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i am not a prejudiced pet sitter: Blog the Change for Animals

As a professional pet sitter, I can’t tell you how many times people say the following things the first time I speak to them on the phone:

“Do you take care of big dogs? I hope you don’t charge extra.”

“Sweetie is a Rottweiler, but she’s really nice…she’s never bitten anyone…she loves kids…you’ll love her…”

“He’s a Chihuahua, so he’s little. So you don’t charge as much, right?”

“She’s a Golden Retriever. She’s a lover, and she’ll be super easy.”

And my all-time favorite “Do you sit for Pit Bulls?”

I always provide the same answer: “I don’t discriminate based on size or breed. Every dog deserves the same amount of attention and love. I won’t take care of a dog that shows hostility toward me, regardless of the breed or size, and I take wonderful care of all animals that will let me, regardless of the breed or size. There is no difference in price.”

Sure, Goliath’s poop is HUGE, but that’s not his fault. I’ll pick up his, and I’ll pick up Chi-chi’s, just the same.

I have slept in bed with many a Pit Bull’s tongue in my face (in a good way) and I’ve been barked out of town by a Golden Retriever. I have learned through experience not to prejudge the animal. I greet each animal with the energy that is appropriate for the energy he shows me, whether that be positive or negative, big or small. Just like people, dogs are individuals and deserve the right to shine (or not).

So let’s judge them, but let’s judge them fairly after getting to know them. Just as most of us refuse to judge our human friends by their color or size, might we do the same for dogs? My motto: assume the best, but be prepared for the worst. I apply that to everyone I meet.

Hi! It’s nice to meet you…

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BlogtheChange


10 reasons to go grain-free for your dog with #DiamondNaturals

10ReasonsToGoGrainFreeAs with just about everything these days, whether or not to put your dog on a grain-free diet is hotly debated, as is every argument within the debate. We should feel lucky that we have so many high-quality options when it comes to providing nourishment for our canine family members. Though there are many options out there, and you should always choose a diet for your dog based on your dog’s individual needs, providing a high-quality, grain-free diet like Diamond Naturals Grain Free is an excellent option for most dogs.

Here are the top ten reasons to go grain-free:

1. A grain-free diet is more closely associated with a canine’s natural diet. Before being domesticated, dogs ate a protein-centric diet composed almost entirely of meat. The little grain they did eat mostly came from the stomach contents of the animals the consumed. Going grain-free is only natural.

2. Your dog will have more energy. Protein is the main source of energy for dogs. Since they tend to turn their noses up at tofu and beans, your best bet may be to maximize their protein intake with a meat-based diet. A diet that includes low-quality grains (fillers) won’t really provide your pooch with the energy he needs since it will mostly come out as waste. It echoes the way humans consume. If we eat a low-quality, high-carbohydrate diet, we stay hungry and we don’t have the energy we need to get through the day. And it comes out as waste.

3. Your dog will shed less and have a healthier coat. Consuming low-quality grains on a regular basis does not provide your dog with the proper oils and nutrients she needs to maintain healthy skin and coat. Healthy coats are shiny and stick with your dog, mostly. We all shed some, but think about how one of the first signs of human malnutrition is brittle, breaking hair and hair loss. Same with dogs. The easy-to-digest animal fats in grain-free dog foods such as Diamond Naturals include the necessary oil to your dog’s diet that is key to a healthy coat.

4. Dogs on a grain-free diet have fewer allergies. Most canine allergies are associated with the grains in dog food. A grain-free diet is usually the best choice for an allergic pooch, and is, in my opinion, the first thing a dog owner should try before subjecting their dog to allergy medications and bold lifestyle changes.

5. Dogs on a grain-free diet enjoy better health. Consuming low-quality grains that are included in low-quality foods are of no benefit to your animal. The dog foods that include these fillers often include other harmful ingredients such as chemical preservatives and artificial colors. Your dog definitely doesn’t need those! These types of chemical additives are linked to cancer, liver problems, joint degeneration, and a whole host of other health issues. Most grain-free foods are high-quality. You can be fairly certain that when the grains come out, so does the other junk. Dogs on a grain-free diet might enjoy more energy, fewer allergies, better weight management, and a healthier digestive system.

6. Dogs on a grain-free diet have better breath. Nutrition has a huge impact on dental health, both for humans and dogs. If your pooch is eating a high-quality grain-free diet, odds are, he will enjoy better dental health. If his teeth aren’t rotting, his breath will be better, of course.

