A dog walking and pet sitting service is “reporting for doody” in the Northampton and Easthampton area thanks to one dog lover’s determination and affinity for the outdoors.

Over the past few years, KJ Nichols has discovered a newfound love for hiking.

He told Reminder Publishing that when he and his husband would traverse through various local woods and mountains, they would always bring their dog Brimley, who regularly lit up during these excursions.

“He’s always so joyful when he’s out in the woods and with his pack,” Nichols said, when talking about Brimley.

On a recent trip to the North Adams side of Mount Greylock with a group of friends, Nichols decided to create a new bandana for Brimley with a patch that said, “Bark Rangers.” It was this particular hiking journey where the bandana became an early indicator of things to come.

“Every single dog owner I saw on the hike was enamored with the Bark Rangers bandana,” Nichols said. “It’s where the Bark Rangers name came from.”

That experience coupled with Nichols’ desire to leave the corporate life to fulfill his recent passions lead to the inception of a pet sitting business.

“When thinking about becoming a dog walker, I was just like, ‘I can really do this,’” Nichols said. “My dog was essentially the catalyst for this passion.”

As of right now, Nichols offers a few different services that clients can choose from. There are dog walks and check-ins that are either a half hour in total or an hour total, and also overnight services at a client’s house from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.

According to the Bark Rangers website, a 30-minute dog walking and pet sitting service typically means 20 minutes to check in with the dog at the client’s home and then a quick 10-minute jaunt around the neighborhood. A 60-minute service includes 45 minutes of checking in on the pet at a client’s home, playing with the pet and/or taking a walk around the neighborhood. The final 15 minutes is spent replenishing their food and water bowl.

With the overnight service, Nichols said he goes to the client’s house to stay over and maintain the dog’s routine.

Before linking a client with any of these services, Nichols said he schedules a free meet-and-greet with the clients and the pets so he can learn about the typical routines and make sure everyone is comfortable with working with each other.

“The routine itself is going to be set and dictated by the dogs and the dog owners,” Nichols added. “Every dog and client are a little bit different…it’s just about getting to know them and their communication.”

There was clearly a need for these types of services right from the get-go, according to Nichols. Before officially starting the business, Nichols learned how important a pet sitting service was just by talking with others in the industry.

Nichols noted how more people were getting pets during COVID-19 to mitigate their feeling of isolation, and as a result, there has been a recent rise in the need for pet care post-pandemic.

“The market is kind of overrun,” Nichols said. “Every dog walker that I walked to was pretty much saying they were overbooked … al of them were like, ‘KJ, this is a necessity.’”

Nichols saw this necessity manifest just by going around the neighborhood to help spread the word. Even before officially opening, Nichols said he had already secured a re-occurring client.

“It’s all happening so quickly, and it’s really exciting to see the business start to flourish already,” Nichols said.

Although the business is still in its relative infancy, Nichols said he has aspirations to add more specialized services in the future. For now, though, he wants to continue to connect with other dog walkers in the area and spread the word about the important health benefits that spawn from these services.

“Dogs need mental stimulation as well as physical stimulation so when you’re out walking a dog, they’re getting the physical stimulation but they’re also using their nose they’re interacting with their surroundings, so they’re getting a lot of mental stimulation as well,” Nichols said. “It’s important dogs are out in nature experiencing the world, so when they are home, they’re less likely to partake in destructive behaviors.”

Readers can learn more about Bark Rangers and its services by visiting its website, barkrangers.net.

rfeyre@thereminder.com | + posts