Leaving the Dogs at Home
Inevitably, we all travel. Few of us are fortunate enough to be able to do that with canines in tow. There are options. All the usual suspects: Boarding facilities (traditional and resort style), friends and neighbors, or the professional petsitter.
Another use for those fabulous chalkboard pens, clearly labeling dog supplements for the petsitter.
With my menagerie, boarding isn’t actually an option. For a variety of reasons. It would cost me a not-so-small fortune, even with any sort of ‘group discount’. Also, I am the proud owner of a couple overly sensitive dogs (who shall remain nameless). The stimulation of a kennel environment would very likely push them round the bend. Since, I’d rather avoid that, and I’m such a big fan of my money, we choose a petsitter. The poor woman.
In the past the BFF has stayed with The Pack. Before she got married, had a kid and generally made herself unavailable for assuming my life for weeks at a time. Rude, I know. I’m still getting over it. I’ve also had family members stay. This is not as pleasing to me as the BFF, but it works. Now a days, we don’t leave often and when we do I prefer to pay somebody. It is unlikely I will have a family spat with my petsitter. We don’t have long sordid history of her borrowing my money. See how a professional can be better than the alternative?
Do what works for you. Friends of mine send their dog to sleep-aways at the daycare facility he attends. In fact they chose the daycare for that very reason. Despite familial complications, some people do manage to work it out so grand-dogs can stay with Grandma or Grandpa. Others are cool with sending their dogs to the petsitter’s house for vacation. For security, convenience, and a bath before pick up, boarding at a kennel probably can’t be beat. This may be shocking, but I don’t have much of an opinion either way. For me what’s most important is…
Everybody’s Comfortable. This means dog, owner, and sitter, whatever form they take. I wouldn’t recommend leaving your demand barking, leash pulling, resource guarder with a never-had-a-dog-before-co-worker. And I’d think twice before dropping my dog off somewhere they had never so much as smelled, then walking away for 2 weeks. Every pet sitter we’ve ever had has been someone who knows the dogs know well. My brother, my BFF, our dog trainer. Familiar and experienced. Our pet sitter now, is a dog walker by day. Prior to staying over night with the pack o’ mutts, we spent a few hours hanging out together, going over meal times, pack dynamics, and general do’s and don’t's. My group is not for the weak willed. You gotta be on your game or they will eat you alive. Not literally. But, Rocco might pee on your leg.
After our walk through, she did a couple mid day breaks with them. The dogs were used to her coming in the house without us there. They would generally listen to her. Even with all that, every time we leave, I go through a little preparation song and dance. Just in case.
Stock Up. On food. On meds. On clean towels and bedding. On poo bags. Whatever it is your pet needs to get by, make sure you have an ample supply. My rule is twice what you think. What if you are delayed coming home? What if an unfortunate incident occurs? I don’t want my pet sitter scrambling to feed my dogs, or the dog not feeling well because their meds weren’t on-hand. Have too much. You’ll use it anyway.
Detailed Instructions. This is one area of my life where I strive for organization. Our sitter has stayed with the monsters at least half a dozen times. I still leave her the same manifesto. It’s a document I review and print out before every departure. It details am and pm feedings, all those clearly labelled supplements are listed here, the general flow of their day, any last minute details we haven’t discussed, when to expect us home, and most importantly…
Emergency Contacts. When we ‘leave town’ we are generally 5 to 8 hours away. I am usually reachable by phone, but if something goes sideways, I want a man on the ground during those crucial hours I am racing my way homeward. The BFF may have escaped actual pet sitting, but she is still emergency contact number one. As with my petsitter, these are people familiar and experienced with the dogs. Here’s the most important bit about emergency contacts: Tell them you are leaving town. Worse than having no emergency contact at all, is having one who doesn’t know they are on the hook. Who may not be in town themselves, or perhaps just doesn’t give a rip that my dog hasn’t been seen in 2 hours. Choose you contacts carefully, and give them a heads up when they are on duty.
Call the Vet. The emergency contact of all contacts. Tell your vet you are going to be out of town, who’s going to be with your critters, and that they are authorized to bring your pets in for treatment on your behalf. Sometimes they will require this in writing. It goes back to the all important relationship with your vet. My dogs have been taken care of while I was 1/2 way across the country. Bill paid upon my return. No problem.
Pay Well. This takes place after the fact, not in preparation, but if I had a single piece of advice it would be to pay your petsitter well. Promptly. And un-begrudgingly. Even if they are your family. Especially if their rate is cheap. I pay more now for pet sitting than I ever have before, making me appreciate the days of the BFF all the more. Her compensation package involved cash, DVDs and souvenirs. All that was less than what I pay now. Yet, I remember to tip our sitter. Why? Because I want her to come back. Because I want her to be willing to make a little room in her schedule for us. And most importantly, because she takes good care of my beasts. No easy feat.
Who stays with your pets while you are away? How do you choose a petsitter? What steps do you take in preparation for leaving vacation?