Your Best Friend’s Pet Sitting Blog

What’s it like to be a professional pet sitter? I am Kristen, owner of Your Best Friend Pet Sitting  located in beautiful Hamlin, PA, nestled in the Poconos. I love to write about my experiences running a business, being a pet sitter, and living in one of the most beautiful natural places on Earth!

FREE Pet Sitting Meet and Greets

It’s summer, and that means lots of new clients signing up to have their pets cared for by Your Best Friend Pet Sitting. It is an absolute joy to meet new pets!

We offer FREE Meet-and-Greet consultations for those who are interested in signing up for service. This allows us to do a few things:

  • Meet you, meet your pets, and make sure we’re all comfortable.
  • Get the necessary paperwork filled out and signed (this can take 30 – 45 minutes, or we can email it to you in advance!)
  • Show you our proof of insurance as well as dozens of testimonials from our clients, our features in the Scranton Times-Tribune, and the Moscow Villager, and everything you’ll need to know about Your Best Friend Pet Sitting to make the best decision for your pet’s care.
  • See firsthand your routine with your pets, and learn where you keep pet food, litter boxes, leashes, and so on.
  • Get the key to your home and test it in the lock.
  • Answer all of your questions so you feel comfortable leaving your pets in our knowledgeable and loving hands!

This meeting is necessary for us to do a great job for your pets. That said, because we book up quickly, we need at least between one and three weeks to set up a Meet and Greet, and we recommend that Meet and Greets are set up at least a week prior to your needing service.

A Meet and Greet is NON-obligatory, meaning you don’t have to hire us just because we meet you. Likewise, there may be reasons we feel our services would not be a good match for your pets, so we advise having a backup plan in place.

After over nine years in business (almost a decade!), everything we do is designed for the utmost in health and safety for your pets, and peace of mind for you. But don’t take our word for it. Send us an email and we’ll send you a list of references you can call – as many as you need – so you can hear firsthand from our “fur-ever” clients. We hope to be your fur-ever pet sitter, too!

All Hail Voicemail!

The times, they are a-changin’. Decades ago, having to “talk to a machine” seemed cold and impersonal to some who were hesitant to embrace the new technology of answering machines. Now, voicemail is a welcome part of our daily lives.

As a busy pet sitter, I rely on voicemail for the following reasons:

  • I am often either driving, or caring for pets. I can’t give the road, or the pets, my full attention when I’m juggling the phone or trying to answer questions on a phone call.
  • Pet sitters need a little down time too! If we burn out, we are of no help to anyone. Voicemail allows us to return phone calls during our normal business hours, so we can enjoy a few hours’ off per day, too.
  • When people leave their detailed questions or comments on voicemail, that gives me time to research and answer their questions, instead of having to look things up while on the phone. For example, when a client leaves a message saying “call me,” I have no idea what it may be about. However, when a client leaves a message asking if I have availability on Memorial Day, for two dog walks, and what the cost is, I can make sure I have the answer ready when I return the call (and I can leave that answer on voicemail if I don’t reach the client!)
  • Telemarketers are RAMPANT (even though my phone number is submitted annually to both the federal and state Do Not Call lists). Answering these calls means that these shady companies know my number is an “active” number, and can be sold to more shady companies. Therefore I do not answer calls if they are from a number I don’t recognize, to try to prevent more telemarketing calls. I get between six and ten of these kinds of calls per week.

One other aspect to consider is the cost of hiring someone to answer my phone. However, in order to cover that cost, I would have to raise my rates by a ridiculous amount – and I simply can’t do that and still stay in business!

There will always be people who insist on having their phone calls answered by a live person every time they call. For those folks, I can’t recommend a professional pet sitting service, as every pet sitting business owner I know is far too busy to sit at a desk simply waiting for phone calls. My advice is to embrace the voicemail! Enjoy the benefits of this amazing technology! You’ll still get your questions answered, and if you leave a message, you’ll certainly get a call back.

Don’t be afraid to send an email, either! Sometimes email is a great way to get a quick question answered. The main benefit is that it’s there, in your email archive, so you can always refer back to it. I almost always insist on email reconfirmations for pet sitting, as there is no room for confusion – it’s right there in black and white, and you can always refer to it.

Your Best Friend Pet Sitting is a company that uses all sorts of technology to keep costs down and make our business more efficient and effective. I invite you to embrace the technology! It’s a wonderful age we live in!

YOUR Pets – YOUR Home – YOUR Choice!

One of the great things about running a pet sitting business in the Poconos is that I am not bound by big corporate rules. I have my own policies, and I of course have to abide by laws, and insurance regulations, and the NAPPS Code of Conduct. But I don’t have a big corporate entity looming over me telling me what I can and can’t do.

I’ve seen the menus of some big chain restaurants – they’ll mention the side dish that comes with the entree, and in bold letters it says “NO SUBSTITUTIONS”. Big businesses want to package what they think you want, and sell it to you as-is. You have no choices, you either take it or leave it.

When you forge a relationship with Your Best Friend Pet Sitting, you have choices! not only is our service personalized and tailored to your needs and the needs of your pets, but there are a lot of “extras” we throw in for free or for a few extra bucks – all you have to do is ask!

A few of the “extras” we do for free, upon request:

  • Taking in the mail
  • Home checks
  • Watering plants indoors or out
  • Rotating lights or curtains so people know there’s a presence in the home
  • Feeding a few fish (indoors or out!)
  • Taking trash to the curb / bringing empty trash bins in

Some of the “extras” people have requested in the past, for a few dollars more:

  • Vacuuming the home
  • Cleaning small animal cages or tanks
  • Taking out the recycling off-site
  • Picking up packages at the post office
  • Picking up pet food or supplies
  • Cooking for pets
  • Taking video of the pets and uploading to YouTube

If you have a special request that isn’t on the list, just ask! We aren’t always able to accommodate special requests, as we of course have to comply with laws, policies, and insurance requirements, but you, as the pet parent and homeowner, have lots of choices in the level of care your pets and home receive. It is our pleasure to take your comments and requests under consideration to make sure you are delighted with your experience with Your Best Friend Pet Sitting!

