Holiday pet sitting

December 21, 2014

At this time of year we get a lot of new client inquiries. I feel sorry for folks saying that their neighbor, hobby sitter or friend bailed on them and they have no one to care for their pets. We get booked well in advance and we rarely accept new clients after December first. I save a a bit of space for current clients that may need last minute service for one reason or another. We will always try to accommodate our currently signed clients.

I want to let people know that professional sitters will not cancel bookings on their calendar because they feel like taking off! Town & Country pet sitting is open 365 days a year. Yes, we work on Christmas day, New Year’s day and all holidays. You can trust that we will be available. We do take vacations, but we go at off times and we cooperate with other professionals for backup. Our network of backups are in place for emergencies too.


 If the people who are calling this close to the holiday had signed up well in advance with a professional they would not be let down and be desperate for someone 2 days before Christmas. It’s such a great idea to have your key with a professional pet sitter. Research potential sitters: Do they have good Yelp reviews? Have your trusted friends recommended them? Make sure they have insurance and have a business license. Make sure they have some years of experience!

You will be glad you have a trusted  professional pet sitter to call.

Here is Gerry’s successful strategy for reducing her wonderful Golden retriever’s weight. Thank you Gerry for sharing this.Image

Moving from rural Maine to the city of Portland, Oregon was a big change for Rufus. He has always been pretty slim, in part because he has a false rear hip joint. due to a stress fracture that required shaving the bone, disconnecting the ball and socket joint. Over time, Rufus has developed muscle mass to compensate for the missing joint. Once here, between the city life, new food, and a somewhat distracted owner, Rufus gained weight. When he weighed in at the vet 4 months after moving here, Rufus had gone from 69 lbs. to 81lbs., a 12 lb increase.

To get Rufus back to a good weight, I did the following:

First, I looked for a dog food with a lower fat to protein ration. You would be amazed how much fat is in some dry dog food. I began to cut his food back from 3 cups a day, 1 in the morning and 2 at night to 1 in the morning and 11/4 at night.

In addition, each night, Rufus gets a kong, packed with peanut butter and his dry kibble. I replaced most of the kibble with chopped apple to cut calories.

I buy dog biscuits for little dogs and only give very small treats while training and never just give him a cookie for the heck of it.

Every morning we walk 21/2 miles before I leave for work. In the afternoon, we walk another 1-2 miles or I take Rufus to an off-leash dog park where he plays with other dogs and often gets some good wrestling in. On weekends, we hike or kayak, (yes he sits in my boat with me) and he swims.

The result is that after 3 months, Rufus weighed in at 67 lbs. where he remains now.You can actually feel his ribs, a sign that he is at an ideal weight. If I could only be as diligent with my own portion control!


dogs pulling on the leash

January 31, 2013

Front clip, no-pull halter

Front clip, no-pull halter

Dog walkers become weary of walking dogs that pull. We walk dozens of dogs each week. Imagine if even half of those dogs pulled!

Training the dog will solve this problem.  For a walker who has been hired to walk the dog for a limited amount of time, training may not always work. A wonderful dog trainer explained to me the concept of management as opposed to training. This is an elegant solution for a dog walker with the brief amount of time we have walking the dogs. We use benign equipment like gentle leaders or front clip halters. With a front clip halter we are able to manage the dogs and even give them opportunity to not pull and to learn that it is a little more pleasant to walk without pressure the whole time. We are managing the situation by not allowing the undesirable behavior to continue.

We don’t use punishment on pets and that includes collars that hurt or make dogs uncomfortable to accomplish what we want. We subscribe to positive training ideas. That is why I carry front clip halters in every size.

Gentle leaders or halties are another option. However, a dog needs to get used to it so it isn’t my first choice for a client dog. We do walk many dogs who have been trained to be accustomed to them and they do very well in a gentle leader. Those dogs are very light at the end of the leash.

Gentler leader

Gentler leader

Consider either of these choices if your dog pulls on walks.

