Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pets and Holidays

Holiday time is a fun time for us, and for our four-footed loved ones as well. To keep pets safe this holiday season (and year-round!) it helps to look at the holidays from a dog's (and cat's) eye view.

  • Holiday guests are part of what makes this time of year so wonderful. If you're having guests over, it's important that they know your rules with your pets. For example, if your pets aren't allowed to have treats, make sure your guests know, or you may find your dog or cat begging at the table months after your guests have left!
  • Guests can also confuse or even scare shy pets. Make sure your pets have a safe space they can go to (a bedroom, for example) to escape the noise and people if need be.
  • Call Your Best Friend Pet Sitting to schedule a dog walk or some playtime with your pets if you're strapped for time - even if you're home, we can take some of that stress off your hands by providing service so that you can relax with your family.
  • Book your pet care services EARLY! Every pet sitter and kennel in the country books up quickly around any holiday (some are fully booked months in advance!) We all get calls a day or two before Christmas asking if we can take care of someone's pets, and at that point it's often too late for any sitter to take any additional bookings. Also, know your sitter's cancellation policy for holidays, as it may differ from the rest of the year.
  • If you're a client of Your Best Friend Pet Sitting, then you love your pets like family and probably buy them gifts! I like toys and treats that exercise their brains! Kong toys or other rubber toys can be stuffed with treats, or filled with broth or peanut butter and then frozen. Dogs enjoy the mental stimulation that comes from figuring out how to get the good stuff out of the Kong. Both dogs and cats LOVE laser pointers, and they are an inexpensive way to interact with your pets in a way they will enjoy (and you will too - it's hard to keep a straight face!)
  • We all know this by now but a reminder never hurts - no pet should ever be allowed to eat chocolate as it is toxic to their systems. They should also avoid cooked poultry bones, grapes, and alcohol. My good friend and dog lover Janie has compiled an excellent list of foods pets should avoid in her Examiner Article: CLICK HERE
  • With the stress, travel, and bustle of the holidays, remember that our pets are GREAT for helping us relax. There is nothing better than getting cozy on the couch with a purring cat on your lap or your loving dog's muzzle resting on your knee. Your pets will cherish those moments, and you will too!
Happy Holidays to you and yours from Your Best Friend Pet Sitting!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Announcing: Our NEW E-Newsletter "Barks, Meows, Chirps & Howls"!

Your Best Friend Pet Sitting is proud to announce our new E-Newsletter - coming soon to an email inbox near you!

Will there be interesting pet-related articles? YES!
How about insights into the life of our favorite professional pet sitter? YES!
Photos that make us grin like a Golden Retriever getting it's back scratched? YES!
Hm, can we learn about how to get FREE pet sits? OH ABSOLUTELY!

Click Here to sign up to receive "Barks, Meows, Chirps & Howls" - coming SOON!

If you have questions or article ideas, send them along - I'd love to hear from you!

Winter Walking Woes

We in the Northeast have been very lucky this November - no snow, lots of beautiful days, temperatures in the 50's! For a pet sitter, that's perfect. So what can professional pet sitters share to help YOU when the weather isn't as cooperative?

A lot! My first winter investment is always a good set of studded snow tires. Northeast Pennsylvania is made up of hills on top of hills on the sides of mountains, and I can't think of a single road that runs in a straight line around here. So far, the snow tires have done a good job getting me through most terrain.

Warm weather gear is a must. I wear layers with a good warm hooded coat over everything. I am still shopping around for a set of warm gloves that still allow me to clip a leash to a collar, any suggestions? Waterproof boots are important, and I still keep a pair of socks in my car in case my feet do get wet. Walking dogs in wet, cold socks is no fun!

In addition to my boots, I also bought a pair of ice cleats that pop on to the bottoms of my boots. These are excellent for getting traction on icy driveways and walkways. They pop on and off easily (they are not to be worn indoors!) and really make a difference when walking on ice or hard snow.

Rock salt and quick-melt pellets can be dangerous to your pets' feet, especially when they come inside and try to lick their paws clean. Rock salt can cut and dry out their paw pads, and pellets can contain harmful chemicals your pet can ingest. I recommend finding pet-friendly ice melter if possible. If not, then make sure you wash and dry your pet's feet very well after coming in from your walk. I always keep clean towels in my car for muddy or messy paws, and in my own home I keep a towel by the door for the same reason.