When To Call The Pet Sitter

File this post under “Help us help you!”

The worst time to find good, reliable pet care is in an emergency. You’re stressed, you’re rushed, and you’re desperate. Maybe the friend you’ve always relied on isn’t available, or the flaky brother-in-law you hoped would come through has bailed on you yet again. Or the neighbor who has always been so helpful is indicating that they’re starting to feel a bit put-upon. That’s why we recommend to anyone considering pet sitting service to “Meet us BEFORE you need us!” 

A kennel is a big facility designed to house many dogs with a few staff members attending them. Unless it’s a holiday, chances are a kennel can accommodate last-minute requests and new clients.  But that doesn’t help you if you just can’t kennel your pets (we understand!)

With a small, personalized pet sitting service, there are typically only a few pet sitters (in our case, two), to handle hundreds and hundreds of clients, providing custom, one-on-one care for pets. While we can sometimes handle last-minute requests from our current client base, for pets we already know and love, it is nearly impossible to take last-minute requests from brand-new clients, to get the required paperwork completed, and try to arrange a last-minute meeting with you and your pets (that meeting is required, we never sit for a pet sight unseen for insurance reasons, not to mention common sense!)

The best answer is: Meet us BEFORE you need us!

Even if you have no pet sitting dates in mind, set up a meeting with us. It’s free! At the meeting, you can get answers to all of your questions. We can determine if our services are the right fit for you and your pets. And we can have the required paperwork completed, so when you DO need us, we can be there. While we can’t always promise last-minute service, we can tell you that it is so much easier to schedule last-minute for clients who are already in our system.

If you have questions about pet sitting, or whether or not or service might be right for you and your pets, drop us an email or give us a call! Set up that free Meet and Greet before you even need service.

It’s so much easier to arrange for pet care when you’re nut under the pressure of time constraints. You can meet us at your convenience, take the time to call our multiple references, complete the paperwork with all of the details that will allow us to take the best care of your pets, no stress – no pressure.

Meet us BEFORE you need us!

Trusting in Your Pet Sitter

Let’s talk a minute about trust. Trust is a tricky thing for new pet sitting clients. They need a pet sitter, they know the benefits, but it’s hard to make that leap. They are turning over the keys to their home and the lives of their pets to someone they don’t know, or barely know. And as a pet sitter, I can hear the questions-that-aren’t-really-questions, that dance around the REAL question, which is “How do we know we can trust you?”

Do not fear! I am here to answer that question for you, and to let you know – It’s okay to ask. It really is. I understand. I was a pet sitting client before I was a pet sitter, and I had the same doubts and fears. When I lived in Illinois, I had a GREAT pet sitter who was able to remove my doubts and put me at my ease, and that’s what I hope to do for you.

So…how DO you know you can trust your pet sitter?

  1. The first thing to consider is if your pet sitter runs a real, professional, insured, tax-paying business. It costs nothing to have a leash and print a business card, but it costs a LOT of money and time to set up a business, establish business and marketing plans, develop a client base, join professional organizations, obtain certifications, and constantly take classes and courses to improve your knowledge, service, and business. A real pet sitter will NOT throw all of that away just to steal from a client or betray their trust. We have invested too much.

    Contrast that with the ads you may see on Craigslist, or the flurry of home-printed business cards that arrive at the end of the school year by well-meaning folks who want to walk dogs for the summer (but will be gone in the fall). They have nothing at stake. If they steal, or miss visits, or don’t follow your care plan, it’s no big deal. They can walk away, because they didn’t invest in the job in the first place.

  2. The second thing to do is to check references! Even a brand-new professional pet sitter has someone who can vouch for their services, and for those who have been in business for years, they’ll have dozens if not hundreds of clients willing to give an honest reference.
  3. Remember that a professional pet sitter has a reputation at stake. And that reputation is everything. Pet sitting is not my side job or my hobby – it is my full-time career and source of income, and I’ve dedicated almost a decade of my life to being the best I can be. A professional pet sitter simply would NOT risk their entire livelihood to steal, to snoop, or to otherwise betray the trust that clients place in us. All it takes is one theft, one betrayal – and word spreads and I would ether be in jail or at the very least lose everything I’ve built. It’s not worth it. Even if I were the kind of person who would consider betraying a client’s trust that way (and I’m not – My parents raised me better than that!) it would be tremendously stupid. My clients are my friends – I build relationships with them. Betraying them would be betraying myself. I love my clients, and their trust in me and my care is more important than anything.
  4. Nowadays, everyone has a camera in their home. Even when we can’t see them, we assume they are there. You can see for yourself when we arrive, what we do, and how we care for your pets.
  5. Finally, the one thing that may be hard to understand unless you’ve been in this business a while, is that we really don’t care about your private stuff. We are there to do a great job for your pets. If a door is closed, we don’t go in there, it’s not even a temptation. I’ve been doing this for 9 years – I’ve seen more closed doors, locked safes, padlocked sheds, jewelry, artwork, electronics, and more – they just aren’t part of my job and I have no interest in them. Pet sitters are there for your pets. We are there to follow your instructions, feed them, make sure they have fresh water, give them their medication, clean up any accidents, and play with them!  Our focus is on your pets, and their happiness and well-being.

If you still aren’t sure if pet sitting is right for you, or you feel you need more information, just ask. I take no offense to these kinds of questions, because I understand. I’m not just providing loving pet care, I feel that a big part of my job is providing peace of mind for pet parents. It is essential that you have that peace of mind, so you know the person entering your home and caring for your pets is ethical, trustworthy, and committed to doing the job with diligence and love. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. I welcome them!

There’s a reason people choose Your Best Friend Pet Sitting over the kid next door, or a stranger off of Craigslist. Yes, we cost more than a teenager or someone looking for a quick buck on the side. That’s because our experience, longevity, and long list of satisfied clients can give YOU the peace of mind you need and deserve when you are away from home.

