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 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!