of what Dellinger calls a one-of-a-kind company in Colorado Springs, he spends his days running — and sometimes walking — his pups to keep them active, healthy, and happy.
“We are as a personal trainer for your dog,” he said.
Dellinger started Who’s Walking Who in 2018, after having to take a break from pursuing his only true dream. Ever since he started figure skating at the age of six, Dillinger has had Olympic hopes. Semi-professionals have always worked odd jobs to make time for training and competition.
Then, a shoulder injury during a competition left him on the sidelines and with no way to make money.
Dellinger considered one of his solo jobs with Denver Dog Joggers, billed as Colorado’s first dog running company.
He believed that a similar concept would flourish in his hometown of Colorado Springs.
“Everyone here is a workaholic,” he said. “And everyone has a dog or knows anyone who has a dog.”
So he’s got it up and running.
Dellinger says Who’s Walking Who is more specialized than the list of options you might find from searching Google for dog sitters or walkers in the area.
Even Dillinger’s parents asked him, “What’s the difference between you and another kid on the street who does this?”
What is his response?
They’re not focused,” Dillinger said. “I’ve seen people texting while walking the dog.”
His team, which includes four part-time employees, is trained to keep an eye on their four clients. They are alert to cars and other people or dogs and the occasional squirrel who might be tempted to chase after them. Coaches also keep personal goals in mind, which range from losing weight to releasing energy to recovering from injury.
A range of session types are offered, from a 15-minute walk to a 9-mile run at 6 minutes per mile.
This range shows how a Dillinger’s day can vary, from a total of 10 miles to 25 miles.
“There are hard days and easy days,” he said. “Even at the end of a stressful day, I think about how I still get paid to exercise and play with these dogs all day long.”
Over the past four years, he’s seen well worth it results.
Human customers cried happy tears about seeing pets go from anxious to relaxing.
“One of the biggest things is keeping everyone’s stress in the house low,” Dillinger said. “It helps everyone.”
For people who work full-time jobs or odd hours, Dellinger knows they don’t have the time to train dogs like he does.
The Dellinger doesn’t have any dogs of his own, but he does form a lot of bonds with the pups he works with. He often tells owners that “these dogs are partly mine now too.”
This kind of sentiment goes a long way, even beyond Dillinger’s usual range.
“Dogs become part of the family,” he said. “People are willing to do what will keep them happy and healthy. This is where we come in.”
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