Northeast PA in Winter

Winter is a tough time to be a pet sitter. We don’t get a day off for snow or illness, we have to be out on the roads in all weather, and standing out in the cold waiting for a dog to find just the right spot to do their business can test our endurance! There are a few things I recommend to make caring for your pets easier and safer in the winter in Hamlin, Lake Ariel, Greentown, and all these hilly, winding mountain areas!

  • Expect some delays. We do our best to leave early and be on time, but we MUST be safety-conscious at all times. We slow down in winter weather, for safety.
  • Have your driveway plowed. an unplowed driveway tells potential home invaders that nobody’s home. It also makes it hard for us to get in and out, and we often have to end up parking on the road, which can create its own hazards. We do not shovel driveways or walkways. If you don’t have a snow plow provider, email us and we’ll give you some names!
  • Rock salt and chemical ice-melts can hurt dogs’ feet. If you use those types of ice melters, it helps to have a towel by your entryway so we can clean off your dogs’ paws, so they do’t lick their feet and ingest those harmful chemicals.
  • There are “pet-friendly” ice melt pellets available, but we still prefer to clean dog’s feet, as they may still have some toxicity in them.
  • Keep your pets inside in low temperatures. We don’t sit for pets left outdoors in under 50-degree temperatures. (The exception would be to help out with feral cats with feral cat shelters, and hopefully you are participating in trap / neuter / release programs to cut down on feral cat colony numbers!)

Here’s a great website with instructions on how to make a feral cat shelter:

http://www.erubbermaid.com/roughneck-homes

Together we can keep your pets happy, safe, warm and secure in these unpredictable winter months!

Pet-Proofing Your Home for Pet Sitting

You live with your dogs and cats every day, so you have a really good idea of what your pets are likely to get into when you’re home, or even if you’re gone for a few hours. Food is in fridges and cabinets, knick-knacks and chewable things are placed safely out of reach.

But when you’re gone for days or weeks, bored pets might start exploring more than they ever have. Just because your pet has never done something before, doesn’t mean he or she won’t do it if left alone longer than usual.

Pet sitters are ALL about prevention. It is so much easier to put your pens and pencils in a desk drawer than it is for us to clean up a pile of chewed-up pens and pencils and taking your pet to the vet. Here are some tips to help your pet sitter by creating a pet-proofed environment!

  • Put everything away. I mean everything. If it can be reached (don’t forget, a bored dog or cat might jump much higher than you may think possible!) it should be secured, preferably behind a door that’s impossible for your pet to open.
  • Some things to pay special attention to – Medications, live plants, ANY kind of food – human or pet, dog treats that require supervision (rawhide, bones, or hooves, for example), lotions, ointments, potpourri or air fresheners, cotton swabs or pads, toilet paper, cosmetics, sewing kits, antifreeze, or bags of mulch or coconut matting for the garden. Make sure anything that could be potentially hazardous to your pets is well-secured.
  • “Good enough” is often not good enough! If you’re pet-proofing, and you’re not sure if the item is secured well enough or not, it isn’t. Take the extra minute or two to put the items in another room behind a closed door, or, if your pet can open doors (some can!), behind a locked door.
  • Cats and dogs can jump much higher than we give them credit for. I remember more than once making a sandwich for myself on the kitchen counter, turning my back for a few minutes, and my sandwich was gone. I had no idea how. Turns out, my smallest dog, Fiona, may be tiny, but she has an incredible reach. Somehow she was able to stretch up, and use her front paw to grab just a tiny corner of a paper towel or piece of bread, and work food down to the floor where it was gone in a second. I never would have believed she was capable if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes! Likewise, cats are notorious for knocking over food, plants, boxes, well…anything! And putting in within reach of dogs.
  • Remember the consequences. As a pet sitter, I am deeply attuned to the surroundings of pets. I have to envision worst-case scenarios, because they can happen. Look around your house. If there’s anything at all you think “Hm, SHOULD I move it to a different room?” the answer is YES. Even if you think it’s overkill.

Erring on the side of caution, a LOT of caution, an over-abundance of caution, can save lives. And to pet sitters, those few extra minutes you spend being extra-super-overly cautious are more important than we can express.

Pets, Pet Sitters, and COLD Weather

Baby, it’s COLD outside in Northeast PA, and that creates challenges for pets and pet sitters! At Your Best Friend Pet Sitting, we are constantly reading articles, and networking with fellow pet sitters to learn their best practices in taking care of pets in this cold weather. Here are some things to consider:

  • Just because a dog or cat has a “fur coat” does not mean they don’t get cold! It’s best to bring dogs and cats indoors if the weather drops to 50 degrees or below.
  • When the weather gets to 32 degrees or below, we keep our walks and outdoor potty breaks for dogs to a minimum. We may walk them two or three times, to give them a chance to go without keeping them out in the cold too long.
  • We recommend leaving an old towel out so we can wipe snow off of cold paws. (If you don’t have one, let us know, and we’ll bring one on our pet sits!) Rock salt and other ice-melt chemicals can hurt dogs’ paws. Sometimes, dogs lick their paws and ingest those harmful chemicals! We like to wipe their paws to minimize that risk.
  • Cats, rodents, and other mammals seek warmth in the winter, and sometimes a car engine provides that warmth. We recommend pounding on the hood of your car a few times before starting it in the winter, to scare out any animals that might be hiding in the engine.

Together we can make sure your pets stay safe, warm, and comfortable this winter.

