I've been walking a lot lately with two new friends, Timmy and Truffy, and I'm really enjoying it, despite the fact that it's work. I'm actually helping my good friend Liz, who owns a pet-sitting service and needed some assistance through the summer for a client who is recovering from an illness.

Liz' business has become very busy, especially over the summer months, and I'm just a backup. But as a dog owner and lover, I was happy to get involved. I had helped with this woman's dogs over the Christmas holidays, so she knew me and was comfortable.

Building trust is half the battle with dog walkers, and I know that from our own experience. My three "kids," as our dog walker Diane calls them, trust her implicitly and look forward to her visits. She was a lifesaver from the time my wife broke her ankle in February until a couple of weeks ago when my wife could once again work with our neurotics.

For the woman I'm working for, the dogs need at least a 30-to-40-minute walk, and initially they were a little skittish, because my client has had a lot of help from friends and these guys have been a little confused about who's coming or going. Now we have our routine -- generally Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

My route takes me up and down long streets and some little hills in the Stratfield area, and my guys like to walk. Timmy is more energetic and could go for an hour or more. Truffy tires more easily and is ready to go back after a half hour. The greatest part of my temporary position as dog walker is the exercise. It's so great to be out, even if's a bit more humid. Ever since I had to scale back on my personal training in the winter, my muscle tone, what little there was of it, turned more to mass, and I was doing very little walking.

And without my wife to join me, our brood -- two rambunctious Jack Russells and a Beagle mix rescue -- have been relegated to our fenced in backyard instead of a regular brisk walk.

At first, Timmy was a little reluctant to walk comfortably and barked for the first few minutes. My client was concerned about that and decided to muzzle the guy, which I thought was a little extreme but better safe than sorry with unpredictable behavior.

Truffy has been laid back from the beginning, and he just goes with the flow. Now we're all great buds, and when I arrived this week, Timmy was not muzzled and I was able to give him and Truffy a couple of greeting biscuits before we took off.

I've been pretty lucky with most dogs. They seem to like me, and that makes this kind of temporary work so much easier. I know that by the end of the summer, if the work ends, I'll really miss walking with my friends.

The other great thing about this dog-walking assignment is the chance to see different neighborhoods and houses that are for sale. My client lives in a charming, older neighborhood with a mix of ranches, capes and colonials. This week, many were draped in red, white and blue bunting, adding to the charm of the neighborhood and the feel of a small town.

Since we're putting our house back on the market in mid-July or early August, I'd be curious to see a couple of the houses in this neighborhood, just to get a sense of different layouts and price ranges. As the summer evolves, I'll be watching to see if any of the homes sell. Of course, my friends Timmy and Truffy could care less about my house hunting. They are content to just keep walking, decorating every plant and bush in sight and eventually providing me with nature's reward so I can fill my bags and assure my client that they've done their business.

The other nice part about my dog walking with friends is that folks in the neighborhood know who I am now and a lot more people say hello when I walk by.

Fortunately my friends are oblivious to other dogs, and if a neighbor's dog barks, my friends just keep walking. That's a real blessing, because my brood always makes it clear that they are the most important critters in the neighborhood, especially my little Jack Russell, Sadie.

I'm really liking this separate little summer diversion and I've told Liz that I'm happy to help if I can.

But I have no interest in creating a pet sitting business or being anyone's competition.

My real loves remain writing, publicity and teaching and that's not likely to change.

Steven Gaynes "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at steven.gaynes@yahoo.com.