Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NAPPS Annual Conference, and Investing in Clients

I just returned from Las Vegas where I attended the annual conference for the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. It was fantastic! I got so much information and education in just three days, not to mention networking, learning about new products from vendors who attended, and gathering tons of ideas. I said it on my Facebook page but it bears repeating: My clients invest in me all year. This is one way that I can invest in THEM and their furry family members.

So here are some fun tips and  facts I learned!

1.    If you are going away, put a few washcloths or t-shirts in your bed as you sleep to mark them with your scent. Put them in a plastic bag and tie it to keep the scent in. Then when you are away, your pet sitter can take out a scent-marked item each day to help reassure your pets and let them smell, if not see, your presence.

2.   Domestic cats are descended from the African Wildcat. These cats were mostly desert-dwellers. In the desert, rivers and pools were to be avoided due to crocodiles, and standing puddles of water were usually not drinkable. So while cats got most of their moisture from prey, they learned to get a little extra moisture from dripping leaves. To this day, many cats like to drink from faucets or fountains that drip, rather than from a bowl. (I always wondered why my cats were so fascinated with the faucet!)

3.  When was the last time you saw a dog or cat eagerly running to a corn field to eat corn? Never! Cats and dogs are not designed to eat corn - it is a cheap filler and NOT suitable for feeding to your dogs and cats. If your pet food contains corn, get rid of it!

This is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg of what I learned. Plus I got to network with the experts, authors, and leaders in the industry, so if you have questions I can't answer, I probably know someone who can!

On another note, I get calls and emails from folks who want to be pet sitters and start their own businesses. I think that's great! It's a much-needed service! But when I recommend they join a professional pet sitting organization like NAPPS, where they would have access to a ton of free information, resources, contacts, and business forms, many say "$160 per year! That's too much to spend." I only have one reply to that:  "If you can't invest $160 in your business, please rethink being a pet sitter". How can a pet sitter expect clients to invest in them, when they can't even spend $160 to kick start their business the right way?

Thankfully times are changing, and pet guardians expect a LOT out of the person caring for their pets. There are always a few pet owners who shrug and say "It's just a dog" or "My cat is really independent, as long as she has a pile of food and a bucket of water, we can leave her alone". Maybe they will pay a bargain-basement sitter with no insurance, training, or a real, tax-paying business. But for those who cherish pets as part of the family, including me, they want more. And they deserve more. Their pets deserve more.

That's why I LOVE it when owners ask me for references and details on my training and experience. It tells me that they love their pets enough to expect only the highest quality care for their babies. That's what I intend to deliver, for every client, every time. Look into your pet's eyes. Don't they deserve the best?

Monday, January 16, 2012

We've been so lucky here in Northeast PA to have a relatively dry and not-too-cold winter (although that seems to be changing!) I try to stay informed about weather issues and how they can affect pets. So I was interested to see this article cross my virtual desktop today:

Dog Feet Have Special Blood Vessels That Protect Them From Cold: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/13/dog-feet_n_1204709.html

That's good to know!  Although I still err on the side of caution and I don't let dogs linger too long outside when the weather conditions can create a hazard to safety or their health. The same goes for very hot days too, some dogs just can't handle the heat.

I think this winter I finally have the cold-weather gear I need. Seems like every year I'd be missing some component, but this year I've had occasion to bundle up, and I stayed warm outside, so I think I'm set.

The holidays are over, and that means two things - folks planning cruises somewhere warm, and families planning summer vacations. Don't forget to book pet care, too! Give a call or send an email, we'll get you scheduled for pet sits and you can cross that off your to-do list!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012 Here We Come!

What a year 2011 has been. Your Best Friend Pet Sitting celebrated it's 5th year in business - can you believe it? This has been a year of feeling immensely grateful and appreciative to all of my clients who trust me with their furry (and finned, scaled, and feathered!) family members. When you can go to work every day feeling grateful for the opportunity, regardless of what you do, you will put your all into it. That's my theory, anyway!
In addition, in 2011, I became a Certified Pet Sitter through the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters! This was an immensely challenging process. I had no idea! The certification is an in-depth course on pet care, nutrition, illness, as well as good business practices and principles. I learned so much practical information that I can bring to my clients and their pets, from observing the more subtle signs of illness in dogs and cats, to methods of communicating with animals to help bond with them and understand their needs. I can't say enough good things about this course!

In 2 weeks I'll be off to the annual conference for NAPPS. This is where I get a lot of great information, ideas, and education. My clients invest in me year-round. I wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't invest in THEM. I want to be the best sitter I can be, and that means learning, learning, learning. It never stops, it's all part of the process.