Share your winter weather ideas with me in the comments section! I'd love to hear what others are doing to keep pets warm, safe, and dry this winter!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Presents 4 Pets!

Today was a GREAT day - for me and my friends as well as some beautiful shelter pets.

This is my second year of involvement with Presents 4 Pets, a NAPPS initiative where professional pet sitters reach out to their clients and communities and gather food, toys, beds, and other items to make life more comfortable for shelter and rescue pets. This year I had some help from some wonderful friends who love animals. They hosted a wonderful "Yappy Hour" event at Nay Aug park (dogs in costumes - it was the BEST!) With those donations, as well as donations from clients and members of the community, we packed an SUV full of donated items and drove down to Hillside SPCA.

As many animal lovers in PA know, new kennel regulations went into effect in September creating standards for commercial kennels. This effectively shut down some puppy mills (hopefully MORE to shut down as enforcement increases) and the Hillside SPCA, located in Pottsville, PA, took in quite a few dogs from these mills. Hillside is a no-kill shelter so they certainly had a great need for items. (Find out more about Hillside HERE: http://www.hillsidespca.com/ )

Today friends Janie & Laura and I made the trip down with the goods, and got to meet some beautiful dogs and pups. The shelter workers were dedicated folks who knew these animals well. I was impressed with the site and the people working there. They were very appreciative of our visit!

I want to thank all of the folks, friends, clients, and community members who came out to Yappy Hour, donated items, money, time and support for this drive. While the real gifts go to the homeless animals, I feel as if I have been given a gift too. I am already planning next year's Presents 4 Pets drive. I can't wait!


It's EASY!

Step 1: Find old leashes, towels, pet beds, or pet supplies in good condition
Buy some wet or dry pet food, metal food and water bowls, bleach, laundry detergent, kitty litter, or gift cards

Step 2: Give me a call or send an email and I will pick them up at your home or at a prearranged location.

Step 3: Receive a thank-you letter and receipt (donations ARE tax-deductible!!), and more importantly, know that *YOU* made life better for a homeless animal in need. It's an amazing feeling.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dog Tales

Pet sitting is full of surprises - no two days are ever the same. This time of year reminds me of a sit I was doing a few years ago for a beautiful little Maltese. We were taking a walk, enjoying the fall leaves, and suddenly she started barking at a big tom turkey running towards us!
This turkey was huge and angry, making quite a racket. So I quickly scooped up the Maltese and hustled into to the house (hey, this turkey had death in his eyes - he wanted a piece of me!) Safely inside, I watched this turkey coming toward the door, and saw what looked like a big, misshapen limb protruding from his chest. It looked like it had a foot on the end. So of course the first thing that pops into my head is "Oh no! A killer mutant turkey!" I really thought that this turkey had a third leg sticking out of it's chest.

When the turkey ran off, I finished my walk (warily!) with my Maltese buddy. After I got home that day, I called my father to tell him about the mutant turkey of doom. My father explained to me that male turkeys have "beards" that protrude or hang from their chests, and that's what I saw. I told him that what I saw was not a beard, but then he had me look it up on the internet, and sure enough it was a turkey beard!

I was born and raised in this area, you'd think I would have known that. Well you learn something new every day. I started reading about lots of Pennsylvania wildlife in order to gain a better understanding of the critters that inhabit our area. It's time well spent!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Janie the Pet Pro!

My good friend Janie is one of those amazing, tireless dog lovers who not only knows her stuff when it comes to dogs, but goes out of her way to help dogs in need. She is now a writer for The Examiner, and she's posted some great, informative articles about dogs, including her most recent article on dog safety for Halloween.
Check it out here: Howl-O-Ween Safety Tips For Your Pets!
The photos attached to her articles are hers as well, and in a recent article she shared some tips on pet photography (well worth the read!) She's a genius with the camera. We all know how difficult it is to capture a truly good photo of a pet - they turn their heads at the last minute, they don't sit still, and their eyes tend to shine unnaturally when the flash goes off. But Janie manages to capture great photos of dogs in all poses and states of movement. You can see some of her photographic work on my FaceBook page.
One of the great advantages of sharing your life with a pet is that you're in good company with other pet lovers. There are so many people I've met in my area through pet-related events and I'm proud to call them friends.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pet Safety - Be Prepared!

