One of the benefits of pet sitting is that people with multiple animals can leave them at home and hire a professional pet sitter who will take care of everyone while they’re out of town. You might assume that’s just dogs and cats – but our pet sitters take care of the birds, gerbils, guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens and fish tanks too!
Early in my career as a pet sitter, I learned the hard way that I am not a good fish tank caregiver! Fish are absolutely dependent on their environment for their life — the right water temperature, the proper acidity levels, the cleanliness of tank and constant monitoring of the tank environment.
My children had a small fresh water tank which was supposed to be their responsibility to take care of. You can guess how that turned out. They were interested at first, but once it became a chore they lost interest and good old mom inherited the task of daily care. We didn’t last in fish tanks very long!
Once I got into pet sitting, I had many fish tanks to maintain while clients were out of town. Usually, the extent of my responsibility was to feed the fish, check the water level and temperature and turn light on and off each day. Pretty elementary.
However, I had one client who had two beautiful Golden Retrievers and decided to get into salt water fish. They are so beautiful and colorful, but I quickly learned they require much more care than the little tank my kids had set up.
My client instructed me on what I was to do:
- Get the frozen brine shrimp out of the freezer
- Take a chunk and sprinkle across top of tank
Sounded easy enough — as far as it went. In the tank, there was also an EEL who hid back in the rocks and décor the owners had set up. For him, my instructions were: “Hand feed the eel, using long tweezers.” Hmmmmm. I was to place a piece of brine shrimp into the tweezers and then put the tweezers into the tank where the eel was to come for dinner.
For the first several days, things went pretty well. But the eel was very fast and would dart out of the rocks. I never knew what area he would come from, so I just held the tweezers in the water and hoped he’d hit his target and grab the brine shrimp. Well, on the last day of my pet care visits I was doing the eel feeding when out of the blue, he darted from behind the rocks like a NASCAR driver! He drove his head into the tweezers and knocked them out of my hand.
The tweezers fell on top of some of the plants, rocks and living things and I had no idea what to do. I didn’t want to reach into the tank to retrieve the tweezers and there was really nothing I could do to put the little plants back in place. I decided to leave a very detailed note for the owners and talk with them when they got home the next day. I felt horrible about what had happened and offered to replace anything damaged.
The clients called me laughing that this usually happened to them at least once a week and that they had had to reset the tank every time. Whew! I was off the hook for any liability and not long afterward, the client decided that a salt water tank was just too much work and expense for them. I made the decision that salt water aquariums were nothing I wanted to be responsible for either, especially those with aggressive eels hiding behind rocks!
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.