Charlotte boy builds walking service for love of dogs

Daniel Wartham, 11, loves dogs.

“I always wanted a dog,” he says, “but my dad is allergic to them.”

In September 2010, when Wartham was 8 ½ years old, he came up with the perfect solution to keeping his father safe from allergens while still indulging his love of dogs.

“He came to me with adorable hand-drawn signs,” said Amy Wartham, Daniel’s mother. “And he wanted me to laminate them so he could post them around the neighborhood.”

The signs alerted neighbors in the Cloisters neighborhood, where the Warthams live, to Wartham’s dog walking services.

“I figured I would get to be with dogs,” Wartham says, “and I didn’t even really think about the money part of it.” He notes, however, that, “I am a natural businessman.”

For $1 per dog, a price that has remained unchanged since he started his business three years ago, each dog is walked for 30 minutes. Word spread quickly among neighbors and Wartham now walks 10 dogs: Lily, Chance, Winston, Gus, Satchel, Peanut, Abby, Vivi, Brownie and Abbey. He has put his older brother Nicholas, 13, on the payroll and has enlisted his mother to help him walk the dogs as well.

Wartham earns approximately $30 each week, money he has been putting in a savings account. He has also bought Duke Energy stock. “I have the stock market app on my phone,” Wartham says. “It’s fun to watch it grow.”

Waltham calls each one of his clients at 6 p.m., unless it is raining, five nights each week. Many of his canine charges anticipate the nightly call (“I can hear Gus, a hound dog, howling in the background whenever I call,” he says) and are eagerly awaiting him at the front door or in the front windows of their houses when he arrives to pick them up.

“Some jump into my arms,” Wartham says. “They are all really glad to see me.”

The dogs range from 3 to 125 pounds, and he has learned which ones to keep apart, which ones to monitor carefully on the walks because of their propensity to chase or eat things, and which ones need extra attention.

Aside from adding to his bank account, Waltham’s dog walking business has yielded other positive results. His mother, Amy, has shed 40 pounds as a result of joining him on the nightly walks.

And both mother and son appreciate the family bonding time the walks provide.

“It gives us time to connect as a family,” Amy says, “and to talk about our day.”

But for Waltham, who hopes to be an engineer or a history teacher one day, the biggest perks are the dogs.