Welcome Home

If you read yesterday’s post, you know that we traveled out of town this weekend. You also know that we took Tonka & Gaige. Thankfully, my parents are dog lovers, and always treat our pooches like their grandchildren. (Read: Spoiled. Rotten.) However, in their brand new house in a gated community (without a fenced-in yard!) it isn’t the best place for all THREE of their grandpuppies. On top of that, neither of our vehicles are quite large enough to comfortably accommodate three dogs, two people, and all of our belongings, on a 6+ hour drive. Out of the three dogs, Gia is the one that can become most stressed out in new situations, so we have always felt that she would be most comfortable staying in her normal surroundings here at her home with our close friends.

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

A snuggly puppy makes cramped quarters less comfy... but exponentially more adorable!

A snuggly puppy makes cramped quarters less comfy… but exponentially more adorable!

All of that has always been true, until this trip… poor girl lost. her. mind. when we left without her. 😦 She was barking and crying and scratching at her kennel after seeing us loading up the truck with our bags and being left in her kennel without Gaige in the one right beside her. Babygirl was not happy… and of course, then neither was I. We’re talking crocodile tears here… how could I leave her when she was so visibly upset?

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving more than one dog here for our friends to watch. The girls have had a tendency to try to wander off lately, even when I’m right there calling them to come back… we need to work on our recalls! The spring bunnies in the yard are just more tempting than anything that I can offer. Because of that, I have been leashing them more often than not, and I just feel like two dogs with shakey recalls is too much to ask of a friend/pet-sitter. We are getting closer to being able to purchase and install a fence, but that hasn’t happened yet. So I left Gia content with a delicious frozen Kong, and made my way hesitantly out the door… armed with constant contact from my friend, who offered regular photos and updates to keep me from feeling too guilty or heart sick.

These are a few of the photos they sent me <3

These are a few of the photos they sent me ❤

0516132030As hard as it was for all of us to be away from our girl, it was all worth it when we came home… when I came to her kennel, little lady just stared out at me in disbelief! It was like she hadn’t thought we were ever coming back 😦 Once she realized that it was really me, she gave me the most enthusiastic welcome home that I’ve ever received… wags and kisses and paws were all flying!

Life has returned to normal here in the AFM5 household (aside from the flu bug I brought home as a souvenir from our trip. Ugh!) All of this has left me with a lot of thoughts, and a driving passion to start something that has been on my mind and heart for a little while… I know that I sound a bit cryptic, but I promise I will share more with all of you as the process continues! Until then, I want to know:

1) What do you do with your pets when you travel? Do they go along with you, stay in their own home, or visit a fun place?

2) If you opt to have someone else stay with your dog, what are your non-negotiables? What requirements do you have?

3) What are some services, skills, or experiences that you wish your dog sitter or kennel offered?

4) What is your budget for your pet’s care when you are away?

5) What is the best experience you have had with trusting someone to care for your pet, and why? Did it keep you coming back?

6) What is the worst experience you have had in trusting someone to watch your pet, and why? How did you handle it?

I really appreciate any and all input that you can share with me!

10 thoughts on “Welcome Home

  1. My husband and I do frequent motorcycle trips, anywhere from one night up to a 12 night adventure last year. We are lucky having five kids at home (the youngest is 13) who are very responsible taking care of the house and dogs while we’re gone. The dogs are always excited to see us when we get back but I get the feeling they’re rather spoiled while we’re away 😉

  2. My sister stays at my house when I travel. It’s nice to have someone there to watch over the house too. She brings her 3 dogs, adding to my 2 plus my cat. Thankfully her situation allows for that – her man is an over the road truck driver who is home only once a month. :o( She’s moving out of state this fall so I’m at a loss on what to do. My dogs are pretty high maintenance so it’s a lot to ask someone to watch them. They act out when not kept on their schedule of morning and evening walks. The only kennel in my area is at a veterinary office but they’re so tiny I’m not sure I can bring myself to do that to my pups. I’m hesitant to trust a stranger to stay in my home and none of my other friends can – they all have kids and other obligations. Plus my one pup is dog selective. Wow, I may never go anywhere again. LOL!

