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  • Linda

Thank God I was prepared for this pet sitting situation

Advanced preparation for out-of-the-ordinary situations is a must in the pet sitting world

It was my second full winter as a professional pet sitter, and a solo sitter at that.

The forecast called for snow and lots of it. A blizzard! I wasn't too stressed about it because I only had one client scheduled so I knew that I wouldn't have to figure in extra time to get from one client's home to the next. I could take my time to and from my client's home should the need arise due to snow.

One thing you come to know as a pet sitter, and also just as a driver in general, is how many roads have little hills that make driving more slippery and treacherous in a snow event. In great weather, they don't seem like much trouble but in snow, a drive that might take you ten minutes could suddenly take you twenty minutes or more.

As I mentioned, I just had one client for a supper visit and then a breakfast visit the next morning to worry about. A golden cat! The forecast had predicted snow for that Friday night and Saturday morning. I was confident that I could handle the situation but also relieved that I didn't have more stops to make during my pet sitting rounds that weekend. It was one less thing to worry about.

As a pet sitter, you also learn to pay attention to the weather so you can be prepared for various situations. As the day progressed, it was cloudy and breezy. The forecast took a turn for the worse about mid-afternoon. My client's home was about a ten-minute drive during decent weather, and it was slightly uphill so I figured I could get there within 15 minutes if the weather got dicey.

My visit was scheduled for 6 pm. As the clock got to 5 pm I realized I wasn't dealing with just your everyday New England snow. This was going to be a big one.

Being not only a pet sitter, but a "forever Girl Scout", and a practical-thinking New Englander, I decided to hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Instead of 15 minutes travel time, I gave myself a good twenty minutes. Twice as long as it would normally take to get there. My concern was that I'd get there without an issue but what about getting back to the house in the morning? The weather was predicting a good two feet of snow.

I arrived on time, 6:00 PM. My normal pet visit was 30-35 minutes long, and by the time the visit ended and I looked out the window. I knew that I knew that I knew that there was no way I was going to get back to the house for the morning visit or even the next day's scheduled suppertime visit.

I sat on my client's couch and had a "meeting" with their cat. I said, "'Cat' (name changed to protect the innocent - LOL!), we have a problem." The cat listened with much attention and after some deliberation, we came up with a suitable plan which would work only if the client gave permission.

Desperate times call for desperate measures so I called the client who was away in a sunny clime and described the situation. As fellow New Englanders, they were well aware of what I was facing. I explained that I had serious concerns that if I left their home I would not be able to make it back until much later in the day the next day, and maybe not even for another 24-36 hours. It was really bad out there!

My other fear, which I mentioned to my clients, was that even though I could realistically leave plenty of food out for their cat in case I wasn't able to show up until Sunday morning, that I had my doubts, that the car I had at the time (a car that stunk in the snow) would even get me home that night. I was worried I might be stranded along the way which would create even more problems in getting to their home the next day.

I really hated to bother them on vacation, but as part of our pre-trip discussion, knowing they were going away in winter, they told me not to hesitate to call them for any reason. So I called.

I had packed my car with my sleeping bag, extra clothes, shovel, and food just in case I was stranded at their home and couldn't leave. We worked out an easy plan that I'd just bunk out on their living room floor or spread the sleeping bag out on their couch and stay overnight. No extra charge to them of course.

Typically I never offered overnights to clients for several reasons, but this was an emergency situation so it was the best choice for everyone's safety and peace of mind.

So, I went out to the car and got my stuff, and stayed over. I was so grateful that I packed and was ready. The cat was thrilled that I stayed over and cuddled with me - choosing to lay on top of my head or on my back all night long.

The next morning the weather remained horrid until about 10 AM. The blizzard continued. Their driveway was a hill and in my area, you can't park on the road during a snowstorm in most areas so I knew even if I got to their house in the morning that I would never be able to drive up their driveway.

I ended up being stranded at their house until the early afternoon on that Saturday. I had to wait for their snowplow person to get around to getting my car out. I had enough time to go home, shower, take care of some stuff including shoveling myself into my own driveway, and then went back to their place for the suppertime visit. By then our wonderful area snow people had made the roads passable.

I would have had a Plan B if the scenario included other clients' homes and pets. It would depend on the types of pets, distances to travel, services needed. In short, I would have crossed that bridge when I came to it, although I did have some solutions already floating through my mind.

A pet sitter MUST take care of their clients' pets regardless of the situation, so pre-trip discussions with clients are in order and plans must be put into place. Severe weather happens. Catastrophes happen. Emergency planning is essential.

Pet sitters are essential personnel to their clients and must be prepared to "be there" for their furry and feathery and scaly pets, to care for them, and be able to report that "everything is fine" to the clients so they can have peace of mind on their trips.

Thank God I was prepared for this pet sitting snowy situation!


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