When I first began Pet Pleasers, Inc in 1985, providing in-home pet care for dogs, cats, fish and more … a dog was a dog and a cat was a cat! Actually, a cat was more often an afterthought to the owner as they felt that “all cats can take care of themselves!”
People would hire us to take care of their dog(s), but were resistant to paying the extra dollar to feed their cat, give them fresh water, clean the litter box and keep them company for a little while. We did these things anyway even when the client didn’t pay for it because it was very unsanitary for a cat to keep using an uncleared litter box day in and day out during the week the owners were away. Not to mention the smell!!
Nowdays, we have clients who hire a pet sitter to visit their cats 2-4 times a day – and there are no dogs in the family. Pets have become members of the family and are treated very much the way people treat their children. In many cases the animals are surrogate children or grandchildren. People want only the best for their pets — food, pet care, medical care, etc. and they are willing to spend as much, if not more, on a pet than on a human family member!
There’s a Specialist for That
Medical care has probably changed the most since we started our pet sitting business over thirty years ago. Look at all the ER hospitals and Specialty Care hospitals with veterinarians specializing in different aspects of animal health. Now, animals have CT scans, MRI’s, complex tests and x-rays, plus the treatments are very high-tech with the latest techniques and medications.
It’s estimated that in 2016, nearly 16 BILLION dollars will be spent on veterinary care and another 15 BILLION on supplies and over the counter medicines. Animals go through cancer treatments much the same as people. Of course, the price tag reflects the level of expertise, but it is worth it if your animal has a serious illness and your regular vet is spinning his wheels trying to treat it and getting nowhere fast.
In January, my dog had been coughing off and on for months and after seeing several vets who could not figure out what Yoshi’s problem was, we took him to the Veterinarian Referral and Critical Care Hospital off Broad Street in Richmond. The ER doctor at VRCC had Yoshi’s problem diagnosed in a very short time –collapsing trachea. The specialist prescribed medication that worked miracles to stop the coughing. One of my other dogs, Mitsi (who just turned 13), sees a Cardiologist at Dogwood Emergency and Speciality Care because she has heart issues the regular vet did not feel qualified to manage. And we’ve had many dogs who have since passed on who also saw specialists, like Herbie, a dog with terrible allergies.
In-Home Pet Care Becomes the Norm
People want their pets to be happy and comfortable when they are out of town. Many use an in-home pet sitting service like Pet Pleasers, Inc. Back when we first started, much of my time was spent explaining what in-home pet care and pet sitting was.
We’ve come a long way, baby! Now it is commonplace that animals get to stay in their home environment where they are comfortable and everything is familiar. The professional pet sitter makes periodic visits to the home during the day and evening, depending on the needs of the pet. In fact, many people hire one of our pet sitters for overnight “slumber parties,” so their pets have companionship in their home environment for hours at a time.
When in-home pet sitting isn’t the best option because owners want their dogs to have more supervision, dog companionship and freedom to goof off without getting into trouble, they choose a pet resort where they have room to run and play with other animals and then “retire” to their private room with a couch, TV and mood lighting! Boarding kennels are so old school these days.
Manners, Manicures and More
Some dogs and cats have behavior problems the owner is not qualified to handle. It used to be that obedience training was heel, sit, down, stay, etc. Now we have doggie psychiatrists and people who claim to be able to “read” your dog and tell you what is wrong and offer recommendations for positive change. Dogs go to boot camps for training where they might stay up to 30 days to be reconditioned to new behaviors that are reinforced by their humans when they come back into the home environment. We’re fortunate to have many excellent dog behavior therapists and obedience training programs in the Richmond, VA area.
And don’t forget doggie beautification! People used to plop their dog in the bathtub for a bath and end up sopping wet with the bathroom a mess. Or in good weather, the dog would be washed in backyard with a garden hose, sponge and big bucket. These days, there are so many other choices for grooming our pets. There are retail shops and spas where your dog is pampered with special shampoos, conditioners, massage, cuts, blow dry and styling. Guess what — it is more costly that most hair salons are for people.
Another option is the mobile pet groomer who comes to your home and also provides a spa day for your pet. This is especially nice for the dog who doesn’t have to sit in the dog barber shop for hours on end waiting to be groomed and then for owner pick up. With the mobile pet spa everything is self-contained. The groomer takes the pet to the van for all the necessary grooming and your dog is usually done in an hour and back inside the house, with no exposure to other dogs that might be carriers of diseases or uncontrolled pests.
Oh how we love our pets! I still have more on this topic and will talk about that in Part 2 — the next blog post.
Carole Tomas is the owner and president of Pet Pleasers, Inc. She is a graduate of Ohio University and a Charter Member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. When she began Pet Pleasers in 1985, business was conducted Old School via a landline, snail mail and an answering machine the size of a breadbox. No internet, email, text messaging, digital photos, social media or mobile phones! What has remained constant over three decades: Carole’s love of animals and an unwavering passion for professional pet sitting.