SIERRA MADRE, Calif. - It's a sign of the times as Chris Leclerc, a dog walker, puts on gloves and a face mask before meeting her furry friends. She's doing it to protect herself and her clients from coronavirus.
But Leclerc says donning protective gear isn't the only change in her life these days.
"I'm just down to a couple of walks a day now," said Leclerc.
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That's in stark contrast to her schedule before the pandemic.
"I would walk up to 10, 10 walks a day and those are usually about a half hour, so it's five hours of walking," explained Leclerc.
Now, she considers herself lucky to walk dogs for one hour a day.
Leclerc started Canyon Canine 11 years ago in Sierra Madre. She opted to ditch her construction management job and the stress that went with it.
"I decided since I love animals and I kind of just wanted to follow my heart in what I was going to do for an occupation," said Leclerc.
She got clients through newspaper ads and word-of-mouth, filling up a full-time work schedule. But since California's stay-at-home order, Leclerc says her clients have slowly stopped calling.
"It's just strange not to see my little buddies because they keep me sane in a way, you know, my little dog friends and so to be separated from them, kind of leaves a little hole in my heart," she said.
Still, Leclerc is grateful she has enough money to live on, at least for now. Her husband is an antiques dealer, but his business is also suffering due to the pandemic.
"In my case, I'm lucky that I'm not going to go broke. I'm in a position where I can float a while, maybe more than some," said Leclerc.
She says that still means cutting down on non-necessities like take-out food. On the bright side, Leclerc has more time to spend with her own dog, Molly, and to resume hobbies.
"I'm going to start playing the banjo because I kind of put it away for a while, hadn't done it. I'm not great but I'm good enough to make a song," said Leclerc.
She plans to continue walking dogs for older clients who can't leave their homes because of the pandemic. She's hopeful the rest of her clientele will return when the crisis fades.