beyond business: the heart of the client/pet sitter relationship

Sometimes "professional" and "pet" are a dichotomy in my mind. I am a "professional pet sitter," but what does that mean in terms of relating to my clients? The day-in and day-out of pet sitting is mostly mushy-gushy. I love my clients' pets nearly as much as they do (most of them–wink, wink), so it sometimes just seems like a free-for-all love fest. But the professional aspect is also important. So, as a professional pet sitter, I get to play both sides simultaneously. Sometimes being a professional means I need to make sure to send a confirmation in a timely manner or be sure to give an injection in just the right way to a diabetic cat. Other times, it means rolling around on the floor wrestling a puppy or sitting quietly with a senior pooch in declining health. It's all part of my profession, and I love the variety it brings.

Beyond Business: the Heart of the Client/Pet Sitter Relationship.

Beyond Business: the Heart of the Client/Pet Sitter Relationship.

Though I'm all about the pets, and they are my top priority, I make sure I take care of their parents, my human clients. Often, I only see them once, at the initial consultation. In fact, I have ten-year-old relationships with clients I've only been physically in the presence of one time, ten years ago. And yet, they are valuable, solid relationships. We communicate via email, text, and phone, and we relate well. Some relationships are stronger and tighter than others, but they are all special to me. I consider the fact that I can be genuine and true with the humans involved a big part of being a pet professional. 

Most of my clients understand the bond I share with their pets. Occasionally, one won't, and they'll be some meanie who doesn't pay their bill or treats me like a servant. Though I'm giving myself a high-five for dumping that variety, it breaks my heart because by breaking up with a human, I'm breaking up with their pets, whom I've inevitably bonded with. Thankfully, I can count on one hand how many of those I've had.

As you may know, a few months ago, one of my longest-standing pooch clients passed away. It was a big deal for my whole family. Not only did I have a close bond with this dog, my kids (jr. pet sitters) did, too. The family kept me posted during their dog's final days, which meant so very much to me. 

It meant the world to me that a new client read about our loss and took the time and effort to purchase special books for us.

It meant the world to me that a new client read about our loss and took the time and effort to purchase special books for us.

I wrote about the experience, and a couple of days later, one of my brand-newish regular clients told me she read about our loss and gave her condolences. And then she went above and beyond. She gave my jr. pet sitters and I four lovely books about losing a pet. Like, she actually went to the store with us in mind and purchased these amazing stories for us to share together. In the infancy of our relationship, this blew me away. I fought back the tears and thanked her, but didn't know what else to say. She felt a close enough bond to us to extend herself personally and provide us with an intimate gesture that will be forever remembered. 

Though my professional pet sitting business exists so that I can make money for my family, it is so much more than that. It is something I am passionate about. I am passionate about the pets in my care. I treat all of them as if they were my own. I often say that being a pet sitter saves me from having a zoo of my own. If I didn't have clients who shared their pets with me, I'd bring home every stray anything, and you'd see me on that show where they out crazy people who hoard animals. Being a pet sitter is kind-of like having pet adoption birth control. I get my fix elsewhere. 

Monetary tips are great. I'll take them with appreciation. But what's even more valuable to me are the texts and calls and email messages saying "Thanks for taking such great care of Fido. We don't know what we'd do without you," or "Wow. Bonkers seemed so calm and secure when we got home. You're a miracle worker," or "We're home, now, and really appreciate how comfortable we feel with you being in our home and taking care of our crew." My favorite? "Are you available again next weekend?"

It's a business. But it's personal. The two are not mutually exclusive. It's one, big, happy emotional mess-of-a-job, and I can't imagine doing anything else.

Do you have a special pet sitter or other professional that you've bonded with on a personal level?