Ruff Stuff: Early Days of Dog Walking in NYC

Dog walkers in Central Park, New York, 1967.
Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Dog walkers in Central Park, New York, 1967.
Alfred Eisenstaedt
'60s

New York City has always been a proving ground for entrepreneurs. The Alfred Eisenstadt photograph above, for example, depicts a dog walker in Central Park in 1967 — and documents a phenomenon born just a few years before the photo was made, and that remains as in-demand in today’s New York as clean-scented cabs and Citi Bike stations that actually work.

One morning a half-century ago, in 1964, a man of Upper East Side gentility awoke at dawn to walk an acquaintance’s dog. By the end of the year he was making more than $500 a week walking other people’s pooches.

Over time, Jim Buck — for that was his name — gained many more clients, and in a few years employed a stable of two dozen assistants walking hundreds of dogs a day.

As the ’60s pressed on, Mr. Buck founded Jim Buck’s School for Dogs — the first of its kind, being one part canine-training, one part exercise and other walking needs — and ran the business for more than 40 years.

Buck closed his school shortly after the new millennium, and retired. He died in July 2013 at the age of 81. (His obit appeared in the Times.) But his was a classic American success story: He was an innovator who saw a need, and filled it, and a man who, legend has it, wore through the soles of his shoes every other week.

Other jobs come and go in the Big Apple — but the sight of a man or woman walking a pack of energized dogs through the streets, or through a park, never gets old. And, we hope, it never will.
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Olivia Marsh is a filmmaker, writer and history student at New York University. 
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