7. Grain-free dog foods are thought to be more easily digested. Some argue that dogs simply can’t digest grains. I believe that this can be partially true. High-quality grains can add fiber to your dog’s diet, which can be beneficial. Not to get too personal, but we all know that some of the things we eat come out just as they went in (I’m not the only one, right?). That’s okay. We may not be gaining nutrition, but we are gaining fiber. The problem? Most undigestible material in dog food is low-quality. They need a bit of high-quality fiber. So if you feed your dog a grain-free diet and feel that she needs more fiber, try pumpkin!

8. Dogs on a grain-free diet produce less poop. It’s true. It really is. I know–first hand–because I alternate my dog between high-quality grains and grain-free foods. And I pick up her poop. It’s smaller and less frequent when she’s going grain-free. This theory is reinforced by the animals I see as a professional pet sitter. Dogs on high-quality grain-free diets poop less. And toot less. They use more of what’s in the food to help their bodies go, so less waste comes out. Does Walter the Farting Dog live in your house? Try going grain-free, and I’ll betcha things will get better.

9. The poop produced stinks less. One of the most glamorous parts of my job is scooping the treasures left by my sweet canine clients. I have become somewhat of an excrement expert and can confidently tell you that the poop produced by my clients on a heavily-processed, low-quality diet filled with grain fillers such as corn, gluten, or wheat flour have gaggy-stink poop that can be smelled for miles when the wind picks up. Even if the pet owner hasn’t revealed the brand of food they feed their dog, I can almost always tell if it’s one of the worst. Kinda like when you eat Taco Bell and then the next day…well, you get the idea.

10. Dogs on a grain-free diet consume less food. For sure. They get more energy from the food they are eating, so they consume less. I have personally tested this theory when I switch my dog from high-quality grain foods to grain-free. She eats WAY less on the grain-free food. I feed her a small amount twice a day, and she’s good to go. Sometimes she doesn’t even eat it all. When she’s on the food that includes grain, even though it’s high-quality, she eats more and begs for snacks between meals. A grain-free diet can help with weight management AND finances because our pooches consume less. For tips on how to find an affordable, grain-free food, please check out grain-free dog food that doesn’t break the bank.

DiamondNaturals850x315IIDiamond Naturals Grain Free has three high-protein grain-free choices. Beef & Sweet Potato, Chicken & Sweet Potato, and Whitefish & Sweet Potato. Real beef, chicken, and fish protein sources not only provide your dog with the energy he needs, but are a natural source of amino acids. And the sweet potato provides complex carbohydrates so your dog can keep his energy level up throughout the day. The fruits and vegetables in each variety are a great source of antioxidants and fiber for optimal health.

Going grain-free with a food like Diamond Naturals Grain Free is an excellent choice for most dogs. Have you gone grain-free? Tell me your experiences! But let’s not go all congress on me, okay? I’ve had about enough of that, regardless of which side you’re on.

Connect with Diamond Naturals Grain Free on Facebook.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Diamond Naturals as part of the Blog Paws Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Diamond Naturals Grain Free dog food, but well minded word only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Diamond Naturals is not responsible for the content of this article. 


the luxury of a pet room

Perhaps your kid has grown and moved and left you with an empty nest. Maybe you no longer need a home office since that laptop keeps you mobile. Or maybe you just have the extra space. Would you consider a pet room?

Sounds like something for nutty animal freaks, right? Well, most of the people who read my blog are nutty animal freaks, so we’re safe.

My clients of nearly two years, Matt and Connie,* have just such a room for their two pooches, Sneakers and Lanie.** When I came for the initial consult, Matt and Connie showed me around the house and presented the pet room. I couldn’t initially determine if it was odd or fantastic, but as they explained the room’s features and I got to know how down-to-earth they are, I settled on fantastic. And now that I’ve been working in that pet room on a regular basis for so long, I give it a five-woof rating, and not just because it’s a cool luxury.

But it is a cool luxury. Let’s go over the features of this particular room:

• laminate wood floor: looks great, wears well, and is super easy to clean

• large crate: the door is always open, but it’s a small comforting space that the girls mostly use for toy storage

• toys, and lots of them: naturally

• ample food and water in attractive dishes: a must, as food always tastes better on pretty plates

• two custom potty pads: potty pads are held in place by frames and Matt cut a plastic “netted barrier” to place over the pads so that the girls would stop tearing up the pads. Genius.

