what's grosser than gross?

You want to know the dirt, right? People ask me about what crazy clients I've had or if I've ever been bitten, or whose house is the filthiest. It's true that I've "seen it all." When enough time passes and I don't name names, these things become stories of lore. So let me tell you about the grossest job I ever did.

Pet sitters often network and get to know one another and sometimes rely upon each other in times of need. Many several of few years ago in a land far, far away and gone, one of my colleagues/competitors explained that she was "beyond fully booked" for the weekend, and could I care for a couple of dogs for her. It was a long-standing client of hers, and it would be easy, she assured me.

This is different than a referral. She wasn't offering the client to me, just asking me to be an "employee for a day," kind-of taking away the beauty of self-employment. I was happy to do it. Put in a good deed for someone, and it might one day come back to you, right?

Long story short: Two sweet, delightful Scottish Terriers, each in their own crate when no one is around, released upon my arrival, and tucked back in to cozy upon my departure. I was informed that they could sometimes have nervous tummies when their owners were away. Well, who doesn't? The standard wait-time for eating in nervous-bellied pooches is three days. They drink, they eat treats, and they survive until the third day, when they decide they want to live to see their family return and give in to the kibble. Textbook.

The first time I entered the home, I was startled by the unmistakable odor of uncontrolled, explosive, liquid poo. The sight was far beyond what I'd imagined in my nightmares. Each dog was frantic, friendly and excited to meet me, yet, alarmed, splashing around in a pond of their own excrement, with a pattern of crusty fireworks on the white wall just behind them. Clearly, I hadn't been given the full story about these cases of "nervous tummies," and, certainly, these dogs had been carefully selected for me as the créme de la créme of jobs to pass along to gullible competitors.

I spent the next two hours bathing the dogs, laundering their bedding, and hosing off their crates. I, of course, let my "boss" know, and requested that she inform her client that her animals were quite ill. I doubt that she did, as my concerns were promptly ignored, and I was told that all of this was quite normal. I, too, had to be disinfected...legs scrubbed free of graffiti left by happy paws. Best not to go into detail.

For the next four days, the dogs' situation was much the same. I felt awful for them, but also became resentful and curious as to why such a problem was passed on to me, and, even more so, why my "boss" had no desire to check on them herself. Maybe that's a story for another time.

Don't worry. The dogs lived and fared well. My lesson was learned. I experienced what is grosser than gross, and, that, I must censor for your own good. To put on a positive spin, the dogs and I certainly bonded. I think I perhaps provided the best care they had ever received.

So you ask about gross? All I could do was use it as a learning experience. Don't pet sit for competitors' clients. Always have direct contact with pet parents. Know that "nervous tummy" is a cute euphemism. Love the animals, no matter what (they actually enjoy nine bubble baths in four days). And always know where your nearest barf bag is.

Oh, and when the client tells you that he'd like to hire you for future visits because you did much, much better than the pet sitter they hired in the first place, take the high road and teach him a thing or two about loyalty.

the green side of well minded

Happy Earth Day! As a family and as a business (yes, lines get blurred), we've been "going green" for many years. It's a never-ending, evolving process that we love to educate ourselves about and improve upon.

Why do we consider ourselves a green company?

• We are nearly paperless. We do jot things down and ask for a few old-fashioned signatures with brand-new clients, but once our initial consultation is over, all confirmations and invoicing is done online. We take booking requests online and are able to send confirmations and invoices online, as well.

• We use biodegradable bags for waste cleanups on walks, in yards, and when scooping litter. If our clients leave us biodegradable bags, we credit their account $1 per day. So, if you're traveling for seven days, and we pick up your doggy droppings and kitty litter every day you're gone (which we do), when you leave us biodegradable bags to use, you'll automatically see a $7 credit on your invoice. That probably covers the whole month's supply of bags, right? Easy!

• We walk a lot. And we hike. Traveling by foot is super eco-friendly. And since we live in the desert, we drink a lot of water when we're exercising. So we use reusable water bottles for both humans and animals, and we use reusable, collapsable pet bowls when we're on the go.

• In our home/office, we haven't purchased paper towels for over three years. HUH? It's TRUE! We use cloth rags for everything, even pet messes! Yes, it CAN be done. We first tried it as a challenge, and it became second nature–part of our lifestyle. What do we do if an animal barfs on the rug? Well, we get out a few rags, then throw them in the washer. It works!

• We use non-toxic, ecofriendly cleaners. Not only do our animals breathe easier, our whole family does. And no one has to worry about the scary stuff in bleach, disinfectants, and the like. Feel free to lick your paws!

• We're making more vegan choices, which impacts our earth every single day. We're learning and striving as a family business to get there 100%.

• When we go on our lunch break, we use reusable containers to hold our grub.

• Porter, our six-year-old junior pet sitter, is in the Save the Earth Club at his school. He comes home with ideas for us to discuss and helps our family business stay on an earth-friendly path.

• We recycle everything we can. And we use reusable bags when we shop. That's not very impressive, hopefully. Shouldn't we all be doing this by now?

