Most of us have wondered, at one time or another, what animals say and do when humans aren’t around. There have been books, movies and plays written about it. Those who might know most about that scenario are the pet sitters, who normally have one or two strange-but-true stories to tell.
“The most unusual thing I ever pet sat was a frog and some fish,” said Trina MacDonald, a certified dog trainer and owner of All Four Paws Pet Care in Santa Clarita. “Normally, though, it’s cats and dogs.”
Like most pet sitters, MacDonald goes to the client’s home to feed, walk and care for the animals. “They’re much happier at their own homes,” she said.
Nikki Ledingham of Got Paws Pet Sitting and Dog Walking in Santa Clarita goes to the homes of clients with a free consultation, where she meets them, the pet(s) they’ll be caring for, and gets to know the routines and “lay of the land.” One of her four-footed clients was named “Spike.”
On her first pet sitting visit, the pet sitter took Spike for “a brisk walk around the neighborhood, and then returned home so I could feed him his dinner,” said Ledingham. “As I was walking toward the pantry to retrieve a can of dog food, I heard a voice croon from down the hallway, ‘What a pretty girl!’”
The house was supposed to be empty, except for Spike. “I was shocked to hear a voice,” said the pet sitter, “not to mention a bit afraid for my safety, because this person was trying to hit on me!”
Ledingham called out, “Hello?” and the voice responded with, “Hello!”
As it turned out, Spike’s owner had forgotten to mention her pet parrot, Molly, because she wouldn’t require any special attention during the short weekend that the owner would be away. “A few heartbeats lost and a few grey hairs later – just another day as a pet sitter, a job that is certainly never boring!” she said.
Another Got Paws sitter encountered a rattlesnake in the backyard of a client’s home. “Brave and industrious, she killed the snake just as it was getting ready to strike the dog,” said Ledingham. “Death by decapitation – via a pooper scooper-wielding, eight-months-pregnant Got Paws pet sitter!”
Erik Ennabe of Doggy Duty US in Santa Clarita ran across the same troublesome reptile on a pet sitting job. “I walked into a backyard and I got wacked in the face by a rattlesnake. Not high on the list of things pet sitters encounter,” he said.
The snake had bitten his client’s pet — a weiner dog (dachshund) weighing only about 10-12 pounds.
“There were a couple of things in my favor,” Ennabe explained. “I have an extremely detailed pet sitting software … it had the vet history. Before panic set in, I knew which vet to contact. Second was the emergency response, (which says) make sure the dog is stable, wrap it firmly to reduce blood circulation so venom doesn’t go through the body. Then I secured the other pet in its crate.”
Also on top of the emergency process were the dog’s owners. They had a release on file with the vet for anti-venom treatment. While those owners thought of everything, Ennabe had one pet sitting scare, when he spent hours searching for the dog he was supposed to be caretaking. “It’s funny, in hindsight,” said Ennabe. “The dog would play with a chew toy behind the toilet. Silently.”
The dog owners didn’t tell Ennabe about their pet’s preference, and the bathroom was the last place he expected to find a hiding animal.
A miscommunication was also at the heart of a pet sitting situation experienced three years ago by Raul Castro of Santa Clarita Pet Nanny. “An old client of ours had just moved, so he left me a key to his new house in a hiding spot. The bad news was, the key did not fit the lock!” said Castro. “I tried calling him, but the call went directly to voicemail. I started looking for open doors – I went around to the backyard and the two dogs were there, but the sliding glass door was locked. I looked to the side … and noticed a doggie door. Luckily, one of the two dogs was large, so the door was just big enough for me to squeeze through, and I did.”
There are always built-in problems, partly due to the physical nature of the job, such as “the occasional phone that drops out of your pocket while on the job,” said Ledingham. “If you’re lucky, just the screen cracks. If you are unlucky, it plops into the poop you were leaning over to scoop up or, worse yet, flies out during a hearty game of fetch and into the deep end of the pool!”
Like most businesses, the biggest challenge may be marketing your services. “Building the pet sitting business from scratch,” said Ennabe, who left a job in Ventura and moved to Santa Clarita a year ago with his wife and baby. “But, pet sitting brought me back to my true love – I get to be a stay-at-home father.”
Nikki Ledingham Got Paws Pet Sitting and Dog Walking
Trina MacDonald All Four Paws Pet Care
Erik Ennabe Doggy Duty U.S.
Raul Castro Santa Clarita Pet Nanny