What else is in store for 2012? Stay tuned and find out! You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Taking Care of Homeless Pets

As times get tough for humans, they get even tougher for the pets we care for. Let's face it, the mortgage crisis forced a lot of families out of their homes, and finding pet-friendly apartments at an affordable price is next to impossible. The lucky pets were rehomed with a friend or family member. The not-so-lucky pets were dropped off at shelters, which are already strained. the really unlucky ones - they were set loose, or worse, left inside the home with no food, water, or companionship, until they died (or were found barely alive - some made it, some didn't.)
I network daily with local shelters and rescue groups, and to say they are in need is an understatement. What they seem to need most right now are good foster homes to help with the overflow of pets that come in daily.
Have you ever considered fostering a pet? Have you thought about opening your home and heart to an animal in need on a temporary basis, until they can move on to their "fur-ever" home? Maybe you thought that you'd like to try it, but you are afraid you'll get attached and will have too hard a time giving them up. Or maybe you weren't sure how it all worked. Or maybe you have pets or kids and are a little nervous as to how they'd get along.
These are really important questions. And there are answers!
Shelters and rescue groups have resources for you. No reputable shelter would just dump a pet on you and leave you to deal with it. That doesn't help you, the pet, OR the shelter! Shelters want to create great relationships with their foster families. They have the skills and experience to guide you through the process.
If you currently have pets, they'll make sure that the pet you foster has been tested around dogs or cats. That does not mean that you won't have to supervise their interactions, or that it will be 100% hassle-free! But experienced shelter / rescue workers will give you tips on introducing the new pet into your home, and they're there to answer questions for you every step of the way.
Fostering is not forever! The upside to that is you get to enjoy all of the fun of having a new addition to your home, knowing that you're saving a life, and they will soon have their "furever" home. You can make that possible! The downside, of course, is saying goodbye. That can be tough. But you can make the transition easier by always keeping in mind that you're really just watching a pet for a little while, helping it on its path to a loving home. Will you get attached? Of course. But the pain of saying goodbye is tempered by the joy of knowing you saved a life. And of course, you can then foster another pet in need, and save another life!
Cats and dogs are in the most need when it comes to foster homes. But I have also seen rabbits, ferrets, rats, lizards, and snakes needing foster homes. If you have some experience with those types of animals, why not foster?
If you live in Northeast PA, and you are interested in opening your heart and home to a foster pet, contact me and I'll be happy to help put you in touch with area shelters and rescues in need.
To those who work in animal rescue - I salute all you do for homeless animals!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I Can Has Website? LOLcats and New Designs

If you want a wonderful way to waste a little time or laugh at some cute pet photos, check out http://icanhascheezburger.com/. I'll admit it is torture trying to decipher the really over-the-top "LOLspeak" on some of them, but the cute pics are worth it.
Your Best Friend Pet Sitting is working on a new website (that is to say, I am working on a new website, I am a "do-it-yourselfer"), one that will provide easier navigation and more information for pet owners and clients. If there's anything you'd like to see included on the site, drop me a line at kristen (at) bestfriendpetsitting.com and let me know! I am happy to share the many resources I've developed over the years in running my business and taking care of homes and pets in the area. I welcome your ideas, always.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Rainy Dogs and Muddy Paws

With the rainy days, I'm of course dealing with lots of muddy paws. My usual solution was a good old towel, I keep a stash of them in my car in case people don't have a "paw towel" of their own. I guess I never thought of another option! But recently I have found that there are a whole line of products to deal with this very issue.
Some are vase-like vessels for water, and you dip the dog's paws in to get them clean. The Paw Wash and the Paw Plunger are examples of these. I've never used them, firstly because I just found out about them, and secondly, because I am trying to imagine my own 3 dogs using these. My 3 pups are used to barreling out and in, usually at top speed, and the idea that they would slow down or sit still while I dipped all 12 paws in water...I just can't picture it! But for a single dog who is a lot more laid back about things, they may be a good solution. Although you'd have to wipe the paws anyway to get them dry, wouldn't you? I'd be interested in hearing people's thoughts on this!
Another item I just found out about is a paw-cleaning mitt. Here are some examples of what's out there: The Spotless Paw, the Paw Monster, and the Evri-Pet paw cleaner. I have used a mitt like the Evri-Pet, and I found it to be a lot easier to get water, dirt and mud off dogs' paws. It's not flawless, only because dogs are dogs and some wiggle less than others of course! But I found it really fast to use and clean.
I don't get paid by any company to mention products (I'd mention it if I did!), but I always want to help people find good solutions to everyday pet problems.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Doggies in the Rain

It is no fun walking dogs in the rain. Some dogs don't mind it, but other dogs tuck their tail and try to hide when it's time to go out. I try a few strategies in cases like these.
  • I go out myself and lead the way. Some dogs may not be crazy about the rain, but they'll go if I go first and show them it's not so bad.

  • Gentle encouragement. This may mean sitting in the doorway with a treat and a soothing voice, reassuring the dog, and helping to remove the stress from the situation. It takes time, but you cannot rush a good relationship with a pet, it must be earned, and that takes time and patience.

  • Bribery. For many dogs, a treat is a great motivator. If they are really stubborn, I will bring out the freeze-dried liver treats - I have not known a dog to resist them.

  • Compassionate understanding. There are times when the weather is just so rotten, the rain or wind too fierce, or snow too deep, and a dog just flat-out refuses to go. Nuh-uh, no way, not gonna do it. And every signal they are communicating - the drooping ears, the tucked tail, the submissive licking (or even growling) - says "If you force me, it will damage our relationship. Please do not put me in that position." In those cases, we make the pooch as happy and stress-free as possible while we're there, and just try again next visit.
Maybe one of these tips will work for you if you have a reluctant, weather-weary pooch!