If you live with an animal, you know how enriching it can be to communicate with a being whose skills are so different from our own. The bonds made across that apparent divide are deep and fascinating.
But what happens when you go on vacation or you land in the hospital or you are called away for some obligation? Who will take care of your beloved companion?
It can be difficult to find the kind of person you’d want looking after your pal. You need someone reliable, calm, and sensitive to the needs and variations of individuals. Good options are someone you know personally, who has proven their abilities, or a reputable and experienced professional.
We collected advice from two local pros, as well as a few stories from neighborhood sitters.
Kylla Delisio lives in Woodstock, but will travel to take care of pets. “People have mainly found me by word of mouth. Having lived here forever, I have a reputation around town, which has helped tremendously with my business. I was a waitress for 15 years, which helped me to meet a lot of the community, too.”
She also leaves business cards at local pet shops and has advertised in the newspaper.
When Mia Erichsen, who also works as a veterinary assistant, posted her pet-care business on Facebook, she had to team up with a friend to cover all the jobs that came her way. Erichsen now takes care of Ulster County, while Sophia Valentia accommodates customers in Orange County. Their posts have appeared on the Facebook pages of local towns, as well as on animal-related Facebook groups, such as Hudson Valley HorseSource.
A petsitter might visit your home two or three times a day, live in your home while you’re away, or take your pet into their own house. Delisio, however, does not board animals at her home. \
“I feel like it’s best for the pet to be comfortable in their own space while their family is away, so I stay with them at their home,” she said. “I can also do check-ins, but that is usually with cats, who don’t need as much attention or hands-on care. Each animal is different, so it depends on their specific personality and need.”
Erichsen has her own farm in Highland, so she’s rarely available for live-in pet care. In addition to caring for cats and farm animals, her business includes a lot of dog-walking, stopping in twice a day to feed and exercise her charges.
Written lists are important
My own petsitting experience began when a friend asked me to take his dog into my house while he was away. It worked out fine because his Jack Russell is elderly and easygoing enough for my husband and myself to handle. When I was asked to take a young, lively pit bull for a week, I declined, lacking the skills for a more challenging canine.
Though my neighbor JK has a cat, she was able to take in a calm older dog for a short time. A young, frisky dog, already accustomed to living with cats, was a successful guest after one threatening swat from JK’s cat put the pup in her place.
To prepare for a petsitter, make sure to schedule time in advance for the sitter to meet your animals. Go over the feeding and other care procedures. Write down the amount and kind of food each animal gets, and don’t forget to specify where the food is stored, where the clean dishes and spoons can be found, and where the dishes are to be placed at feeding time.
Although you will be showing these details to the sitter, don’t expect her to remember them all. She has other clients, and you may have multiple animals.
I recently took care of a friend’s horses, goats, chickens, cats, and dog. I had intended to take notes at the advance visit, but I saw she had a written list, and I figured I could concentrate better if I wasn’t writing. Big mistake. When it came to feeding, I couldn’t find some of the food or the dishes, details that had only been communicated verbally. Luckily, the owner was available the moment I texted her, and soon I was up to speed.
Obviously, write down your cellphone number or the number where you’ll be staying, as well as any vets you use. My horse-owning friend added the phone numbers of neighbors to contact if the horses got loose, but luckily I didn’t need them.
If your pets require medication, write down how it is to be administered and how often. Let the sitter know if she is expected to clean up pet waste, what tools to use, and where it should be placed.
If your pet is exceptionally shy or temperamental, you might need to arrange a few get-acquainted visits. “There are some animals who I have to get to know months in advance,” said Delisio, “so we can ease our way into spending more time together.”
JK suggests showing the sitter your pet’s favorite toys. “I always spend a lot of time playing with the cats,” she said.
Something new each day
It’s good to offer any other tips about your animal’s preferences, although a good petsitter will find a way to connect. Delisio has cared for dogs that didn’t like to eat when their parents weren’t home. “I have to find out what I can do to help them feel more comfortable, whether it be sitting with them while they eat or singing a little song. You never know until you try.”
Asked what she likes about her job, Erichsen replied, “I love meeting all the new animals and all their personalities, getting to hang out with them, and taking a weight off the owner’s shoulders so they can go away and enjoy themselves.”
Delisio explained, “Animals are my people, and it gives me an opportunity to learn something new each day. Working with beings who don’t speak verbally but in a much deeper and visual way is mind-blowing to me. It’s all about truly paying attention and listening with your eyes or your heart. The bond between human and animal feels so important to me and has become my passion.”
For a home visit and dog-walking, a petsitter in our area may charge anywhere from $20 or $30 to $60 per visit, depending on the number of animals and the length of the walk. Delisio likes to take energetic dogs on hikes, but she charges extra for the amount of time required.
Live-in care is usually charged by the day, $80 to $100, depending on the number of animals and the complexity of the responsibilities. Caring for an animal in the sitter’s home would cost somewhat less.