• nightlight: to scare away monsters

• protective gate secured with bungee cords: to keep the girls from trying on clothes in the closet

• shelves to support small ammenities: help keep cords and things up and away from the girls’ reach for safety reasons. Adds convenience for their caretakers.

• treat jar: because the girls are so good

• disinfecting wipes: for those surfaces that need disinfecting

• hand-vac: conveniently located for light vacuuming needs

• boom-box: so the girls can rock out when they get bored. I’ve caught them a few times.

• blinds and fan: to keep the girls cool in summer and well ventelated

• two video cameras: so Matt and Connie can see me stroll in like a zombie at 5:00 a.m. in my PJs (that uniform is a perk of being a professional pet sitter). And so they can have fun peeking in on their girls when they aren’t home.

• doorway baby gate: Matt removed the door to the room and replaced it with a tall baby gate so the girls can see out

Whether you think it’s awesome or you’re rolling your eyes, you must know how happy these dogs are while their owners are away. They absolutely love that room! Though they are excited to see me when I arrive and we have a lot of fun together, they are happy as clams to go back in their room when it’s time for me to leave, and sometimes, if they are really tired, they’ll even spend time in the room while I’m there! The pet room provides them with a sense of security. They have plenty of room and more amenities than most animals I know. Lucky, lucky dogs.

Do you have the luxury of a pet room? I’d love to hear about it. I’ve one-upped the pet room. I have a multi-room pet house. My pets even allow me to share it with them.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent from tomato-throwing non-animal-freaks.

**Names have been changed so their canine friends don’t make fun of them for being spoiled.


why i don’t have a cat

ImageConfession. Scandal. Intrigue. Suspense. Terror.

I am a professional pet sitter with no cat.

Almost every new client asks me what type of pets I have. When I rattle off the list, which does not include a feline, I get:

“No cats?”

“You forgot to mention your cat.”

“And how many cats do you have?”

“No cats? Don’t you like cats?”

And by the die-hard cat people, I am often looked upon with slight suspicion, at which time I begin making out with their cat, just to prove my devotion. I also love hippos, but one does not reside with me.

So how do I feel about cats? Cats are awesome. They are so individual. One might wind between your legs and magnetize to you the second you walk in the door, and another might hide in the closet, never to emerge when humans are present. Some purr and meow, some hiss and yowl. Personality is a great thing to have.

I have cared for a pair of shy cats for nearly eight years now, yet I’ve never touched them. I know they are alive because their food is consumed, their litter box is used, and their eyes glimmer and move under the bed. I don’t push them to be friends, and their family is well-aware of their aloofness. I talk to them as I go about my business of feeding and litter-box scooping, just so they know someone is there who cares. But they don’t care. They just want to be fed. That’s okay.

I care for several cats who require insulin injections. They are all rock stars about it. And thank goodness those aren’t the ones who hide under the bed.

One cat that I care for melts my heart every time. She lives in a house with two rambunctious food-stealing Jack Russells who have not been trained, so she dines on the kitchen island. Every time I visit, she guides me to the island, jumps up on it, then puts her paws on my shoulders and nuzzles into my neck. What better love is there?

So why don’t I have a cat? (drumroll)

The litter box. 

That’s it. I can’t stand litter boxes. And I don’t wish to send my kitty outside among the coyotes and javelinas just to potty. So I choose not to have a cat. My husband is totally a cat person, too. I’ve thought many times about surprising him by adopting a cat and have browsed the cats available and in need on a regular basis because even though I’m more of a “dog person,” I adore cats. But then I remember the litter box and the litter. It’s a no-go.

Part of my job is to scoop litter boxes, so I’m pretty sure I’ve seen ’em all, and I have yet to meet one that I would have in my home. There are the filter ones, the ones with tops, the sifters, the ones that rotate, the ones hidden in the pot of a house plant…and then you have the litter. No matter what kind, it’s just bad. The ones that try to mask the poop smell are the worst. They literally make me feel ill. I most commonly run across the scoopable ones with odor control, so that’s chemical and dust combined. Awesome. The natural ones, like the pellets, are better, but they still get tracked all around the litter box. They all get tracked. That’s gross and a major pain. I’m fine with cleaning all that and dealing with it when I’m being paid, but no one in my home is going to give me a paycheck for cleaning the cat box and surrounding areas, and certainly no one in my home will do the chore. So, no cats. Sorry.