Please read this blog interview. I will not be purchasing Premier products. I am done with choke chains, pinch collars or shock collars. There is too much evidence to show the harm done. In order to work, this things have to hurt. I will not hurt animals I am working with.

Here is a link to the Portland Audubon society’s Cats and wildlife essay:
This is well written and strong encouragement to keep our pet kitties inside whenever possible.

One danger to outdoor cats are our urban coyotes. Coyotes generally eat small rodents. However, they will take cats who are outdoors. Sadly, I have discovered the remains of a client’s cat who was killed by a coyote. It is something I will never forget and not a pleasant way for a beloved pet to meet their end.

Read through the Audubon Society’s essays and brochures. I will be adding ideas to the blog and our website about keeping cats entertained indoors.

Last summer a client had friends watering their extensive garden so that I might spend my entire time with the cats. They are two sweet, well socialized kitties and I spent most of the time playing with them and listening to one trilling in delight.

When I left, the watering friends greeted me and then hesitantly asked if I was the niece. Standing there with my set of client keys and a file folder I said,” No, I am the professionall pet sitter”.
Apparently this friend found it hilarious that they were using a pet sitter because she laughed and could barely speak as I politely said goodbye and moved away to my car.

I estimate that 60% of our new clients tell me in our initial conversation that they have used friends, relatives or neighbors and no longer will be doing so because they have been disappointed. The reasons are as numerous as the people but there is a theme. The “sitter” failed to show up is a frequent reason- And the “sitter” didn’t really care that they didn’t go!  I’ve also heard that let a cat or dog out who was lost, or didn’t fill the water dish or scoop the litter for a week. I’ve heard stories of parties or just plain bad care. Sometimes the new client simply feels they can’t impose anymore.

Somehow the idea of hiring a professional was funny to the woman I encountered today, but I have discovered that people who are responsible pet owners want to properly care for their animals. They worry if they are not sure their pets are being cared for properly or that the animals may be stressed. They have  found it so simple to just call their pet sitter who has their keys and full care instructions. Some have told me they feel better knowing I run a business that is fully insured and that I pay taxes.

We try to make it easy for our clients to leave their pets in our care. We really do care about these pets and try to engage them in exercise and mental stimulation. A big compliment we enjoy is our clients calling to say they have returned and that the pets are relaxed and not frantic, as if they had been gone just a few hours rather than weeks.

Its okay if someone thinks my profession is funny. What is not funny is someone not being responsible for pets and leaving them with someone  unsympathetic, incompetent or worse: with no one. I wonder sometimes if there were an emergency what would happen to the pets that no one was caring for. Sadly, as a sitter I have had to handle client emergencies. I was glad to be there to help.

I have been caring for pets professionally for over 20 years. It is such an elegant solution for pet care that  more and more people are choosing pet sitters to care for their pets and home.
sita in box

Cat Boxes

November 4, 2009

While caring for people’s kitties we have become experts on cleaning cat boxes. I have tried many litters for my own cats as well as our clients. I do prefer the clumping type, but the newspaper pellets are fine as is the old style sand type. What I am currently using is a pine based litter that is scoopable. My goal is to research how to compost this litter safely.

What I find distasteful are the rolling-type boxes and the automatic boxes. Somehow these boxes always have a lingering odor. It seems that simply scooping and removing the waste keeps smell down. The auto boxes warehouse the waste until you remove it. The rolling boxes also collect the waste, but the rolling breaks up the urine balls and the litter turns dark and is strong smelling. I can almost predict a home has these when I go in. If you don’t want odor , plan to scoop and remove the waste.

More to come on litter box issues.

October 25, 2009

Last Friday when I walked the 5th dog in a downpour I suddenly had the eureka moment about dog coats! as I wiped down this dog and took a good 10 minutes to get her decent to roam the house I thought how nice if she had a rain coat. It would have taken half the time.

My own Labs were drip dry and I used a “mud room” system of bringing them through the garage before they were allowed back in the house. As a dog walker we are on a schedule and the extra time spent drying dogs off could be cut down considerably. May be we need to add a selection of coats to our pet sitters  “kit” in the trunk. It does include towels,poo bags, leashes and front clip halters, why not dog coats?

