A personal friend of mine, Kristen Harris, recently unveiled her new pet lifestyle magazine for the Columbus area. She has been formulating her ideas for this publication for many years, using similar publications in other cities as a guide. She dreamed of a local guide for our city to help people have fun with their pets.
The magazine is “her baby”, filled with interesting articles and beautiful photography. It helps to celebrate the bond between pets and their owners.
I advised Kristin to charge a fee for the magazine because I felt readers would place more value on it if it had a price. She chose to forego the price but the mag is available via subscription if you want it mailed to your home rather than trekking out to find a free copy in your local pet shoppe or vet office. It is also online at https://petceteracolumbus.com/digital-edition/
Sit. Stay. Grow. is a proud advertiser in her publication and will be as long as she continues to promote pets and the people who love them. She also recently asked me to submit an article regarding a “Day in the LIfe” of a pet sitter which will be in the next issue scheduled to be out November 1st. I am honored to represent our industry in this endeavor.
Best wishes for a long run and great success!
Occasionally, a client will request a service that Sit. Stay. Grow. does not offer, either because we don’t have availability at that time or the service is better left to a professional like a veterinarian, trainer, or groomer.
However, we will always attempt to locate a good provider for them.
Another option is to use some of the search engines available. They typically operate by zip code so if you live very near to the outside of a zip code, you may want to try nearby zips as well. The best thing about these search engines is they have typically cater to professionals and require bonding, pet sitters’ insurance and criminal background checks.
Pet Sitters International has a powerful listing of professional sitters across the world. Pet Sitters International sends out weekly newsletters, bimonthly magazines and holds a yearly Pet Expo for members. Also Central Ohio Professional Pet Sitters Network has a great listing of local sitters ready to serve. COPPS has bimonthly educational seminars for members and members frequently rely on each other for back up and referral business.
My advice is to always seek out a professional. There are numerous kids and hobby sitters that offer to “take care” of your pet on the cheap but they do not have the training or back up resources a pro does. Isn’t the well-being and safety of your beloved pet worth more than pizza money?
Sit. Stay. Grow. is attempting to build a list of Community Resources for Pet Lovers by city and post them on our website. We rely on the recommendations of clients for these listings. If you see we haven’t listed one of your favorite and trusted sources, please contact Susan Deisher, email@example.com.
A year as a small business owner and pet-sitter has taught me a few things:
Loyalty is rare
Business often conflicts with “the right thing”
People are generally good-hearted
As much as I like to think that a client is always going to keep booking with my company, the reality is that there are other companies scratching and clawing for customers. My business claims over 100 clients but I think about 20 or so are “regulars”. Occasionally, someone drops off the radar, usually because they have found another option for pet care, a family member, friend, or “gasp” another pet-sitting company. What I can be sure of, nobody leaves because of poor service. It’s always a monetary motive. Most of my “regulars” are loyal because they are done shopping-around, have tried other options and failed. It’s not really loyalty, it’s smart business for them.
Smart business is not always right. Sometimes, you make a call “just because” and it doesn’t help your business but it helps your heart. In my experience, doing “the right thing” gives you good karma and helps you keep going when things are tough. In a way, that is smart business so, forget I said anything.
Speaking of karma, in a year, nobody has not paid. A couple clients have dragged-out payment but, after exploring the issues, they always meant to pay in a timely fashion. Something else “happened”, and stood in the way of payment. I belong to a pet sitter’s chat group (sounds thrilling, doesn’t it?) full of ideas for insuring payment, like demanding payment up front but, honestly, I haven’t seen the need. A couple of clients have presented challenges, but they generally have good intentions and need help becoming educated. Educating clients is a huge part of the business.
Ultimately, the goal of my business is to improve pet welfare so this has been a VERY successful year by that yardstick.
I belong to a Pet Sitter chat group (sounds riveting, doesn’t it?). Well, a common theme in the group is competition from hobby sitters and the preformed assumption that pet sitters have an easy job that any kid can do, cheaper. Often, there are stories in the news about a horrible pet sitter that abused a pet and it is usually someone hired online from one of the cheap hobby-sitter services that have popped up, seemingly overnight. Makes us all look bad.
Most of the pros I have met or chatted with are hard workers and are truly dedicated to the welfare of the pets in their charge. They continually improve their knowledge of first aid, traits of different breeds, and strive to improve the lives of all. Such a wonderful group of people. You may be tempted to find a less expensive alternative for your pet but, honestly, do you really want to gamble with the health and happiness of your best friend? Is peace-of-mind worth a few extra bucks a day? Those dollars typically are offset by the training and experience your pro brings to the transaction. Nobody is in this to get rich.
I recently had to give up a regular dog-walking gig because the dog just wouldn’t pee for me anymore. Its partner had to be put down recently (IBS) and I think the surviving dog somehow associated me with the disappearance of his pal. The client liked my work and was willing to keep me as her walker but I promised to find a suitable replacement. Point is, I cared more about the welfare of this dog than the money. My chat group is full of stories like this one. Professionals that are in it because they truly care and not just to make some extra cash for pizza money.