Here's a great article I saw today about pet safety. It reminded me that you can never predict when an emergency may happen, so preparation is key!
I completed my Red Cross pet first aid training to help prepare for first aid emergencies. And I keep a Pet First Aid kit in my car always! The National Association for Professional Pet Sitters offers a FREE 20 page Disaster Preparedness Guide (pdf document) for pet owners that takes the mystery and fear away from emergency planning and gives you everything you need to know to prepare for disasters before they happen.

The article is here: AP Poll - Pet Owners Willing to Go Mouth-to-Muzzle

Check it out!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Autumn in the Poconos

This is a beautiful time of year to live in Northeast PA. The leaves are changing color, and every day you can see their progression.

Animals are everywhere. In just the past 2 days I have seen deer, turkeys, 2 bears, raccoons, squirrels, skunks, chipmunks, geese, possum, groundhogs, and a vulture, all on or near the road, eating as much as they can for winter. It makes it challenging to drive on these twisty mountain roads. I love watching all wildlife, but the bears were a treat to see. One was crossing the road in front of me, and I pulled over to watch it. I saw something in my side mirror - another bear was crossing the road behind my car! They both looked me over, but wanted nothing to do with me, and they headed off into the woods. When I know there are bears around, I walk dogs close to the house, never straying too far. Bears are unpredictable and you can never assume you're safe when one is around.

The holidays are approaching - time to make arrangements for your pet's care if you plan to do any traveling! And Presents 4 Pets is here too - I'm collecting donated items for shelter pets such as food, leashes, blankets, cat litter, and more! If you live in the local area and would like to arrange a pickup, please give me a call!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Adopting A Shelter Pet

About a year ago, my husband and I started looking for a second dog. The time was right, and we knew our puppy Loki needed a pal. We needed a new pal, too.

I think, many years ago, when someone wanted a pet, you either checked for free puppies/kittens in the paper, or you went to the shelter, answered a few questions, paid a small fee, and brought home a dog or cat. It's not like that now! In fact, our search took many months and was much harder than I expected. We really wanted the right dog for our family, not necessarily a specific breed (although we had an idea of some breeds' traits that would be a better fit for us than others).

We found Fiona on Petfinder.com (a site I highly recommend for those looking to adopt a pet or learn more about rescued pets). She's a little mutt, part Italian greyhound, part something else, and after months of searching, something about her caught my eye. We learned all we could about her to determine if she would be a good fit for us, and us for her. The woman who rescued her answered all of our questions, asked us lots of questions, and offered great advice. The day we met her, Fiona bounded into the room and leaped right into my husband's arms. It made me laugh out loud - could it have been more perfect?

The months of researching, learning, and looking were well worth it. Fiona integrated quickly into the household (only a few minor spats with Loki, and the woman at the rescue helped us through - she was a great resource!) Now she and Loki are inseparable. They run together, chase each other, and wrestle, wrestle, wrestle. And when they finally wear each other out a bit, they often curl up together in the same doggie bed.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Here's one you'll like...

This is a beautiful article about 2 border collies found running loose in England - one dog is blind, and the other is it's guide dog.


Dogs amaze me every day. *wipes happy tear*

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pennsylvania Nature

I can't seem to go a day without seeing beautiful animal babies everywhere. Most notably are the fawns, sometimes singly, sometimes in pairs, following their mothers around as they nibble on the abundant grass. I've tried taking some pictures, but I can't seem to get close enough to get good ones.
I'm seeing lots of turtles too, snapping turtles and red-eared sliders. The snapping turtles were laying eggs a week or so ago, which explains why they've been everywhere. I remember a few years ago seeing a gigantic snapper in the middle of the road. I didn't want her to get hit by a car, so I decided I'd help her across the road. At the time, I didn't know that snapping turtles have long necks and can reach almost all the way behind them. I thought I'd just gently lift her shell and help her across... Fortunately, something in me thought "maybe not a good idea". I tried to inch closer to her in the hopes that she'd move of her own accord, but she was fearless (unlike ME!) In the end, I realized there wasn't much I could do without putting myself in danger, or putting her in further danger, so I got back in my car, and sure enough, she started moseying to the side of the road. I'm glad I didn't act on my initial instinct to pick her up - after doing some research I saw that they have a vicious bite and it is definitely not recommended to mess with them at all.
I try to learn about all of the wildlife I encounter in my travels. That information always comes in handy.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Life of a Pet Sitter

June is a WONDERFUL time to be a pet sitter in Northeast PA! I thought I'd share a little bit of what I do, to give an idea of a pet sitter's typical day.

