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Neither snow, nor rain, nor muddy paws stays Whit McLure from swift completion of her appointed rounds. While few people live and die by their snail mail these days, anyone with a dog will sooner or later require a reliable dog walker.
McLure is a member of the forward-thinking Brighter Days Collective, which is just as passionate about economic equality as it is the welfare of its clawed clients.
“The business was started to create alternatives to the typical top-down business model,” says McLure, who splits ownership of the company, nearly a decade old, with each of her co-workers. “The 10 of us function as a collective. Each of us manage our own routes. We split up the business’s administrative tasks, like taxes and advertising, as a collective. Our hiring process is a collective: We get together and [interview] the person as a group. It’s important that we have chemistry.”
As the so-called “freelance economy” fills in the gap left by disappearing, traditional, full-time jobs, the freelancers themselves are too often clobbered under the interests and abuses of corporate employers who see cheap labor in the place of people. Our most vulnerable generation is often vaunted for their great creative prowess, but 70,000 Instagram followers won’t get you a seat on the Circulator without a dollar.
Brighter Days, then, merits coverage for providing a fair salary and generous benefits to a group of young Washingtonians with a bevy of extra-office creative and community initiatives.
McLure also works for Beet Street Gardens, which builds community plots throughout Northeast D.C., and likes to indulge her twin passions for cooking and drawing when not at work.
The other Brighter Days members have similarly packed résumés, which is why they get by with a little help from each other. Each is given six weeks of paid vacation a year and the assurance that their fellow walkers will fill in for each other when needed.
“A lot of us come from backgrounds of having other activities — bands, jobs, creative ventures. [Our structure allows us] to offer people gainful and dignified employment and contribute to the community, to do the things they’re passionate about support themselves. What’s really cool about this model is that it works.”
If you’re already itching to pull a Lester Burnham at your accounting firm, it won’t help you to hear that Brighter Days has offered its employee/owners transgender-inclusive health care options since before the signing of the Affordable Care Act.
They are environmentally minded, too, using bikes or shoes to get from neighborhood to neighborhood. They regularly donate money to small, local organizations such as HIPS (Helping Individual People Survive) and Radix farms, which subsidizes CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes for qualifying low-income households.
“We prefer to donate to organizations that are smaller so that the money will actually help them more,” explains McLure. “We’ve also created a training manual for other people to set up a [collective business.] They can see what pieces of our model might help them, see there’s autonomy and space within a collective model for people to speak up and have a say in what’s beneficial to themselves and everyone else.”
Of course, no mission statement is a replacement for knowing one’s way around an extendo-leash. The Louisville, Ky.-born McLure is a familiar, St. Francis-like presence in Adams Morgan for her beaming smile and enduring unflappability at the center of an ever-growing hurricane of leashed, happy dogs.
The tight-knit nature and self-managed routes of Brighter Days means that, with the exception of vacation days, the same dog or puppy will get the same walker every day. This kind of trust and comfort goes a long way toward keeping Bowser happy, healthy and trainable.
Daily human or canine social contact is a necessity for dogs, and that interaction becomes much less stressful for them when constantly accompanied by a familiar, friendly face. The good people of Brighter Days are united by business, but were gathered by shared passion.
“A lot of us grew up with animals,” shares McLure. “That’s what really drew me to the business. I’ve had a lot of puppies join my route and it’s really fascinating to see this pet develop and to have a hand in it being a friendly, fun companion for people to have in their homes and share their lives with.”
Brighter Days offers packages for walking one or two dogs. The standard “visit” is 30 minutes, which includes a walk of 20-to-25 minutes. Dog-sitting packages include three-to-four walks per day, plus meals and meds, with overnight and non-overnight supervision options. Cat feedings are free after a customer has already paid for dog sitting, and other cat services and sitting arrangements are available.
For more exotic companions, the ever-amenable folks at Brighter Days offer “Get in touch with us, and we’ll see what we can do.”
For more information about Brighter Days, visit brighterdayscollective.com.