Book Review: Gone Walkabout

By Claudia Kawczynska, July 2019

Michael Brandow has been walking New York City pooches for a long time, more than 20 years and counting. He has also been commenting on cultural matters during that time along with writing several books, including A Matter of Breeding, a takedown of the AKC, and New York’s Poop Scoop Law (a title that clearly defines its topic).

In his newest, with the charming, aptly phrased title Gone Walkabout: Confessions of a New York City Dog Walker, he muses on all things canine, sprinkling nuggets of self-reflection, especially about two decades of change in NYC.

Brandow gave up a 16-year corporate gig because not only does he adore dogs and loves doting on and getting to know them, but also because he generally bonds well with their furless halves too. Besides that, shedding business suits gave him time and inspiration to follow his writing muse.

The author is not one of those “multiple walkers,” as he calls them, people who navigate with large numbers of dogs along the uptown avenues, and somehow keep all those leashes from tangling, and offer cut-rate prices that harm the more personalized dogwalking services such as he offers. He specializes in home care in his West Village studio and (as the excerpt on page 54 describes) in chaperoning his canine pals on long, out-of-city, woodsy explorations.

Being a dogsbody to dogs might have its drawbacks, but not as far as Brandow is concerned. Dog walking, he says, was the first paying job he took seriously; being “paid to be the good guy” to happy, grateful dogs has its own rewards.

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In this hard-to-classify and hard-not-to-like book, we accompany him on his daily 15 hours of walking around the lower part of Manhattan with clients’ dogs as his, and our, trusty co-pilots. We stop for a few sniffs, get distracted by a chunk of something left along the curb, pick up more dogs, greet old friends, spot a few celebrities, give opinion-laced directions to tourists looking for “the village,” hobnob (almost) with the likes of Lou Reed, who turns out not to be quite the guy we had hoped for, but whose Rat Terrier, Lolabelle is a sweetie. How can it miss?

Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.

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