“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” keeps this dog-walking business from providing top-notch pet care.
By Megan Douress
Photography By Alexa Nahas (alexanahas.com)
Imagine this: You’ve spent weeks bundling up and shopping around to get those perfect gifts for every member of your family. Every weekend is spent shuffling to and from work happy hours and holiday gatherings with friends. Finally, the day comes — Christmas morning — and you have a three-hour drive ahead of you to see your aunts, uncles, grandparents, and all 26 cousins for the occasion. Your gifts are perfectly wrapped and carefully packed in the car. Then, you realize there’s no room for your beloved pup in the back seat! Besides, your grandfather really isn’t a fan of having your dog curl up on his recliner.
Not only does your pet have to stay home alone on Christmas Day, but he’s been lonely a lot lately. The holiday season is busy for all of us, but perhaps not as busy as the sitters of City of Paws Pet Care, who are here to take care of your pets whenever you need someone to check in or walk them year-round.
“Our mission is to provide reliable pet care all the time, so we try our best to accommodate our clients’ needs — even on Christmas Day,” said City of Paws Pet Care owner, Danny Offenbacher.
City of Paws Pet Care was founded in June 2016 with the goal to provide reliable, trustworthy, and loving care to dogs, cats, and small animals in Manayunk and the surrounding areas. Danny and his growing team of sitters offer mid-day walks, in-home pet sitting, and will even keep your pet company overnight so they feel right at home.
While City of Paws has only been in business for a year-and-a-half, this isn’t the first time Danny has been in the pet care industry. Danny has loved animals from a young age, which he partially credits to a project in school.
“I actually had a pet chick as part of a school project in elementary school,” Danny remembered. “It was sick upon arrival and died within a couple of days. It was so sad — it was my first pet. After that, I pressed my mom for a pet that would stick around. I really wanted a dog that I could love and care for.”
Like many parents with young children, Danny’s parents didn’t want to take on the extra responsibility of having a dog. Danny, who grew up in Rochester, MI, soon proved he could devote time and care to a dog when his next-door neighbors brought home a puppy. He would take it out for walks a few nights a week after school. At the age of 12, Danny was allowed to have a puppy of his own, which he still has today.
“That’s where the love started,” Danny said. “My Puggle Zach is 14. I grew up with him. He went to college and moved to Philly with me — it’s been an adventure.”
After a few years of taking care of his own dog, Danny worked at a veterinary hospital as a kennel assistant in high school. He got hands-on experience by cleaning up after surgeries and comforting pets as they got shots, among other tasks. Not long after, he got a job at a local PetSmart in the fish department.
“My job was to instruct people to not put too many fish in their small tank,” Danny laughed. “I was always like, ‘How big is your tank? You can only have one fish for every two gallons of water.’ Same thing with gerbils. People didn’t understand what went into it — you have to build a habitat and have mulch and constantly have fresh food and water. People think you stick it in a cage and that’s it. That was kind of the eye-opener for taking care of small animals.”
At the same time, Danny had started his own pet care business, A Bark in the Park. His client base really began to grow once he started school at a commuter college. He would schedule his classes in the morning and later in the afternoon so he had his mid-day available for walking dogs. Eventually, he took night classes and online classes to keep up with the demand.
Danny graduated with a degree in Human Resources, and like many college graduates, he left the nest for full-time work — with Zach in tow.
“Soon after moving to Philadelphia and starting my job, I didn’t feel like I fit into the corporate world,” Danny said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be long-term. I immediately started to focus on when I wanted to start another pet care business.”
Danny’s goal was to live and work in the same neighborhood, so he did his research. He drove around Philadelphia — neighborhood to neighborhood — to find the perfect fit, which included walkability, a certain demographic, the need for a pet care provider, and a great place for him to call “home.”
“Manayunk struck me as a great place to live and work, which is why I picked it to launch this new business,” Danny said. “I really liked Manayunk because of its proximity to both center city and the suburbs. I also knew there was a big dog population here.”
He continued, “The river, canal towpath, and the Manayunk Bridge — there are so many different trails around here that are great for pet owners. It’s fun to be in proximity to those types of adventurous places to go.”
It’s safe to say the dog-friendly neighborhood of Manayunk was a good choice for Danny to start City of Paws, despite the numerous other pet care services that were already in place. In just 18 months, Danny has committed to more than 100 clients in Manayunk and the surrounding neighborhoods.
“People need the service and I couldn’t possibly do all of it,” Danny said. “That would be the same if I had a storefront and I had 500 customers. It would be way too much to handle, so I appreciate the competition.”
While growth in any business is a good thing, City of Paws’ steady increase in clients got to a point where it was too much to handle for a staff of one. Danny recently hired four additional sitters to help manage his 100+ clients. In addition, each pet now has their own primary sitter so they are comfortable and familiar with their sitter every time they visit.
“I know it’s really important to our clients as they often say they prefer knowing who’s coming for their pets,” Danny said. “I’ve been building a team of experienced sitters to meet the demand of top-notch pet care. I couldn’t run a reliable pet care business without my awesome team.”
With that said, Danny still spends most of his day walking dogs — including City of Paws mascots, Zach and newcomer Puggle Bruiser, whom Danny adopted last year from Home at Last Dog Rescue — but he wants his clients to know that he goes through an intricate vetting process in order to hire caring and reliable pet sitters for his clients.
“I’m in an awkward stage of growth where some of my original clients don’t want anyone but me,” Danny said. “I can’t possibly be everywhere all the time, so I’m trying to reiterate to everyone that I now have a team and that we’re a ‘we’— it’s not just me doing it.”
In addition to the extra personalized experience Danny and his staff offer, they’re also super organized and honest with their clients, thanks to a pet sitting management app where clients can directly book their sitter and check on each visit. While using the app, clients can see what time the sitter comes by, their pet’s potty business, feeding and medication, photos, and a message from the sitter. It also allows for direct communication with the sitter at any given moment.
“We offer total transparency, which adds that extra peace of mind for the client,” Danny said.
These days, Danny continues to grow his business (and is currently still hiring!) He is working on networking with local businesses and refocusing his marketing and advertising efforts. At the same time, Danny and his team are gearing up for a busy season. They are ready and willing to give your furry, feathery, or scaled pet the extra special care they deserve around these busy times of the year — treats included!
“We have little goodies to give out during the holidays,” Danny said. “We’ll usually leave a little gift bag with a toy or a treat!”
And keep your eye out for more changes and growth as Danny and his team look to the future.
“We appreciate what we’ve been able to accomplish in the last 18 months and are so grateful to have built so many meaningful relationships with our clients and their pets,” Danny said.
He added, “Over the next 12-18 months, I’ll be rolling out an expansion plan that will include new services and a wider physical presence that will take a unique and appealing approach to pet care — I believe pet owners will really enjoy what’s next. Stay tuned!”
City of Paws Pet Care is always hiring! If you have experience in the pet care business, visit cityofpawspetcare.com to apply.