Chances are, if you have pets, you will probably, at some point, be needing someone to take care of those pets when you travel. There are several different options, for pet care, so you will need to decide which option is the best option for you, your family, your budget, and your fur-baby.
The first option is to board your pet. This is a pretty popular option for people who have one or two pets. There are lots of options to pet boarding, now-a-days: your veterinarians office, your groomer, your dog trainer, a pet boarding facility, or even a doggie daycare. I have known people who have used all these and it can be a very good experience, especially if your pet is comfortable at your vet’s office or groomer. The majority of these places have kennels that the dog or cat is kept in, and then the staff takes turns walking the dogs a few times a day. I know that our vets office actually has an outdoor run as well as a small, fenced in yard, that they do individual play time with, a couple of times a day. I really like that idea. If you are unsure as to what your vet’s office has to offer it’s boarders, I would certainly encourage you to ask. One of the benefits to using your vet is that if you have a “not so healthy” fur-baby, that requires daily medication or maybe an older pet, you can be assured that if something were to start to go wrong, they will be medically taken care of. This is a huge plus and can set many pet families at ease.
Groomer’s generally have the same, or similar set-ups as veterinarians; the pets are generally kept in crates and taken out a couple of times a day. There are also groomer’s who offer play areas, so you should ask to see their facilities. The great thing about the groomer is that you can request a nice bath for your fluffy buddy, right before your arrival, so that the crate smell can be washed off of them and they are smelling beautiful and fresh when you pick them up.
I have a neighbor who is a dog trainer. She also boards dogs. Most of the boarders that she gets are her clients, so generally speaking, the dogs already know her and her daily routines. She has incredibly large runs for the dogs to stay in and a beautiful lawn that they play ball on. Since she is a dog trainer, that is an added benefit to keeping your dog with her; they get a little extra schooling, while staying there. These situations can be a win for everyone. However, because she is strictly a dog trainer, she does not offer boarding services for cats or other pets.
Doggie daycare centers can be amazing and a lot of fun for your dog. I have seen places that I would love to vacation, but they are for four-legged only! When we lived in Santa Barbara, there was a place that would watch your dog by the hour, day, or week. They had individual “rooms” for the dogs to sleep in at night, a large pond with a waterfall, for the dogs to chase each other through, ropes, balls, hammocks…if you can imagine your dog playing with it or sleeping on it, they had it. It was a magical place! Now, you have to make sure that your dog is pretty well socialized and that they don’t have too many aggressions toward other dogs before you try a place like this. This particular place did have different “yards” for different sized dogs, but most of the time, they were kept in general population. These facilities can be a little more expensive than the three others that I mentioned, but if you want to ensure a lot of social interaction, this would be a great thing to look into.
Lastly, there are in-home sitters. Because of the vast numbers of four-legged-loves that we have, here on our ranch, we generally have people stay here. It can be a little tricky, to find the right people for this, so personal and work references are a must. I have been burned by the whole, “but I just love animals”, line, so I now require a lot more than that. In home sitters need to be able to follow directions, especially since we have very large animals that could, potentially, get people hurt. I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to people pet sitting for us, so I spend days preparing for our departure: first, there is the “manual” that I create, complete with pictures of each pet and a bit of a personality overview. Then, I label EVERYTHING, from each pets food to their bowls to their actual eating spots in the house. Sharpie markers and tape are great tools for this. I then make sure that there is enough food for everyone. I tend to go a little overboard, in this area, and have an extra bag, or case, or sacks of feed, on stand-by in the garage or the feed shed. I figure, even if it isn’t needed while I am gone, it will be used when I get home, at some point. I also type up a list of emergency numbers, for my pets. I remember when my kids were little and I’d leave a list for the babysitter, complete with addresses and phones numbers of people that they could call in case there was an emergency or they needed to get a hold of me (this was before cell phones, of course). That same type of babysitting list is what I based my pet contact list on. I have veterinarians listed for each species, places that we get their food, just in case, specialists in different areas, and of course, local friends, family, and neighbors who may be able to assist in a crisis. Anyone and everyone who has been to my house knows exactly where this list is and who to call first. It is extremely reassuring to have this tool in place. Lastly, I always have the potential sitter come out to the house, at least twice, to walk them through feedings as well as to see how they interact with the animals and how the animals interact with them. Pets will tell you a lot, if you just listen close enough.
Traveling can be a lot of fun, but it can also be ruined when you are constantly and continually worried about your pet. Please be sure to get several references, preferably from people that you know, for any and all of the places that I mentioned. I have heard, and experienced, horror stories and it will simply make you vow never to leave your home again. I’ve done exactly that and have actually turned down trips and outings because I didn’t have trustworthy help. With that being said, when you do find the right person, please be sure to treat them fairly and to pay them what you both agree upon. I will generally pay half up front and the other half once I get home and see that my fur-loves and my home are all still in tact. I have found, that the people are on the up-and-up, they completely understand the half now half later pay system. We have but one time around this amazing trip called life, I say enjoy yours!!!
Much love and many blessings to you and your four-legged-love ~ Tammy