I found out for sure today that he’s cheating on me.
Not my partner –
My dog walker.
Now, for those of you who don’t have a dog, imagine that you have someone to whom you entrust your dearest possession. And to whom you give money every single weekday to take care of it. That’s my dog walker.
It would probably not be overstating the fact to say that my dog is up there with my top favourite people (he’s a little person, although not a human person), second only to T (my partner) in my heart. Okay, my family are probably there too, but he’s a dependent and therefore he takes precedence in the needing me stakes. He’s also extremely handy for cuddling (although he has a tendency to go in for the sneaky face lick which you’re sometimes unprepared for). He is the best companion, the cutest and funniest animal, and quite honestly I prefer a night in with him than a night out with most people. I basically love my dog.
So this guy who I’ve trusted to look after Dog pretty much since we got him (about 2 years ago) has previously been slightly unreliable. We even have a saying – “DRAMA!” – which we say to each other when his name pops up on my phone. He often calls or texts with reasons why he can’t walk Dog – usually they’re perfectly decent reasons, although you do tend to wonder why one person could have so much bad luck.
Examples of reasons why he can’t walk Dog – sent through at the last minute:
“I got mugged.”
“My bike got stolen.”
“I got mugged.” (Again)
“My bike got stolen.” (Again)
“I got a piece of glass in my foot.”
“One of the dogs attacked another dog.”
“I lost another client’s dog.” (Alarming)
“I forgot your house keys.”
“Another dog has to go to the vet.”
“My partner’s in hospital.”
“I’m in hospital.”
…the list goes on…
Now, I’m not unsympathetic. Let me start off by saying that I’m very laid back about his commitments to Dog, in that I understand that things happen and dogs aren’t the easiest to manage, so I’m really flexible about the time of day he comes to walk Dog, and if he cancels at the last minute (like he does, often), I think, these things happen.
Dog was one of his first regular clients, when he was starting to get his business off the ground. He’s supposed to walk Dog 5 times a week, Monday to Friday, and I don’t mind when he does it but it’s usually supposed to be in the afternoon for an hour. He has keys to my place and just lets himself in. He has several dogs of his own and clearly loves dogs, and Dog loves him, judging by the amount of tail wagging that goes on when he turns up. When he first started walking Dog, we used to live in a really large development and I recommended him to a bunch of other dog owners, so he got another load of regular jobs out of that too. He even gave me a discount on the daily rate because I’d introduced other people (and, I suspect, because he’d given them a lower rate and didn’t want me to get the hump if I found out).
Over time he’s walked Dog a lot, and he’s also had him for vacation when we go away. Dog gets on well with his dogs. (I’ve seen pictures.) Dog is just a nice easy dog generally and gets on with everyone (except cats, and even then, he’s in more danger than they are). So our dog walker has been paid a not inconsiderable sum most weeks for a really long time. He’s also said to us on occasions when he has to let us down that we are the “nicest clients” – mainly because we don’t complain if he has to cancel. We’re very understanding.
What I don’t understand is: I’ve realised since last week that he seems to have been fleecing us.
An explanation: I work really long hours a lot of the time. I have a job that requires me to be away from home travelling a proportion of the time, which is why I like to have a dog walker as I know at least Dog will get one decent walk a day. When I’m at home, I take Dog out in the morning and we often take him out in the evening, but those tend to be shorter walks generally. T takes him out in the evening sometimes for a longer walk as T tends to be able to get home earlier than I do.
Anyway, I have no way of knowing if the dog walker comes or not. We know if Dog’s lead has been moved or the mail has been brought inside that he must have been, as nobody else has access to our place. However if nothing has moved then we don’t know if Dog has gone out or not. A few times we have thought perhaps he hasn’t, because he might be quite excitable when we get home or (TMI alert) he will need to go do his business, or will have done his business inside.
But we just kind of figured that he was coming and taking Dog out. I mean, we pay him to do that so why wouldn’t he? If he didn’t, that would be fraud, right?