I am now thinking that a dog coat is a tool, not a prissy outfit.

Over the 4th of July weekend a local professional pet sitter posted this to our local Portland professional pet sitters message board.

This pet sitter was prepared and takes the job seriously.


Sherry Hasslacher

Owner – Sherry’s House Pet Sitting & Dog Walking





  I took on a new client for a job starting on July 1st. My

questionnaire/ contract is 8 pages long (which some people think is

 excessive), and includes a veterinary release and questions like,

 “Where is the breaker box? Where are your cat carriers? Do your cats have favorite hiding places?” Fortune favors the prepared, and I knew this was important information to have “just in case”. I didn’t realize my “just in case” was coming on July 3rd.

   The day before the job started my client sent me an email to let me know that she had hired a crew to remove the lead paint from the exterior of her home in “an environmentally friendly” way. I wasn’t worried about it because they would not have access to the interior of the house. When I arrived for the first visit I found out that their method included using propane(?) fired torches to heat the paint then scrape it off. This seemed vaguely wrong to me, but I researched it on the internet that night and found that this is an accepted process… although people usually use heat guns and not an open flame. In retrospect, there is probably a pretty good reason for that.🙂

   The three cats have to be in separate parts of the house because the 3-legged boy, Jake, has FIV. The other 2, Domino and Mista, are relatively healthy- but Domino has bouts of IBS, and Mista is VERY shy. I had worked hard on the previous visits to bring her out of her shell a bit. 

  About forty minutes into my visit, the paint removers started beating on the door and shouting, ringing the doorbell repeatedly. I put Jake down and opened the door and saw just a wall of water pouring down from the arch over the entryway. I couldn’t see anyone, so I shut the door. I went around to the window and tried to figure out what was going on. About that time, another man was beating on the side door to the house. I went out that way and he was yelling at me rapidly in Spanish. I started to smell smoke, then thought about the water I had seen before. Feeling a little slow on the uptake and needing confirmation, I asked him in my 12th grade Spanish, “Es la casa en fuego?!?! (Is the house on fire?!)” He said, “Si!” and disappeared back around the house. I went back inside and started looking for the cats while dialing 911. Amazingly, 911 put me on hold, which gave me time to round up Domino, who was standing peacefully on the dining room table, and put him in the first carrier I could grab, Jake’s. I couldn’t find Jake, I figured he had run upstairs when all the noise started. He likes to hide up there. I got through to 911 (FINALLY!!) and gave them my client’s address, informed them that the house was on fire, that I was inside and so were 3 cats. The 911 lady told me to get out of the house, bless her heart. Right about now was when the smoke alarms started going off. I have to admit I was completely freaked out, but pretty focused in spite of that. My only thought was that I had to get the cats and get out. I finished up with 911, grabbed Domino and took him out the back door (where the fire wasn’t). I screamed at the painters “Ayudeme (Help me!)” and when they came I gave them Domino and told them “Dos mas gatos en la casa. (Two more cats in the house.)” I know, I know, my Spanish is probably awful. Anyway, then I went back in for Jake and Mista. Mista likes to hide in the basement, so I knew she was safer than Jake. I headed upstairs, and the smoke was already filling up the air there. I looked everywhere for Jake, but couldn’t see him because my eyes were watering so hard and I couldn’t breathe. I went back down and a man was at the door telling me that there was an attic fan that was pulling in air and helping the fire to grow and I needed to shut power off to the house at the breaker box. I ran down to the basement garage and turned off everything there was to turn off after I opened the electric garage door. (I figured the fire department would need to get in that way.) I yelled up from the driveway that the electric was off, and went back in to look for Mista. Of course, the house, especially the basement, was completely pitch black now, and I couldn’t find her. Just brilliant. The gentlemen from the fire department had arrived and were telling me to get out and stay out. But, I knew where the carriers were so I ran back into the garage (one of the safest places in the house) to get them. I went out and called the client and told her what was going on. I’ve never heard someone begin to cry so fast. My heart was breaking for her. I was shaking so hard I almost dropped the phone. That’s adrenaline for you, I suppose. I found a firefighter and grabbed him by the arm and told him that there were two cats inside, and they had to get them. I gave him one carrier and gave the other to another fire fighter and told them exactly where to look. “Jake is a 3 legged cat, he will be hiding somewhere upstairs, probably the bedroom at the end of the hall. Mista will be hiding in the basement, probably towards the back of the house.” Then I sat down on the sidewalk away from the house with Domino and tried to think of what else I could do. I couldn’t believe this was happening. The roof was fully engulfed at this point, and it was pretty apparent that my client’s house was going to be history. Keep in mind now that I have only known her for 3 days. And it’s looking like I am going to have to be the one to tell her that her house is totaled and I can’t get to 2 of her cats. As I was trying to wrap my mind around this, a kind hearted neighbor from two streets away offered to take Domino to get him away from the smoke and the noise, and once I got his name and address I let him and his wife take Domino.

