The Journey to Earn Pet Sitter International (PSI) 2020 Pet Sitter of the Year
In 2012, I made what seemed like a brash decision to start
my own business after aging out of corporate life. Animals have always been
magnets for me. I loved to learn about
them, understand them, train them, and just have fun with them. I saw the need
for a professional pet sitter in my community, and I decided to fulfill that
need by launching Crockett’s Critter Care.
When I embarked on this journey, I had never started a
business or taken a business course. It was scary and exciting to start
something from scratch and watch it grow.
I learned everything I could about entrepreneurship at Craven Community
College (CCC) and added to my knowledge of pet care by joining Pet Sitters
“I hope I can do this…”
At the start, I dreamed of having four pet sits a day. I had no idea that, in time, I would
eventually hire six team members to cover all the requests for my services. From day one, I vowed to do this right. I’m always looking for ways to improve,
learn, and grow. I found the right
people to help me at every stage of my business from the CCC entrepreneurship
course and Small Business Roundtable discussions to networking with the businesswomen
in Coastal Women’s Forum.
My team includes employees, a writer, a photographer and
videographer, an accountant, an HR consultant, a marketing expert, and some
excellent mentors from the pet sitting/dog walking industry. Being an entrepreneur and doing something
that I loved, opened many new experiences for me. And along the way, I discovered my inner
strength and motivation to push beyond barriers and fears that may have impeded
me in the past. Something that evolved from, “I hope I can do this…” to “I
can’t believe I’m doing this…” to “This is the best thing I’ve ever done!” Hope
was replaced with confidence as I eagerly searched for “What’s next?” to
improve my services.
2020 Pet Sitter of the Year
I was encouraged by other professional pet sitters to put my
name in for PSI Pet Sitter of the Year.
In October of 2019, I was informed that I was among the top five
finalists. In November, I was delightfully surprised by a telephone call from
the President (Patti Moran) and the Marketing Director (Beth Stultz) of PSI
congratulating me on being chosen the 2020 Pet Sitter of the Year.
Winning this award is a huge honor and a validation of the choices I made to create and build Crockett’s Critter Care. This award also provides opportunities for me to give back to my pet sitting colleagues, create new connections worldwide, and continue to contribute to my community by choosing the Craven County Sheriff’s Department K-9 unit as my pet project of giving this year.
My goals are to educate pet owners of the importance of
hiring the right person to care for their pets, to expand my services, and to
infuse Fear Free methods and principles into every area of my business. The leaders in my industry have rewarded me
with their highest honor, my team is trained to provide superior pet care, and
my clients have supported my business since it launched. I am a very grateful and fortunate woman.
In my efforts to provide the best possible care for my clients’ pets and for my own, I became certified as a Fear Free Pet Professional in 2017. Their mission is to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress in pets by inspiring and educating the people who care for them. Or, as they say: Take the pet out of petrified. Below are examples of Fear Free techniques in action.
Snippy Sick Pooch
Cassidy was a terrier-type, senior dog that we walked twice
a day. She was doted on by her family
and, by the time we met her, had already lived a long and happy life. As she aged, she was diagnosed with a heart
condition that required medicine twice a day.
However, the first time her owner attempted to pill her; Cassidy showed
her displeasure with a nip.
My colleague who cared for Cassidy called me to relate the
incident and to request instructions for administering the medicine in a safer
manner. I drove right over to Cassidy’s
house for a Fear Free “Teachable Moment.”
Using what Fear Free calls a considerate
approach, I tucked the pill into a small dollop of peanut butter on the end of
a spoon and offered it to Cassidy. She
was delighted with her new treat and took her medicine willingly from that day
forward. This quick win turned a negative
experience into a positive one for both Cassidy and her owners.
Very Skiddish Vizslas
One of my clients is a busy professional whose work schedule
was making it harder and harder to come home for lunch to let her dogs
out. She had a blended pet family of
four dogs – her two little dogs: easy-going, people-friendly Italian Greyhounds
and her friend’s dogs: high-energy Vizslas that were fearful of strangers and
reactive toward me. I knew the little dogs well as I had been pet sitting for
them for a while but needed to get to know the two bigger dogs.
As always, I met the dogs in advance with the owners present
and observed that they were well-trained and attentive. Sit, stay, and go to your place commands were
executed perfectly. However, my first
visit alone with them turned out to be a challenge.
The Vizsla female was not happy with me being there. She advanced toward me growling, barking, and
kept it up for most of the visit. A thirty-minute visit went into overtime with
me trying to put a slip lead on a frightened, reactive dog. I actually hid behind the larger male Vizsla and
while reaching over him slipped a leash
on the little girl. I spoke calmly,
moved slowly, and offered her plenty of treats to win her over. The Fear Free tactics enabled
me to get all the dogs outside to potty and playtime and back inside again
without further ado.
