my client cheated on me. ain't karma a bitch?

So I was out with a bunch of friends the other night, and this couple–friends and clients of mine–said they had something to tell me. "Something happened." It seemed serious, so initially I thought something terrible might have happened to Eddie*, their dog , but they had slight smirks on their faces, so I calmed.

Since my family just returned from a California vacation that included Legoland, it seemed like a natural conversation-starter that Mark began by telling me that they recently spent four days at Legoland. "Wow! Did you have fun?" I inquired.

"Well, yes. It was great, but..." he gave Jodi a look. "Well, I have this buddy. He's a career bachelor and has had dogs all of his life. He has two, and Eddie gets along great with them. He offered to take Eddie while we were gone, and I thought, 'awesome! Free pet sitting.'"

Again, I feared the worst. Had the dogs fought? Was Eddie okay? "No biggie," I said. "Who would pass up free pet sitting? Sounds like a great situation. Did something go wrong?" Didn't Mark and Jodi know that you get what you pay for? I've been to this rodeo before. Clients may cheat, but they always come back. Something always happens.

"He came ticks," Mark announced.

"Complete infestation," Jodi added. "And we didn't know for over a week."

I'm not sure what my face looked like, but I'm guessing it was one of sympathy mixed with a dash of "ha-ha," which is exactly how I felt. But, of course, I was concerned about Eddie. "Oh my God! Is Eddie okay?" I asked with a giggle. 

"Yeah, he's fine. He will be. He's just chewing himself alive right now because he's in the scabby stage," Mark told me.

Poor Eddie.

"The groomer found hundreds," Jodi elaborated. "The first time I saw one, I was plugging in the vacuum to an outlet in the living room and a tick literally jumped out of the socket. I knew right then and there that we had a big issue."

"Wow. I'm so sorry." I was.

Jodi went on. "They found them in Eddie's paw pads and growing in the pits of his legs. He was literally being eaten alive. The exterminator sprayed the inside and outside of our house multiple times because–just our luck–ticks multiply quite quickly in this dry, hot AZ environment we live in. They can actually survive weeks without a food source."

They went on to tell me about multiple vet visits, multiple "dips," and a complete home extermination. "We've spent hundreds of dollars," Mark said. "It would have been less expensive to hire you."

"Cheaters never win," I joked. "Ain't karma a bitch?"

"Yep," Jodi agreed. "Our attempt to save a little money on a pet sitter ended up costing us over $500.00, hours of frustration, and some serious strain on a friendship for failing to disclose to us that his dogs had ticks! We asked ourselves 'Why didn't we just call Kristen?' So, basically, we'll never have anyone Eddie again." 

"Solid plan," I said.

We laughed and toasted to my job security and to Eddie's speedy recovery.

*Names have been changed. 





only the great die young: a tribute to bambi

We've been taking care of Bambi for a couple of years, now. When we started, her brother, Chunk, was also in the picture. Great (in every sense of the word) Danes. Chunk passed a while back, and Bambi became a big sister to her new cocker spaniel brother, Koko. He's feisty...all puppy. 

We were supposed to take care of Bambi this weekend while Koko went to burn off some wild energy with his parents at the lake.

But we got the call.

"Our beloved Bambi had to be put to sleep today. Her left lung was full of fluid, and the vet suspected cancer...we're so sorry." 

You're sorry? The thing is, these awesome pet parents knew the bond we had with Bambi. She was unique, and so was our relationship with her. It was often a family affair, but it was actually my husband who took care of her most, and it was the two of them that had the most special bond. She would eat well for him, romp with him, and get over-the-moon excited when he came around. She'd let me take care of her as second fiddle, and she'd allow me to cuddle with her on her bed (which was large enough to accommodate the both of us) out of some sense of obligation, I presume, but it was with Brennen that she was truly in love. And he in love with her. I knew it was a source of pride that she favored him. Our clients knew that, and while I did my best to send my condolences her way, she sent just as many to us, recognizing our loss. 

Bambi was a sweet girl to the core, though quite camera-shy. I would try my best to photograph her but not violate her space. She seemed to know if I was fake-texting in order to capture her image on my iPhone. Brains and beauty, that one had. 

We last saw her two weeks ago, and I was able to capture her with her jumbo-dog toy, which is about the size of my four-year-old daughter. 


