Mike Meyer’s squad is a sight to behold.

On a warm June day, 13 dogs lay in a near-perfect half-circle in the grass near the bank of the Mississippi River, under the shade of a tree. Connected by a system of yellow nylon leads, the dogs are all under the watchful eye of Meyer, who is making sure they each get a drink of water on their hard-earned break.

Mike Meyer gives each dog a drink of water while they take a break from a walk. Meyer picks up dogs in Lowertown St. Paul and Minneapolis and walks them daily along the bank of the Mississippi River. Photo by Katie Moritz.

It’s the middle of the afternoon, and Meyer is on his daily walk with his pack along the river. Meyer has the job that you might know exists but weren’t sure how to get yourself. He’s a dog walker and trainer, and the owner of Lofty Dogs, the only group dog walking company that services this part of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Every morning, he loads up his Subaru with dogs from Minneapolis before heading back to St. Paul for more pups. Meyer is focused on Lowertown as luxury apartments and condos have sprung up and made the area more residential than ever. A centralized park and dog-friendly landlords has caused Lowertown’s dog culture to boom.

“People are having less kids, and having a dog instead or at least first, until they’re closer to their young 30s,” Meyer said. “People are moving in from suburbs and outstate to live in the downtown area. Lowertown has boomed because there’s space because they’ve made it all into luxury loft space, and they accommodate dogs on purpose.”

The newer apartment buildings offer on-site dog spas, and indoor pet relief areas. And Meyer works directly with the area’s apartment and condo building owners to provide the services these dogs need while their humans are away at work, he said.

Model ‘dog citizens’

On this beautiful summer day, Lorni, a tiny, perky Papillon puppy, can’t stop loving on black lab Nina, who is being pretty patient with his attention. A husky and beagle in the group are keen to where Meyer is standing, and want to get close to him, perking up when he looks their way. And, of course, this adorable crew attracts attention. No less than four people stopped on their walks along the river to take a closer look, some of them pausing to take photos of the camera-ready group.

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As many as 13 dogs walk with Meyer at any one time. He teaches them how to be good “dog citizens.” Photo by Katie Moritz.

While it’s “neat to see” a boom of dogs and dog lovers in Lowertown, it’s important that these city pooches learn how to be good “dog citizens,” he said. With tons of people, cars and trains, it’s important that urban dogs learn discipline so they stay safe.

“I’ve trained a lot of people with their dogs and I’ve trained a lot of dogs and I wish this could be more the norm,” he said. “This is the way it could be—just calmer.”

Meyer has been working with dogs for more than five years, after leaving his job in the corporate world to work for Citizen Kanine, another dog walking company, in Minneapolis. When he first saw the owner of Citizen Kanine walking around a lake in Minneapolis, pack of dogs in tow, Meyer said he felt intuitively it would be part of his future.

After a few years of training under his mentor, Meyer decided to launch his own business.

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Meyer walks dogs year-round in Minnesota, no small feat. Photo by Katie Moritz.

“A buddy of mine was showing apartments, and he said, ‘You know what, we need someone exactly like you in St. Paul,’” Meyer said.

Meyer loves that he gets to work outside in all four seasons, no small feat in Minnesota, and he gets “paid to exercise.” Lofty Dogs feeds the creative and entrepreneurial part of his brain, he said. But it’s the bond he has with the dogs he spends time with that makes the job so wonderful.

“It’s awe inspiring—what is that connection between you and those (dogs) that they all operate together as a team like that?” he said. “It (is) beautiful, it (is) artful.”

This article is part of  “Living for the City,” a Rewire initiative made possible by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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