Holidays and Your Pets

The holidays are upon us, and with everything there is to do, our pets sometimes become an afterthought. Some ideas to keep your pets happy and healthy over the holidays:

  • Make sure you double check before bringing any plants into your home. We know that poinsettias can be toxic to cats and dogs. Did you also know that lilies are highly toxic to pets? And lilies are often included in many bouquets. If you’re not sure what flowers are used in your bouquets, ask a florist or do a Google search. The few minutes you take to research the plants you’re bringing in can save you lots of money in vet bills, and most importantly, spare the life of your pet!
  • Chocolate toxicity is also a big issue this time of year. Pets and chocolate don’t mix. Please make sure that all chocolate is kept well out of reach of your pets. When baking with chocolate, don’t leave the kitchen or turn your back – dogs love the taste and smell of chocolate and could pull a bag of chocolate chips off the counter in seconds.
  • Holidays also mean travel plans! Most pet sitters (we’re no exception) book up very quickly for the holidays. If you’re planning on traveling, make your pet care arrangements as soon as possible. Many pet sitters (again, we are no exception) don’t accept new clients over the holidays, so it’s important to meet and establish a relationship with a pet sitter well in advance, to give your sitter time to get to know your pets. the holidays are a stressful time, so the more a sitter knows about your pet BEFORE the holiday, the smoother it will go for you, your pet sitter, and most importantly, your pets!

Have a safe and happy holiday and a joyous New Year from Your Best Friend Pet Sitting!

Embracing Voicemail

We live in a tech-heavy world, and sometimes it can be frustrating. Texts, emails, Facebook, and instant messaging can make us feel more distant from human beings than ever before. But they can also make us feel more connected then ever before.

As a busy pet sitter, I have come to rely on these technical methods of communication with my clients. And I understand that at times, when someone simply wants to call and speak with a human being, and I’m not available, it can feel frustrating. So I’d like to share this insight into the daily life of a pet sitter!

Over the eight-plus years I’ve been in business, I’ve been delighted to see my business grow from one client to hundreds of clients in the Poconos (Hamlin, Lake Ariel, Greentown, Newfoundland, Moscow, Elmhurst, and so on.) With that many clients, and prospective new clients calling every day, that’s a lot of phone calls.

Yet I still do most of the pet sitting myself (because I LOVE it!) which means hours on the road going house-to-house, and hours with the pets I cherish so much. It’s company policy (and hopefully your personal policy) not to take calls while driving – we always think of safety first (not to mention in many areas it’s illegal!) I also don’t take calls while pet sitting, as my focus needs to be on the pets I am caring for (and it’s hard to talk with leashes in your hand!) If you hired me to care for your pets, wouldn’t you prefer me to focus 100% on the well-being of your pet instead of yakking on the phone?

Additionally, the cost of hiring a receptionist, even part-time, would result in raising my rates by a ridiculous amount. And it would basically amount to a human answering the phone, only to say “I’m sorry, Kristen is not available, she will have to call you back.” I simply can’t justify such a significant increase to my rates for such little benefit, when voicemail does the exact same thing, and costs nothing.

As a small business owner, I have to make tough choices. I understand that every once in a while, a client will call me and not want to deal with the hassle of voicemail. And sometimes, a prospective new client will call with questions, and feel that the lack of a human being answering the phone is a detriment, and they’ll look elsewhere for their pet care needs. It’s the downside of a pet-sitter’s busy schedule, and our tech-heavy world.

Just know that when I can’t personally answer your call, it’s for a great reason. I’m either driving, and making sure I’m a safe driver, or I am pet sitting, and giving someone’s furry family members my full time, care, and attention. And I’ll be sure to return your call within twenty-four hours!

You can always check the website here for recent rates, service information, and updates, and of course you can email anytime. I look forward to hearing from you, no matter what method you use!

 

Summer Pet Sits are Winding Down

You can feel the days getting cooler and shorter. Autumn in the Poconos is a spectacular sight, but I have a hard time letting go of summer.

This has been our busiest and best summer yet, and we are so thankful to our clients who kept us busy, referred new clients to us, and trusted us with the care of their beautiful pets.

On the downside, we had a hard time keeping up with the last-minute requests, and we have had to turn down some pet sits because we were too booked. As a business owner, it’s hard to say no to a client. As a caring human being, it’s doubly hard to have to say “I’m sorry, we’re booked.” So I’d like to offer some tips to help us help you hear “Yes, we’ll be there!”

  1.  The number one tip I have – book early! A few weeks’ notice is good. A few months’ notice is better. And we have a couple of savvy clients who have already scheduled Christmas of 2015 with us as they visit family every year, and they know they’ll need pet care (and that holidays book up fast for us). This summer has been so busy that even with a few weeks’ notice, we have not been able to accommodate every client.
  2. Call us BEFORE you buy your plane tickets or book your hotel. It breaks my heart when I have to tell someone we’re booked, and they say, “But I’ve already bought the plane tickets and got the time off work!” Many of our clients now call us first, find out what we have available, and then buy their tickets. We are grateful to them because we LOVE saying “yes” to their scheduling requests!
  3. Be flexible with scheduling times. All of our pet sits are first-come, first-serve. Sometimes we have slots available in our schedule, but they might not be for the exact times you want. If you allow a little flexibility in your schedule, sometimes we can get a sit or two in, even on a busy day.
  4. Have a backup plan. For those times when we are fully booked, it doesn’t hurt to have a relationship with a trusted family member or neighbor that might be able to fill in or board your pets in an emergency. They won’t be insured professionals, true. But in a real emergency, you don’t need perfection. Have them keep our business card or phone number handy to call us if they have questions.

We truly want to say yes to every request. And we understand that sometimes emergencies arise that you could not have possibly planned for. We will do our very best to accommodate as many scheduling requests as we can. Never hesitate to call or email, even last-minute! We want to help you!

FREE Pet Sits?

It’s easy to get free pet sits with Your Best Friend Pet Sitting. Here’s how!

  1. Refer a friend, family member, or neighbor and have them complete 3 visits with Your Best Friend Pet Sitting. (Be sure to let us know you referred them!)
  2. Get your FREE pet sit!
  3. Repeat! There is no limit to the number of free pet sits you can get by referring a friend!

 

Winter Pet Sitting in the Poconos

This winter in the Poconos has been relentless.  Unplowed roads, unsafe driving conditions, freezing weather and masses of snow have made pet sitting a challenge. But we are plugging away, and hoping that we’ve seen the end of the massive amounts of snow. Good snow tires have been essential this year, as have been the snow shovels and extra cold-weather gear.

