Are you Responsible Enough to be a Dog Sitter?
After three years plus, dog sitting and house sitting in Palm Springs, California, I have a few thoughts to share. Dog sitting pairs perfectly with my travel writing career, though it would not be ideal for everyone.
Let me Get Something Off my Chest First
Your animals are your children in every sense of the word. If you have a dog, you feel, and rightly so, this animal is indeed a member of your family. It is a massive responsibility of the dog sitter to make sure this four-legged member is fed, exercised, and keeps the routine Jasper is used to while you are gone.
With that being said, I cannot fathom why people willingly turn their homes over to strangers, not pay them anything, and expect to come home and find everything in their home in perfect shape and their animal as happy as the day they left.
And the other side of it, with all the responsibility, why would a house sitter take care of animals for free? When an animal is involved, your schedule and ability to explore revolves totally around the animals every hour the owner is gone.
What does dog sitting involve?
In my case, I have elected to dog sit only if the owner wants me to stay in her home. My writing is too interrupted if I stop two or three times a day to get in the car, drive someplace, walk, feed the dog, and then come back to my home.
Step 1: After the initial contact, either through a referral or an ad, a phone call takes
place to see if it is a good match. The dog sitter supplies references with phone numbers.
Step 2: The dog owner calls up to see if the dog sitter can come over and meet the animals.
Step 3: I have yet to meet a dog I didn't like, and dogs sense it, so the owners quickly see I would be good with their dog.
Step 4: Dates are set, and then there is a home tour. The owner will often go over the dog's routine, food needs, etc. However, I smile, for they will go over it, have everything written down in detail, and go over the routine again before heading out the door. Remember, these are their children.
Step 5: A check-in by phone a week before to make sure both are on schedule for the client's getaway.
Step 6: The professional dog sitter will ask how long a dog may be left by himself. It varies from 2 hours to about 3.5 hours. Thus, you know the window of time you can leave the premises.
Step 7: I arrive one-half hour before the client is ready to take off. Jasper now recognizes me, and last-minute details about the mail, watering plants, or expected deliveries are discussed.
Step 8: I am now in charge.
Step 9: Walks for the dog take place, and here in Palm Springs, the dog sitter must keep a keen eye out for coyotes, who are presently seen in many of our neighborhoods.
Step 10: Feeding on time. You follow the directions of the owners precisely. You learned earlier if the dog can have any food, popcorn, or anything besides his prescribed meals. In any case, you are to be ready to accept those sad, watchful eyes while you eat and do what the owner has requested.
Step 11: Bedtime, follow the routine and do precisely what the owner told you to do. I learned I do not sleep well with a dog in my bed, but I tell the owner beforehand, and we make the adjustment, and the dog does too.
Step 12: No matter if it is 4:30 a.m. or 7:00 a.m., if a dog needs to go, you need to drag your body out of bed, release the house alarm, and head outside.
Step 13: Take a picture of Jasper and send it to the owner. Sometimes I pretend it is Jasper talking, or I use that text to update the owner on anything she needs to know about Jasper or the house.
Then the Day Begins All Over Again
Recently, a major storm was coming. I secured several outdoor items and covered the furniture with a tarp. During the storm, the tarp blew off. I grabbed the furniture pillows, saving them from getting soaked.
The key to the mailbox reminds you to bring in the mail. If it is an extended stay, you oversee watering indoor plants or pots scattered throughout the yard.
If trash is to be taken to the street on a particular day, make a note to yourself to do it.
When you use an item for cooking, be sure to notice where you got it and put it away in the same place. You have experienced what it is like not to find something in its assigned place. Why wouldn't you do this same thing in a place you are staying?
Meanwhile, you are watching to make sure the dog isn't outside when the Pool man
comes or the landscape people, for there is a chance this one time they may just have left the gate to the street open, and Jasper sees an opportunity to explore the neighborhood on his own.
By now, you have figured out which toy Jasper loves, and a rousing game of tug of war makes the for exercise for both of you.
At feeding time, carefully read the directions and hide any medication the dog may need in the format prescribed by the owner. It may be wrapped in a piece of turkey or just buried in this food for the day.
The Owner Will be Arriving
Take out the trash in the kitchen and replace the bags. Pick up the dog's toys that may be strewn around the house due to your play adventures.
Strip your bed if they do not have a housekeeper and empty the refrigerator of food you have leftover. Typically, I bring all my food but am delighted when there are snacks or a special dessert I can have for a change of pace.
Since I have been updating the owner on the status of Jasper and the house, we talk about when it is okay for me to leave the premises and Jasper. I have learned most owners prefer to walk into their own homes after a journey and not chit-chat and instead play with their animals.
When I walk out of the house, I want it to look like it appeared when I walked into it before the owner left. Okay, I'll admit I give the dog a treat as I say goodbye to him.
In the last text, I ask the owner to tell me when she is in her home, for I feel like I am on duty until I get that final text. Once I get the text, I confirm I have seen it; thus, I am officially off duty.
It isn't Easy as you Might have Thought
It is a huge responsibility. I didn't even mention the anxiety caused by a dog suddenly getting sick, having a seizure, or hurting himself playing.
Your sleeping patterns will more than likely be interrupted. Jasper doesn't know that you like to get up at 6:00 a.m. instead of 4:30 a.m., and you function much better after you have had your cup of coffee. He needs to go out now.
Flexibility is necessary. Long ago, I learned not to plan any of my own activities the day after a dog sitting gig is supposed to end. Frequently, the owner's plans change. It may be an extended meeting, but more usual is their plane connections didn't work, and they won't be home until the next day. Thus, you have another overnight stay.
Yes, there is great variety. All the dogs have different personalities, and most of the time, they will test you to see if they can break the household rules. The homes reflect the owners' personalities, and I can assure you that no two homes have the same TV controls.
I am thankful my two paths have come together. It is also interesting that I chose to write the first blog of the year, combining these two paths by using my talent to write about my dog and house sitting segment of my life.
Kathy Condon is a freelance travel writer journalist. She is the Founder of the Palm Springs Insider Guide. Her book It Doesn't Hurt to Ask: It's All About Communication was named Best Book Finalist By USA Book News Kathy@kathycondon.net 760-902-3094 www.PalmSpringInsiderGuide.com