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Should You Choose A Pet Sitter or A Kennel When Traveling?
Pet Sitters vs. Kennels
I was never comfortable leaving our pets at a boarding kennel, but I thought there were no alternatives. The last time we took George (beagle) and Gracie (lab/Great Dane mix) to a kennel George lost 10 pounds - he normally only weights 42! Gracie ended up at the vet with a severe intestinal infection - which caused her much discomfort and us a high vet bill.
When I took them to the kennel I was greeted at the door of the office. My husband and I had taken turns wearing two old t-shirts so the dogs could have something that smelled like us. Well, we were told they could have nothing in the kennel from home. They then removed their own collars and put their own slip-collar leads on them. I felt like they'd been sent to prison. They take human prisoner's belts away to prevent suicide. Did they think our dogs would use their collars for this? Maybe they would have! Dogs in kennels get little or no sleep as the place is constantly noisy. They are under tremendous stress as they have no idea what's going on or if their people will ever return. I had no way of knowing how many dogs were in the same run with mine - maybe they had one to themselves, maybe not. This particular kennel was CLOSED on Sunday - so people returning home on vacation had to wait until Monday to pick up their dogs - and therefore, had to pay for another day. I learned later that the had opened from noon - five p.m. that particular Sunday (spring break weekend) and that sixty dog owners had shown up. How the heck many dogs did they have back there? We weren't allowed past the office - all in all, it was the pits. But, as I said before, I thought I had no other choice.
I starting chatting with a woman one day while waiting for my car to be repaired. She told me about the pet sitter who goes to her house every day at noon and lets her dog out to play in the back yard and romp around for a while. She was a nurse at a local hospital and worked long shifts. I thought that would be expensive, but it turns out it cost her $10 a day - less than what I paid the kennel.
I did some research and found a pet sitting service near my home. Vickie, our pet/house sitter comes to our home three times a day when we're on vacation. She feeds George and Gracie, takes them out to play, brings in the mail and checks on the house. She charges $15 a visit, so it costs use $45 a day - still less or about the same as the kennel and our pups are happy and safe. This also means they are around to guard the house and Vickie's comings and goings make the house looked lived in, i.e. tire tracks in the snow in the driveway in winter, papers and mail not collecting out side, lights being turned on and off, etc.
Vickie has been a pet/house sitter for a number of years and has excellent credentials. She's insured and bonded, so if she gets hurt while in our home, her own insurance covers her. She will also water plants and do other small tasks as needed - all for the same fee. We had a cat who was on medications twice a day - he died of cancer at age 16 - and Vickie gave him his medications and kept his litter box clean - still, for the same fee. Our pets eat what we want them to eat. I make our dogs raw food, and keep a supply of their frozen dinners ready for use, but Vickie says she will also make their food - I just think she does enough already!
I highly recommend a pet sitter over a kennel. But do your homework before you hire one. Interview them, ask for a list of their customers for recommendations, ask to SEE their insurance papers. Also, ask the pet sitter what kind of backup plan is in place if she becomes ill, etc. There are also on-line associations that you can check with for reviews, like this one.
I make sure to leave a printed list of the dogs' routine, phone numbers of our vet and neighbors, as well as the info about our itinerary and our cell phone numbers.
We also exchange cell phone numbers and she has called me to tell me if she has any concerns about the dogs or our house. It's a very comforting feeling knowing our pups are comfy at home and won't be totally stressed out and sick when we return and that our home is being looked after as well.