So a few times lately I’ve had the chance to work from home. Mainly because I’ve had such chronic hayfever. A lot of the time I’ll text the dog walker and tell him if I’m working from home, so he doesn’t need to come as I can take Dog out. But last week, since I was staying inside trying to avoid allergies, I didn’t text him because I still wanted Dog to go for a walk.
I was in all day from the time T left to go to work, early in the morning, until the evening.
I didn’t go out once – not even to go to the shops.
No dog walker. Poor Dog didn’t get a walk all day. (He’s actually okay, as he’s not one of those dogs who needs a long walk… but I consider it my duty to provide him with an interesting life, and it’s less interesting if he’s just lounging around with me all day whilst I work. Dog is not a fan of conference calls.)
I mentioned this to T and we thought there were a few times when we weren’t sure if he’d come to take Dog out. I mean, we are often both not in all day so we wouldn’t know. Even when I am in, and he comes by – he usually comes up with a reason (a one off, allegedly) why he can’t do a full hour today. So I’m not even sure if he ever does an hour, which is what I’m paying him to do.
So last week I texted the dog walker and asked him how many days I owed him for (I do it all the time as I lose track because I travel etc) and he came back to me and he included the day that I knew he hadn’t taken Dog out.
But perhaps it was an “honest” mistake?
So we set a trap…
Today I decided to work from home as I had something I needed to work on all day without interruption, and didn’t need to be in the office. Again I didn’t text the dog walker. He had already confirmed last week he would be walking Dog all week (ie Monday to Friday).
Today: Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nowt.
I’ve been sitting in with Dog all day and he didn’t turn up.
He didn’t even text me or call me to make an excuse. It’s like he’s given up making excuses (see large list up top) and now moved onto the I’ll just pretend I went and walked Dog and see if she says anything. Like other times when I’ve been working from home and he hasn’t turned up by 16:00 or something, I text him and ask him if he can make it, and then he makes some sort of excuse to say he is running late.
But today, since I gave up checking on him… He is making out like he’s coming round to do a service (walk Dog) and claiming money from us, which is a significant amount of our monthly expenditure, and he isn’t doing it.
That is fraud!
Quite frankly I’m gobsmacked because I’ve always thought of him as a really nice guy. He and his partner have gone through a tough time lately (his partner’s business went bankrupt) and so I’ve tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. But when I asked him last week how many days he did, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt and the chance to be honest, he lied.
And today – he hasn’t told me that he didn’t turn up. And I’m sure if I ask him at the end of the week how many days he did, he’ll say 5. (For those of you worried about Dog, I took him out for a long-ish walk this evening. After the dog walker would have come and we’d usually be back from work.)
So I have a moral dilemma… What do I do?
T says I need to terminate the agreement. I’m actually okay with stopping the service because T has promised that he will take Dog out for a longer walk every morning and we can take him out in the evenings as well. It just doesn’t seem worth it to pay someone hundreds of pounds for a service they aren’t doing. It will give us the chance to save some money and spend more time with Dog.
I feel bad just to terminate it without saying anything about how we know he’s been dishonest. But I wouldn’t know what to say. Despite being quite bolshy, I’m not a fan of confrontation. Not in that way, anyway. I’d rather just take it on the chin. The guy also has keys to my house so I’m thinking it’s not a great idea to make an enemy of him. I’d rather end it amicably.
However I also have friends who are using his services on my recommendation. Who’s to say he isn’t fleecing them as well? I don’t know what to do. T says we should tell them. That would mean that the dog walker would likely lose their business, as well as possibly any other business in the large development where we used to live (as everyone talks to each other).
I also don’t want to terminate a source of income to someone at short notice… so I’ll probably have to give a month’s notice or something. I wouldn’t feel right doing it so quickly. But I have to balance that with the fact that he has effectively been stealing from us. I paid the days he said he’d done last week – even though I know that he didn’t do at least one of them! So really I have the right to end the agreement!
So… thought for the day…
Has anything like this happened to you?
What would you do in this situation?
I’m off to snuggle Dog.