I am thankful that I get to interact with my clients’ cats regularly. They are delightful, and they satisfy my feline needs. So until we find the cat who is already trained to go on the toilet AND flush, we’re going to be happy with the rest of our herd. If we find that cat, there will finally be a reason for my boys to leave the lid up on the toilet.


what’s grosser than gross?

You want to know the dirt, right? People ask me about what crazy clients I’ve had or if I’ve ever been bitten, or whose house is the filthiest. It’s true that I’ve “seen it all.”

When enough time passes and I don’t name names, these things become stories of lore. So let me tell you about the grossest job I ever did.

Pet sitters often network and get to know one another and sometimes rely upon each other in times of need. Many several of few years ago in a land far, far away and gone, one of my colleagues/competitors explained that she was “beyond fully booked” for the weekend, and could I care for a couple of dogs for her. It was a long-standing client of hers, and it would be easy, she assured me.

This is different than a referral. She wasn’t offering the client to me, just asking me to be an “employee for a day,” kind-of taking away the beauty of self-employment. I was happy to do it. Put in a good deed for someone, and it might one day come back to you, right?

Long story short: Two sweet, delightful Scottish Terriers, each in their own crate when no one is around, released upon my arrival, and tucked back in to cozy upon my departure. I was informed that they could sometimes have nervous tummies when their owners were away. Well, who doesn’t? The standard wait-time for eating in nervous-bellied pooches is three days. They drink, they eat treats, and they survive until the third day, when they decide they want to live to see their family return and give in to the kibble. Textbook.

The first time I entered the home, I was startled by the unmistakable odor of uncontrolled, explosive, liquid poo. The sight was far beyond what I’d imagined in my nightmares. Each dog was frantic, friendly and excited to meet me, yet, alarmed, splashing around in a pond of their own excrement, with a pattern of crusty fireworks on the white wall just behind them. Clearly, I hadn’t been given the full story about these cases of “nervous tummies,” and, certainly, these dogs had been carefully selected for me as the créme de la créme of jobs to pass along to gullible competitors.

I spent the next two hours bathing the dogs, laundering their bedding, and hosing off their crates. I, of course, let my “boss” know, and requested that she inform her client that her animals were quite ill. I doubt that she did, as my concerns were promptly ignored, and I was told that all of this was quite normal. I, too, had to be disinfected…legs scrubbed free of graffiti left by happy paws. Best not to go into detail.

For the next four days, the dogs’ situation was much the same. I felt awful for them, but also became resentful and curious as to why such a problem was passed on to me, and, even more so, why my “boss” had no desire to check on them herself. Maybe that’s a story for another time.

Don’t worry. The dogs lived and fared well. My lesson was learned. I experienced what is grosser than gross, and, that, I must censor for your own good. To put on a positive spin, the dogs and I certainly bonded. I think I perhaps provided the best care they had ever received.

So you ask about gross? All I could do was use it as a learning experience. Don’t pet sit for competitors’ clients. Always have direct contact with pet parents. Know that “nervous tummy” is a cute euphemism. Love the animals, no matter what (they actually enjoy nine bubble baths in four days). And always know where your nearest barf bag is.

Oh, and when the client tells you that he’d like to hire you for future visits because you did much, much better than the pet sitter they hired in the first place, take the high road and teach him a thing or two about loyalty.


the green side of well minded

Happy Earth Day!

As a family and as a business (yes, lines get blurred), we’ve been “going green” for many years. It’s a never-ending, evolving process that we love to educate ourselves about and improve upon.

Why do we consider ourselves a green company?

• We are nearly paperless. We do jot things down and ask for a few old-fashioned signatures with brand-new clients, but once our initial consultation is over, all confirmations and invoicing is done online. We take booking requests online and are able to send confirmations and invoices online, as well.

• We use biodegradable bags for waste cleanups on walks, in yards, and when scooping litter. If our clients leave us biodegradable bags, we credit their account $1 per day. So, if you’re traveling for seven days, and we pick up your doggy droppings and kitty litter every day you’re gone (which we do), when you leave us biodegradable bags to use, you’ll automatically see a $7 credit on your invoice. That probably covers the whole month’s supply of bags, right? Easy!

• We walk a lot. And we hike. Traveling by foot is super eco-friendly. And since we live in the desert, we drink a lot of water when we’re exercising. So we use reusable water bottles for both humans and animals, and we use reusable, collapsable pet bowls when we’re on the go.

