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Celebrity Dog Walker Opens Richmond Shop

Raised in Richmond, McGinnis says she was always "the kid on the block that everyone called to take care of their dog." When she was 25, she moved to Los Angeles and met Hollywood couple Renée Taylor and Joe Bologna, both actors and playwrights.

McGinnis became friends with the pair, who offered her a position as their personal assistant. She traveled with them to Chicago and New York City, accompanied Taylor on the set of the sitcom "The Nanny," where Taylor played Fran Drescher's mother, and cared for the couple's pets: two Maltese, two cats, a dove and a rabbit.

When the traveling grew tiresome, McGinnis told Taylor and Bologna that sadly, she had to leave the job. With their connections, they helped her establish a six-employee dog-walking and pet-care service for their friends, many of whom are members of Hollywood's old guard.

McGinnis' clients included Doris Roberts of "Everybody Loves Raymond," Cindy Williams of "Laverne and Shirley," Linda Gray of "Dallas" and James Garner, star of "Maverick" and "The Rockford Files." Garner, whom McGinnis calls "Mr. G.," would sit with her as she brushed his two dogs and tell her stories about his glory days.

Earlier this year, McGinnis moved back to Richmond for personal reasons. She sold her Hollywood business, which had grown to have a staff of six, and bade farewell to her clients. Several still keep in touch. Taylor and Bologna just sent her a framed magazine article on the recent renewal of their vows.

A month ago, McGinnis launched Pets at Play in a storefront next to the Church Hill Animal Hospital. There she provides day care, in-home care, boarding, grooming and walking services. Doggie day care has proved to be the most popular service thus far, especially for pet owners such as nurses and police officers who work long shifts. On a recent Tuesday, McGinnis watched her employees frolic with a Saint Bernard, a standard poodle and three Lab mixes. "Animals are just pure love," she says fondly. — Melissa Scott Sinclair

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