Talk to most clients and they will tell you about the kid they hired that didn’t show up, the sitter they hired online that had a party in their house, or the dope that fed cat food to their dog. They realize the value in hiring a professional to care for their fur babies.
A professional pet sitter is someone that is in the business of helping. They help pets and they help you.
To make sure you are hiring a true professional, ask about references. A great sitter will have great references. “I love to play with kitties and puppies” is not a reference. Read the fine print on those websites. They are not responsible for outcomes. They are in the business of making money, not the business of pet care. Your neighbors or your parents are not in the business of pet care.
So, even though the rise of hobby sitters is a common theme in my chat group, someone always chimes in that we really aren’t competing with hobbyists. We really only compete with ourselves. How do we become better at what we have chosen as our life’s work? How do we help?
Why hire a professional? Simply put, “You love your pets.”
Your sitter will always do their best to complete your scheduled sit regardless of weather conditions.
As professional sitters, we are very concerned about the well-being of your pet and will make every reasonable attempt to complete our scheduled services but, some conditions could make it impossible.
If roads are closed and we cannot legally or safely travel to your home, we may have to delay service until we can. Also, if your doors are snowed over, we may not be able to reach your pet without spending a great deal of time and effort to remove snow and ice. We will always attempt to contact you for advice on what to do in these situations. However, it may behoove you to have made prior arrangements with a neighbor, your homeowners’ association, or your apartment/condo complex management regarding snow and ice removal.
If we are aware of any oncoming storm, we may ask your permission to leave extra food and water for your pet in case we are unable to travel.
If your pet requires medication, we may to enlist the services of a medical professional but we will always attempt to contact you or your designated emergency contact first.
Again, if you are concerned enough about your pet to hire a professional pet sitter, we assume you are concerned that they receive proper care in inclement weather and will act accordingly.
Also, we may have to make subjective decisions about taking your pet outside in severe weather. Larger dogs will usually do okay for a few minutes in even the most severe weather. Some small dogs, puppies, sickly, or elderly dogs may not be able to withstand harsh conditions and will have to be encouraged to eliminate on papers or pee pads.
There are a number of things you can do to earn yourself a PITA mark in the little black book of your pet sitter.
Fortunately, most clients are awesome and so are their pets but, once in a while, someone steps up to really make the experience awkward and memorable. The sitter may always be “busy” if that client calls again or the client may find their estimates are increased because the sitter has added a PITA factor to their pricing structure.
Some suggestions to earn a PITA rating are:
- Don’t reply to requests for information. Everything will be fine. Really. You hired a sitter to make sure all goes well. They don’t need to know the information they are requesting. Stick your head in the sand.
- Don’t confirm dates. Assume your sitter will be there when you said you needed service. They don’t have anything else to do.
- Don’t be available for questions or calls during the pet sit. Your sitter may call you for no reason at all.
- Don’t confirm estimates. Your sitter will do their best work anyway because they care about your pets. The sitter won’t ever worry that they are doing work they won’t get paid for.
- Make your sitter share the job with your neighbor’s kids but expect them to be responsible for the health and well-being of your pets and for the security of your home. Teenagers are notoriously reliable.
- Allow other family members to have access to your home during the pet sit. It won’t concern your pet sitter that your cousin may leave a door open during his party so Fluffy will somehow get out to get hit by a car.
- Call your pet sitter two hours before the last sit to tell them you got home early and won’t need that last sit. Then, balk if you get charged for it anyway. The sitter should have been able to fill that time slot with two-hours notice.
- Assume your pet sitter will understand that you decided to take your Aunt with you and her pets are going to stay, unexpectedly, in your home during your vacation. Why would two more dogs make a difference?
- Deny that your pet ever bites, has ever had food aggression, behaved neurotically during storms or hates anyone riding a bike.
- Assume your sitter is superhuman. They never have phone problems or car problems like the rest of humanity.
Not all of these things have happened to me in my short career as a pet sitter but I would say most have and most of them were the same client.
To be fair, there are some wonderful things that clients do to make a pet sitter’s job easier, more effective, and considerably more enjoyable. Some of my favorites are:
- Leave detailed written instructions about the services required. It is almost always appreciated.
- Leave food and any other items your pet sitter may need in plain view. Especially nice when a client leaves the cans of food to be used on the counter.
- Leave lights on outside and indoors to deter criminal activity.
- Leave emergency contact info in plain sight and readily accessible.
- Fill out or answer all questions as completely and honestly as possible.
- Let your neighbors and police know that you are going to be away and you have hired a pet sitter.
- Tell your sitter if anyone else has a key to the home. Explain who might show up in your absence, whether or not that person should be allowed inside the home, and if the police should be called.
- Reply to your pet sitter’s communications promptly so they know you have received the information conveyed.
- Let your sitter know if your pet is sick, even if a sit is not scheduled.
- Let your sitter know you have returned and all is well.
Seriously, pet sitters typically chose their profession because they deeply love animals and care about them. A good pet sitter is a professional and deserves to be treated as such.