Sunday, October 12, 2014

3985 Experiences with pet sitting and boarding

Sunday, October 12, 2014

"Traditions are group efforts to keep the unexpected from happening."
 --Barbara Tober--


Since about 9th grade, and excepting college, I've had dogs and/or cats.

Cats are easy to leave.  They can easily be left for two overnights if they will eat dry food, longer if they are youngish and healthy and mellow.  They just sleep all day while I'm gone.  They need a visiting nanny or boarding only if they aren't healthy, or if it's for more than a weekend or so.

Dogs can't be left for more than a few hours unless they are smart enough to use the cat's litter box.  They can't be trusted with more than one meal's worth of food, because they'll just eat it all in one gulp, or destroy the timed feeder if you try to use it, and then throw the excess up on your bed.  And they get bored, and then destructive.  So visiting nannies won't be enough.  Dogs need boarding.

I have a history of pet sitting and boarding horror stories.

I asked a friend, Barbara, to feed my cat Smokey while I was away for five days, when I lived in Gettysburg.  Smokey ate only canned food, so she needed a visit once a day.  Now, Smokey sometimes wouldn't eat for the first day that I was away, and I told Barbara that.  That's normal with some cats.  When I returned, I found a food dish full of rotted food, crawling with maggots, and a very desperate cat who wouldn't let me out of her sight for days after.

I asked Barbara what had happened.  She said she'd fed Smokey the first day, and when she went back the second day the food hadn't been touched, so she figured rather than throw it out she'd leave it, and "When the cat got hungry enough, she'd eat it."  She didn't even go in after that because she could see the dish through the window and apparently Smokey hadn't been hungry.  Of course, I was furious.

(This, by the way, is the same woman who later chased me with a knife, seriously trying to kill me, because she KNEW I had been messing with her husband.  Actually, it was another woman with my same first name, and when she asked her husband if it was me, he said yes because he didn't want her to know it was actually his ex-wife, whom Barbara hated.  The idiot guy thought that since she and I were friends, it would be ok.  Gettysburg had some seriously wacked-out people.)

So the next time I went away, I asked Jeanie to feed Smokey.  The very first day Jeanie visited, when she opened the door, Smokey burst out and ran off.  Jeanie searched and called and couldn't find her.  Smokey was gone.  Jeanie actually moved into my house so she'd be there if Smokey returned.  She called and searched for the next several days, and left food outside the door, and it was eaten, but she didn't know by whom.  Even though she was watching, she never saw Smokey.  When I returned, I drove into the parking area, and Smokey greeted me when I opened the car door.  Apparently, she had been out searching for me for days.  Jeanie was so relieved, and I appreciated Jeanie's efforts.

After that, I boarded my cat(s).  I found some really good places over the years, like that woman who had what looked like little motel rooms, with climbing shelves and cubby holes, and a window at floor level with bird feeders outside, and in a pinch I boarded at the vet's.  The cat would spend the night in a cage at the vet, but during the day she had the run of the office.  Smokey liked that.

Later a friend clued me in - if you're using an amateur pet-sitter, get like three and rotate their days. That way if one of them screws up, or even two, it's not a disaster.

Dogs were harder.  I found so many kennels that looked good at first, but I always sensed something wrong when I'd pick the dog(s) up.  Something "off".

One time I returned a day earlier than scheduled, and decided to pick up the two dogs then, straight from the airport (pre-cell phone days, so no call ahead).  I arrived at the kennel and asked for my dogs.  The kid at the desk hemmed and hawed, and said I couldn't get them until tomorrow.  I insisted, saying that of course I was willing to pay for the extra day, no problem, please get my dogs now.  He said he couldn't, and when I asked why, he said they needed grooming.  I said no problem, I don't need them groomed, please go get them now.  I finally had to get angry and point out that they were MY dogs, and you CAN'T keep them! I want them RIGHT NOW, or I'm calling the cops!

Well, I got them.  Their dog beds were wet, stinking of urine, and coated with wet and dried feces.  So were the dogs.  Poop was caked on their hips and sides.  It was obvious they'd been walking and lying in poop.  It was awful!  This explained why when I'd left them there on two previous occasions, they smelled of shampoo when I picked them up, and their beds had been freshly washed and dried.

That was the last time they stayed there.

The dogs were in an inside "room" with a door to an outside pen, which was supposed to be open all day, but apparently they didn't get outside very often.  I know this because Puppy (yes, that was her name - long story) was a fastidious Australian Kelpie, and never eliminated on anything but grass or dirt.  She wouldn't even go on concrete or asphalt.  So for her to have gone inside the concrete-floored room, she must have been desperate. 

One thing I have learned:  If you go to check out a kennel, and the owners will not allow you to actually see the areas where the animals are kept ("Oh, no, strangers walking through will upset the dogs.  We don't allow anyone back there except the workers."), then run fast away.  A good kennel with nothing to hide will escort you through, or at least allow a look (and sniff) through a door.   When the dogs see you accompanied by a familiar face, they are curious, they might bark, but they're not "upset".

----Just thinking about that stuff today.

1 comment:

Becs said...

As a former professional pet sitter, I can offer some advice.

Make sure your sitter is insured. Make sure your sitter has training in animal first aid. Always make sure you leave a spare key with a neighbor.

One of my most harrowing moments was when a client had changed his lock without giving me a new key. Luckily I knew he had a habit of leaving out lots and lots of extra kibble that the cats wouldn't go through in a weekend.