At the 2016 Pet Sitter International’s Conference, I heard a veterinarian named Dr. Marty Becker give a passionate talk about a program that he called Fear Free. It was about taking the “pet” out of “petrified” and lowering a pet’s anxiety regarding veterinary visits.
Dr. Becker realized that vets have been doing it wrong and pets were being terrified as a result. Some of the examples discussed were how nail trims were done and how cats were scruffed for common procedures. In too many cases the mind set was this is how it has always been done, and it was also the quickest way to get things done. (I had worked at a veterinarian’s office for three years so I could relate to what he was saying.) In his heart, Dr. Becker knew there was a better way. He did his research and talked to colleagues and the Fear Free movement began to take shape.
He and his colleagues discovered ways of low stress handling, use of calming music and pheromones, compression garments, and therapeutic massage. They promoted better methods to reduce a pet’s stress before, during, and after a vet visit from the ride from home to the office, into the lobby and on to the scale, and finally the exam room and kennel. Everything was scrutinized and solutions were implemented.
Dr. Becker explained how easy it is to recognize fear by understanding a pet’s body language and how to use techniques to lower it. As he talked, I was reminded about how having this knowledge would benefit the pets that I care for. I considered some of the many challenges pet sitters face and knew that this program was for me. As I was leaving the presentation, I said to one of the leaders in Pet Sitters International that I was going to pursue Fear Free certification in the coming year.
The program was in the early stages and the only Fear Free program available was the veterinary program which I took and then became the first Fear Free pet sitter in North Carolina, and the first Fear Free professional of any stripe in New Bern. It was a difficult course and each year additional credits are required to maintain the certification. After three years of study, I am now qualified for the Fear FreeElite Status. This distinction makes me confident that I am providing the best possible care for all the critters that are entrusted to me.
I have so much respect for the methods and how much they have benefited my clients. Fear Free starts with how I introduce myself to a new pet client, it aids the elderly pets at medicine time, it helps pets overcome their separation anxiety, makes the trips to the vets more comfortable, and employs rewards and praise for training pets to be calm walking companions. The Fear Free methods ensure that I and my team give priority to each pet’s emotional and physical well-being in everything we do.
This program has shaped the path that I have taken and provided me with the best tools to offer the pets in my care. When a pet owner entrusts their pet to me or my team they know that they have hired a qualified professional.
At Crockett’s Critter Care, our first meeting is a chance for us to get to know your pet and your expectations. Taking the time to introduce your pet to our sitters is the foundation for establishing a positive relationship. Together we’ll talk about your pet’s personality and needs. We will discuss your pet’s health and what we can do to support it. Then together, we’ll create a schedule that will work for you and your pet so that you have a happy home.
Shy Cats and Fearful Dogs
We enter quietly (without ringing doorbells) and usually let your pet come to us with little fanfare. It is a time for us to observe whether your pet is friendly or fearful with strangers. We many not look at your pet or lure it toward us if it is frightened. We respect your pet’s space.
We are concerned with your pet’s physical and emotional well-being. We don’t force ourselves on your pet. We let your pet approach us when it is ready. We are trained to understand your pets’ body language and we adjust our behavior accordingly.
To show we’re friendly and safe, we may toss a few high value treats (the good stuff) to create a positive association with us. We want your dogs to approach us with happy tail wags and your cats with contented purrs when we come to visit.
With patience, gentleness, and the right approach we believe that we will win your pet over. We move slowly, speak softly, and allow your pet to choose us. Some pets love us immediately and some need time and distance to build trust. We don’t rush this introductory phase. We are in it for the long haul and hope that our first meeting is the beginning of a long and happy relationship with each pet and its owner.
Here kitty, kitty…
If you cat is hiding when we arrive for our client meeting, let it stay where it is. Don’t try to pick it up and bring it out to meet us. It is hiding to avoid us because it is afraid. We are fine with that. Many of these cats will come up to us in their own time. Meanwhile, on our kitty visits, we will make sure your cat is healthy, eating, drinking water, and using the litter box appropriately. We like to do a head count to make sure no one is stuck in a closet.
For shy cats in hiding, we will sit in a safe spot and read out loud or just talk to your cat softly. We may continue to toss a yummy treat its way. We have pheromones that we can spray on your cat’s bedding and a music cube that plays calming music that we can leave behind to alleviate your pet’s anxieties. Many of our clients are amazed at the pictures we send of their scared cat or fearful dog relaxing in close proximity to us.
Our initial meet and greet is a courtesy visit to determine if we can meet your expectations and your pet’s needs.
Once we’ve determined that Crockett’s Critter Care can provide the care your pet needs on the schedule you require we’ll set up our visit plan. And we take the time to learn where all the pet supplies are so we aren’t perceived as cat burglars by your protective pet. We need to know where the treats, leash, and cleaning supplies are located so that we can safely and confidently care for your pet.
Professional Pet Sitter
Crockett’s Critter Care pet sitters are trained in pet first aid/CPR and receive ongoing education in our field. Our experience, training, and knowledge make us the professional choice for caring for your pet when you need a pet sitter or a dog walker. Jeanne Crockett, the owner of Crockett’s Critter Care, was chosen as Pet Sitter International’s 2020 Pet Sitter of the Year. This honor was judged on providing pet sitting excellence, adherence to superior business ethics and standards, and outstanding contributions to the industry and local community.
Let us introduce ourselves to you and your pet. We’re here to care for finned, feathered, and furry critters as if they were our own.