What will we do next?

• We're researching taking online payments, so you won't have to send a paper check anymore. Just blame my slight fear of figuring it all out for the delay.

• We've been doing lots of research on composting, but haven't taken the plunge, yet. We're excited to start!

Being "green" is not black or white. It's a process, and it's about making gradual changes that fit into your family's life. It's about being the best you can be, and being better than you were yesterday. It's a family affair, including your pets. Think about how you and your pet can be just a little bit friendlier to the earth tomorrow. Maybe you use biodegradable waste bags, or clean up that pet mess with natural cleaners. Or maybe you walk instead of drive, and dispose of a piece of trash someone else left along the way.

a day at the Phoenix Pet Expo

The aroma of churros and dog poop guided us to the family fun at  the Phoenix Pet Expo at the University of Phoenix Stadium. The littles were impressed with the scale of the building and number of well-behaved pets before we even entered the gates. Once we did, we were corralled down a long winding ramp, since no dogs were allowed on the escalators, naturally. My dog, N.A.S.H.A., is a bit of a nut case, so I borrowed a better-behaved client's dog, instead. Image

Parking and admission were free. Sweet! Once inside, we were overwhelmed by the scale of the event. There were over 200 vendors and rescue groups in attendance.

Our borrowed pooch was a bit of a snob about the drooly community water bowls and wading pools, but it was nice that these things were provided. They even had several designated potty areas, complete with real grass, waste bags, and trash cans.

We made some new friends.

The littles had the opportunity to meet some exotic pets, too, including a boa constrictor, which they weren't shy at all about petting. When your mom is a pet sitter and you get to take care of all sorts of animals, you get pretty brave at a young age.


The booths had a lot going on to attract us to their wares and causes. We learned about some new and amazing products that I'll share with you soon. Po, my six-year-old son, brought one dollar from his piggy bank and agonized about what to spend it on. He finally decided that he and his sister would donate it for a chance to spin the Pet Club wheel of fortune to win some treats for the pooches in their lives.

Porter won some Nylabone NutriDent dental chews, and Cam won some Natural Balance Tillman's Treats.


The littles' favorite activity was the "For the Love of My Pet" booth, which had many free activities for them to participate in. The kids each created their own dog puppets with help from Owen Burgess, author of For the Love of My Pet.

We all enjoyed watching demonstrations in agility, flyball, and dock diving.


There was just so much to do at the Phoenix Pet Expo! Though we resisted adopting a new family member, the event would have been a wonderful setting in which to do so, with so many animals in need of homes. If you are an animal lover or are looking for a free day of fun for your kids, I would highly recommend attending next year's Phoenix Pet Expo.  Just watching the pets in attendance stroll by was a treat in itself!

you never know what might happen when your mom is a pet sitter

I try to make most of our food and avoid the processed stuff. But sometimes you just have to break the rules. When my four-year-old daughter, Campbell, saw the angel food cake with a dusting of pink confectioner's glitter on top at the "regular" grocery store bakery today and looked at me with those "mommy, can we keep her?" eyes, I couldn't resist. Sometimes happiness is worth a bit of guilt.

She had me pull it out of the fridge to take a gander about every five minutes until the boys got home from school. She was quite confident that they would share her excitement. Our teen thing, B, told her there was no way he was eating it. 

Fine. No desert for you.

She hoped that her six-year-old brother would be on her side. "Po! We got a cake at the store, and it has pink glitter!"

"WHAT?" he demanded. "It has KITTY LITTER? I'm not eating that, either!"

When your mom is a pet sitter, your mind just goes there. Next time we'll opt for the Almond Rocha surprise cake. 


poop disposal: let's get it right

Picking up your dog's poop is part of being a responsible pet owner. People who don't are simply disgusting and self-centered (yes, I'm judging). It's very common for us to save our plastic grocery bags for just that purpose. We feel like we're putting them to good use, right? Recycling? And it's easy to just grab one or two on our way out the door. What we are really doing is putting the most biodegradable, natural (though bacteria-filled) material in the world into one of the most permanent, environmentally-damaging receptacles in existence. Oops. Don't feel too guilty. I've done it a time or two, myself.

Since just leaving the excrement where it's deposited isn't an option (no, really), what can we do? Enter the biodegradable poop bag. Some degrade faster than others, and there are more features (extra long for extra protection, scented, etc....hmmm, this is getting interesting) than you can imagine. We like Earth Rated Poop Bags. If they aren't carried in a store near you, you can purchase them online.

Though the grocery bags are convenient, you and the environment are much better off investing a few dollars in reusable grocery bags and ditching the hole-filled freebies. Purchasing biodegradable poop bags is quite economical–usually only a few dollars for more than a hundred bags! And you'll feel so much better.

Well Minded uses biodegradable bags for dog walks and litter scooping whenever possible, and, as always, if you provide the biodegradable bags for us to use, you get a dollar-a-day credit on your invoice, which would most likely pay for your bags, anyway.