While spring seems like it’s years away, it will be approaching fast. Spring break, then the summer holidays will be fast upon us. It’s a great time to look at your calendar and think about your vacations in 2014! It’s never too early to book pet sits for your furry, finned, and feathered family members.

Soon we will be unveiling our online booking system, to make scheduling service as easy and convenient as ever! As our pet sitting business grows, we want to continue to streamline our operations. One of the joys of being an entrepreneur is constantly generating ideas to make your business better, more useful, more convenient, more customer-friendly. It’s like playing a game where the levels get more detailed and challenging, which is what makes it so fun. So the process of improving my business to make booking easier has been enjoyable, and I am looking forward to seeing the results. Of course, you can always book pet sits by phone, text message, or email, even Facebook message! And I’m always happy to answer your pet sitting questions, too.

Hang in there, fellow Northeasters. Only a few more weeks till spring. There will soon come a moment when we can set down our snow shovels and blink in the sunlight of a warm spring day. Aaaaahh… I can’t wait!

The Joys of Pet Sitting

“In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” -Albert Camus

It’s the end of January in Northeast PA, you can’t help but mumble and grumble about the snow and the cold. But little things happen to sweeten the long, cold days. Like the Great Dane puppy we’re sitting for, who is all paws and legs and cuteness. Or the cool, friendly cats we get to see every day. Or some canine friends I’ve known since my business opened, and I get to see them grow into wonderful and graceful adults who greet me like an old friend.

Before we know it, the daffodils will be poking through the grass, and we’ll welcome the mud and the ruts because we so enjoy the sun and the warmth. I walk dogs through the woods on a nice April day and I think that there is no job I could love better than pet sitting. These pets are my heart and soul, and I get to care for them and spend time with them.

Winter Blues

Brrr! This cold snap is no fun. We are having to take dogs out in short little jaunts so it doesn’t get too cold for them, especially on tender paws. That’s okay. It’s all part of walking dogs in Northeast PA. Every pet parent and pet sitter in the area knows the feeling. You’re bundled up, facing away from the wind, and your beautiful dog, your faithful companion and best friend, wants to sniff around and take her time while the wind bites at your face and ankles.

To help stave off the winter blues, I do a few things. Firstly, I have the right gear. I layer up, and I wear really warm mittens and a great hat. I love scarves, and the feeling of one wrapped over the top of my coat, keeping the chill out, is wonderful.

Secondly, I keep emergency gear in my trunk. A snow shovel, rock salt to help melt ice if I get stuck (careful not to use too close to pet areas as the salt can make them sick), a blanket, jumper cables, signal flares, a first aid kit, a gallon of water and some granola bars…you get the idea. In my line of work, in a rural area, you never know where you might end up stuck in a snowdrift, without anyone driving by for hours. Safety first, always.

And thirdly, I try to have fun in the snow. Some dogs really love it, and it’s fun to watch them tear around in the big drifts. There are some fun aspects to winter. If you ski, this is ideal weather for hitting the local ski slopes. Snowmobiling is also popular here in the Poconos. Ice skating on the local lakes, cross-country skiing, ice fishing – if you love the outdoors no matter what the weather, then winter in the Poconos offers as much to do as the summer and fall.

Pet sitting bookings start to pick up in February – lots of folks take vacations. I think it’s brilliant. Those of us who live here year-round know that February feels like the looooongest month. By the end of the month, lots of folks want to go somewhere warm!

 

 

Fall in the Poconos

This time of year is amazing in the Poconos! Fall is in full swing, and the trees are ablaze with bright leaves. It’s been bright, sunny, brisk, and just about perfect, weather-wise. Great dog-walking weather! If only it would last.

The leaves are changing a little more every day, it’s really something to see.

Fall in the Poconos

Fall in the Poconos

2014 is approaching. We’re going to see some new and interesting things from Your Best Friend Pet Sitting to make booking sits easier! We are always looking for ways to make sure our customers (be they human, canine, feline, or other) are delighted with the service and attention you receive from us. We truly love the pets we care for, and we thank our clients for having us care for their furry family members, again and again.

Keep your eyes on your mailboxes. Your Best Friend Pet Sitting Dog and Cat calendars will be hitting the post office in the next month or so.

Hope you’re enjoying fall in the Poconos!

Why Professionalism Matters

It’s summer, which means that lots of kids (and adults!) are printing out flyers to do some dog walking or pet sitting. To those of us pet sitting professionally for a while, who have seen the accidents, suffered the bites, and had to handle real medical emergencies, it almost makes us catch our breath in fear.

I can understand it though – the teenager who loves animals and wants to make a few bucks, or the person who wants to bring in some extra income without the hassle of business costs, they think “I have a leash and some free time – I’ll be a pet sitter!” They aren’t thinking of the things that can go wrong. They are thinking about their own beloved pets, and how fun and easy it is to take care of them, and they think “I can do this as a job!”

So they put up a few flyers, and maybe even get a few calls. They charge low rates, because they haven’t put any thought into pricing, or a business model, and they don’t pay taxes or insurance. But as a pet owner, if you are considering trusting the key to your home and the lives of your pets to uninsured hobbyists or kids, you should be concerned. Here’s why.

  • Everything’s fine until it’s not. If there’s an emergency, you need a trained, experienced professional who knows how to handle the situation.
  • Professional pet sitters have a lot at stake. We invest in our businesses, so we HAVE to do a good job, or we lose our entire livelihood. A hobby pet sitter or kid can walk away anytime.
  • Beware the bargain pet sitters! Many people offer extremely cheap pet sitting services. This means two things. Firstly, they will make almost no money. (If you paid $3.00 in gas to do a $5.00 pet sit, would YOU do your most excellent work for $2.00 an hour?) Secondly, this means they will be out of business in no time. So when you need a pet sitter next, you’ll be back to searching for a reliable person to do the job.
  • Do you really want to hand over the key to your home and the lives of your pets to an unknown stranger from Craigslist?
  • Pet Sitting Insurance providers say that the most common claims are re-keying locks (if a pet sitter loses a key or locks it inside), and surprisingly, water damage – sometimes a sitter may accidentally leave a hose or faucet running, and it can cause tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage. If you hired an insured professional, guess what? You’re covered. If you used a teenager or a hobby pet sitter, you either have to eat those costs, or head to court to try to get that damage covered.  It’s not worth it.
  • What is peace of mind worth to you? If you can’t enjoy your vacation because you can’t get in touch with that shady Craigslist pet sitter, or you heard that the kid you hired hasn’t been making visits, or worse… is it really worth the money you saved hiring an uninsured professional?

