2006-04-12 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets...

by Joanne Anderson

Katrina Katrina Summer vacation time is on the horizon. Hush, don't tell them yet, but what if your travel plans don't include Fido or Fluffy? Professional pet sitters are a safe alternative to boarding your pets in kennels or imposing on good natured family or friends who may lack the proper pet care skills. We may need a change of scenery, but pets seem to do better in their environment.

Over 60% of all American households have pets, including an estimated 110 million dogs and cats, plus assorted birds, hamsters, fish, and other critters. Although boarding kennels are secure, some pets do not do well when uprooted from the comforts of routine or exposed to other animals. Home sweet home seems to be the best, yet few of us are lucky enough to have trustworthy pals who move in and take over while we are away.

According to the Humane Society of the US, professional pet sitters do more than provide food and water while you're gone. A good pet sitter spends quality time, exercises, grooms, and is alert to your pet's medical needs. Some sitters stay at your home; others visit as many times as you want. A pet sitter also gives your home the "lived in" look by bringing in mail, turning on lights, and watering plants.

Paws Paws How do you know if a pet sitter is qualified? First ask your veterinarian and animal savvy friends for recommendations. Some vet techs and groomers moonlight as pet sitters. Two organizationsthe National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS at 800-296-PETS) or Pet Sitters International (PSI at 336-983-9222)make referrals of experienced pet sitters who have completed courses, attended conferences and abide by this profession's code of ethics. PSI has an online locator at www.petsit.com.

When arranging for at home care, check among other things that the pet sitter have liability insurance and is the person bonded against theft?

Owners should have everything ready and also anticipate problems. First be certain that your dogs are well socialized and will allow strangers in when you aren't there. Make sure your pet is wearing ID. I strongly suggest you make an additional tag at a PETCO machine with the phone number of a reliable friend who is home. Keep all medical /shot records in sight. Notify your vet that, in case of emergency, your sitter would be bringing the pet on your behalf. Write clear, detailed instructions with your vet's number and several friend contacts.

Leave the food, supplies, plus extra in one convenient spot. Give a second key to trusty neighbors, and make sure that the pet sitter has their number and they have hers. Show your pet sitter how to work security systems and electrical appliances. Call home to check up, if possible. And if you are as big a worry wart as me, leave a photo of your pet for the heaven forbidLOST posters.

Now that I've scared you to death, have a good time. I rarely go away because no one, not even Dr. Doolittle, could ever pass my test to care for lightning bolt Afghans so I'll live vicariously through your vacations. At the shelter, I've seen too many cases where the pet has escaped from the wellmeaning, but inexperienced, care taker. Here's the latest horror story:

Last month my pal (who will remain anonymous) went to Europe for a few days. She put her feisty Shepherd in a kennel but brought her docile Lhasa to a friend's co-op. The first day the friend came home from workno Lhasa. When the distressed dog couldn't scratch open the door, she knocked a cover off an air conditioner vent, and pushed through a grate onto Grand Avenue in Baldwin.

The frantic friend spent the next 4 days and nights combing the area. I joined her search after she checked Babylon Shelter. My Vivi training kicked in. The wayward Whippet strategies helped the Lhasa. Plastering as many posters as possible is the best way to find a lost dog. We stopped a couple going door to door. The man turned out to be the mayor of Hempstead who contacted the police and shelter for us. Even though I live in Suffolk, he's got my vote.

When we got back, a lady called who had found the Lhasa right after her jail break. She had been dialing the numbers on her tags, but no one was home. (Hence, the need for temporary contact ID.) She just saw the poster in the deli. As soon as the dog returned, she headed for the vent in the co-op, so I stashed her in solitary confinement at the Last Hope Center until my anonymous friend returned, oblivious to the Lhasa's Great Escape or her friend's ordeal. So if you decide against boarding, hire a professional pet sitter. Make your reservations early so everyone has peace of mind.

Two lovely ladies are this week's featured pets at Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset. "Katrina" #060232 is an 8 month Sharpei/Shep, cute as can be. Her owner relocated out of state. "Paws" #060205 is a queen size gray tabby bundle of love. Look closely and you can see her Cindy Crawford beauty mark. See more photos on the Oyster Bay Petfinder website.

Cats: "Casey" and "Missy"both black & white domestic short hairs; "Trixie"a tabby, and "Sushi"last week's declawed Siamese poster gal.

Dogs: "Bandit"-#060207the 1 yr. purebred Labrador retriever; "Clyde" #060175the blue eyed Hound dog; "Squirt" #060156an adorable Sheltie/ Chow; "Lucy" #051152a 2 yr. Shepherd mix.

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