“You have the best job. You play with dogs all day and get paid for it!”
Yes I do have the best job. I love my job! Hanging out with dogs and cats all day sure beats the alternative. All of my pet clients remind me everyday just how blessed I am to get to spend my days covered in dog hair and slobbery kisses. I’m totally serious! I absolutely love what I do and wouldn’t have it any other way!
The first thing that comes to mind for most when I say I’m a professional pet sitter, is that my job is easy. Like a babysitter for pets, anyone could do it, really. And what is a “professional” pet sitter? Many people aren’t aware that this is actually a thing. I’ll get into that in a bit.
My job is far from easy. It’s generally perceived with whats seen on the outside, the fun stuff. I get to make my own schedule, pick my hours, cuddle and play with dogs/cats all day, and not have to report back to a boss. I’m passionate about what I do and I truly enjoy it. It’s fun, it’s comforting, and it’s incredibly rewarding. While all of this may be true, there’s a lot more to it.
Each one of these truths has their own behind the scenes sub-truth that comes with it. In the midst of all the rewarding aspects of pet sitting, there is a lot more to the job than most know or even understand. Each individual pet has their own personality and behavior traits. Each one has their own personal needs and routine. Some are chill, some are…well, not. Some have anxiety or aggression issues and some want to lick your face all day while others want to pee on your brand new shoes. I have been bit by dogs on many occasions and have a nice scar from a k9 tooth sinking into my elbow as the dog tried to latch on. My mom has a scar on her face after needing stitches from being bit by a very sweet but startled, blind senior. Oh and the scratches from an attack cat can be even more painful! I have lost count of how many dog fights I’ve had to get in the middle of to break up. (This is terrifying by the way and can happen in the blink of an eye without any warning). I have many times put myself in the middle of two or more dogs to break them up. It’s not always smart, but I guess it’s instinct.
Then there are pets with special needs. Special needs pets hold a special place in my heart. I can’t help but form an extra strong bond with the pets who not only rely on me to feed and walk them, but also to tend to their very specific, time sensitive, often difficult needs. I have diabetic cats and dogs who require time sensitive injections. These injections can’t be administered until 30-60 minutes after the pet has eaten. But what if the dog decides he’s not hungry? Or shows you just how big his teeth are when he doesn’t want his medicine. What about when the cat knows it’s needle time and hides? You try finding and then catching a cat that doesn’t want to be found LOL!
I have pets with cancer, pancreatitis, seizures, amputated limbs, vestibular disease and dementia. I have walked into 3 separate homes to find someone’s perfectly healthy dog having a pancreatic episode. The early symptoms can be hard to spot unless you know what to look for. This goes for many diseases and illnesses. I’ve walked into homes where the dog had their first “senior moment” and got stuck in a bath tub of all places. There are a multitude special needs a pet may have and it isn’t designated to only afflicted pets. Young healthy pets may have special needs as well.
And then there’s the driving. So much driving. The mileage, the gas, the wear and tear. Not to mention having to pull over every time I see a loose or stray dog! I do that anyway though, not just when I’m on the clock. The list goes on. I basically live in my car, but I pack my snacks and thankfully have an awesome play list and endless podcasts to listen to!
With all that said, earning the trust of any pet and their owners, is one of the most rewarding parts of what I do. Many times when I am new to a pet and their family has just left, they can be very timid, shy and anxious. All which are expressed through different behaviors. This is due to their normal routine changing. Yes many pets act like they’ve known me their whole life when I walk in to our very first visit. But this can’t be expected with every pet, even if they acted just that way at our meet and greet. Pets, more often with dogs, can be a completely different creature when their owners aren’t around. They thrive on routine, and when that routine suddenly changes to the hands of a new human, their world can be flipped upside down. At least for the first few visits. Once they understand what my role is and why I’m there, (feed, potty, play, cuddles, treats, etc) they eventually come out of their shell and show me who they really are. I’ll start to see their silly quirks and habits, they’ll show me their favorite toys and they begin to adjust to our routine.
When a dog or cat opens up and shows they trust me, it’s extremely rewarding! Sometimes it happens right away or by our second or third visit, other times it takes longer. Every pet is different, but once they knows their people eventually come home, seeing me is like their own play date or vacation. This could partially be due to extra treats being involved when I’m around lol but we build a special bond and they know that I am there to care for them, they know I’m safe and they know I love them. They know our routine and they rely on that, just like they do with their family.
As for the “professional” part. There is a difference between a hobbyist pet sitter and a professional pet sitter. A hobbyist, regardless of how long they’ve been pet sitting, no matter how good and trustworthy they are, does not run a legal business. They are not insured, and you as the pet owner are responsible for any and all things that could possibly go wrong while your pet is in their care. Many aren’t properly trained in pet health and safety. Many don’t prioritize your pets first and many just don’t take this job as seriously as they should. Do not get me wrong, there are so many wonderful pet sitters out there that are not considered a professional. I’m not talking about them. Although if they are doing this as a business, they really should be insured at the very least. As a professional pet sitter, my business is licensed, bonded and insured. That means, I file and pay taxes on all my income from pet sitting, and both myself and my clients are covered in the event of something going wrong. (Thankfully I haven’t had to file any claims, but the security is there. Things happen.) Even though I enjoy what I do and it doesn’t always feel like a job, it is. I am running a business and like any other business, my name and reputation is on the line. Caring for someone else’s pet is a huge responsibility. I’m also entering their private home which in itself is a huge responsibility. I may be there for the pets, but that home is in my care as well. From spotting water leaks and broken fence latches to making sure faucets are dripping when the weather is supposed to drop below 20 degrees so pipes don’t burst. If a pet is acting “off” I notice. If I’m unsure, I contact the client to be sure. I’ve spent hours at the vet with sick pets because I noticed the slightest symptom of life threatening illnesses. Had I assumed it was nothing, it could have been tragic. I can’t even count how many calls I’ve received for emergency pet care needs because the person they hired to care for their pets either didn’t show up, decided they had better plans, didn’t notice they left a door open and the cat got out, didn’t check the fence and the dog got out, and even quit because they couldn’t handle or weren’t expecting so much “work”. If someone is on vacation and their “pet sitter” quits for whatever reason, what the heck are they supposed to do? It happens! I’ve gotten those panic calls! Hiring a professional vs a hobby sitter is something every pet owner should think about.
I love my job and I love each and every pet that has come into my life. Each one is so incredibly different and each one has their own special story. I wouldn’t change what I do for anything.