A Friend For Life feat. Annie Ristuccia

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A Friend For Life feat. Annie Ristuccia
A Friend For Life feat. Annie Ristuccia

How many years of experience do you have with dogs? I originally grew up with two airedale terriers, and I have had my own dog for about one year, which I actually obtained through Pooch Pals. I was working with a dog, and the owners had to give him up, so they gave him to me!

How did you find out about Pooch Pals? I go to NYU, and it was my freshman year. I wanted to get a part time job, earn some money, and I found Pooch Pals through NYU’s CareerNet (career website). I got a phone interview, got a personal interview, and I got hired. That was about two years ago, and I have loved my job since.

What’s your favorite part about the job? I love working with dogs. I tell my friends, “it’s fun, I get to work with puppies and be outside”, etc. My favorite part is getting to build a relationships with the clients as well. I work with our clients on a day-to-day basis, and you get to establish a really personal relationship with them and their dogs.

Tell me a little bit about your day-to-day routine? I go to NYU, so I work part-time, and during the summer, I tend to work on a more full-time schedule. On a normal day, I have a client first thing in the morning. I will leave my apartment, walk them around Washington Square Park, and then go to class. Depending on the class and the clients, I will have another walk during the day in between classes. My last walk is with Rosie (pictured above), I have her seven days a week in the evening. This schedule has not changed the past two years, which is not uncommon for Pooch Pals clients hence our tagline, a friend for life.

What is the process of getting to know your clients? I usually go to the clients apartment and have a “meet and greet” where I have the opportunity to get acquainted with both the client and dog. Most of the clients I work with are not home during the day so building a relationship after the meet-n-greet is usually through steady communications via text, email and calls. Myself, like all our staff, update the client after each and every walk with a detailed note. I love my clients; they are all really awesome and incredible to work with.

What type of person is best suited for a pet care role with Pooch Pals? I would say someone who can work both independently and in a group. I work with a bunch of different clients that have two or three walks per day which I split with other team members. In order to provide a seamless experience for the client it requires someone who is able (and willing) to stay in contact with everyone, such as making sure you have another set of keys or how the training is going with the dog etc. At the end of the day however most of the day is spent working independently.

You also have to be able to react quickly and with good judgement. When I walked into a clients apartment recently, I saw that the dog could not stand up or focus her eyes on me. I was scared that this would become a serious situation, like a stroke. I called my manager first, and then I talked to the client, who luckily was able to come home quickly. I later learned after their vet appointment, the dog had a condition that was similar to vertigo. Working in this role as a pet care provider requires someone who can cope with change and is capable of remaining calm. Also, if you are someone who resists asking for help, this definitely is not the job for you.

Do you have any dog training advice to share? I think the most important thing that I have realized through my job, is that more people need to ask if they can pet the dog. Equally as important, I suggest other pet care providers and other owners communicate in advance if their dog is not friendly to people, kids or other dogs. Take Rosey for instance, she is aloof and does not mind if people come up to pet her. But, if any dog shows the slightest bit of aggression to her, she will respond with agitation.

Also, kids are really hyper and they will run up to a dog, which is really not safe for both the kid and the dog. It always surprises me that people, particularly parents aren’t more vigilant about having their kids pet other people’s dogs impulsively.

What are some difficulties you have faced and how are you overcoming it? With work and school, I have realized that I will take on everything right up until I am in crisis mode and then I realize I cannot do all myself. Personally, I am working on creating balance for myself between work, school and my internship. With the help of Marc Elias, I have learned a lot about myself and how being a “yes” person can sometimes get me into trouble and overwhelmed.

What are your career aspirations? I am studying applied psychology and public health. I am interested in global health, but I never want to leave New York. I’m also interested in HIV treatments, and more of the social services, dealing with people. I do not know where that will take me, but I still have another year left of school, so we will see what happens. In the mean time, I get to enjoy my work caring for and training dogs!

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