The great news is that the professional pet sitting industry is growing, and insured professional pet sitters are becoming more and more mainstream. There will always be those folks who want to save a few dollars by taking a chance with trusting  their home and pets to strangers or kids. The pros aren’t looking for the kinds of clients who would trust their pets to anyone. We want to forge relationships with the people who love their pets as family, and want to provide them with top-notch, one-on-one, personal, loving pet care by trained professionals.

If you have any stories or questions about the benefits of professional service vs. the other kind, leave us a comment!

Planning Your Next Pet Sitting Accident – or Not!

“Honey, I’ll be late coming home from work today. I’ll be getting into an auto accident at 4:47 p.m., on the corner of Spruce and Young Street.”

“Oh, really? Why?”

“I’ll be driving through the intersection like normal, and some guy won’t be paying attention and he’ll plow right into me. I’ll be alright, but they’ll take me to the hospital to be sure. The car will be a mess though, so can you pick me up, oh, around 8:30? And call the tow truck driver so he can be there, waiting?”

“Sure thing. I’ll bring our insurance forms too, you’ll need those. Oh, and I’ll pack a change of clothes for you now, you’ll probably need them.”

“Good thinking! I’ll see you tonight at 8:30 at the hospital, after my accident.”

“Are you sure you can’t push this off till Tuesday? Tuesday would work better with my schedule.”

“Sorry, dear. I have Rotary Club on Tuesday. It has to be tonight, it’s the only time I’m free.”

“Alright. See you tonight at 8:30.”

If only we lived in a world where we knew in advance when things would go wrong. Unfortunately, it never happens this way. Accidents are accidents. Emergencies are emergencies. You can’t schedule them, and you don’t know when they can arise.

When you are away from home, and you entrust the care of your home and your pet to someone else, it doesn’t mean that accidents won’t happen and emergencies won’t occur. But what matters in those situations is the person you put your trust in. Can they handle an emergency? Do they have a plan? Do they have a backup plan, just in case? Do they carry insurance to help defray the costs of an accident they may have caused?  

Every year, we hear stories in the news or from friends, about the “kid next door” who was asked to pet sit for a few bucks a day, and it ended in a disaster that the teenager was not equipped to handle. Or the stranger on Craigslist who offered a great deal to watch someone’s pets, and the owners came home to missing valuables. Or the well-meaning dog-walking hobbyist, who could not afford to pay for the expenses incurred when she accidentally left the sink running and caused thousands of dollars in water damage.

 When you turn the keys to your home over to someone to care for your pets, it can be so easy to think “It will be fine. I’m sure nothing will go wrong.” But only an insured, experienced professional pet sitter can give you the peace of mind knowing that:

  • If there is an emergency, they have a plan.
  • They have the experience and knowledge to know what to do.

  • They have the security of insurance so you aren’t stuck paying for damages they may have caused.
  • They have the professional reputation at stake so you know they have to work hard to delight you and your pets with service.

  • They have plenty of references so you can make an informed decision.

A professional pet sitter will no doubt cost a little more than the kid next door, or your brother-in-law, or the unknown stranger who offers to walk dogs cheaply on Craigslist. A professional pet sitter has expenses such as insurance, certification and education, gasoline, taxes, and other fees associated with running a real business. And those very things are what enable professional pet sitters to provide the highest level of care for your home and precious pets.

If we could plan for accidents and emergencies, you could hand your fur-babies’ leashes to the next-door neighbor kid, knowing that there are no emergencies scheduled for that week, so Little Timmy could walk your dogs for a few dollars, and you won’t have to worry. But this is real life. If something were to happen, you need the security in knowing that a trained professional is at the helm, ready to do their very best for you and your pets. The few extra bucks are worth it. your peace of mind is worth it.  

Lyme Disease and Prevention

Spring has exploded in Northeast PA, and with the unparalleled natural beauty of our lakes and forests comes a serious hazard, and that is the threat of Lyme disease.

The Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/lyme/)  says; “Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.”

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the risk of getting Lyme disease. Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants, some recommend tucking pants into your socks to make it harder for a tick to find exposed skin. Use pest repellent containing 20% or more DEET (read the labels and follow all precautionary statements). Avoid bushy, grassy areas, and walk in the center of trails. Check yourself thoroughly for ticks after coming indoors and remove ticks immediately. Some recommend using tweezers to remove ticks, others recommend products like the Tick Twister. The idea is to try to disengage the mouth parts of the tick so they are not left behind when the tick is removed. Do not try to burn or smother the tick.

Some people have recommended a product called diatomaceous earth to help keep tick populations down. Food-grade quality diatomaceous earth is a natural, chemical free product that can create a barrier around your yard that ticks and other insects can’t cross. Follow all package instructions carefully. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is safe for you and your pets to eat, however it poses an inhalation risk so be cautious while using and follow the instructions carefully.

By spreading the word about Lyme Disease, and how we can minimize the risks, hopefully we can see incidents of this painful disease decrease.

 

Invest in your Pet Sitting Clients

I have been active in the great organizations NAPPS (The National Asssn. of Professional Pet Sitters) and PUPS (Professional United Pet Sitters) since well before I opened my business. Having all of that information, the educational opportunities, networking forums, and guides were instrumental in learning the ins and outs of being a well-educated, informed pet sitter and business owner.

