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By Andrea Goldman

Joan, Aky, David, Baxter & Bentley

It is very apparent when you speak to Joan Roney that social activism is in her DNA!  With a Masters in Environmental Conservation Education from NYU, it is no surprise that she started a wonderful collective called “Dogwalking for Rainforests.” While some women talk about roots and are referring to hair color, Joan’s talk of roots relates to grassroots activism at the local level in communities located around New York City. This photo pictures Joan, two of her walkers and my dogs.

Back in 2001, while Joan was doing some dog walking and dog training, she came up with the idea of combining the service of dog walking with social activism and that was how Dogwalking for Rainforests was born.  It is a group of independent dog walkers and pet caretakers who have determined that they want to share their awareness, their hearts and their pocketbooks with varying environmental and local non-profits to improve the local communities where they live and work as well as to assist organizations and communities around the globe.  They seek to help make meaningful contributions and connections between the dog walking client and the outside world.  They feel satisfied if they can “raise the consciousness level of their client when they establish a connection between the poodle they walk and the wolf that is being re-invigorated in Yellowstone Park or the chimps and gorillas being poached in the wild,” Roney said. By taking the eco-system into consideration, the walkers share with their clients that “even a small change in food can help.  Switching from beef to chicken has a positive impact on the environment as cattle ranching affects the environment in a more negative way than chicken farming,” said Roney.

Pooling their money into a collective allows the walkers to act like a “foundation” which many would not normally have the opportunity to do.  Approximately 30%+/- of their net gets donated.  Depending on the year, sometimes it can be as much as $24,000.00.  The fifteen or so walkers who work in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn decide which places will be the lucky recipients of their generosity.  Sometimes money may go to purchasing a walker a bicycle, as many use this alternate method of transportation to get around.  Other times, they give money to help take care of sick pets in the neighborhood when owners cannot afford to pay for the care.  Donations are continuously made, in part, to support Rainforest Relief, Times Up (an alternative bike shop), various animal rescue groups and numerous other charities. Check out their website at http://www.dogwalkingforrainforests.com

A typical walker is an activist, volunteer or artist with a micro/macro view of the world. They volunteer in soup kitchens and other places to help out. One thing I can say from personal experience is that they love animals.  This past fall I had occasion, on an emergency basis, to have need of a dogwalking service due to being hurt in an accident.  I called the service and they sent me three of the nicest young men to help take care of Baxter and Bentley during a most difficult time.  These walkers, Dan, Jason and Kegan showed up to walk my dogs as scheduled. They were pleasant and chatted with me as well as the dogs. You could see the care and concern they had for my babies. One day, my doorman commented to me “I see many dog walkers  take the dogs and then rush them back in. Your walkers truly walk them and keep them out even after they do their business.  They are excellent!”  He offered this information to me without asking.

As our pets are like our children, it is reassuring to know that Baxter and Bentley are in great hands when I am not around. In addition, I am also making a small difference to the local and global world around me and that makes me feels good!

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Very interesting article!

By Andrea C     Mar 31, 2010

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