The Coronavirus, cruise ships, and pet care
On the news today, a reporter stated that the people who can't leave cruise ships due to the Coronavirus are aching to get back home to their regular lives, their family, and their pets. When I heard that, I knew I had to get busy and write this post.
It's situations like this when pet owners find out just how valuable their pet sitters really are. A good pet sitter will always discuss out of the ordinary travel situations that may occur far before the actual situation arises - usually at the pet sitting Meet and Greet. And if not then, the conversation has to happen just prior to a trip. Doing this gives added comfort and peace of mind to the pet sitting client, even though at the time the topic is brought up some pet owners might respond with "Oh that won't happen to us". But an experienced pet sitter knows that weird things DO happen sometimes and so having a conversation about these things is important.
At the Meet and Greet* it is helpful for pet owners and pet sitters to have a conversation about what the sitter will do if an owner is delayed coming home from their trip, or what the pet sitter will do if the client totally fails to return from the trip. This includes a situation where a client cannot contact the sitter to state they are stuck at their travel location due to communications being disrupted.
Case in point: I had a situation once when my pet sitting clients didn't return from their trip for an additional three days and they could not contact me due to a total lack of ability to communicate because of a tornado situation until the day after they were scheduled to return home.
While my pet sitting clients were dealing with the aftermath of the tornado crisis, the one thing they told me they had was peace of mind that their pets were okay and were still being cared for on a regular basis until they could get home. This is because we had a conversation in advance of their trip. During the midst of this crisis, they had some peace and that helped reduce their overall anxiety.
At the Meet and Greet, I explained to them that my policy was if, for any reason, they didn't come home as scheduled, or I couldn't reach them at their contact numbers or hotel number, and they couldn't reach me, that they could trust I would assume something was wrong and would continue pet care and would continue to try to reach them until they arrived home. I also asked them for phone numbers of their next of kin just in case I couldn't find them at all and felt the situation was dire enough to reach out to a relative.
To continue with my example, my clients didn't have phone service for more than 24 hours after the tornado and they couldn't get to the airport to come home and couldn't call me. I also knew their location and heard on the news that there was a tornado in that area, so I assumed that they just couldn't get home at that time, and I was right. I continued pet care and kept trying the phone numbers they gave me. I decided to wait another day until I would try the next of kin because I didn't want to worry any relative needlessly and I knew the tornado news said there were no fatalities. Sure enough, just a bit after 24 hours later, they contacted me.
Despite the crisis, they knew their pets were okay because they remembered the conversation we had about my "emergency continuation of services" policy. It was that situation that cemented the value of my pet sitting services to them. Most of all I delivered peace of mind to them, and that was always my main goal. They made me feel like a bit of a hero, but I was just doing what they hired me to do - to take great care of their pets!
This Coronavirus and the cruise ships situation is probably creating many such similar situations with the people who have pet sitters caring for their pets back home. The good news in this situation is that they have phones and e-mails so they can at least communicate with each other. It is just a matter of continuing services until the owners can leave the cruise ships and are medically approved to head home.
In order to continue with emergency services, pet sitters have to adjust their pet sitting schedules, which could include getting an even earlier start to their daily pet visits because they have to fit in more stops, or staying out later in the evening in order to meet all the pets' needs. It may mean canceling personal plans to accommodate their clients' crisis.
I salute all the wonderful pet sitters who are, at this very moment, continuing to care for pets while their owners are stuck on cruise ships in various places around the globe, and who are keeping up on the news and communicating back and forth with their clients!
Reflection Questions for pet sitters:
Do you have an emergency care policy for your pet sitting clients and how have you communicated it to them?
Do you have a client's "next of kin" contact information just in case a client totally fails to return from their trip?
Reflection Question for pet owners:
Do you know your pet sitter's emergency policies for various situations?
* Please see my previous post on what a pet sitting Meet and Greet is all about.