I do get emails now and then from folks who are interested in making pet sitting their career, and are looking for advice. I’m flattered! Seems like just last week I was the new kid on the block, trying to learn as much as I could from those who had been in the business for years. There’s so much to know when you are just starting out. I thought I’d offer these tips to those serious about a career in pet sitting.

  1. Join NAPPS and PUPS. This is my top tip, and if it could be my only tip, it would be sufficient. When you are starting out, there is too much to know. There is no point in spending days, weeks, months of time and tons of money starting your business, when you can join these organizations and have guidance and information to help you every step of the way . They offer forms and templates, networking opportunities (where you can get answers to your questions from plenty of experienced sitters),  and all of the information you’d need to run a pet sitting business. While some sitters are hesitant to pay for these memberships, I would argue that $160 for NAPPS and less than $30 for PUPS (for a LIFETIME membership, that’s a no-brainer) is well worth it. If you are not willing to invest in your business, your education of the industry, and your clients, then your clients will not invest in you!
  2. Get insurance.
  3. Have a plan – there are lots of free business plan templates online to guide you. A business plan is challenging but really makes you think about how you’re going to succeed.

I could go on about respecting your peers, delighting your clients, being good with pets AND people, and on and on. But these 3 things will get any novice pet sitter off to the right start!

 

 

Top Five Things I Learned From Pet Sitting

5.    Be prepared. I keep all sorts of emergency supplies in my car, but I have found that the best preparation is experience and knowledge.

4.     Don’t underestimate any animal. They are smart, and they know that I may not know all the “rules”, so just like kids, they push boundaries. I have been tricked and outsmarted by cats, dogs, and birds. Usually they are just trying to get an extra treat, toy, or prime spot on the sofa. I’m always amazed at the intelligence of animals.

3.    “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”. No matter how well we plan, something can happen on the road or on a pet sit that throws the day into chaos. That’s why we never book exact time slots – we book in 2-hour time frames, so if you want a pet sit at 12 noon, it will occur sometime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and as close to noon as we can get it. This kind of flexibility lets us provide the best care for the pets we visit, and allows us to work to the job and not the clock. No pet goes neglected or untended, some pets and situations require a little extra time and care. No pet parent should have to worry that we’d just leave, even if the job isn’t finished.

2.     Relationships take time. We know that all pets are different, with different histories and levels of trust. Developing a bond takes time and can’t be rushed. We take things at a pace your pet is comfortable with.

1.    They Know We’re Not You.  We are never there to take the place of Mommy and Daddy, and pets know this. Instead we come to them like a loving, trusted friend, and the pets know this too! I think of it this way: When I was a kid, I had 2 kinds of babysitters. The first kind sat and watched TV or talked on the phone, largely ignoring my brother and I until we got into trouble. The second kind would play with us, keep us occupied, take our minds off the fact that Mom and Dad weren’t there, and entertain us. We LOVED those sitters – they not only cared for us by being there, but they knew that kids needed entertainment and distractions to keep us out of trouble, and also happy and comfortable. It’s hard to mope about missing Mommy when you’re having so much fun! We strive to be that kind of pet sitter. And the pets know it. They know we’re not Mommy and Daddy, and they also know that when Kristen, Jennifer, or Kathi show up, they are in for comfort, fun, and LOTS OF LOVE!

Tips for Holiday Travel

We’ve got some big travel days coming up. You know what that means. Long hours in the car listening to the radio and you know, you just know, they are going to play that darn “Jingle Dogs” song that gets on your nerves after 30 seconds…

We can at least take one worry off your mind – knowing your pets are in good hands and that we care for them as if they were our own. Here are some tips to help you schedule and prepare your holiday travels:

  •  Holidays are busy times and pet sitters are not exempt from wild holiday schedules. Once we’re booked, we’re booked, so we recommend scheduling holiday pet sits at least 4 to 6 weeks in advance.
  • Before you go, don’t forget to stock up on pet food, cat litter, medications and supplements your babies need while you’re away. We recommend having enough on hand to last your entire absence, plus ten days. Hurricane Sandy has reinforced our policy of always being prepared. Pressed for time? Ask us about our pet food and supply delivery program!
  • Pet-proof your home one more time. Bored pets, or pets that are feeling stressed out, can get into trouble when unattended. Make sure crates and fences are secure. Wires and cords should be inacessible to curious pets. Knick-knacks, toys, stuffed animals, pillows, and couch cushions can all suffer damage if a pet is motivated enough. Put away items that are irreplaceable (or dangerous to unattended pets). Keep food well out of reach or secured in another room.  Pull knobs off your stove (dogs and cats have started fires by pawing or nosing at the knobs). An ounce of prevention…
  • Put fresh batteries in your dog’s invisible fence collar.
  • Pets enjoy toys to help relieve boredom. I love Kong toys for many dogs, stuffed with biscuits, cheese, or peanut butter. I know a couple that puts soup in the Kong toy and freezes it for a cool treat in summer. Cats really love things they can bat around. (Pet Sitter Secret Tip: A wadded-up ball of notebook paper will entertain even the most aloof of cats, and it has been my go-to toy in a pinch when I can tell a playful cat is itching to chase!) Rabbits enjoy toys that are safe for babies. Bird toys are fascinating, brightly-colored affairs that hang in bird cages for them to chew and work at.

It is our goal always to delight both our human and our furry or feathered friends with our service. Your communication and feedback are essential.

Speaking of communication and feedback, have you Liked us on Facebook? Do you follow us on Twitter? Have you helped others make their pet care decisions by leaving a review of our services on Yelp.com, Yahoo Local, and Facebook? We appreciate it!

 

Some Winter Prep Pet Tips

It is getting frosty out there! The gorgeous leaves are dropping from the trees, and you can smell it in the air – winter’s coming.

I’ve recently heard some great cold-weather tips for pet owners and I wanted to share, as these tips can save lives!

