Durban – A tall man lies “like a greyhound dog”, stretched out asleep in his bed.
A cellphone beeps, it’s a wake-up call. It’s early but a welcome call. For Glenwood resident Wesley Tinashe Chingwe it means employment.
Chingwe came to this country with nothing, but has found an unusual form of employment that pays the bills, and it shows what a bit of brains and hard work can achieve against the odds.
In 2010, Chingwe, 27, packed his belongings and left his country, Zimbabwe, and family in tears. Chased away by the growling stomachs of the young ones, and the elders who grumble constantly about aching backs and feet, hustling to try to keep the lights on and put bread on the table.
The 27-year-old came to Durban from Harare to seek a better life.
“Coming to such a big city and not knowing what you are going to do when you get there, was a very scary thing,” he said as Grace (a pitbull) and Stanley (a greyhound) ran next to him joyfully, at Bulwer Park.
He spent two years homeless and on the streets before finding a job as a domestic worker in 2012.
“An old lady who lived alone took me in as a stay-in employee. I was doing house chores, but mostly I was taking care of her 10 dogs.”
He walked, fed and bathed these dogs. He would take them to the veterinary clinic every now and then and his love for dogs grew every day.
“I started watching television programmes about dogs, such as Dog Whisperer by Cesar Millan. My curiosity at the vet’s got me to know more about the dogs’ health and their behaviour,” he said.
In 2016 he lost his job and was back on the streets, begging for coins from strangers.
“The cold nights and the worry of where or what to eat the next day was the motivation to think of something. I had no education and I had no skills like other men,” he said.
“I remembered that there were people who used to beg me to walk their dogs when they saw me walking my bunch of 10.”
That is when Chingwe started walking dogs at R40 per dog, per hour. Chingwe is proud to say he now earns more than R10000 a month as a dog walker for his company, Wesley’s Walking Wanders.
Chingwe says it is not always a fun business and there are challenges.
“A client’s dog got killed on my watch. A pitbull that was being walked by its owner somehow ripped the leash and escaped and attacked the little sausage dog I was walking.”
He emphasises the importance of intensive training. Dogs’ lives depend on it.
Thanks to the growth of his company and the workload, he has employed three dog walkers.
“Everything I know about dogs, I learned during my training. All I knew was being a car guard,” said Emmanuel Niyunkuru, one of the employees at Wesley’s Walking Wanders.
Wesley’s Walking Wanders have added more services such as bathing the dogs and taking them to the vet when necessary.
“We spend more time with these dogs than their owners, we know when they are sick,” said Chingwe.
He also uses his Facebook account to reach out to people who have seen a lost dog on the side of the road to call him or text him to pick it up.
“During festive seasons I pick up a lot of lost dogs, because they run away from their homes due to fireworks.” said Chingwe.
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