Ever wonder what it’s really like to look after other people’s pets? We asked dog walkers and pet sitters to share some “true confessions” from their jobs, and the results did not disappoint.
From stories about quirky pets to outlandish sitting scenarios and bizarre client requests, here are our favorites, provided by the professionals themselves:
Breaking and Entering
On the first day of a three-week cat sitting assignment, Jennifer Savage was attempting to unlock the front door of her client’s house when a man opened it and looked at her in horror. When Savage told him that she was there to cat sit, he told her that the family she was there to sit for no longer lived at that address. Savage, who works at ProCare Home and Pet Services, had to contact the client who had already left town. In the end, Savage found the right address but a locksmith had to create a new key for her to get into the home and care for the kitties.
The Freeze Out
During a potential client interview, Nancy Day once received a stranger-than-strange request that pushed her limits. Her potential client had two cats, one of which was an elderly feline named Boots. Boots has passed while the woman was traveling in Europe, and she wanted the cat to be placed in her freezer alongside some food. Day expressed that she wasn’t comfortable placing Boots in the freezer and the client had a fit.
“There’s actually more to the story, but that’s the Reader’s Digest version,” says Day, who works at Paws and Claws Pet Care in Somers, New York. Needless to say, Day wasn’t hired for the job.
Daily Spa Treatments
As part of a gig, house and pet sitter Kelly Hayes-Raitt was required to wash and massage the paws of her client, a terrier named Sophie, after every walk because they were prone to infection. Sophie preferred warm water that was just so and wouldn’t be happy with less than a three-minute massage per paw. If the water was too warm or too cool, or each paw didn’t get enough attention, Sophie would whimper.
Serious Separation Issues
A potential client in Albuquerque, New Mexico, asked Hayes-Raitt not to leave Pixie, a Chow-Chow, alone at any point. Pixie had such severe separation anxiety that she once threw herself through a plate glass window after being left alone for a quick grocery run. Pixie’s owners would also need to hire a friend to stay with Pixie for the four hours between the house sitter’s departure and owner’s arrival home. In the end, the owner cancelled the agreement the day before Hayes-Raitt was due to watch Pixie.
More Than a Mess
Pet sitter Kristen Fowler of Tate’s Creek Pet Sitting has had her fair share of messy clients. Case in point: one client cooked a huge dinner the night before they left on a two-week trip and left all the dirty dishes on the stove. To set the precedent that she doesn’t generally do housework for her clients, Fowler left things as they were. By the time the clients returned, there was mold on the dishes and bugs everywhere.
To Fowler’s dismay, the clients did not learn their lesson and continued their unhygienic ways. To make matters worse, the dogs often pottied in the house, so she had to mop the entire floor whenever she sat for them. Fowler eventually got so fed up that she referred the client to someone else.
“Just Put Him Down”
When Heather Lehrman arrived at a client’s house to pet sit, the owners had left a note saying: “Please feel free to put him down if you think he should be.” Although the pet was on the decline, Lehrman had only met its owners once and this was a beloved family pet for 14 years.
“I was shocked!” says Lehrman, of In-Home Pet Services. “They didn’t even know me! Wouldn’t they want a family member or friend to do it?”
An Escape for the Spiders
Cara Armour of Active Paws in Belmont, Massachusetts once had a client whose home was pretty cluttered, yet endearingly so. There were a variety of different boxes scattered around the living room just for the cat to play in and around. “Can’t blame someone for loving their kitty,” says Armour.
Boxes aside, one of the client’s requests included leaving sheets of paper towels in the corners of the sink so that if spiders fell into the sink they’d be able to climb their way out.
“She was concerned they would drown while we were refilling the watering can, or worse, die of exhausting trying to climb out of the slippery stainless steel sides,” laughs Armour.
Lost in Translation
During a visit to a potential client over Thanksgiving one year, Armour recalls visiting a home with her husband (and business partner) that looked as if it hadn’t been updated since 1975.
“Dark red carpet, ‘70s wallpaper in the kitchen, and a general, dark, dingy feel to the house,” says Armour.
“The cat sauntered down the stairs to swipe at a large porcelain vase on one of the landings,” says Armour. “He walked over to his owner, who picked him up only by the scruff, then she began speaking to him in what I assume was Armenian. She then turned to us, mid-discussion with her cat, and asked if we could speak Armenian.” When Armour told her that she didn’t, she burst out crying.
Armour and her husband looked uncomfortably at one another. “Apparently, we weren’t a good fit for her cat,” says Armour. “But it turns out she started crying because she was so excited she didn’t have to board him.”