   I was left alone to anxiously watch the house, waiting for word about Jake and Mista. Jake came out first, safe in the arms of Portland’s finest. We both worked to put him in his carrier… to say he was not pleased with this turn of events was an understatement! Then Mista came out, safe in her carrier and being carried by another of the

wonderful firemen. I just want to take a moment to say that I can’t

thank the Portland Fire Department enough for all that they did. They are the best bunch of guys you could ever hope to have supporting you in an emergency. Anyway, I bundled up both of the cats by my spot on the sidewalk and called my client. “We got them!! We got all three!! They are out and they are safe!!!” We both spent the next few minutes crying our eyes out with relief. I locked Jake and Mista (who each only had cardboard carriers that were a bit wet- too flimsy to carry very far to the kind neighbor’s house) in my car in separate areas- remember, Jake has to be quarantined. The same kind hearted neighbor took me to see Domino and let me drink some water at his house with him and his wife. I checked on Domino and found that he was fine. I took a few minutes to gather my thoughts and then went

back to my client’s house.

   As I see it, after safeguarding all three cats, my job as a professional at this point was to try to help safeguard my client’s possessions, then help the fire department figure out how it happened, and then answer any questions they had. I talked with an arson investigator and gave her my information, told her what I saw and heard, and gave her the information I had written down from the side of the paint removal crew’s trailer (name, phone number and CCB number). Incidentally, by this point they had all magically disappeared. I gave her my client’s name and cell phone number. I talked with the man from Pacific Power and told him that I had shut off the power at the breaker, and he told me what work they had done and gave me information to give to my client about what sort of inspections would be needed before she could have it turned back on. I talked with the fire chief and made sure he knew that I would need to get back into the house to get my paperwork, and any belongings my client wanted me to get. He told me as soon as they cleared the place, I would be the first one in. Throughout the four hours I was there, I talked with the client multiple times- taking notes on important points. We came up with a plan for where the cats would stay, how I would gain access to that residence, and where their food and other necessary items were kept. We made a plan for what things she wanted out of the house, where they were and what was most important. We got her files out so she could get her homeowner’s insurance information (it’s not like you usually carry that stuff with you!). In the meantime, I kept checking on Jake and Mista in my car, which was encircled with fire trucks. Working with the fire department, I was able to go in and we were able to recover almost all of the materials she had said she wanted, before the water and smoke had damaged them too badly. Working with my client’s handyman and a disaster recovery specialist she hired through me and the handyman over the phone, we made sure her house was boarded up and locked because there are people in this world that listen to fire department scanners just specifically to loot houses after the fire department leaves. I handed out my business card to all of my client’s neighbors and asked them that if they saw anything suspicious to please call 911, then call me.

 After recovering as much as I could from the house and giving it to

 the disaster recovery company for safeguarding, and picking up Domino  from the neighbors house, I went to Fred Meyer’s to get a new litter box because there was only one at the house the 3 cats were going to be going to. It was about 9:30 p.m. I got everything they would need, then spent the next hour and a half driving them out to my client’s boyfriend’s house. I gained access, and got the cats situated in their new places. I took extra time to pet them and love on them so they would know they were safe and sound in their new space.

