Tails From A Pet Sitter: Puppy, It’s Cold Outside

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While most people my age are hiding under the covers, hoping the kids stay asleep for another hour before tumbling downstairs to ravage the carefully wrapped gifts like human paper shredders, me and my kind have been up for hours. The holidays are a pet sitter’s busiest time of year, and for the past four years I’ve up at 5 a.m. to take care for my four legged clients.

A good pet sitter will have a plan: mine involves lots of coffee and energy bars. While most people sit inside enjoying hot cocoa and carols, I’m trudging through the white Christmas for 12 hours straight. Whether it’s walking, feeding, playing and petting, duty calls. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining because I absolutely love my job (so much so that I started my own business). It’s just really cold during Christmas.

Related: Dog Daycare or Dog Walker: Which One Should You Choose?

After many seasons in the pet sitting business, I want to pass along a few experiences I’ve had, especially if you’re thinking for going the pet sitter route. Here’s what to expect from your pet sitter during the holidays:

Visit Frequency

If you aren’t hiring someone to stay overnight, you’ll want them to visit the house throughout the day. This is adequate for most dogs, the exceptions being senior dogs, puppies, and dogs with health issues. They typically require someone overnight and there most of the day. But your average pooch needs three to four visits a day to keep them happy and exercised. In my last article about pet sitting, I discussed the importance of hiring someone trustworthy. If you’re anxious like I am about leaving your pet in someone else’s hands, you can request text/email updates.

Related: Can Your Neighbor Make Your Dog Vomit? (and other reasons to hire a pet sitter)

Visit Requirements

After locating the client’s key on my janitor-sized key ring, I take care of first things first: let the dog get down to business. Since they are only being seen three times a day, that’s the most important part. The second thing on the list is feeding and any administering applicable medications. If your pet requires meds, make sure to leave detailed instructions. During the holidays pet sitters can be in charge of anywhere from one to 10 households and can’t always remember the specific details for every dog we look after – so please, throw us a bone and leave a note.

Visit Bonuses

The best part of my job is that I get to repeatedly walk into houses where the dogs are overjoyed to see me. Of course I’ll feed and walk your dog, but I also will spoil them with treats and love. They’re stuck with just me for a few days so I do my best to make it worth their while. Of course they miss their families, and for some dogs this can be quite stressful.  So I have 30 minutes each visit to pack in as much love as I can, and for all dogs, this is the best bonus of having a dedicated pet sitter.

Visit Special Requests

If your vacation is a long one, I suggest you ask us to leave the lights on during the day and turn them off at night. Since there will only be a car in the driveway a few times a day, it’s added security. Pet sitters can also grab the mail, take out the trash and water your plants (I will water them… but I don’t promise I won’t kill them). I actually have a clause in my contract stating that I’m the grim reaper of plants and you should expect to come home find them a little (or a lot) wilted. It’s a gift. Don’t worry – your dogs are in good hands, this only applies to living things in a pot.

If you’re out of town for the holidays, find a pet sitter you trust. Be specific in your needs and trust your instincts. You want to be able to enjoy Christmas without being a nervous wreck about your pets. And by all means – I know I’m not Santa – but feel free to leave us cookies!

Rachel LeavyRachel 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.