Tails From A Pet Sitter: 10 Things I Learned On The Job
Don’t quit your day job just yet – our resident pet sitting pro shares some hard truths about the profession
Sure, pet sitting sounds like it’s all puppy kisses, belly rubs and wagging tails, but after many years and clients, I can safely say… “Not all the time!” Pet sitting is more than just puppy kisses – here are ten things I learned on the job:
- There are not enough lint rollers in the world. Everything I own is constantly covered in dog hair. Even my lap top has dog hair on it at this very moment. Vacuuming is futile. Lint rollers might take off the top layer, but the second I don a jacket, it’s back to being hairy. You have to learn to love the constant hair in my profession. I was even at a gas station once and a total stranger asked if I had a dog. I was completely confused as to how they would know, until I looked down at my black pants. Mind you, I was on my way to a date!
- Sometimes you get peed on. I have this magical job where I walk into houses all day and have puppies happy to see me. No matter how bad they have to go outside, they always want belly rubs first. This is all well and good except for the young ones. Sometimes they get too excited and pee on you.
Related: Puppy, It’s Cold Outside
- Hand sanitizer is your best friend. Being a pet sitter is a disgusting job. Yes, I get to play with puppies all day, but there is a tradeoff. Dogs poop. They poop a lot. And factor in the stress of being left alone, and sometimes there’s a mess in the house waiting for me. I can’t just leave it there until the owners come home – all part and parcel of being a pet sitter. Puppies are the worst, especially the ones that get into things when left alone. I wish I could tell you I’ve never had to pull anything out the other end (with my hand wrapped in three pick up bags), but I’d be lying.
- You’ll never be able to find the right key. It only happens when your hands are full, or when it’s negative two thousand degrees out, but expect to spend a good amount of time fumbling. I’ve been doing this for years, so my keychain resembles a janitor’s. I imagine organized pet sitters have a color-coded system, but I don’t. It isn’t smart to label keys with addresses in case they were to get lost. So my system is to have a bunch of different rings, key chains and colored keys. That way, I’ll know the key to Bailey’s house is next to the rainbow key on the second ring. This is the most effective method for me – except when I’m in a hurry.
Related: Dog Daycare or Dog Walker?
- Expect calls at all hours. In this business, you tend to build a solid relationship with your two-legged clients. After all, you are taking care of their precious baby. So it’s completely normal to receive calls at 11 p.m. from frantic clients because their dog licked some fresh paint. Just an FYI: if your dog licks paint, take them to the vet.
- Your dog will get jealous. Okay – they don’t really get jealous per say, but expect a five minute sniff down whenever you get home. Maria makes me feel guilty when I’ve been out walking dogs all day. She doesn’t even get excited to see me; her nose just goes straight to my pants until she’s satisfied. I feel like I’ve been cheating on her!
- It is impossible to regulate temperature. It doesn’t matter the temperature outside, being a pet sitter, you will always be uncomfortable. In the winter you bundle up of course, but here’s how it goes: car just starts to warm up and you arrive at client’s; you get out and walk into the warm house; then back out into the cold; then back into the warm house; then back out into the cold; and then your car is almost warm by the time you get to the next house. Summer isn’t any better. It could be 90 degrees out, but you have to wear pants or risk getting your legs clawed up by exuberant puppies.
- People are weird. But it’s okay because they pay you. I’ve had the strangest demands from clients; I even had one who changed her dog’s clothes every single day. Now, I spoil my dog all day long, but the constant wardrobe changes were something new, even for me. One lady demanded her dog got a small piece of cheese at noon every day. I understand the midday treat, but guess what – dogs don’t wear watches. Clients pay for peace of mind, and if that means the dog must get cheese at noon, the dog gets cheese at noon.
- Pet sitting is a job of passion, not something to get rich off of. I had delusions of grandeur when I first opened my business, but the reality is there are only so many hours in the day. I will never be a millionaire in this profession, but what it lacks in coins, it makes up for in puppy kisses.
- Saying goodbye never gets easier. The hardest part of being a pet sitter comes when your clients get older – it’s a cruel joke that our pets have such short lifespans. Pet sit long enough and you will end up having to say goodbye. I recently had to say goodbye to one of my first clients last week, and it’s heartbreaking every time. In this profession, you fall in love with every one of your dogs and the time will come when you have to say goodbye.
Rachel Leavy lives in Rochester, New York with her dog, Maria, and her gecko, Nigel. She has loved animals all her life, and has owned her own dog training and walking company for five years. When she’s not playing with puppies, she can usually be found writing short stories, riding horses or out at a play.