Making a Good Impression
To ensure my next visit would be a pleasant experience, I
knew that I needed to create good associations with these dogs. When I arrived, I carried the Vizslas’ toys
in where they could see me and they enthusiastically followed me out back for a
good game of fetch. After a few more visits, they were comfortable with me and allowed
me to put on their leashes to take them for a walk.
Now these dogs are easy to handle, fun to play with, and
loving toward me. I was able to introduce
another one of my dog walkers to them who they took to readily. She accompanied
me three times and is now able to enjoy walking these dogs on her own.
Davy and The Doctor
My three-year-old German Shepherd dog is named Davy. Davy and I have been going to dog school with
a top-notch trainer since he was ten weeks old.
He excels in obedience and rally.
But as a puppy, when he went to the veterinarian’s office for a visit,
his boldness faded away, he became distressed, he would often pee on the floor,
and when the vet examined him, he became snappy. I had just started my Fear Free training certification and I was determined to change his dreadful veterinary
experiences into happy visits.
Over the next year, Davy was trained to be relaxed and cooperative during routine veterinary procedures. We practiced skills at home and, with my vet’s permission, repeated our lessons at regular intervals in the vet’s lobby and exam rooms. Davy enjoyed the treats from the vet staff who often participated with us and quickly became accustomed to our simulated exams, pretend blood draws, and x-rays. He calmly accepted a muzzle and the sounds of the clippers. His anxiety about going to the vets was replaced with tail-wagging enthusiasm. He now wants to explore every nook and cranny and attempts to go behind every closed door. Most importantly, Davy has become a vet-friendly dog!
Fear Free for All
I and my staff apply Fear Free methods on
every visit to ensure that each pet we care for has a calm experience with
us. We have cats come out from under the
bed for snuggles, formerly fearful dogs greet us with tail wags, and owners
return home to happy relaxed pets. Proving
that Fear Free techniques are simple and pet tested.
Your homelife is usually quiet and routine but from the end
of October with the arrival of Halloween until the doldrums of January 2 set
in, things are not normal. When the doorbell rings, it puts your pet on the
alert that something possibly wicked is coming their way. All the holidays
offer strange scents, sights, and sounds that may unnerve your usually calm
pet. You need to take special
precautions during the holiday season to keep your pet and your household on an
As you put out your holiday décor your pet may find it
interesting, tasty, or worth demolishing. Best to let your pets sniff, see, and
smell the decorations first. As you add
these unusual pieces around the house, consider that they can pose a health
hazard to your furry friend. They may get tangled in the lights, devour the
potpourri, or trash your special crystal. Take a pet’s eye view of the things
you are displaying to keep your treasures and pets safe. And, If you are going to dress up Fido or
Fluffy – chose a comfortable outfit and give them time to get used to it.
Droves of people coming to the door for your special event
can make your pet anxious. They want to know who is entering your kingdom, if
they are a friend or foe, and then act accordingly. If your dog is growling or exuberantly
leaping to welcome your visitors, your guests will be uncomfortable. And
remember, if you are busy answering the door, your pets may take advantage of
the unguarded opening and make a dash for the outdoors. Save your pets (and
your friendships) by providing a quiet and secure crate or room for them while
you handle the crowd. Provide treats, toys, and a comfy spot for your fur
babies so that they can peacefully enjoy your event. Both your pets and guests
will appreciate having their own space.
Chocolate is a food group for many humans but deadly for
dogs; as is any candy containing xylitol. Keep all the human food out of reach
and under close scrutiny while preparing for your party so that your pets are
not tempted by something delectable but harmful for them. You certainly don’t
want your pup parking his cookies in the dining room after slurping some milk
and eating a few grapes. Be careful about the plants in your home, as well; the ASPCA
has a list of plants that are toxic for pets.
Planning ahead and seeing the world through your pet’s eyes will
ensure everyone has a safe and happy holiday season.
There are so many benefits for senior
citizens to retain their pets that it is absolutely ideal to keep them together
for as long as possible. Studies have
proven that pets provide companionship, mental stimulation, plus a wider
support and social network. Pets lower
blood pressure, reduce stress hormones circulating through the body, facilitate
social interactions, and lessen loneliness.
Crockett’s Critter Care has been fortunate to provide dog walking
services to seniors over the years and we have witnessed the benefits first
Dog Walking and Bird Watching
One of our clients, Mrs. M. had a
little dog named Whitey. Even though her
dog was small, the aging process took some Mrs. M’s mobility and her health had
compromised her breathing so it became difficult to get Whitey out for her
daily walks. Mrs. M. lived in a lovely golf course community that didn’t allow
a fenced yard so she inquired about us walking Whitey twice a day – morning and
afternoon. Each day we reported back to
Mrs. M. how many birds’ nests Whitey spotted on her walks and how her leash
manners had improved.
