Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Choosing The Right Caregiver For Your Pets Is Harder Than You Think

In the past 6 years, I've heard many horrific stories from pet parents that have contacted us for pet sitting services after they already had really bad pet care experiences. Whether they had friends, family members or neighbours care for their pets or hired a hobbyist pet sitter or had a bad boarding experience, it was heart breaking to hear.

Choosing the right environment and the right caregiver for your pets is probably more challenging than finding the right caregiver for your children. Not everyone is a pet person nor does everyone have the know how to properly care for pets and if they do, they may not have the right environment to care for them in. The pet care industry has been a popular choice for pet enthusiasts and it has become the "make easy money" job for many people. Free on-line ad sites and newspaper classifieds are full of unqualified pet lovers who just want to make a quick buck but they do not have the proper training, skills or business insurance to cover your pets if something happens while in their care. If you do choose to use an hobbyist pet caregiver and not a professional pet sitter you may regret it in the end. Yes,  their rates will be much cheaper than a professional because they do not have the business expenses, membership fees, training & insurance fees etc., that they have to pay so please be ware of who you choose to care for your pets and home.

I myself have made some very bad decisions in the past when it came to pet care for my fur babies that I want to share with as many pet parents as possible in hopes they won't make the same mistakes I did.

One of my personal horrific boarding experience happened the week of my fiance's best friends wedding in 2008, we had to fly to Mexico for the wedding and being we just moved to the Quinte Area, I didn't know where to board my dogs, at that time I didn't even know pet sitters existed. We only had Meeka & Sirus back then and Sirus had a really sore hip, being 3 yrs old and very playful then we wanted to have them in separate kennels but they had to be able to see each other so they wouldn't go through separation anxiety. I found a local private kennel in the area that could accommodate them where they were side by side and had dog runs to come in and out. This is what the gentleman on the phone told me, so I was relieved as I called around to several places. Stupid me, I did not request a tour of the place before I dropped them off on our way to the airport. When we arrived, I took Meeka and Sirus out of the truck and started to walk into the facility, just as I opened the door I got a nasty whiff of something so awful I can't even describe it to you...so as I was gauging trying to talk to the lady at the counter who was grooming a dog, I looked around and the place looked very old but surprisingly it looked clean. The place had all concrete floors and what looked like predator fencing dividing the kennels with doggie doors at the back of the kennels that lead to the outdoor runs. The gentleman that I spoke to on the phone came to greet me and assisted me with putting the dogs in their kennels. Part of me wanted to take my dogs and run back to the truck...but being we had to leave for the airport in 10 minutes, I reluctantly gave my babies a kiss goodbye and headed back to the truck. I made sure they had all their belongings from home, their doggie beds, toys, food etc. Long story short, my week in Mexico was the worst week ever, all I was wishing for was for the week to be over so I could get back home to my fur babies. When the time finally came and we went to pick up our fur babies I knew right away my happy go lucky fur babies were very saddened that we left them there and even worse they both wreaked of that kennel smell that I smelt the first time I walked in the facility and so did all of their belongings. Meeka & Sirus were in the truck for a matter of a minute and both my hubby & I were on the verge of throwing up, so we headed straight to Belleville to the pet wash on Millenium Parkway....$120 later I had 2 fresh smelling dogs but still had awful smelling doggie beds, so they went right into the garbage...they smelled so bad I didn't even want to bring them into my house to wash them....off to Pet Smart....2 new doggies beds and of course guilt ridden toys hoping my fur babies would forgive me for leaving them in such a disgusting place...another $120. So in summary that week was one of the most expensive weeks we've ever had...I think in total we spent around $900 for the dogs and then of course our cost of our trip. Needless to say.... lesson learned!!!

