On a leash

Rita Lovato-Larson

Photo By Nick Miller

Some people just can’t walk dogs. One minute their pooch is fighting and tugging, next minute it’s deucing on the sidewalk. By the time you get home, everyone’s frustrated instead of relaxed and calm. Enter Rita Lovato-Larson. She injured her mouth in a car accident a couple of years back and started walking dogs to save money to cover medical expenses. Next thing you know, she’s earning a pretty penny as Midtown’s pre-eminent dog walker. Lovato-Larson lives in the heart of the city, just off 23rd Street, and is available to walk pups from the crack of dawn until bedtime. Armed with blue poop baggies, treats and leashes, if you’re a workaholic neglecting your canine, call her at (916) 647-2098 or (916) 320-7199 (one of these numbers is her red cell phone, a dedicated doggy-walk line). Here’s her story:

Where do dogs like to check out around town?

We go near the skate park, by the river. And then also at Capitol Park; I probably go there about three times a day. I try to walk a dog on the left-hand side or, if there are two, one on both sides, but one thing that’s really bad is downtown; I almost get hit all the time.

Have you ever been tagged?

No, I haven’t. Been so close. Most cars don’t even pay attention, and a lot of people are still using their cell phones. Like the other day.

That’s right, that’s how we met.

[A driver] was turning left onto Capitol [Avenue] and almost hit you. And that’s how close it is all the time. At least four times a week I almost get hit. So I definitely have to pay attention.

But in general, it’s a good place to walk dogs?

It is, just be aware. You have to be 100 percent aware.

How long have you been walking dogs, and how did it start?

Two years ago. My nephew dropped off his pit bull, and she ended up being pregnant with 14 pups. We gave up all the pups, which was hard, and then moved downtown. And then I had one dog, my own dog, and I just started talking to everyone in Midtown, and soon enough I started walking people’s dogs.

What kind of dog do you have? A pit bull?

No, he’s a Lab/German shepherd. He’s the best dog ever.

His name?

King Bob.

So, when did dog walking take off?

About a year and a half ago. Word of mouth.

What’s the secret to getting a dog to behave?

Well, there’s heel and stop commands. I can walk up to four dogs at once, four little dogs and then two big dogs. I think boxers are the best breed to walk, because they stay right next to you and obey commands.

Interesting, because they have a ton of energy.

And also my dog, German shepherds, are good.

How do you get dogs not to whiz on everything?

You don’t. We hit every tree. I walk a cattle dog and pit mix, and he’s an ornery man—I would say an elder. And he’s a really good dog, but he’s the meanest dog that I have. I shouldn’t say that, but even he’s a good walker. …

I also make a lot of my money by staying at people’s houses, house-sitting dogs. Nanny-sitting, that’s what I call it.

And how much do you charge?

Twenty an hour. If I was in Granite Bay, where my daughter lives, it would be $25. I usually walk them once in the morning and once in the evening.

What does Sac need for dogs?

We should have a dog park on 16th [Street], near P Street. You know where I’m talking about. Near O Street, where they have those two empty lots there. Anyway, they are going to be opening a dog park, my brother told me, kinda by McKinley Park. So we’ll finally have an urban dog park here.

What client has the most interesting name?

Oz. He’s got these evil eyes. I don’t know what breed he is.

It’s about 11 a.m. Will you walk any dogs today?

I already walked four this morning, that’s why I was late.

Good thing I was late, too.

I start at 7 o’clock in the morning. They have to use the restroom then. And I walk them up until 10 at night. It’s great.