Am I Overpaying my Dog Sitter?

I’ve been paying 2010 prices and hiring friends or relatives. The pet-sitting market has changed dramatically since then—prices have decreased and services have increased.

But what do you really want in a dog sitter?

Cocker spaniels behind a door

Leaving Chipper and Buffy behind while I go on vacation.

Seven years ago, when my elderly father-in-law lived with us, I needed to find someone to walk my energetic springer spaniel once a day while my husband and I took a one week vacation for a wedding and sight seeing. John could let Cassie out into our yard and feed her, but his frail condition and shortness of breath prevented him from exercising her and I figured Cassie would go crazy without a good long walk at least once a day.

I found the price in 2010 for a 30-minute visit at $28. Since Cassie had an autoimmune disease and was an anxious dog, I did not want to hire a stranger who had been exposed to many dogs. I wanted to hire a friend who knew and liked Cassie. I finally convinced her at $25/day to drive Cassie to the local forest preserve for a 1 – 2-mile walk. She brought her dogs for a group outing and everything worked out well.

My concerns when hiring a dog walker included:

  • Someone who knew my dog
  • Someone who could take my dog for a long walk, preferably to the forest preserve
  • Price

Notice that price was the lowest item on my list.

I had not needed to hire a dog sitter again until 2015, for another out-of-town wedding and vacation. Now I had two cocker spaniels since Cassie had passed away, and I had inherited my Mom’s dogs. Based on the rate I found years ago, I offered a neighbor $75/day to walk the cockers 3 – 4 times a day, feed them and let them out one additional time before bedtime. Everything went well and our neighbors cared for the dogs several times over the next few years. This last vacation, I hired my oldest granddaughter, now 21, to stay with the dogs for five days, mostly since she was in need of the money.

My concerns for a dog sitter included:

  • Someone who knew my dogs
  • Someone who could take good care of them
  • Someone I could trust with a key to my house

Price didn’t even enter the equation for a dog sitter.

During that trip, I spoke with my retired sister, who said she had dog sat a few people for $20 – $35/day. Wow, that was a lot less than I was paying. In researching this article, I decided to find out the going rate. For my area, the price for dog walking has decreased to about $15 – $20/walk and $30 – $50 for overnight stays.

What a shock—especially in the days of professional dog walking services and doggie day care centers. Many dog walkers and pet sitters now also have insurance!

This research has opened my eyes to the wide range of services available in my area, although I will probably still hire our neighbors, or my granddaughter, at $75/day since I trust them to do a good job and they could use the money. But if my usual dog sitters are not available, I feel a lot more comfortable knowing I have many other options—likely for a lower price.

What do you do with your dog when you go on vacation?

Chipper’s External Brain

When Chipper was a young puppy he developed double pneumonia. My mom nursed him back to health, but he always seemed mentally slow, probably because his body fought off the sickness instead of developing. He needs his little sister, Buffy, to tell him what to do.  Although Cocker Spaniels are not known to be smart dogs, Chipper seems especially dumb, even for a Cocker. But he makes me laugh – a lot!

So I gave him an external brain mold!

Kind of like an external hard drive (LOL).

Cocker Spaniel wearing a brain mold

Chipper with his external brain.

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Thunder Dog – The True Story of a Blind Man, his Guide Dog & the Triumph of Trust – A Book Review

Few of us know what it’s like to be blind or even know a blind person. Just imagine being blind in today’s world, the challenges, but also the advantages provided by technology, and more acceptance of guide dogs by the public.

Blind people today can do almost anything if they are willing to try, and Michael Hingson tried everything. He was born prematurely and in the 1950s, the common practice was to place preemies in a high oxygen environment. Now doctors know that this practice can cause blindness. Thunder Dog book cover

Mike’s parents did not treat him as if he had a handicap. He went to regular school, played with kids in the neighborhood, even learned to ride a bicycle. He developed a skill similar to echolocation using sounds around him to “hear” doorways and parked cars. He even drove a car short distances around his college campus and flew and landed an airplane (with an assistant). Mike used Braille and screen readers and became a voracious reader who could solve physics problems in his head. He graduated with an advanced degree in physics and went into sales, earning over $100K/year. Mike thought he could do anything.

On September 11, 2001, Mike was in the North tower of the World Trade Center when an airplane struck the building above him. His guide dog, Roselle, helped him down 78 flights to escape the burning tower. If Roselle had lost focus and panicked, Mike may not have survived. Shortly after escaping the North tower, the South tower collapsed and released a powerful dust cloud, almost suffocating them.

Much of the book focuses on his escape with flashbacks to Mike’s childhood, as well as information about guide dogs, and prejudices people have about blind people.

After 911, Mike changed careers to become a famous spokesperson for the National Foundation for the Blind. Roselle was memorialized after she died and no other guide dog will ever have that name. The Roselle Dream Foundation was developed to raise funds to buy equipment for blind children so they can function as normal kids.

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 stars.

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The Dog Year—A Book Review

I met Ann Garvin when she gave an enthusiastic and funny keynote address at the UW Madison Writer’s Institute in 2015. As an exercise physiology nurse turned novelist, her stories intrigued me with her sense of humor. Her book, The Dog Year, grabbed my heart and eyes with a photo of a dog on the cover. I met Ann again a year later at the Chicago Writer’s Conference, where she gave me pointers on how to pitch an agent for the book I am currently writing.

The Dog Year is not directly about dogs but uses them as ancillary characters to help Dr. Lucy Peterman and her friends heal from various emotional traumas. Dogs are great therapists, which Lucy discovered after she decided to keep an abandoned dog she named “Little Dog.” The Dog Year book cover

Lucy developed kleptomania after her husband and unborn child died in a car accident. Instead of working through her grief, she avoided it by leaving her bedroom untouched, only entering to throw in bags of supplies she had stolen from the hospital where she worked as a plastic surgeon, specializing in breast reconstruction.

After getting caught stealing, her boss gave her a leave of absence until she received counseling from an addiction therapist and completed twenty sessions of group therapy at Alcoholics Anonymous, the only group addiction therapy session available.

Lucy resented having to attend AA, but there she met some interesting people. She also runs into Mark, a former high school classmate now a cop, who caught her stealing a bar of soap at Walmart. They strike up a friendship, which Lucy doesn’t feel comfortable with until he gets her pregnant in a moment of weakness.

As Lucy decided whether to keep Mark’s baby or become impregnated with her late husband’s sperm stored at a sperm bank, she started volunteering at the animal shelter. Through her involvement with the AA group and dogs, she decided to find pets for her AA friends. Visits to the dog park became their new ritual as relationships with the dogs and each other aid recovery from their addictions.

This novel has a lighthearted approach to all the complexities of life. Overall, I found this a unique story about how friends and dogs can help us grow.

I rate this book at 4 out of 5 stars.

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