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Waggin’ and Walkin’ goes high tech

LaurMinelli left Natalie Avery walk Jamesone their daily clients Waggin' Walkin' pet care Lake Forest. | LindBlaser ~ Sun-Times Media

Laura Minelli, left, and Natalie Avery walk Jameson, one of their daily clients at Waggin' and Walkin' pet care in Lake Forest. | Linda Blaser ~ Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 20, 2013 2:29AM

Five years into their in-home pet service business, the owners of Waggin’ and Walkin’ in Lake Forest have added a technological feature most parents of young children expect of their caregivers these days.

And that sits just right with owners Laura Minelli and Natalie Avery, who find many similarities between children and pets.

“It’s almost kind of the same, taking care of children, taking care of dogs. They both need so much care,” said Minelli, 39, a preschool teacher for more than a dozen years.

“Caring for a dog is like caring for someone’s child,” Avery, 30, agreed.

The two have given one-on-one attention to clients’ pets while they’re at work, away from the house for a long meeting or afternoon in the city, out of town or simply out for the evening. They also provide yard clean up, administer medicine and transport pets to the vet.

But the bread and butter of the business is the dog walking service. Available daily or as-needed, once or multiple times a day, each walk includes a hand-written note to the dog’s mom or dad detailing the events of the 20- to 30-minute trek.

“We’ll put down if we saw another dog, or if we saw some kids who stopped to pet them, anything that happened,” said Avery.

In addition to the hand-written missives, clients will receive texts and emails the minute their dog’s walk starts and ends, including GPS tracking to see exactly where their canine traveled and how long they moseyed about.

With the Veriwalk app as part of their service, the two have taken their pet care up a notch.

“It’s another thing we try to do to make it more personal and more comforting,” said Minelli.

Their business has grown to the point that the partners have hired two employees to split the 16 to 25 dogs they walk Monday through Friday. In all, Waggin’ and Walkin’ serves between 50 and 60 families in Lake Forest, Lake Bluff and Ft. Sheridan for their pet care needs, which includes overnight pet sitting in the client’s home.

While business has grown steadily since the company launched in 2008, the first six months’ started out slowly.

“The first year was basically pounding the pavement, handing out flyers, going up to people who were walking their dog and giving them our card,” Minelli said.

“Then we got on Google, everybody Googles,” Avery said.

Their client list grew, much of it through word-of-mouth. Six to eight months in, the two were walking eight dogs regularly.

“Once it got started, we had a business,” Avery said.

“We hope to eventually have a storefront in a central location in Lake Forest and make it kind of a pet store/kennel/doggy day care where people can come with their dogs and cats” in addition to the dog walks and in-home care, Avery said. “That is our ultimate goal.”

For information, call (847) 444-9387 or go to, like “Waggin’ and Walkin’” on Facebook.

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