• In our home/office, we haven’t purchased paper towels for over three years. HUH? It’s TRUE! We use cloth rags for everything, even pet messes! Yes, it CAN be done. We first tried it as a challenge, and it became second nature–part of our lifestyle. What do we do if an animal barfs on the rug? Well, we get out a few rags, then throw them in the washer. It works!

• We use non-toxic, ecofriendly cleaners. Not only do our animals breathe easier, our whole family does. And no one has to worry about the scary stuff in bleach, disinfectants, and the like. Feel free to lick your paws!

• We’re making more vegan choices, which impacts our earth every single day. We’re learning and striving as a family business to get there 100%.

• When we go on our lunch break, we use reusable containers to hold our grub.

• Porter, our six-year-old junior pet sitter, is in the Save the Earth Club at his school. He comes home with ideas for us to discuss and helps our family business stay on an earth-friendly path.

• We recycle everything we can. And we use reusable bags when we shop. That’s not very impressive, hopefully. Shouldn’t we all be doing this by now?

What will we do next?

• We’re researching taking online payments, so you won’t have to send a paper check anymore. Just blame my slight fear of figuring it all out for the delay.

• We’ve been doing lots of research on composting, but haven’t taken the plunge, yet. We’re excited to start!

Being “green” is not black or white. It’s a process, and it’s about making gradual changes that fit into your family’s life. It’s about being the best you can be, and being better than you were yesterday. It’s a family affair, including your pets. Think about how you and your pet can be just a little bit friendlier to the earth tomorrow. Maybe you use biodegradable waste bags, or clean up that pet mess with natural cleaners. Or maybe you walk instead of drive, and dispose of a piece of trash someone else left along the way.


a day at the Phoenix Pet Expo

The aroma of churros and dog poop guided us to the family fun at  the Phoenix Pet Expo at the University of Phoenix Stadium. The littles were impressed with the scale of the building and number of well-behaved pets before we even entered the gates. Once we did, we were corralled down a long winding ramp, since no dogs were allowed on the escalators, naturally. My dog, N.A.S.H.A., is a bit of a nut case, so I borrowed a better-behaved client’s dog, instead.

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Our borrowed pooch was a bit of a snob about the other “lesser” pets, but she had fun and was very well behaved.

Parking and admission were free. Sweet! Once inside, we were overwhelmed by the scale of the event. There were over 200 vendors and rescue groups in attendance.

Over 200 vendors and rescue groups attended the Phoenix Pet Expo.

Our borrowed pooch was a bit of a snob about the drooly community water bowls and wading pools, but it was nice that these things were provided. They even had several designated potty areas, complete with real grass, waste bags, and trash cans.

This is where serious business went down.

We made some new friends.

Cam and I were too frightened to be in the picture.

Move over, Clifford.

The littles had the opportunity to meet some exotic pets, too, including a boa constrictor, which they weren’t shy at all about petting. When your mom is a pet sitter and you get to take care of all sorts of animals, you get pretty brave at a young age.

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“He feels so smooth, Mommy…he’s cute!”

The booths had a lot going on to attract us to their wares and causes. We learned about some new and amazing products that I’ll share with you soon. Po, my six-year-old son, brought one dollar from his piggy bank and agonized about what to spend it on. He finally decided that he and his sister would donate it for a chance to spin the Pet Club wheel of fortune to win some treats for the pooches in their lives.

Cam anxiously awaits her turn while Po puts some muscle into it.

Porter won some Nylabone NutriDent dental chews, and Cam won some Natural Balance Tillman’s Treats.

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The littles were proud to have donated to Pet Club charities and to win some prizes.

The littles’ favorite activity was the “For the Love of My Pet” booth, which had many free activities for them to participate in. The kids each created their own dog puppets with help from Owen Burgess, author of For the Love of My Pet.

Cam and Po showing off their new friends.

We all enjoyed watching demonstrations in agility, flyball, and dock diving.

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Agility demonstration.

There was just so much to do at the Phoenix Pet Expo! Though we resisted adopting a new family member, the event would have been a wonderful setting in which to do so, with so many animals in need of homes. If you are an animal lover or are looking for a free day of fun for your kids, I would highly recommend attending next year’s Phoenix Pet Expo.  Just watching the pets in attendance stroll by was a treat in itself!