40 for 40: Day 9

Growing up, I had two wonderful dogs – Asta and Sandy. These two dogs had completely different personalities. Asta would lay around all day and then wonder where dinner was. Sandy would beg you to go out and throw the tennis ball to her. By the end of the workout, she was still going, and I had to ice my shoulder.

Dave and Sandy the Dog

Animals are funny and clever. My brother knows this better than anybody. He is a zookeeper for the Santa Ana Zoo, but before that, he trained animals for the studios and worked with some of today's A-list celebs. I could not be prouder of the career he has built.

When my brother and I were in our teens, we started housesitting and petsitting. A friend of our's taught dog obedience at Pierce College. The dog obedience classes were a great place to land jobs for the summer. One summer we were only home one week, the rest of the time we were working. 

You might think that housesitting and petsitting are an easy gig. The truth is there is a lot of responsibility, and everything doesn't always work out like you think it will.

Interesting Petsitting Happenings

  • Laundry water line broke and flooded the laundry room and kitchen (all the wood floors needed replacement)
  • Set off the house alarms and couldn't remember the right codes when the security company called
  • Backed into a gate at an owner's house and damaged my car
  • Chased two golden labs across the Santa Monica Mountains after they wanted to play with a coyote
  • Broke up a fight between two dogs
  • Koi fish being stolen from the backyard pond by a crane (bird) and it was all captured on video
  • The dog got out of the yard, and I spent a lot of time searching for it (found it).
  • The housecat tried to eat the bird
  • A huge rat was inside this house and one night I went into the kitchen and it was over the doorway. It scared me so bad.
  • The daughter of the family where I was staying came home early and didn't know I was there, and we had a little heart stopping moment.

Animals Grow Twice Their Size When They Sleep

Dogs are funny, especially the little ones. When it's time to go to bed, they get three-quarters of a king size bed, and I end up with a sliver. It's as if they morph into a St. Bernard when its time to sleep.

Pet Psychology 101

One of the homes I stayed at had an English Sheep Dog. The owner told me the dog normally got up at 5 am because that's when he got up. Be prepared, he said, he will probably wake you up to go outside.

I am not a morning person. I like to sleep in until a sane hour like 8 am and when I was younger it was closer to 9 am or 10 am. 

Every night the dog would come to the edge of the bed and let me know he was there. On Friday nights, I would look him in the eyes and say…

Tomorrow is Saturday. We sleep in on Saturday's. No getting up early.

Saturday rolled around, and we slept in with no problems.

When the owner returned, he asked how everything went and if the dog woke me up early on Saturday morning. I said all was good, and we slept in on Saturday morning.

The next week, the dog got the owner up at 5 am on Saturday to go outside.

Types of Animals We Have Watched

My brother and I have house sat / pet sat for a lot of people over the years (and we still do it). Here's a list of some of the animals we have watched:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Birds – Owls, Hawks, Eagles, Parrots, Cockatoo's
  • Horses
  • Bunny's
  • Fish
  • Turtles
  • Lizards

I think that's it. It's a pretty amazing list when you stop and think about it.

6 Tips From a Housesitter / Petsitter

Your home is your sanctuary. Letting someone into your home to stay and watch your precious animal should not be taken lightly. My brother and I worked very hard to build and keep our clients. Most of our business was through word of mouth. We never advertised and always got business through referrals. 

Here are some tips that we learned along the way that will help you to choose your next housesitter/petsitter or become one.

  1. How did you hear about the person? Do you trust the person making the referral?
  1. Ask for references of their past jobs and call or email the people. You have to feel comfortable with this person in your home and with your animals.
  1. Meet Them – the best way to assess the potential housesitter or petsitter is to have them over to meet the animals. If you don't get a good vibe about the person, then you should not hire them.
  1. Emergency Contacts – provide a list of emergency contacts for the petsitter/housesitter. This should include your local vet, neighbors, friends, family and the like. If the animal is taking medicine, let your vet know that you will be out of town, and someone will be watching Fido. That way if something happens there aren't 20 questions with the vet.
  1. Clean the House – always leave the home cleaner than when you arrived. Most owners are exhausted when they return from vacation and don't want to clean the house when they return. This is a wonderful gesture and helps your customers keep coming back to you.
  1. Welcome Gift – a small gesture goes a long way – like flowers or a card. It depends on your relationship, but most of the time this is a win win for everyone

My brother and I had a ball housesitting during our teens and twenties. Although, we don't do much of it these days, it is still one of the best experiences that both of us have done.

[reminder]What housesitting or petsitting stories do you have? Hit reply and let me know. Seriously, I want to hear some stories.[/reminder]

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I help facilities manager and planner create spaces that are backed by research, engage employees of all generations, and drive business objectives. I am also the founder of Dave's Book Club – a once per month reading experience designed to help professionals grow their influence.

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