Source: ABC News (Extract)
Posted: August 30, 2023

When Perth woman Marissa Ballard lost her beloved dog Milo, she missed their walks together and the companionship she gained from having a pet.

Not feeling ready to have another dog of her own, she wrote on a social media community page asking if anyone in her area had a dog that needed walking.

“I got inundated with people saying yes so I could pick and choose, and I ended up choosing Louis,” she said.

Mrs Ballard is among many Australians who are entering into dog-sharing arrangements that owners and borrowers say are a “win-win” situation.

Some used “dog-sharing” websites to find a canine companion, while others put out the call on social media.

Mrs Ballard said she picked Louis up from his owner’s house and took him for a walk about four times a week to help expend some of the young pup’s boundless energy.

Websites that facilitate “dog-sharing” started appearing in Australia in the early 2010s, providing a way for the pet bereft to spend time with animals.

Connecting online

The sites allow users to browse a database of dogs, entered onto the site by their owners, and message the owner to express interest in taking them for walks or sleepovers.

Ada Chung set up a profile for her bichon frise Genghis on a dog-sharing website when she returned to the office after a long period of working from home during the COVID pandemic.

“We thought at that time we would sign up and see if someone wanted to take him out for walks or play with him or just have some fun while we weren’t there,” Ms Chung said.

Sharing the joy

Having had periods of her own life where she felt unable to commit to dog ownership, she felt someone in her neighbourhood might enjoy spending time with Genghis.

Ms Chung said she felt confident she — and Genghis — could judge the character of a person well enough to ensure they were safe and responsible.

Mrs Ballard said she and Louis’s owner had discussed the parameters of the arrangement before she started walking him.

Dog days out

“We put in place that if anything should happen, if he gets attacked by other dogs or an accident or something like that … that I would contact her straight away,” Mrs Ballard said.

“And that there was no liability on my part if I did the best I could.”

She said spending time with Louis gave her motivation to walk and keep fit.

She said she had been regularly walking Louis for six months.

“I just feel really fulfilled,” she said.

“Every day when I leave him I just feel so happy that I’ve done it.”