How I Traveled From Hopeful to Flourishing

How I Traveled From Hopeful to Flourishing

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 International.  

“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.

Pet Sitter of The Year 2020 PSI Cover

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.  

Going Forward

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.



Attitude adjustments for your pet  

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 at 5 months.
Davy at 5 months.

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.

How to Keep Your Pet Calm & Safe July 4th

How to Keep Your Pet Calm & Safe July 4th

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.

Provide distractions

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.