I wanted to share with you my pet sitting nightmare. A friend had asked me to look after their family farm for a week while they all went skiing. The farm consisted of five horses, two cats, three dogs and a hundred acres of land.
A few days into the stay I took all the dogs for a big doggy day out. We went to a few parks and all had a lovely drive together and a great dog day was had by all including myself. I returned home and fed all the dogs and noticed one of the dogs, the Rottweiler seemed to cough a little after he ate his meal. His cough rapidly turned into gasping and within seconds the dog had dropped dead before my eyes. I tried to do what I could but nothing changed the fact that the dog who was alive and happy only moments before and was now dead.
There are no words to describe what I was feeling in that moment but I’ll try. I felt devastated, shocked, panicked, mortified and horrified. I was alone, help was not on hand and I was responsible for the welfare of all the animals placed in my care for that week.
I rang the vet immediately and tried to form my words through giant sobs. They said they would be out as soon as they could to take the dog away and also do an autopsy.
The next phone call was the hardest call to make. I had to inform the owner their dog had passed away. Again through giant sobs and stuttering words I told him what had happened. He was the brother of my friend and it was his dog I was looking after. I did not know the brother too well but his instant response was to get very, very angry with me and slam the phone down. Instantly the phone rang again and the owner hurled more abuse at me and said he would be back the following day. I had never been in this situation before and I had no idea how to deal with the huge amount of emotions I was feeling.
Thoughts raced through my head, had the dog eaten something poisonous, did it choke on the meat, did I not cut the meat up enough, did the meat have a bone in it, had it been bitten by a snake in the long grass at the park, was it me, did I do it somehow, what went wrong?
Awful horrible thoughts and none had an answer, each question lead to more questions and each did not resolve the fact the beautiful creature was gone.
Eventually the vet arrived and it was finally good to have another person there to talk and cry with. He happened to be the most kindest and lovely vet I had ever met.
After many cups of tea he took the dog away and I was left only with my emotions and the dread of the owner returning the following day.
My heart was absolutely pounding in my chest when I saw the car entering the drive way, my friend and his brother had returned. No words were spoken when the brother laid his eyes on me he simply grabbed me, pulled me into a hug and we sobbed together for what seemed like hours.
Eventually we spoke about what had happened and how devastated we both felt.
A few days later the vet contacted me and advised me the dog had had a massive heart attack and there was nothing I could have done to save him.
The reality is when pet sitting bad things can happen. I now know the magnitude of helping out a friend with their pets and no longer take pet sitting as lightly as I did. There needs to be a discussion about the “what ifs” should something happen, what if they get lost, hit by a car, stolen or sick.
Simply leaving a vets number is not enough.
It’s important to have other information:
– If something unfortunate happens to their pet are they prepared for you to make the decision to operate or euthanize, if they are un-contactable.
– Do you have family member contact numbers to help you if the dog/animal goes missing.
– Do you have local council phone numbers
– If there pet passes away do they want to cremate or bury their per. (If they want to bury their pet it will mean finding suitable storage of the animal until they return. Best to contact the vet for advice)
-If they want the pet cremated do they want it in a pet cemetery or would they like to keep the ashes.
– For un-desexed dogs, what happens if they fall pregnant in your care. Will you be held responsible for the vet bills. (neighbourhood dogs will jump six metre fences to get to a bitch on heat)
– If the dog goes missing will you be responsible to pay the claim fee from the council should the dog be found by them.
– Do they have areas in their yard where their dog could escape that you need to look out for.
Often the pet sitter is given a flurry of commands by the pet owner while they race out the door to their holiday or given a hand written sheet and have to decipher the instructions.
I recommend meeting the owner of the pet you will be looking after approximately a week before you start pet sitting. Ask the owner about the fine details such as the animals routine, where they are fed, how much they are fed, what they are fed, where they sleep, where the local parks are, walk times, where’s the dog leads, and dog collars (etc).
It’s at this meeting you need to ask the hard questions and don’t be afraid to ask.
Having clarity about what to do should the unfortunate happen, you will be prepared, know what to do and what you will be responsible for.
Good communication is they key to successful pet sitting.