Our daily visits gave Mrs. M.’s family
reassurance that she had social interaction each day when we entertained her
with Whitey’s adventures. When Mrs. M.’s condition deteriorated and she was no
longer able to live on her own, we were able to find a forever home for her
beloved pet, which comforted her knowing that Whitey would continue to be cared
for and loved.
A sweet orange cat “Marmalade” resided
in assisted living with Mr. J. This little girl was a senior herself and had
some serious health issues. When Mr. J.
traveled to visit his family, he always asked us to step in and care for
her. While on his trips, we would send
Mr. J. pictures and reports which he loved showing to his family. As Marmalade’s health worsened, we offered to
take her to the veterinarian, but Mr. J. cut his trip short to do so
himself. I know that this cat filled a
big space in his heart and home. It was
a pleasure to visit Marmalade and get to know her during her last years.
A Lively Bit of Fluff
A little dog named Duffy is owned by
Mr. Bob and is a favorite at the assisted living facility. We take Duffy for a
walk every day in the morning and evening and we can’t get down the hallway
without everyone stopping to pet this little fluff. Sometimes, Duffy is out front with Mr. Bob
waiting for our arrival. As the seniors chat, Duffy makes the rounds to collect
ear scratches and head pats from his adoring fans. When we bring Duffy back
from his walk, he always jumps into Mr. Bob’s lap for a mutual snuggle.
As part of our service, we monitor
Duffy’s feeding to ensure he is getting all of his meals and we send a report
to Mr. Bob’s family letting them know that Duffy’s needs are being met. We love talking to Mr. Bob about the life he
has led and the importance that animals have played in it. He has been a good
steward for all of his pets which included many dogs, a horse, and a donkey name
Gina Lollobrigida because of her long eyelashes. Mr. Bob feels very strongly that we develop a
partnership with our pets and they should be treated with kindness and care for
their entire life.
For us, it is an honor to support and
share in the loving bond these seniors have with their furry companions.
Fireworks Frighten Pets –Tips for Your Pet’s Safety
We humans enjoy the Fourth of July Holiday. The fireworks displays are dazzling and the
booms are amazing – to us. But they
frighten many dogs. In fact, there is a
spike in dogs escaping and running loose.
For many dogs, fireworks can send them into a frenzy. Dogs
don’t see this sparkling display and hear this ear-popping noise from the same
perspective that we humans do. Davy, my German Shepherd, is fine with the
commotion. But, my little Walker Hound,
Ginger, trembles from the first neighborhood firecrackers popping off down the
street to the spectacular crescendo resonating from the community fireworks
displays. Here are some tips to stay
safe, have fun, and take good care of your pet:
Create a safe place for your dog
Keep your dog inside, and don’t leave them alone. Close the windows and blinds. Provide a safe
den-like spot (crates are a good choice).
A ThunderShirt or similar compression wrap or garment may help keep them more relaxed.
Give them a full meal ahead of time and something fun to do
when the festivities begin such as a frozen treat-filled peanut butter Kong to
chew or other safe chew-toy to gnaw on. Fans, white noise machines, audio books,
music designed for pets, or leaving the TV on may help. Pay attention to your dog to divert his
attention to you – cuddles and assurances are always welcomed.
Pheromones & pharmaceuticals to the rescue!
Adaptil is a pheromone
scientifically proven to help calm dogs. You can spray Adaptil on your pet’s
bedding or on a bandana that you place around your pet’s neck. Or you can buy
an Adaptil diffuser that emits pheromones continuously. Adaptil collars are available too, but they need
to be worn about one week before they are effective and they stay effective for
about one month.
In serious cases, talk to your veterinarian about
medications that may keep your pet comfortable through the celebration. Veterinarians
say that July 3rd is usually the most trafficked day in their offices with
clients coming in to get sedatives for their dogs.
Plan Ahead & Pay Attention
Give your dog plenty of exercise on the day that fireworks
are scheduled to help settle them for later.
Make sure they are wearing ID tags. If you are hosting a party, keep
your pets away from the grill, alcohol, and unsafe foods: chocolate, xylitol, macadamia nuts, grapes,
raisins, onions, avocado and bread dough.
Also be cautious with décor that could be harmful if swallowed: shiny or colorful wrappers, sparklers, and
glow sticks among other tempting items.
You know your dog best and how much to intervene better than
anyone. Remember that their fear is real and can put them in danger. By keeping
your dog in a safe place and providing him with distractions, cuddles, and TLC;
you’ll be able to keep him safer and calmer during the upcoming festivities. And
that means you can have a happy and fear free holiday.