The Angel of Hidden Hills
With nearly 200 furry clients, our dog walker Angel is one of the most popular personalities in all of Hidden Hills.
The unaccustomed are taken aback. Who is that man? Where did all those dogs come from? What is going on here?
Residents are quick to spot and wave to Angel Sanchez, our very own “dog whisperer” of Hidden Hills. On any given morning, as you pass by Long Valley or Round Meadow, you will find Angel and his happy canine companions enjoying a walk. And then, later in the day . . . round two and round three, with the next pack of our canine critters. All the while, us passersby inevitably also hear Angel happily singing; for so many of us, it’s music to our ears!
Rarely do we see Angel by himself. He is most often surrounded, quite literally, by at least a dozen dogs. “I can walk 25 myself,” boasts Angel, a herculean feat to say the least. Most of us can barely manage two (or even one!). Typically, with so many dogs to walk at once, Angel’s helpers, Rodolfo Martinez, Francisco Vasquez and Remigio Hernandes, become his lieutenants. Together they stroll the neighborhood, like swirling schools of fish, in sync with each other, moving in tandem. And who can’t help but hear on and off throughout the day a chorus of canine whining, as our dogs sense their Angel approaching, knowing it’s now their turn for a Hidden Hills outing.
Angel is definitely the “alpha dog” of Hidden Hills. It’s his pack, and he controls it with almost imperceptible commands—slight hand flicks and subtle leash tugs. Daily, we hear his classic, “Vamanos, chicos!” and away they go.
“They speak Spanish,” Angel is quick to say with a wink and a smile.
Surprisingly, this was not a lifelong calling of Angel’s. He grew up in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico, on a farm with donkeys, lambs, cows, goats and dogs. More than a decade ago, Angel was actually working construction on a house in Hidden Hills when the owner asked a favor of him, namely, to walk her dog. A dog trainer herself, she spotted his natural skills and quickly referred him to all her friends. Now, Angel is a seven-day-a-week walker, often herding the canines for six straight hours a day, big ones, small ones and the in-betweeners all together!
When you see Angel and his team walking a huge pack of dogs, you might mistakenly think it’s a bit impersonal, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Angel told us he knew every dog by name. So we challenged him, on the spot:
“That’s Sophie, Lola, Digby, Cabana, Louis, Lucy and Samantha,” he rattled off, without hesitation. Okay, we were impressed.
He says he loves all the dogs, but he did let it slip that he has a few favorites. German Shepherds are his personal favorite breed. But as a dog walker, a black Labrador named Hunter was the one that put the biggest smile on his face. Now gone, Hunter still has a special place in Angel’s heart.
“I used to walk Hunter,” tells Angel. “When I finished walking him, I would return to my original job in Hidden Hills. Then Hunter would come and find me. I don’t know how he got there, but he found me. He was a lovely dog and very nice. I cared so much for him.”
When you spend time with Angel, you realize he has a genuinely deep affection for all of “his” dogs in the walking club. He worries over their illnesses and he mourns with their passing.
He pays special attention to the newcomers, making sure they are well behaved before they can hang with the others. He eases the newest ones into the larger group by walking them with a handful of the calmest, most welcoming dogs. Maybe he learned that step-by-step “initiation” approach the hard way: One neighbor tells us of a time many years ago when Angel was just getting started in this admirable venture, walking at the most three at a time, when he agreed quite willingly to add her three Goldens to the pack—apparently, one of those Goldens had a slight “temper tantrum” and Angel confessed to her years later, “I almost quit.” He didn’t quit–the rest, to our delight, is history.
When asked about any funny experiences, Angel beamed a smile and chuckled. “I was jogging on Long Valley with about 15 dogs up by the Long Valley gate. Suddenly, Hunter got in front of me and I tripped over him. Instead of tumbling forward, I fell backward and all the dogs immediately stopped and looked at me as if to say, ‘Oh my gosh, how’d you do that?’ It was the funniest thing, the looks on their faces. It was as though they were either very scared or very impressed at the way I fell. Fortunately, it was a Sunday and no one was around to see…except for the dogs!”
Hidden Hills is most certainly blessed by our Angel. We love our dogs dearly, and how lucky we are that Angel does, too. ¡Vamanos, chicos!
Published with permission from Hidden Hills Magazine, Summer 2015 issue.