The story so far: Freddy Williams bikes to his dog-walking appointments, though the sight of a black man pedaling through some of Northwest D.C.'s most exclusive neighborhoods sometimes draws glares from people who live there. To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/freddy.
Some people empty their pockets and find, say, old receipts or crumpled dollar bills. Freddy Williams finds "all these poop bags in my pockets."
One such bag now swings from Freddy's closed fist. He leans over and unleashes Hanna and Holly, mixed terriers that he's been walking for five years. He opens the door to their owner's house, and they hurry in, like squirts of mustard. It's been raining on and off all morning. Freddy's pant legs and boots are soaked. He follows the dogs inside to towel them dry.
Freddy's been in the dog-walking business for six years. He started out by answering an ad in the paper. At the time, he was desperate for work because deejaying, his real calling, wasn't paying the bills. For about two years, Freddy walked dogs for a company called Neighborhood Dog Walkers.
Then "I realized, you know, instead of walking around handing out someone else's cards, I could do this for myself," he says. "I ended up printing up a stack of business cards, went to the dog parks with a box of doughnuts in the morning and did the meet-and-greet . . . I'd say, 'Good morning. Do you come home for lunch to walk your dog? Why don't you let someone else do that? I'd be happy to walk your dog. By the way, here's a doughnut.' "
"I don't see myself doing this in 10 years," says Freddy, who sometimes talks about selling his business, SouthPaw Personalized Pet Care. Lately, he's been thinking of leaving D.C. altogether. Las Vegas is a possibility. He's never been there, though he's got an uncle with a place in Vegas who's offered to put him up rent-free. He waxes expansive on this subject, until he ponders the difficulties of starting over. New town. No friends. And he'd have to find a job.
The thought of being an employee again is somewhat chilling. Freddy likes being his own boss. He remembers when a client became verbally abusive with him several years ago. She wanted him to walk her poodle in the evening, and she started yelling at him when Freddy said he didn't have the time. "You know what," Freddy remembers telling her. "I don't think this is working out . . . I'm not coming anymore."
That kind of autonomy makes self-employment a sweet, sweet drug. Plus, the money he earns dog walking isn't bad. Freddy charges up to $15 per dog walk. He walks 12 dogs a day, five days a week.
Sometimes, though, Freddy longs for more human interaction. He spends most of his afternoons with a dozen pooches. He speaks to them affectionately, even to Guy, a dog who once bit him. All the dogs have their own personalities. Zeus, a monstrous yellow Lab, bays and croons when Freddy speaks to him. Zoe, a shepherd, dodged him for 40 minutes once when he unleashed her in the park.
Freddy arrives at Lucy's house and hands the dog a biscuit, another object frequently buried in his pockets. The biscuit smells vaguely like a ginger snap, and if it weren't in the shape of a femur, a human might mistake it for a cookie. Lucy gobbles it.
That tastes good, doesn't it? Freddy says. He knows what these treats taste like. He once took a nibble, out of curiosity. Not bad, actually. For dog food.
-- Tyler Currie