Agenuine love of dogs is essential for Justine Shantz to do her job.
Shantz is a professional dog walker and the canine supervisor at Dog n' Suds Pet Services, a position she has held for eight years.
She can be seen several times each day on the E&N Trail near the Nanaimo Golf Course with a pack of dogs of all shapes and sizes as she walks and exercises them on her regular fourkilometre route.
Shantz fills her pockets with dog-poop bags before every walk, which typically have up to eight dogs per trip, and spends a good deal of time cleaning up after them on their journeys.
She said many of the 30 to 50 dogs that go to Dog n' Suds each day for grooming, teeth-cleaning and/or day care are trained to hold their body wastes until they are outside on the walks so she sometimes returns to the location of the business on Wilgress Road with large quantities of feces that she has to carry, as well as holding onto all the dog leashes.
"Some get diarrhea and that really tests my cleaning abilities on the walks," Shantz said Friday as she set out on one of her many walks of the day with eight dogs, ranging in size from a small poodle to a large Labrador retriever.
"If they have diarrhea on paved sections of the trails, it can be very difficult to clean but I always try and do my best. The odd time, the mess is so bad and smelly that I start to gag, but most times it's OK. I just consider it another part of the job."
Shantz said sometimes the mess comes out the other end of the animal after Fido eats something disagreeable at home before deciding it's time to throw it up while at the work site or on the walks.
She said, surprisingly, socks are one of the main items she occasionally sees mixed with the dogs' breakfasts when they throw up after arriving at Dog n' Suds, and other times she sees magic balls and stress balls.
Like on the walks, Shantz is also responsible for cleaning up much of the mess while working at the business site.
"Once they have thrown up whatever was in their stomachs that shouldn't have been there, the dogs are usually OK, but it doesn't make my job any easier," she said.
Another aspect of the job that can be challenging is to keep the animals calm and under control while on their walks, a task that can be complicated with dogs of varying sizes, temperments and ages.
Added to the sometimescomplicated handling procedures are times when the dogs are suddenly surprised as people on pedal bikes pass them from behind on the trails, leading to the startled dogs wanting to go quickly in different directions and tangling up their leashes.
"I grew up with dogs and have always owned at least one so the messy and dirty aspects of the job are not new to me, she said.
"I love working with dogs and that's just a part of the job. I have given consideration to becoming a veterinarian and that still may happen, but until then, I'm more than happy to continue doing this."
RBarron @nanaimodailynews.com 250-729-4234
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