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Why a snow removal policy is best practice for pet sitters and their clients

Now is the time to enact this policy.

To my wonderful readers,

This is an important post for pet sitters and pet owners alike who live in wintry climates.

The season is here when we'll be getting weather reports about snowstorms both big and small. Snow can make venturing outside difficult and commuting between homes for pet visits a challenge for pet sitters.

If a pet sitter does not have a snow removal policy then they are setting themselves up for challenging times. If a pet sitting client doesn't understand the importance of this policy, then they are setting their pets up for some challenging times as well.

If a pet sitter cannot get into a client's driveway after a snowfall of 2" or more, then they cannot get to the pets. This can be a big problem. In many areas, towns will not allow people to park their cars on the side of the road during a snowfall without getting ticketed, snowed under by a plow, or towed. These scenarios are frightening to a good pet sitter who could have his/her day royally messed up or ruined if the car is towed away.

I stated more than 2" of snow because we have to consider the pile that will be greater than 2" that the town's snowplow will deposit at the end of the driveway. If a pet sitter doesn't have an all-wheel-drive car big enough to get itself over this pile of snow at the end of the driveway, it presents a problem.

If a pet sitter has to shovel herself/himself into the client's driveway that takes up more time and either eats away at the visit time within the house or makes the sitter later for his/her next client. Imagine at least 3-4 houses on a snowy morning that do not have their driveway plowed before the sitter gets there and you'll have a sitter who will be very late for all visits, extremely tired, and extremely frustrated. If a snow removal person is not provided I can bet my bottom dollar that the pet sitter will not sit for that client again in the winter months. The client in many cases will have an additional charge by the pet sitter for the time it took to shovel him/herself into the driveway.

As you can probably tell by now, a snow removal policy is important in the winter months. An unplowed driveway wreaks havoc on a sitter's schedule and access to pets.

When I started out as a pet sitter, which was in the month of January in a New England town, I was too naive to think of the need for a snow removal policy. Boy, did I have a wake-up call. I shoveled myself into several driveways that winter and quickly developed a policy for the next season.

Lessons I've learned over my many years of pet sitting is that all clients should give the pet sitter the name and number of their snow removal person - whether it is a neighbor or a professional company. Ask your client to have a conversation with their snow removal person - and let them know that the driveway needs to be cleared by a certain time because they will have a pet sitter coming to their home within a window of time.

I learned about the importance of getting the snow removal person's contact info early into the second winter of pet sitting. I went to one house FOUR times one morning and each time I went the snow removal wasn't done. I didn't get to the cats until 10 AM. I thought, lucky it wasn't a house with a dog who had to go piddle. At least cats had a litter box and I knew I had left some extra dry food out for them because I knew of the impending snowstorm. Think of the time and gas I spent trying to get into that house.

After that situation, I had all clients not just tell me they had a removal person, but they also had to give me the snow remover's phone number so I could call them the day/night before to confirm or remind them that I needed to get into the driveway by a certain time. This helped immensely. Snow removal people are busy but if they know a helpless pet is in the house they are usually more than gracious in getting to a property in time. But if they are told a week in advance by the client they may forget there are pets there, so a reminder call, at the pet sitter's discretion, is important.

The very first winter I was pet sitting and before I thought of a snow removal policy - and hadn't heard any other professional pet sitter bring up this topic - I had a few stressful situations.

I had a client on a state road in the country. He told me he had an automatic snow removal person and I should not worry. Because I was still "green", I was fine with that and didn't get any contact info because the client said the plower would get to his 1/8 of a mile long driveway in plenty of time before I would arrive at their home to care for their golden retriever and feisty cat.

I arrived at said time and there was a huge mound of snow (1-2 feet) at the end of the long driveway that wound through the woods. I couldn't park on the road for fear of what I mentioned above - getting snowed under, towed, or ticketed. I couldn't leave and come back because I knew the dog had to go out. So I ended up driving to the neighbor's home, which was about an 8th of a mile away. They were plowed out already and I asked them if I could park in their driveway while I cared for their neighbor's pets. Luckily they were gracious and let me park there. I had to walk back to my client's home, sludge through a foot of snow, and entered the house. I had to do that not once, but twice because when I returned for the mid-morning visit to get the dog out, it still had not been plowed. I had no contact info and the clients were on a cruise ship and could not be contacted. So I had to park in the neighbor's driveway and walk again. Finally, the plower came in time for the next visit. Big lesson learned!

In wintertime, the best scenario for me had clients who lived in condo complexes because they seemed to always have their plow people out before dawn and I didn't have to worry so much about those situations.

After this first winter, my snow removal policy was already mulling around in my head.

I had compassion for clients who typically would plow out their own driveway, but they were the ones going away, so I had to impose on them to hire somebody just in case. They understood because they wanted me to get to their pets. I had maybe one or two clients who refused and told me it was okay to park in the road, even though they were wrong about that, so I'd politely decline to pet sit for them in the winter months. It wasn't worth the time, energy, or stress for me. That is the beauty of having one's own business because if I had been working for somebody else I might not have had the luxury of organizing things the way I knew they'd work out best for everyone.

My snow removal policy said: by December 1, all clients needed to provide me with the name and number of their snow removal person, and that needed to be in effect through April 15th. Here in the east, we can get early or late snowfalls, so I thought those were fair dates.

My policy also said that I would ask the client whenever they called to set up pet sitting service during these policy dates to confirm the name and number of the snow removal person. This was because, as I also found out through trial and error, sometimes a removal person changes.

I do want to be clear about something: I wasn't a diva in all of this. I only required the driveways to be cleared enough to get my car in and out. I didn't mind sludging from the end of the driveway up the sidewalks and to the home in the snow and never required their sidewalks to be cleared. However, most snow plow services did the entire driveway.

Winter weather is a hassle for everyone in colder climates. As professional pet sitters, we have to think of all the scenarios that can prevent us from getting to serve our furry and feathery friends. Usually, pet sitting clients are more than happy and understand and WANT us to be able to get to their homes.

I had some clients who honestly could not find someone in time to clear their driveway and in those rare situations, I did inform them that if I had to shovel myself into and out of their driveway, I would have to charge extra for it. I only had to do that twice in my entire time of pet sitting. Most people can find snow removal people. Plus, since I already had a list of snow removal people of other clients, sometimes I would ask if I could pass along the name to other clients. Again, a win-win situation.

The thing about pet sitting - or any business I suppose - is that we are all humans and we as business people try to make things wonderful for our clients.

Once the reasons for a snow removal policy are explained, pet sitting clients are more than welcome to set up a snow removal service.

I hope this helps explain things enough for all of you wonderful pet sitters and clients and friends who read my blog.

Please share my site with others. I'm trying to increase my readership and your help is greatly appreciated!




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