For the first time in I-can't-remember-how-long, it's a Saturday, and I have no pet sitting visits scheduled. This is almost unheard of, except during the rare times I let my clients know I'm taking time off for travel and am unavailable. So with this unexpected day off, what am I doing? I'm panicking every five minutes that I'm forgetting to see an animal. I'm checking and rechecking my calendar. I'm reviewing email, text, and Facebook Messenger correspondence I've had with clients over the past few weeks to make extra sure I really do have the day off. And I do! I really do!
I love what I do, but it sure is nice to have an unscheduled day every once in a while. I slept in to the glorious hour of 6:30 a.m., which feels like a sin. Yes, 6:30 is sleeping WAY in. My husband even congratulated me and gave me a hug and a high-five. What time do I normally wake up? Well, let me tell you about my typical schedule.
As a professional pet sitter, the time I wake up depends on how many visits I'm scheduled to make in the morning. Typically, my alarm is set for 4:30 a.m., which allows me to freshen up, get dressed, and pour myself a cup of Joe (essential) before my first visit.
How do I decide who to see first?
I prioritize based on the circumstances of all of the pets in my care at a particular time and their humans' wishes regarding their schedule. I don't guarantee a specific time. In the morning, I see pets between the hours of 5:00 and 8:00 a.m., unless some other time is specified and agreed upon. When deciding whom to see when, I consider the type of pets and their bathroom needs, first. Dogs without doggie doors come first, followed by dogs with doggie doors, and then cats and other pets who have means to go potty without being let out. If I have any unusual or exotic pets such as horses or chickens, they are considered, as well. I also think about geography. I try to make my visits in a somewhat organized fashion rather than bounce back-and-forth around town like a ping-pong ball.
My afternoons are typically booked with dogs and other animals that need to be seen three times a day, as well as mid-day potty breaks and dog walks for working families. In the summer, I am busier with vacation visits, but have very few mid-day dog walks, as I do not walk dogs when temps are higher than 100° for the safety of the animal. All pet sitting visits include a daily walk, if desired, so, during the summer, I fit those into the early morning visits, which are the only times the weather permits. In Phoenix, summer highs are 110°+. In the fall, however, when the weather is gorgeous and everyone wants to be me, my mid-day dog walks pick up.
Afternoon visit times aren't typically as critical as morning visit times, but some of the same principles apply. If I'm giving a potty break–say–for a family who works long hours, I take their schedule into consideration and try to visit the pets about mid-way through their time of absence. I typically make afternoon visits between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
I use the same principles for evening visits as I do for morning visits: priority one are dogs who need to relieve themselves. In the evening, however, I typically make those visits last. Why, you ask? Because they have to make it through the night. I try to make the overnight wait as short as possible for these guys because it's typically the longest stretch of time they will be left alone. When deciding whom-to-see-when in the evenings, I take the next day's schedule into consideration. My evening visits are typically made between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.
As you probably know, I have two kids at home (one away at college), ages eight and six. My husband has a demanding job that requires him to be out of the home a lot and sometimes work atypical hours, plus, sometimes he travels. Thankfully, he's usually home on the weekends, my busiest times.
During the week, I try to be back from morning visits in time to get the kids ready for school, but if my hubby is traveling, the kids get up early and come with. They are my Junior Pet Sitters, and they know the drill. They aren't always thrilled about it, but they do what it takes and are usually rewarded with an ice cream or extra allowance for a particularly demanding schedule. After morning visits, I get the kids off to school, hit the gym, and then do administrative tasks and work on this blog you are reading right here.
I then make my afternoon visits, and if there's time before picking the human rugrats up from school, I get some more blog work done. After school, we'll grab a snack and do homework, and then the Junior Pet Sitters are off with me again to do evening jobs so that we can be home and reunited with Daddy for dinner as often as his schedule allows.
what about holidays and my own vacations?
Being a pet sitter is a 365-day-a-year job, and major holidays are some of my busiest times. Winter holidays such as Christmas and New Years are pretty hectic, but we make it work. On Christmas morning, I've been known to start my pet sitting visits around 3:00 a.m. so that I can be home when my kids wake up to see what goodies Santa brought. And, yes, I have to be careful about champagne consumption on NYE. I really don't want a massive hangover when visiting pets on the first morning of the new year.
My family does not typically travel during holidays and times others usually travel. Everyone wants to get out of the Phoenix heat during the summer, so that means we stay put and watch their pets. And holidays? Forget it. We stay home, and I work.
So when do I get away? Well, we'll (shudder) typically pull the kids out of school for a week in the fall and/or spring, but not during fall and spring break when I'm busy. Our kids' charter school usually has a slightly different schedule than the public schools in the area, so sometimes we get lucky and can travel during their school breaks.
What's a sick day?
I work when I'm sick. On the rare occasion that I simply can't (picture the worst), I have relationships with other pet sitters in the area who are willing to help, or my husband pitches in. Visits are made, no matter what.
keeping it straight
How do I keep all of these appointments straight? I have three calendars. Yup. Three. I make sure they all match, and I check them throughout the day. I schedule everything into iCal, which pops up on my laptop and my phone. I also have an old-fashioned planner in which I write everything down. Believe it or not, that's my go-to calendar. In addition, I schedule all visits through online pet sitting software, so I can view my visits any time there. The system sends me an email in the middle of the night letting me know my visit schedule for the next day. It may seem like overkill, but all of this means I don't miss visits. My reliability is one of the most important things to my business, so I keep things straight.
living the life
Though my schedule can be demanding, I wouldn't have it any other way. My days are dictated by the needs of my furry, feathered, and scaly friends. I have flexibility that allows me to do things like go to the gym, schedule doctors appointments, or meet a friend for lunch, which I consider a luxury people with traditional work schedules don't have.
A day off rarely happens unless I schedule it that way. So I'm going to try to stop freaking out that I'm missing a visit today and relax, enjoy my family, and double-check my calendars only a few more times. Just to make sure.
Do you have an unconventional schedule? How do you manage your day?