Then I went to the last three client visits of the night- very late- but I got them all done…  I finished about 1:15 a.m. I picked up my husband at the end of his work shift at 1:30 a.m. and went back to the house. I worked with the disaster recovery people, who were still there trying to cover the roof with plywood, again to get access to parts of the house I hadn’t been able to go in while the fire department was there. I got Domino’s medicine, the canned food that had not been sitting in water, and some dry food that had been safe in a drawer in the basement. Almost everything else was soaked or smoke damaged.  I went home at about 2 a.m.- sweaty, scratched up and bruised (I still

 don’t know where some of these came from!), smelling like sulfur and

 smoke, with a sore throat and eyes from the smoke and exhausted. And I mean really exhausted. But, my clients are safe. That is all that


 Today, in between other client visits, I went shopping for new cat

beds, new cardboard scratchers, catnip and some toys for Domino and

Mista. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I could do today to

 get the kitties comfortable in their new space. I replaced as much of

 their stuff as I could. I got extra litter pan liners and litter so

 the client won’t have to shop for them when she returns. Remember,

 she is going to have to re-buy everything she lost… clothes, shoes,

everything she needs for her toddler. Everything that wasn’t in her

 suitcases when she left on vacation. She shouldn’t have to worry

 about shopping for the kitties right away. I talked with her about

alerting the post office not to deliver mail to her house, and told

 her how to change her address online (make sure you have a credit card available!). I called her handyman to make sure he would recover other items she might want or need, intercept any mail that got through the address change and that he would water the plants I was going to water since he was going to be there everyday with the

 disaster recovery people. I visited the cats twice today, once during

 the fireworks to make sure they were calm and felt safe. I will be there for Domino, Jake and Mista until their folks are able to return. I am a professional and I am responsible for them. I will be doing everything I can think of to make them happy, comfortable and

 keep them feeling safe and protected. That is my job. It’s what I

 love to do. 


 I had about 4 minutes total to make important decisions and take

 actions that ultimately ensured that the cats lived and were healthy.

 (Thank God and the Portland Fire Department!) I had to make choices about what I could safely do and what I had to leave for other, much more qualified people, to do. I had to subsequently make multiple decisions with sketchy information and under a tremendous amount of pressure. And I had to relay a very large amount of information to my client over multiple phone calls in relatively chaotic conditions. She had to know that she could trust me to make accurate assessments about the situation and give her good advice. I remember once that someone on this {pet sitters message }board was told by a client that “a responsible middle schooler could do your job.” I’d love to meet the middle schooler who could have pulled off the day that I did yesterday. Put simply, days like this are what separates us, professional pet sitters, from the “responsible middle schoolers” of the world- however many there may be.

It’s nice knowing that there are folks out there who will understand when I say that I was terrified for my client’s lives. And who won’t think I was an idiot for going back in the house. You all know why I had to go back in there. There was never any choice. It’s who we are. You all will know that I am telling the truth when I say that I never once thought about getting hurt myself, that I was only thinking about getting the cats. You all know why. Like I said, it’s who we are.

 Once, when I told a new acquaintance that I was a pet sitter/dog

 walker, he responded with surprise by saying, “That’s a REAL job?!?!” Yes. Yes it is. I may never make a million dollars, and it may not always feel like work, but it is a real job. And it takes real




July 28, 2009

I saw one on this hot night on Fairmont. It was a skinny one who stood under a street lamp. Possibly a juvenile without developed hunting skills. I am not afraid, ever, but there is a thrill of excitement and  a possible undercurrent of instinctual  concern at seeing a predator on the street. I am grateful to them for eating rodents (please spend more time at my house-rats) but less time eating cats.  

Dear friends, please keep your kitties indoors. I see coyotes at all times of day right here all over SW Portland as do my other pet sitting friends. I don’t know why we see them so often except we are tuned into animals and might notice them as well as being out and about all day, every day. They are here and they will take cats.