FINDING THE RIGHT PET SITTER By Freddi Hetler
Before she hired a professional pet sitter, Sara looked for a sitter among her friends and their children whenever she had to leave town. With three dogs and one diabetic cat requiring insulin injections, Sara knew her requests were impositions and that her ‘kids’ were probably not being cared for all that well. Thoughts of going on vacation brought stress at having to “twist the arm” of yet another person. On the advice of a friend, Sara hired a professional pet sitter. No longer suffering guilt when she leaves town, Sara actually looks forward to time away. “My pet sitter has given me my freedom back,” states Sara.
A pet sitter can be a lifesaver in so many situations. Pet sitters can help if your thunder-fearing dog is outside during a storm and you’re at work, if your cat needs medication during the workday, or your dog needs a mid-day walk. Most make visits to your home to feed, exercise, groom, and clean up after your pet. Some stay overnight. Most will bring in the mail and newspaper, turn on lights, and water plants for no additional fee. Some pet sitters can administer medications. Others may take your dog to their house or transport your pet for appointments. Some specialize in certain species. Others state they can care for any type of pet.
Charges are based on the services performed. Some charge extra for additional pets or for a service requiring more time or training. An overnight stay costs more than a 30-minute visit. Walking the dog is less than a visit. Walking multiple dogs might cost more than walking one. According to Pet Sitters International (PSI), an organization for pet sitters, the national average cost for a pet sitting visit is about $14; for walking a dog, about $13.
Pet sitters advertise in the local papers, the Yellow Pages, and on flyers posted in local businesses. You can search the Internet for local services. Some, such as Beck ‘n Coll of Albuquerque, have their own website listing services and fees. Word of mouth can be helpful, and local vets and groomers can be good sources.
The key to finding the right pet sitter is to interview the sitter beforehand. Katie Rountree of Gentle Pet Sitters of Santa Fe feels that this initial meeting is crucial to see if your pet is comfortable with the sitter, and if the sitter is comfortable with your pet.
Consider these things:
1) Does the pet sitter come to this interview ready to write things down? Are you asked about your preferences? Or does the sitter talk and not listen?
2) Does the sitter interact positively with your pet? Does the sitter speak to your dog or push him away as he sniffs her clothes?
3) Does the sitter offer references? How long has the business existed? Pet Nanny of Santa Fe states they have been in operation since 1989. Most services have not been around that long. Check their references.
4) Is there an emergency plan? The Red Cross offers pet CPR and first aid, a course many sitters have taken. What if the emergency is after hours? For medically needy pets, make financial arrangements with your vet in case your pet needs medical care while you are gone. Most pet sitters can’t afford to be responsible for large vet bills, and most vets won’t extend credit to an unknown sitter.
5) If your pet needs an insulin injection, what is the sitter’s experience? Check references from someone who can speak to this. Can the sitter recognize a diabetic emergency and respond appropriately?
6) Is the service insured and bonded? You are, after all, giving a stranger a key to your house and trusting them with your pets and possessions.
7) If the business is just one person, what happens if the sitter gets sick or has car trouble?
Some sitters belong to national professional pet sitting services such as PSI or National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS). Albuquerque has a local network, Albuquerque Pet Sitters. These organizations publish magazines promoting good business practices and standards, and offer articles on pet care. Many hold conventions. Membership does not ensure a qualified pet sitter. References will tell you more. Take the time to thoroughly check out the sitter you are considering. The time and effort can give you peace of mind when you’re away.
Freddi Hetler is a writer who lives in Eldorado with her husband and family zoo.
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