Finding the Right Sitter

Will you take care of us?
Will you take care of us?
As I planned travel for the holidays and again in the spring, I faced a familiar problem. Whom do I trust to take care of my girls?
I am fortunate to have many dog-loving friends who often help out. But recently, I left my dogs in the care of a dog-sitter who stayed at my apartment. Searching for a dog-sitter and then leaving the girls in her hands was an interesting (and nerve-wracking) experience.
Kennels are out for many reasons. The environment is stressful, especially at Christmas, when kennels are packed to capacity. I truly believe that very few dogs really do well in a kennel environment. Cali is overwhelmed by so many dogs and is usually intimidated by large dogs. Jana simply cannot abide being treated like a dog. So kennels would not work for my girls. Besides, kennels in my area cost as much as (or more than) a dog-sitter who will provide much more individualized attention.
I checked into some dog-sitters who take dogs into their homes, but I worried that the stress of being in a strange home and surrounded by unfamiliar dogs would be too much for Jana. She gets anxious easily, and can be, let’s say, defensive of her food when she’s stressed. Since many sitters care for multiple dogs over the holidays, visions of Jana biting another dog were too vivid to ignore.
In the end, I interviewed about a half-dozen potential sitters. There are many wonderful people out there who really love dogs, and it’s possible to find a variety of environments and approaches to dog care. While selecting the right person and environment can take a while, I was encouraged to see that, even for dogs who need extra attention or care, there seem to be sitters who can provide what is needed.
I was happy to find a capable, dog-savvy sitter who would stay with the girls. They’d be in their own home, and no unfamiliar dogs would be in the picture. They’d (supposedly) have company much of the time and get to follow their usual routines. Seemed like a great solution.
When I got home, Jana and Cali were excited and affectionate, but also happy, well-fed, and perfectly cared-for. I would do this again.
But I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the experience. I’ve never thought of myself as a helicopter parent, but, while I was gone, I wanted to know what my girls were up to. I don’t have any way to know how much time the sitter spent here and how much time the dogs were home alone. I don’t know whether she took them to the park where we usually play ball every morning, or even if they went for walks. I wanted pictures occasionally, and I wanted updates by email or text. If I contacted the sitter, she responded, but I didn’t get a single photo the entire time. I realized how important and reassuring this type of contact is. I have found a wonderful dog walker and — even when she takes the dogs for a half-hour walk — she sends pictures.
So, to all of you dedicated (and tech-savvy, communicative) dog-sitters — thank you for the work you do (and keep those photos coming!). And to dog parents — it’s worth doing your homework and finding the best person to care for your dogs. It might take some experimentation to figure out what works best. Next time, I will know to ask for photos and updates!

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2 thoughts on “Finding the Right Sitter

  1. As a pet sitter, I leave detailed notes during each visit, and this builds trust over time. I do offer to take pics and text them to the human client, and they seem to love it, again that builds confidence and trust. Also offer to post them on Facebook, and onto my website.

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