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Laguna Beach

 Volume 14, Issue 5  |  January 18, 2022


Liv’s Leashes: a dog’s best friend

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Long walks, nature hikes, trips to the beach and treats – such are the things that fantasies are made of for our canine companions. Laguna resident Olivia Soares, founder of Liv’s Leashes, makes this dream come true for her four-legged clients, one dog at a time. 

It’s no secret that Laguna Beach residents love their animals. Most of us try to accommodate our canine housemates with sufficient exercise, if for nothing more than to bring peace into our homes (a worn-out dog makes for a happy owner). However, due to a variety of circumstances, it’s not always possible on a daily basis. 

“I strive to give the dogs I walk a rich and stimulating environment so when they get back home, they’re ready to get back to their favorite nap spot!” Soares states on her website.

Liv’s Leashes provides a private walk – Soares doesn’t do packs. “One-on-one walking is much more manageable,” she said, emphasizing that single dog walking also affords the opportunity for thoughtful, caring and responsive attention.

Soares offers half-hour and hour-long dog walks (packages available), playdate packages, and at home pet care (for cats and dogs), both drop-in and overnight. It’s not always feasible to take a pet along on a trip and trustworthy at home care is critical.

liv's leashes closeup

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Liv Soares

Dog walkers

Evidently, professional dog walkers have been around for at least 87 years. On January 5, 1935, The New York Times published an article, headlined “Walking the Dog - Big Business.” 

Certainly, the demand for them has increased over the years.

Although Soares has always been an animal lover – she now has a cat named Cowboy – she didn’t consider translating it into a career until she moved here. She credits her love for animals to her grandmother and her father, who is an artist (working in watercolors) and does animal portraits and botanicals.

Reset 

“Before the pandemic hit, I was working as an assistant paralegal in Springfield, Virginia,” said Soares, a University of Rhode Island graduate. She realized being inside at a desk didn’t suit her. 

“I chose to use the pandemic as a reset button, and I moved to Laguna Beach to start a new chapter,” she said. “I always dreamed of moving to California, so I packed up my car and came out.” 

On her arrival, Soares lived in Lake Forest for two months, then she met her boyfriend, and she’s been here ever since. Since he’s in finance, he lends her a hand with the business numbers. 

liv's leashes walking

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Liv taking Axe for a brisk walk

In August 2021, Soares founded Liv’s Leashes. “I got my start on Wag!, which is an on-demand dog walking app as a part time gig,” she said. “I loved it so much I created my own LLC to make this full time.”

She now spends as many as 12 hours a day giving her clients different and exciting experiences be it a hike, walk, or beach time.

“I like exploring new neighborhoods,” Soares said. “I love walking the dogs and getting to know people I meet. I also have become friends with the owners, and sometimes we chat when I pick up the dogs and bring them back.” 

As evidence of her time spent outdoors (she has walked 15 miles in one day), Soares said, “When I moved here, I was a brunette, now I’m a blond.” 

Walking also gives her the chance to listen to podcasts and learn new things, another one of her passions. 

“I love to see how happy the dogs are,” she said. “I give them time and work on manners.”

liv's leashes treat time

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Learning manners

 Client accolades

One of her steady clients is Axe, a high-spirited 3-year-old Husky, who owner Jill Lockhart rescued. Soares has been walking him for four months, and he’s one of the lucky dogs that she walks five days a week. I tagged along on part of his walk, an event Axe clearly loved, as did Soares. 

“I don’t claim to be an official trainer, but I teach them signals. Axe knows how to listen. He’s very vocal and he has a lot of energy and personality,” she said. 

It appeared that part of the job is knowing the neighborhood dog population. As we rounded a corner, Soares put some distance between Axe and an approaching dog. “The dog isn’t friendly, so we get out of the way,” she said. “I’ve learned from the daily walks which dogs to avoid.” 

Lockhart gave Soares high praise. “I saw Olivia’s flyer for ‘Liv’s Leashes’ and took a chance and reached out to Olivia. I needed a dog walker but with Olivia, you get so much more. She has a special way with the animals and they truly love her. Axe, our husky, waits for her at the gate and howls with joy when her car pulls down the street. Not only does she give them a workout, she makes it fun for them while still requiring discipline. We have two very different dogs, Olivia can handle all breeds and sizes. She is truly the best!”

liv's leashes axe sitting

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Taking a break for a photo opportunity 

When Soares started her business, she used the old-fashioned method of distributing flyers and handing out cards, which obviously worked, because she now has 30 clients (15 steady ones) and is hiring a new employee – her friend Lexie – to take on more clients. She also set up an Instagram account and has had 13,000 views. 

Another of her canine clients, Cooper, is a German Shepherd-Labrador mix who is large but well behaved, said Soares.

“Olivia has been great for us,” said Nicole Hughes, Cooper’s owner. “We moved to Laguna Beach from Long Island, NY without knowing any friends or having family here. We travel often and were in need of a trusted sitter who we could rely on. Cooper is so important to us so it was critical to find someone we could trust. Cooper is always so excited to see Olivia and is able to be comfortable in his own home which gives us a peace of mind while traveling.” 

Future plans

In addition to Lexie, Soares is looking to hire other dog walkers for her business and eventually would like to expand from Laguna to cover Corona del Mar. 

Soares offers a free of charge meet and greet, during which time she explains the services and pricing. 

“I’m dedicated to making the dogs happy,” she said. “I truly love what I do. It’s the happiest I’ve ever been.”

There’s no doubt that her four-legged clients feel the same.

For more information or if you’re looking to become a dog walker, go to www.LivsLeashes.com, or call 401.935.9620.

Follow Liv’s Leashes on Instagram @livs_leashes.

 

Lana Johnson, Editor - Lana@StuNewsLaguna.com

Tom Johnson, Publisher - Tom@StuNewsLaguna.com

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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