Pet Visits

"Results Not Typical"

When I started to write this, I thought I’d describe a typical visit, by describing a visit with one of my pet clients, and I realized there isn’t any such thing as a typical visit.

Each pet is very different – they have these larger-than-life personalities and I create a level of service that is specific to that pet, then specific to the needs of the household as a whole.

In each household, your pets and I organically end up with a routine that takes place each visit, and it all falls together pretty quickly (we figure it out as we go)… and once we establish a routine - they hold me to it every visit, sometimes right down to the games we play... even if I only see them once a year!

The best way to maintain balance within a household, while you're gone, is a calm, balanced presence, structure, and consistency.

Taking Care of Business with Tender Loving Care
With each visit, I focus on what I call "administrative needs" (potty-related (always a priority!!), food, water, meds, visit notes - the TCB stuff), which most pets participate in on some level as spectator, "supervisor," or paws-on! And, I focus on interaction, activity, affection, touch, enrichment, and play (the TLC stuff).

When I watch pets for the first time, for an out-of-town trip, it usually takes two visits for them to figure out what's going on and establish a routine. From that point forward, when I come in the future, they know as soon as I show up what's up!

Since we meet and talk ahead of time, I have an understanding of your pet's usual routine and the things in their world that they like the most.

Your pets and I have already met - I've been sniffed, checked out, accepted, and scent-marked - I'm already in "the database."

I don't force myself on any pet - they come to me on their terms. If a pet has a safe space at home, like a crate or favorite bed, they have to come to me from that space under their own power, even if I have to wait a while. With cats, it's all on their terms - they're cats - and I won't even try to pet a cat until they've rubbed up against me to mark me - whatever personal space they want to maintain is fine with me.

I have a client, whose cat didn't even appear when I visited (but food was eaten and there was visible box activity between visits).  I just spoke to him, and left some treats out for him. Over time, he surfaced, and wouldn't leave a room if I was there, but wouldn't look at me and didn't want to be petted. This went on for three years. Then one Thanksgiving weekend, I walked into the house and he greeted me like I was a long lost friend, and he's been affectionate and we've interacted ever since.

When that first experience is complete - in other words, when you return home - your pet will realize that this is just another part of the routine and so when I show up the next time, they don't skip a beat and know that their family will return home.

(If you're not there, than I am, if I'm not there, then you are, and no matter what, their family always ends up home.) 

My goal, when I care for a pet, is to keep them in a comfortable routine (a structured visit that stays as close to what they do when you are home as possible), keep them exercised, well fed, and busy to minimize stress as much as possible. Their family is out-of town and your pets are on their own 'stay-cation' - they are the center of the universe when I'm in their home.

After I've greeted everybody, I usually focus on the TCB stuff – for dogs, they always go outside or go for a walk first. Then, food, water, clean cat boxes, and any other needs, like medication. Then it's time for TLC, attention, and activity.

I try to encourage your pets to expend energy as much as possible through love and play. When we play, I do my best to occupy a pet's mind, body, and nature.  Each pet will be different in their need for attention each visit and I just roll along with their needs.

I keep a visit journal, and at the end of each visit, offer a narrative of what we did, including play, weather, anything new in the neighborhood, and potty habits.

If I notice anything physically or behaviorally different, I let you know either in my notes, or by contacting you; if I have questions, I don't hesitate to ask. Open communication with a pet's family is vital to great pet care.

By the way, I am certified in pet first aid by the American Red Cross, and won't hesitate for a nanosecond to respond if your pet needs emergency care. I will also keep you notified should any emergency concerns arise.

Each pet has a tremendously unique personality - they are amazing. I am more than willing to make a total idiot of myself, or throw a ball endlessly, to entertain your dog or cat or try to understand what they want. We develop ways of communicating through energy, eye contact and body language, and I also talk to them while I'm with them – everyone has their own opinion about what their pet understands and at the very least, my words, my tone, my demeanor, my body language, and sounds they recognize convey my energy and my intent.

When I'm interacting with pets, I take a calm, balanced approach and stay mentally centered, so I'm not bringing stress into their environment. When you're communicating with animals, nothing is ever personal except their affection - they don't know any other way.

From sweet, but gross, dog kisses to cleaning up accidents to peanut butter on my fingers when I'm delivering meds, interacting with pets can be messy business - my mantra: The love stays, and the gross all washes off eventually!

I communicate with my pet owners at whatever level they are comfortable with - some pet owners want me to email after each visit in lieu of notes, some want me to text them just in the first couple of days, some may call in, email, or text from time-to-time.

I've had a couple pet households take vacations in different countries and email is great for staying in touch with them no matter where they are. It's difficult to leave your pets in someone else's hands (I know), and whatever a client wants to do to stay at a comfort level (within reason) is pretty much fine with me.

I usually communicate with my clients much closer to their return and intend to keep visiting the household until I know the client is home. In all this time, when a pet owner has flown, I have yet to have them arrive home on time! I had one client a couple years ago, who was returning from a trip to Russia, texting me while they were sitting on the runway at LaGuardia for two hours! So I keep that return time very flexible and stay in communication.

When clients are out of town, I usually bring in the mail and newspapers, deal with the trash and recycling, water the flowers or tomatoes, deal with the weather, take front porch stuff like circulars and deliveries into the house, and I work really hard to make sure a home looks as if it's lived in while my clients are gone.

If I am watching your pet household for a trip, I will leave a billing with a self-addressed stamped envelope and my visit notes. For the in–town clients who use my services regularly, daily or several days a week, I leave notes each day and I can bill weekly or monthly.

This just gives you a general idea of what happens when I visit your household to care for your pets. The bottom line in all of this is that I pay attention to my pet clients and really listen, and do my best to be as responsive as I can be to their needs whether it be food, enriched play, or love so you are greeted by a happy, relaxed pet when you return home.

Updated May 25, 2019.