  • Pound the hood of your car before starting it. Cats, squirrels, mice, and other animals may seek warmth under your car, or even up in it. A few raps on the hood will frighten critters into leaving, and you can start your car worry-free.
  • Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. If you plan on taking long walks in the snow with your dogs, keep your eyes out for signs of hypothermia: violent shivering followed by listlessness, weak pulse, and lethargy. Frostbite is most likely to affect those parts of the body that are most exposed, such as the ears, tails, and feet. Treatment for frostbite involves applying warm (not hot) water soaks to the frostbitten part for 20 minutes. Do not rub or massage the affected parts. But do make sure that dogs suffering from either frostbite or hypothermia get immediate medical treatment.
  • Winter ice melters can be harmful to your pet.  Rock salt can damage your dog’s paws, and worse, when dogs come inside and lick their paws to relieve the discomfort, they ingest all of that harmful salt. The same goes for chemical ice melters, too. If you do need to use an ice melter, try to have your dog avoid walking on it altogether. There are also pet-friendly products on the market that can melt ice without salt. However it should not be assumed that these products are safe if your pet were to ingest them, so read labels carefully.
  • Cats love sleeping next to a warm fire. Make sure your fireplace is screened off so pets can’t get too close and risk being burned by a popping ember or a sliding piece of wood.
  • Stock up on supplies.  Living in Northeast PA, we have to expect the unexpected. Heavy snow can happen anytime, and the meteorologists don’t always get it right. Keeping extra pet supplies on hand can mean a lot when you’re not sure when the plow is going to get to your road.
  • Keep an Emergency Kit.  This is good advice year-round. Keeping a few totes of emergency food, water, blankets, flashlights, first aid supplies, medications, and a weather radio can save you precious time in an emergency. Be prepared! The most in-depth guide I know of for pet owners (or anyone) preparing for emergencies can be found on the website of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters: www.petsitters.org. The problem with putting off emergency planning until it’s too late is that by then, it’s too late.

As a pet sitter, I have seen a lot of emergencies. Power and water outages, heavy, unexpected snowstorms, fallen trees and massive limbs blocking roadways, flooded bathrooms and basements, even evacuation orders. Having emergency plans in place saves time, which is essential in a crisis. Being prepared for winter is just a piece of our emergency plan, but an essential piece, living in the Poconos.

The winters here aren’t all doom and gloom, though. The silence of the forest after a snowfall, the dusts of snow that fall from the trees, and best of all, a winter walk in the woods with a snow-loving dog – these are, to me, the joyous part of winter.

 

The Busiest Summer Ever for Pet Sitting

Whew, I am still reeling from what was easily our busiest summer ever. When I first dipped my toes into the wild world of pet sitting, I could hardly envision what my company has become today. It is impossible to describe the feeling of gratitude I have toward the people who believed in us, the people who trust us to give loving care to their pets, and the pets themselves who place so much trust in our hands, that forms the sacred core of what we do. We are care givers. We are nurturers. We are guardians, and safety monitors, and playmates.   It is a joy to share our lives with the pets we care for. It’s hard not to feel grateful when you love what you do.

I had a great moment this weekend, caring for some gorgeous dogs I’ve known for years. One girl was always a bit shy with me – she’d interact, but never got too close. I don’t take it personally. It can take years to develop the right relationship with pets. My job is to make them feel comfortable, and if it takes a year, it takes a year.  So it was a feeling of pure joy when this girl nuzzled my hand to be petted, and even gave it a few licks. Patience, persistence, and gentleness form a good foundation for trust.  (Treats help too!)

Pet Sitters Jennifer, Kathi and I are bracing for a busy holiday season. If the summer was any indication, more people than ever are travelling. Book your holiday pet sits today!  It’s never too early.

Thanks for making this our busiest and best summer ever. Now let’s keep those autumn pet sits rolling in, it’s been beautiful dog-walking weather, and we want to spend time with your furry, finned, or feathered family members!

Pets on the 4th of July

I saw a little blurb on Facebook that said something along the lines of the 4th of July being a day that dogs are likely to get lost. I can’t vouch for it’s accuracy, but it’s hard to think of a worse day for most American dogs. If it’s not the blazing heat, it’s the pops and booms of fireworks that drive some dogs out of their minds with fear.

When it comes to the heat, that’s easy. Keep dogs indoors as much as possible when the temps climb over 70 degrees. Never leave a dog unattended in a vehicle in the heat, not even for a few minutes. Dogs die this way every year. And now that more and more people are becoming aware of the problem, leaving your dog unattended in a car on a hot day can result in people calling the police, or even smashing your window and taking your dog. These are serious consequences, and so easily avoided by simply letting your dog remain at home, where he or she is happy and comfortable, enjoying the fan or A/C and taking it easy.

Fireworks are a tougher matter, since people don’t have control over where and when fireworks are used.  Whether you live near an area that does a big display, or you have an adventurous neighbor, there’s not a lot you can do to protect your pets. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years to help soothe pets who dread the 4th of July.

  • Put on some indoor noises such as a radio or a soothing CD on repeat to help mask outdoor noises.
  • Products such as Feliway (for cats) or Comfort Zone D.A.P. (dog appeasement pheromone for dogs) are sold in diffusers to diffuse pheromones that are said to help soothe dogs and cats.
  • I have heard some pet sitters recommend the Thundershirt, which is a shirt that provides soothing pressure (almost like a hug) that can help some pets relax.
  • Some people have had success helping pets relax by using Bach’s flower essences.
  • If you’re going to be out for the day, have your pet sitter come by to make sure everyone is alright and comfortable. If you won’t be gone long, you can leave an unwashed T-shirt in the area your pet will be, they may feel comforted by the familiarity of your scent.
  • Having an engaging toy, treat, or bone available (such as a stuffed Kong toy or bone, something the dog has to work at) may occupy them and provide a welcome and rewarding distraction to the noses they fear. It ha he added benefit of helping your dog associate the loud noiuses with a  pleasant treat.
  • Talk with your vet and find out what they recommend.

Consistency, gentleness, and patience are key in helping pets cope with their fear of loud noises. Having a pet sitter who knows your particular pets, and can provide the one-on-one attention your pet craves, is key in giving you peace of mind when you’re away enjoying your Independence Day.