The next time we needed pet care for  Meeka & Sirus was the weekend of August 15th, 2009, our wedding. At that point I had heard about pet sitters who would come to our home and do regular daily visits but because we were having out of town guests stay at our house, having a pet sitter just wasn't an option and I knew I was not going to put my fur babies through that traumatic experience ever again...so I called around to the local veterinarians that boarded dogs..I found one in Belleville that had doggie daycare as well.  "Doggie daycare??? My fur babies would love that...this place has to be an awesome place for the dogs" was my first thought,  I actually went and had the tour of the facility and the play area. Again, it was all concrete and no dog runs to go outside so to me that meant that someone would be there all the time to let them out for regular potty breaks and playtime...this is a veterinary clinic afterall...they know how to properly care for our dogs...sigh of relief! We happily dropped off Meeka & Sirus on the Thursday but couldn't pick them up till Monday morning because the clinic wasn't opened on Sunday....wasn't opened on Sunday...that should have been our first clue but it's a veterinarian clinic they know how to care for dogs...so we didn't even question it. Our wedding went off without a hitch, not once did I have ill thoughts about leaving the dogs or wondered how they were doing, I was content knowing they were going to have tons of fun especially with doggie daycare services, and they were at a veterinarian clinic. Monday morning came around and I went to pick up my fur babies...they were extremely happy to see me, full of energy..I mean full of energy!!! I took them to the air conditioned truck and went back to pay for their stay, this is the conversation I had with the vet tech.

Me: "I bet Meeka & Sirus enjoyed their time playing with the other dogs?"
Vet Tech:  "Yes, they did on Thursday and Friday...but the weekend was quite quiet."
Me: "Oh, what do you mean the weekend was quiet? I thought they were going to get playtime everyday?"
Vet Tech: "Oh no, we only offer doggie daycare when the clinic is open...when we are closed we have staff who comes in and quickly feeds them and lets them outside for a bit in the morning and around 6pm at night"
Me: My jaw dropped to the floor...."What?? You mean to tell me they were only let out twice each day over the weekend?"
Vet Tech:  ...the lady replies with a happy smile..."Yep that's all we ever do over the weekend unless we get called in for a pet emergency then if we have time someone will let them out when they are here .........and your bill today is $570 for the 4 days."

OMG!!! I nearly fainted....I am paying $570 for 2 days of good care and only 4 visits over 2 days??? Are you kidding me?? I left that place almost more angry than I did at the previous place...at least I knew when I left my fur babies at the first awful place it wasn't the best place and it stunk to high heaven...this time I felt I was completely misinformed!! During our tour before dropping off our dogs the lady went on about the daycare and how much fun dogs have when they board there etc, it didn't even cross my mind to think weekends would be any different....again ....lesson learned!! Ask the right Questions!!

The week following our wedding I started the OSEB Course through Trenval Business Development Corporation to start my new business....Pet Pawsitive. After the terrible experiences my fur babies went through and the guilt I felt from putting them through those terrible times I was more focused than ever to start my own pet sitting and dog walking service that offered the absolute best pet care possible. I made my mission to make sure that every pet parent would feel a sigh of relief knowing their pets were in great hands by sending daily updates, leaving checklists that listed the times of my visits and a daily diary of what took place at each visit and I wanted to make sure that my services were very affordable for everyone so no one would ever have to experience what my fur babies and I went through. Sure enough, my mission was in action and Pet Pawsitive grew more and more successful everyday. In a short period of time I had to hire staff to accommodate all our clients, as I never wanted to turn down anyone when they needed us the most.