I wake up early every day, even if I don't have early morning pet sits. Today I didn't, so I spent the morning answering a few emails, and playing with my 2 pups, Loki and Fiona. Then it was time to head out!

My first sit was for a pack of dogs, all as different as dogs can be! they all got a potty break in their large fenced-in yard, and I spent time with each of them, to pet them, play with them, and make sure they were all doing well today. I see this gang frequently and I know them well - their little quirks and mannerisms, likes and dislikes! They are a joy to sit for because no 2 visits are the same, and they are so fun and affectionate.

From there I drove through beautiful wooded areas to my next sit, where I walk a pair of dogs separately. There is nothing like being out in the fresh air and sunshine with blue skies up above, and a good dog at your side. We take a nice long walk through the woods, it's beautiful. Today, one of the dogs took a long drink of water then jumped up to give me a big, wet kiss - lucky I had a towel handy! Pet sitters get used to that kind of thing, and learn to appreciate those signs of affection, even when they are kind of sloppy. After our walk, it's cuddle time, which both dogs really enjoy.

After that, I went to take care of a pair of Labrador puppies that are as cute as can be. Getting puppies outside to potty quickly is the name of the game here. Once they've relieved themselves and we clean up, it's PLAYTIME, and these pups love to play! I can't keep a straight face around them. They wrestle, and make squeaky growly noises, and they fall all over each other tangling up their legs. Their owners are already teaching them to sit, so I have them do a few "sits" for me, and praise them like crazy when they do. Because they're puppies, they get a second walk before I leave, so there's less mess for their mommy and daddy to come home to. It's hard to leave such a beautiful pair, but by the time I left today, they were fast asleep. Awww...

So there's a little slice of my life as a sitter. On days like today, when the weather is perfect and the pets I'm seeing are all friends to me, I think pet sitting is the best job in the world. (Keep reading this blog to find out what it's like to be a pet sitter in January!)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Flea and Tick Season is Here - But Here's Something You Should Know!

It's flea and tick season in Northeast PA. And it's important that we know what we're putting onto our pet's bodies, because we don't want the cure to be worse than the problem. I came across this video recently on the serious dangers posed by some over-the-counter flea and tick remedies.


To be safe, avoid using products on your pet that contains pyrethrins or pyrethroids. These are pesticides that affect the nervous system of insects, and have been known to cause serious health complications and even death in some pets. Your veterinarian can recommend flea and tick control products that are pesticide-free, and safe for your breed of dog or cat.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What Is A Professional Pet Sitter?

I've been asked more than once, "What is a professional pet sitter?" People wonder about the word "professional" and what that really means. It's a great question!

In the pet sitting industry, we make a strong distinction between professionals and what we call "hobby" pet sitters, as well as KNDs' ("kids next door") So what's the difference?

1. A professional pet sitter carries INSURANCE. This is a HUGE deal! If your pet sitter isn't insured, then you are putting your home and pet at risk. Nobody ever likes to think that things can go wrong. But if a pet is lost, or your valuables are stolen while you're away, or if your pet sitter accidentally leaves your water running or locks your keys in the house, a professional, insured & bonded pet sitter has you covered. Now that's REAL peace of mind!

2. A professional pet sitter is a LEADER. We work together in the industry for the benefit of all of our clients and their pets. We join organizations such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Professional United Pet Sitters to network, learn, and use what we've learned to help those we serve. We share ideas and offer a hand up to new pet sitters in the industry.

3. A professional pet sitter is TRAINED. I am Red Cross Pet First Aid certified, I attend pet sitting conferences and seminars, and I constantly read and learn about proper pet care to make sure I am offering my very best to the pets in my care. Industry magazines such as NAPPS Network help keep me informed on new trends and products to help pets and their owners.

4. A professional pet sitter has SOMETHING AT STAKE. What I mean is that we have business names and professional reputations to protect, so making sure our clients are satisfied is a huge priority. A hobby pet sitter who has no professional reputation to protect has nothing at stake. If they slack off on the job, or only visit your dog once a day instead of the three you requested, well, eh, no big deal, you'll get over it, right? If the kid next door doesn't like the hassle of wiping your dog's muddy paws, or forgets to lock the door on her way out, oh well. Don't get me started on the stories I've heard of college-aged non-professional "pet sitters" who decided that your home would make a great place to party while you're gone! (And sadly, I can relay dozens of these kinds of stories from my own clients, which is why they choose my services!) A professional pet sitter has worked hard to maintain a reputation for excellence, and we know that word of mouth is the best advertisement. We want to make sure you are satisfied.

