NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – At dog-walking service the Academy of Royal Wolves, the canine “cadets” dress in uniform—matching red bandanas are personalized with each dog’s name.
Leading the pack is founder Costello Caldwell, who wears a brown and green uniform of his own design.
“It is a cross between Indiana Jones, the Marlboro Man, and Ralph Lauren,” he said.
Before starting Royal Wolves 18 years ago, Costello worked as maître d’ at a Manhattan restaurant.
“When you’re at the front desk greeting people, you’ve got to smile all the time. I don’t care what kind of attitude they bring with them,” he said. “My face began to cramp.”
After 12 years, he caught pneumonia, which he attributes to the stress of the job. From his hospital bed, he caught a televised special from a motivational speaker who urged viewers to turn their passion into their career. That sparked an epiphany for Caldwell.
“When I got out of the hospital, I went to the park, and I sat down. I watched these dog walkers walk by,” he said. “I said, ‘You know what? I can do this. Let’s see if I can do it better.”
He created a name, business cards, and attention-grabbing uniforms.
“Dog walkers don’t wear uniforms,” he said.
Strolling down the street for the first time with his pack in their “royal” outfits, he turned heads.
“New York loves a spectacle,” he said.
These days, his office is Riverside Park, where he takes hour-long walks in all types of weather with up to eight dogs at a time. He charges between $20 and $25 per hour walk.
“I’m healthier. I don’t catch colds,” he said. “I walk ten to fifteen miles per day.”
His dogs are his confidants.
“I tell them all my secrets. All the skeletons come out of the closet,” he said. “They won’t tell anyone. They tell each other, maybe.”
His new job brings him the fulfillment that was missing at the restaurant.
“The smiles now are genuine,” he said.
The Academy of Royal Wolves
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