We talk about what a shame it is that Great Danes have such limited life spans. Such big hearts, so much love, yet so little time. Bambi, you were one of the greats. 

fearful dogs and cats: breaking the barrier

When I schedule an initial consultation, a prospective client might warn me that their pet is is "shy" or "timid" or "skittish." In reality, their animal is fearful of strangers and new situations, and possibly a whole host of other things. This type of animal is actually a wonderful candidate for the right professional in-home pet sitter. Some animals are fearful because they have had a negative experience in the past. Unfortunately, they can't tell us why they are troubled. I still haven't completely given up my girlhood dream that an animal might someday just speak up. 

Until then, it's up to us to take charge of the situation and do our best to ease the animal's fears. I have a method that is almost always successful. New clients are often amazed that their usually-reclusive animal will snuggle up to me only a few minutes after my arrival. "Wow, she really likes you. She never likes anyone." 

Take the situation where you're arriving at a friend's house. The dog is barking it's brains out and retreating or hiding behind something. (Yes, many dogs bark at me when I first meet them.) If you want to be friends with the animal, what would your first instinct be? 

I'm guessing it would be to talk to the animal and ease it's fears. Show how friendly you are by raising the pitch of your voice and smiling at the dog, perhaps approaching it with your hand out in an unthreatening way. That would be very sweet of you, but would be the last thing you'd want to do. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it would only worsen the situation. A human might see a friend, but a dog would see a threat. Your strange voice would alarm her. Making eye contact with her is considered a threat in dog language. Putting your hand out invites a bite, and moving toward the dog makes her feel like you are chasing her. And that nice smile? Well, in the dog's mind, you're bearing your teeth, a sign of impending attack.

Perhaps if you entice the dog with a treat? Then you would only be reinforcing the behavior you don't want to see. Oops. Let's definitely not do that. 

What can you do instead?


It may seem a bit odd, so I always warn my potential clients ahead of time. "Please know that when I arrive, I'll ignore Princess since you told me she's shy. It's not because I don't want to be her friend, but I want her to be able to get to know me on her terms."

When I am invited in the home and Princess is barking and hiding behind her owner, I don't even look at her. I act as if she's not there. I greet the owner and any other friendly animals that may want to hug and kiss me, but completely ignore Princess. She gets to see that I'm not a threat to others in the home. I then ask the owner if there is a place where we can sit and chat about the animals in the home. We sit at a kitchen table or living room couch. 

Usually within a couple of minutes of my sitting down, Princess will be sniffing my leg. I continue to ignore her. She may retreat and come back a few times. Once she is relaxed and seems to be more comfortable, I'll offer the back of my hand, without saying a word, and without looking at her. If she sniffs my hand and stays, I'll scratch her chin. It is important not to put my hand on top of the dog's head, because that is a dominance signal. Fearful dogs need you to help them rise to the occasion (chin up) rather than show them your dominance (covering the top of their head). There is a place for the head pat with secure, confident animals. 

I'm gaining trust at this point, but I don't talk to her or look at her. At all. In fact, when the consultation is over, I leave the home without ever having acknowledged Princess directly. You know how you should always leave your date wanting more? Well, the same goes here. 

When I come back next time, the owners usually aren't home. Princess may bark for a bit, and I'll just ignore her. She then remembers me as a non-threatening individual and warms up quickly. 

Just this past weekend, I cared for a fearful dog. She was a brand new client, and I ignored her during my first visit to the home when the owners were away. She barked at first, so I sat down and pet the other dogs. I kept my back to the fearful dog. I eventually felt her sniffing my back. It took a couple of visits, but she finally allowed me to pet her. It was all on her terms, so she felt comfortable. We aren't best friends, yet, but these matters take time, like any solid relationship. 

Fearful cats can be a bit more stubborn, but the method is just the same. I have won over quite a few felines this way. For the few that stay in hiding, I always make sure to see their glowing eyes before I leave them alone, just to make sure they are safe. There is one home I have been visiting for eight years now, and I've still never seen the two cats who live there. I know their hiding places, so I quickly peek for the glowing eyes, and then go about the business of feeding and litter-box scooping. I don't ever pester them or try to coax them out, because I know that would only make them hide deeper in the closet or trick me with an altogether new hiding spot. I'm not sure there's any chance I'll ever get to pet those two, but I always keep a bit of hope.

The trick to gaining the trust of a fearful animal is to always remember that the dog is a dog and the cat is a cat. Learn their language for the best chance to break down their fearful barrier to lifelong friendship. 

disclaimer: Sometimes fearful animals can become aggressive. Always use extreme caution around aggressive animals. Truly aggressive animals can be very dangerous and may require professional, one-on-one attention for rehabilitation.