Connor & Dylan

In 2011, we had another trip planned, but once again was faced with another pet care challenge...who was going to care for our fur babies....also at this time Sirus was diabetic he was diagnosed at the beginning of 2010...so now we have even more of a challenge to find someone who was trained with caring for a diabetic dog...reluctantly, I called our veterinarian at the time and one of their awesome vet techs specifically said, "Tanya, you do not want to bring Sirus here, we cannot accommodate his meals and insulin injections every 12 hours, we open at 8am and leave at 6pm everyday"...I was so grateful for her honesty but at the same time thinking you mean you leave dogs from 6pm at night till 8:30am in the morning without potty breaks or meals....really??? Wow, I cannot believe that people pay to have their dogs stay there!! Anyhow, now I had to continue my mission, who can I trust to care for my fur babies and at that point I remember meeting a lady who owned a kennel just outside of Brighton and her kennel was right beside her house. When I met her and she described her facility to me, the words that stuck in my head was" I always recommend new clients bring their dogs for a trial night before they go away for an extended period of time, as we don't want to keep dogs that are stressed out or have anxiety, it's really hard on us to see them that way and of course it's not good for the dogs!"  So I called up Michelle and explained our situation...oh and did I mention, our pet family grew, we then had Diesel as well,  our rescue pup who was then a year old. Michelle listened to our situation and to Sirus's needs and the first thing she said was "Yes, we can definitely accommodate Sirus and his needs as I am in the kennel every morning by 7:30am and last check on everyone is at 10pm at night...we can definitely feed Sirus every 12 hours and give insulin as we have cared for a few diabetics and we also have a vet on call if we need one!" True Sigh of relief right there! Yeah!! I was so hopeful that this was going to work....we booked a trial night because I had a feeling that my staff wasn't going to be able to accommodate our pets being so busy taking care of our clients. And thankfully we did because that's exactly what happened, Pet Pawsitive ended up booked solid during my week away and so off to Michelle's we went for our trial night. She took the time to take down each dogs information, meal plan, medications instructions etc. I left there feeling like a super pet parent! When we went back the next day, my feelings were confirmed, my fur babies were just as happy go lucky as they were when we dropped them off, they didn't stink, they weren't overly energetic, they were content and that meant the world to me :) I am so happy to report that their weekly stay went just as well except for our little Diesel would not allow Michelle to put his collar on him to take him for a walk but that's just Diesel, he does not like having a collar on him or being attached to a leash, he's even like that with us when we have to leash him up to take him places. And I was happy that Michelle doesn't allow collars on in the kennel...safety always first...Diesel still got his exercise in the fenced in play area and he had his outdoor run to do his business so he didn't suffer any for not going on walks. I was just so happy to have finally found a place where my dogs didn't feel like they were imprisoned and they did not stink at all and actually the next few times we booked our fur babies there, we had Michelle bath and groom them which they looked amazing when we picked them up.

We haven't had to board our fur babies in the last year or so because now I have plenty of trained staff with my business that care for our guys when we go away but if we ever we came across another situation where we needed to board them again we would definitely call Michelle in a heartbeat and book them there and actually Michelle's facility is the only boarding facility I recommend to anyone who needs to board their pets if having a pet sitter isn't an option.

Diesel & Amelia cuddling on the chair..loving staying home!!

I have received calls from new clients that have actually had worse experiences than I have. One person hired their son's best friend and he lost their dog and unfortunately it still hasn't been found, I couldn't even imagine. Another person called when they were fed up with their friends not taking care of their home, they come home to a huge puddle of water beside the cats water bowl. which was full of water by the way, all over their brand new hardwood floors. Another person called after their previous pet sitter claimed they searched all over the house for their cat and couldn't find it, only to come home to find their cat had passed away under the bed. Another client called after they realized their pet sitter wasn't scooping the litter box for 2 whole weeks except on the day the pet parents were returning and consequently the cats had turned the pet parents bed into a litter box, the mattress was saturated right to the box spring. They also found cat poop all over the house. Another person actually lost their dog due to pancreatitis only to find out their sister was feeding it grapes and another couple had their dog pass away as well only to find out their mother-in-law was feeding it chocolate chips as treats. Another person called after they had a terrible boarding experience with an in-home boarding facility that states "no crates" only to find out that their dog was crated, the dog had scratched their nail beds down so far their nail quicks were bleeding from being crated. And these are only a few of the situations I can remember, there have been lots more over the past 6 years.

I can't stress enough how important it is to do your research and ask the right questions, get referrals and references when you're trying to hire the right pet sitting service or find the right boarding facility. Don't be fooled by the name of the business and keep in mind that veterinarians are in the business of being veterinarians, boarding is just a side business for them to make extra money, having said that some dogs may be fine with only having 2 bathroom breaks a day and having last chance pee before bed at 6pm and first pee break in the morning at 8:30 am....but that schedule definitely does not work for my pet family.

On our website we have posted 19 questions as a guideline that will be beneficial in helping you choose the right caregiver for your pets, even if you use the same place all the time it's worth asking the questions, you may get answers that will shock you but hopefully they will confirm what you already know. Please share this blog with all your pet parent friends and family members.

 Together, Let's Make Everyday a  Pet Pawsitive Day! 

Questions to Ask When Choosing the Right Caregiver for Your Pets

1 comment:

  1. Tell us what you think about our blog? Share your pet care stories,good and bad...we'd love to hear from you!