I hope this illustrates some of the many advantages of hiring a truly professional pet sitter. Your home is your largest asset, and your pets are part of the family. You want to make sure that while you're away, an insured, knowledgeable professional is treating your home and family member with the utmost care and respect. That's why we say: when it comes to pet sitters, GO PRO!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Q & A - Dogs Who Pull on their Leash

In my blog comments I was asked:

"Thanks for the opportunity of sharing information! I have a question regarding the different collars and harnesses available. I have a 10 month old Labradoodle who is 60+ pounds and pulls a lot on walks. I don't feel that choker collars are very humane and I tried a gentle lead which worked for awhile but now he paws at it when we're walking. I just bought a harness that attaches to the leash in front (instead of by his shoulder blades). Do you have any advice on collars and the best use of them - especially for a growing and sometimes ornery puppy?"

Great question! I walk several dogs that are strong pullers. While every dog is different, here are some of the things I learned.

Some dogs seem to have an instinct to pull, and the more you tug the leash, the harder they'll pull against it! In some cases, this can damage a dog's throat, and definitely make the walk much less enjoyable.

I have a few suggestions to help when walking your dog:

1. Loose-leash training: The idea here is to train your dog to walk with a loose leash. Start by holding your dog's leash while he's in the sit position. I recommend starting off with lots of irresistible treats to keep his attention on you. Start to walk with your dog at your side, and if he walks close to you without pulling, praise him and give him little pieces of treat as you walk. Keep walking, praising, and offering treats. If he starts to pull, say "No," (I use a low growl tone for this) and stop walking. Make the dog sit for a minute before trying again. The idea is to teach him that when his attention is on you, and the leash is slack, it's fun and treat time! And when he pulls, fun time is over. While learning, you may find yourself stopping on almost every step. That's okay - it does take time to learn and he will learn if you practice with him every day!

2. Gentle Leader / Halti: I just love these things. :) For those who don't know, a GL or Halti is a halter-type lead, similar to the bridal on a horse, that allows you to control your dog's head (and when you control the head, you control the whole body). This is a very humane way of controlling the headstrong dog. That said, most dogs will resist the gentle lead at first. This can often be dealt with by regular use, letting your dog get used to the new lead, and even using treats and praise to let your dog associate the lead with positive things. I recommend trying it for a few weeks. Your dog will resist (after all, he just wants to pull, pull, pull!) but it is very likely he will adjust after a few weeks.

3. The Pet Sitters Trick: A little pet sitting trick I use when walking a new dog that wants to pull: I will take the dog's leash, run it under their front leg, and then up through the collar, creating a kind of noose around one front leg. This isn't painful to the dog - just a little awkward, and it's usually enough to stop the dog from ripping my arm out of the socket while on our walk. If a dog still insists on pulling, then I discontinue using this method.

I hope one of these methods helps you. And please let me know how your new harness is working, I'm sure others could benefit from knowing as well.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Careful with Cocoa Mulch

I recently received an email about the dangers of some types of mulch to pets. Rule #1 - NEVER believe anything forwarded to you by email! Always do your research! So, I did some investigating, and it looks like there has been one documented case of a dog dying from eating cocoa mulch: http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/c/cocoa-mulch.htm

This is the season when many of us are using mulch in our gardens, so it's worth passing this information along. If you use cocoa mulch, consider keeping an eye on your pet if he or she is inclined to nibble it. Better safe than sorry!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Welcome to my new Blog!

It's been almost three years of serving the communities of Hamlin, Mount Cobb, Greentown, Lake Ariel, Moscow, and more! I am adding this blog as a convenient way to communicate with friends, clients, and anyone interested in pets. After all, pet care is my passion, and I am thrilled to have a career doing what I love!

As a professional pet sitter, I get asked many questions about pet care. I also get tons and tons of great information that can help make the lives of pet owners easier and safer. I can use this blog to share this information, answer questions, and shed a little light on the life of a professional pet sitter.

Got questions? Ask 'em! Got comments? Share 'em! I'd love to hear from you!