"I'm sure you're a great pet sitter, Emmy. You love animals so much." I smile when people say this, but don't usually tell them what I'm thinking: Pet sitting takes a whole lot more than love.
Please, some of you are thinking. It's not rocket science. No, thank goodness, it's not. But if you're thinking of pet sitting, you should know a few things.
• Do you know what to do if an animal is injured or gets sick? You are that animal's 911. Do you know animal first aid? Own a first aid book and kit? Do you know the route to the homeowner's vet? Do you know the emergency vet (because pets never get sick during business hours)? Did the homeowner sign a veterinary release form? Did you talk to the homeowner about how to handle a vet bill?
• If an animal goes missing under your care, you should be prepared. If you see the missing animal, do you know how to get it to come to you? Is the pet microchipped? Wearing its tags? Do you know how to make effective signs and flyers? Do you know who to notify?
• If there's a natural or other type of disaster, do you have an evacuation plan? Have you bookmarked a web site that explains the steps you should follow?
• Do you have a list of foods, household items, and local plants and flowers that are toxic to pets? Do you take any medications that animals can get hold of? Are they toxic to pets?
• A good percentage of the job of pet sitting is the relationship with the pet's owner. After all, the pets aren't the ones who pay you! Are you professional? Do you have good judgment? A pet owner is going to give you the key to their house—access to all their possessions—and entrust you with the care of a beloved (four-legged) member of their family. Are you trustworthy?
And, of course, love.
Will you love the animals that throw up or have diarrhea on the rug? Will you love the puppy that barks at 4:00 a.m. because he wants to chase the squirrel in the yard? Will you love the Rhodesian Ridgeback when she hogs the entire bed and growls—really growls—when you try to get in? Will you love the cat that escapes out the back door at bed time, when you're exhausted? When you finally catch her, will you love her when she thanks you with her claws?
At the time, all of these situations sucked. Looking back, yeah, I can say honestly that I loved those animals afterwards. I guess that's why I'm a pet sitter.