West Hartford-based David’s Pet Services employs care, love, and a little technology to keep pets and people safe and happy.
By Tracey Weiss
It came down to a career choice for David Steinberg: dogs or people. He chose both. With David’s Pet Services, a business he started many years ago as a rollerblading dog walker, the West Hartford native gets to care for animals and the people who own them in a business that he genuinely loves.
David’s Pet Services, commonly called DPS, is more than just a dog walking service. Steinberg has found a mix of care and technology that makes everyone, from his staff to his human and animal clients, happy.
“I employ 15 people – six are full time and they love their jobs,” Steinberg said.
He and his staff walk dogs and also pet sit for dogs, cats, reptiles and fish in West Hartford and surrounding towns. When it comes to walking dogs, “We have really safe walking procedures,” Steinberg said.
“I believe in doing what’s right and not from the bottom line,” he said. “My policies involve safety and trust and the desire to do what is right. It protects the dogs, the clients and the staff.”
Part of that protection is in the form of a professional system that has a GPS tracker. A small fob is clipped on to the dog’s collar before the walk. “It tracks on a 5G network,” Steinberg said, which means the walk and the dog can be tracked on the phone.
For Steinberg, it’s safe and transparent. It’s about “connection and containment inside and out of the house. Losing a dog would be bad for my business and bad for my heart.” It’s also why all of his dog walkers are trained in pet CPR.
Jane Williams serves as field manager for DPS, and has been with the company for more than 18 months. “All of us on the team, we have an absolute love of animals,” she said. “We are out there, rain or shine, during a heat wave or in freezing cold. We have a deep, deep love of animals. We support each other. We make sure we get the job done. You’re working towards a bigger goal, always putting the pet first.”
While her role involves working behind the scenes as well as meeting and scheduling clients, she still walks the dogs that she has a relationship with and loves.
One client in particular, she said, is a senior and her companion dog took a little time to get to know. At first, she said, the dog “was nervous but she got to know me. We played. Now we have a bond. When I see the dog, she gallops toward me and lifts her legs in the air.”
Her owner is “a wonderful woman. This is not just about the dogs. It’s about the clients,” Williams said. “We become part of their lives.”
“One of our favorite dogs of all time is a golden retriever named Piper,” Steinberg said. “Such a calm and beautiful boy. He waited for his walks in the laundry room, where we would retrieve him. Each time we entered, we found him wagging his tail, always with something to offer us in his mouth, like a towel – his favorite thing to give us – or a stuffed animal.
“On the walk he was such a joy. He walked beautifully, without much pulling at all. He stayed so close – and was just tall enough – that we could pet him as he walked! Talk about a walk that brightens everyone’s day – dog and human alike! That’s the type of walk that makes me and my employees say, ‘wait, we get paid to do this?’”
Steinberg literally grew his business because he would take his canine clients on a roller blading “walk.”
“When I first started my business, the bulk of the walks I did were on inline skates/roller blades,” he said. “I took dogs on the exercise of their life, every single time. Passersby would drive by clapping, laughing, and offering thumbs up.
“Not only was I having fun, not only were the dogs having a blast, but I was able to make the day of people driving by. From someone that loves seeing humans and dogs happy, it was a really great situation all around!”
Steinberg grew up in West Hartford, and after graduating from Hall High School, went to UConn and the School of Social Work at the West Hartford campus for clinical therapy.
“I was pet-sitting on the side,” he said. “All of my friends had moved away and their parents were like, ‘you’re watching our dogs.’ I didn’t have a dog but I loved them.”
He graduated in 2014 and went to work for the Family Resource Development Center in West Hartford. “As a therapist, I worked with kids, young adults and families. It was my passion. I also started to grow the dog walking business. I was reading more about dog training than cognitive therapy. It’s funny because it has the same methodology.”
At some point he realized that he needed to make a career choice. “I wasn’t able to give everything to my clients,” he said. “It was scary but I ended up making the jump. By the end of 2016, I went from a full-time therapist to a full-time dogapist.”
Trish and John Hesslein are clients who have been with Steinberg for more than 15 years. Will and Grace, two littermate pugs, belong to the Hessleins. Will passed away three years ago but DPS walkers still take care of Grace, and the Hessleins wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We met David through his mother, Sue,” Trish said. “We belong to the same gym. I was chatting about how I would love to find someone to pet sit.”
“I like the consistency of service,” John said. “They are passionate about what they do. Trish and I are empty nesters. David understands how important pets are to us. Even during the pandemic, we supported the organization. And we wanted the consistency with the dog.”
“When we lost Will, David was very compassionate,” Trish said. In fact, Steinberg gave the Hessleins a framed decoupaged photo of the two dogs, which they still have hanging in their home. “It was very thoughtful,” Trish said.
Carla Burns is also a client. DPS has been taking care of her Labradoodle, Riley Burns, for four years.
She hired David after getting a puppy and realizing that “we were really in over our heads as far as training goes. I didn’t expect it to be so intense … the puppy teeth and the potty training! David was available immediately. He was super nice and kind. We started with two walks a day.
“Every walker is super caring,” she added. “They trained him. They taught him how to walk on a leash and on the stairs.”
Burns loves how reliable the walkers are. “I don’t worry they won’t show up. They love the dog and he is super excited when they come.
She also loves the technology they use. “On the app, you can cancel or schedule an added walk.”
Clients also get a detailed report every day. “They send you a report with pictures every day and write a narrative,” she said.
Canine care and COVID
“When Covid started, we didn’t cancel our dog walking,” Burns said. “We were still working full time, so we kept everyone on. They were very mindful of the Covid precautions. They adapted and went with the flow.”
Steinberg is appreciative of the support he received from clients.
“Most of our clients began to work at home and even though they didn’t need our services as much as they used to, many of them supported us and stuck with us. I was amazed at the outreach of support.
“We were able to safely keep clients on board and employees working. The doors stayed open. No one got COVID because of our amazing staff members keeping safe.
“I was just so inspired that after all the time that we have cultivated this business – keeping our moral compass strong, always proving to be the most trustworthy service, and also doing an excellent job – our clients paid us back with trust support, and appreciation, when we really needed it most. It was uplifting, motivating, and helped us feel so appreciated.”
Cutting new teeth
Growing his business isn’t the only thing in Steinberg’s life that continues to grow. He and his wife, Nadia Aguilar-Steinberg, have two children: Diego, 4, and Lily, 1.
“At the end of the day, he hits the right buttons,” John Hesslein said. “We value that, and his service is a line item in our family budget and always will be. We have never endorsed a business like this and we are both marketing people. We would like to see him continue to grow.”
For more information, contact David’s Pet Services at 860-612-8340, or go to www.dps.dog.
A version of this article previously appeared in the September 2021 issue of West Hartford LIFE.
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