  3. Our dogs come along, although the fosters occasionally stay at the vet clinic. The only person who has ever watched them was my dad, when our travel involved flying – yes, we drove 11 hours to PA with 3 dogs and 2 people in a coupe with the back seats down for our dog sitter and an excuse to spend some time back home. All of our friends locally didn’t have pet friendly housing, had a dog that wouldn’t want to put up with ours long-term, and our pack at the time was just too much to give all to one person.l

    We have kenneled a dog once in my life and were not satisfied with the experience. If my family flies somewhere, they have trusted college students who they’ve known for years stay at their house but if the trip is an 18 hr drive or less you better bet the dog goes! As often as my in-laws try to say we should just kennel the dogs because it would “be easier,” it is not usually in our budget and I’ve heard of too many negative experiences to be comfortable with it.

    In the event that kenneling ever became unavoidable for me, I would only go to one that came with extremely strong referrals from people I know well who have used it several times, that also had a large number of positive and detailed online reviews (not on their own website), where I could check out the facilities ahead of time, good fencing, supervised group/individual play, lots of one-on-one time with humans, non-shelter-like sleeping facilities, willing to have Gambit continue to follow ALL of his usual rules. Even then I’d still be hesitant. The latest one that was suggested to us (with the idea that we could leave the dog there while staying in a hotel in the same city) had photos online of side-by-side chicken wire fences and the kennels looked just like the shelter – tiny, concrete floors, 3 concrete walls and a chain link gate. Gambit will be much happier hanging out in a cozy hotel room and sneaking onto the bed.

  4. Our pets (well, Edison) is high-maintenance like Kristin’s, so we hate asking someone to watch them for free. I have had my sister and a few trustworthy friends watch them in the past, so I know I can find someone, but I just feel like I am burdensome! When it was just Tess, it wasn’t a problem. Tess has pretty severe separation anxiety, so boarding isn’t an option!

    We try to bring them along wherever we can. My mom (not an animal-lover) graciously let’s the pooches come (as long as someone is home with them at all times)…even my aunt (also not an animal-lover) let’s them come over!! For those trips we can’t bring them along, we have a dog walker come over 3 times a day: once in the morning, once in the early afternoon, and once before bed. Our walker came highly recommended by several people and she has been wonderful! Our biggest issue is that Ed is just so. much. work. So I need to know that they have experience with a dog with his issues. He is not to be approached by people or dogs (we are working with him, but do not want someone else to have an issue without us being present). The pooches love having the dog walker come — she takes them for a walk each visit and plays in the yard/house with them for over an hour! I still get nervous that Ed will act out, and wish that I could see her interact with them somehow.

    Unfortunately, all the dog walkers in our area are around $15 per visit – so a weekend ends up being about $100. If we were to travel longer, we might have to work something else out. Since we have very few options.

    Our current dog walker is great – my only issue is that she gets booked pretty quickly and has to travel about 30 minutes to my house, so I can’t call her last minute. She’s had no real issues with the pooches, and has seen Ed at his worst (right after we brought him home — if she can handle that, she can handle anything!)

    We were looking to have a back-up walker (for those cases when our regular isn’t available). I had a recommendation and we tried an early afternoon walk one week with particularly late evenings. Everything went well until the last day – a woman approached them and even with our walkers warnings not to approach the woman did and Ed jumped at her and grabbed her jacket. I know it wasn’t her fault, but maybe she should have simply turned and walked in the other direction? While I wouldn’t never call her again, it’s something I think twice about.

    Whew…sorry so long!!

  5. I dislike air travel because it means being away from my Kahlua baby 😦 But when I do go, I request friends or use Pet Paradise which I wrote about here : http://thoughtsofalessercanine.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/tails-of-a-boarded-house-puppy/

    I loved your post ! I almost cried myself when you described how Gia was crying 😦 I’m amazed she settled down with the Kong! Kahlua does this thing when I’m leaving (even for work) where he will set the treat/kong aside, and just look at me, with those EYES!!! 😦 And it remains untouched until I return!

  6. We haven’t gone away in a while but when we do we’ve found a good boarding facility where Boomer and Dottie can stay in an indoor/outdoor air conditioned/heated run with two beds and a camera. Yep, a camera, so I can log into their website and check on them whenever I want to. Having the two of them together is best because Dottie gets really nervous when she’s alone. We used to have someone come to the house and stay with them but none of them are available… sad…

  7. We usually try to plan vacations with the dawgs in mind (we even honeymooned with them!). We took them on two separate trips to the Coast this past year instead of leaving them. Of course, we can’t take them everywhere so we have a dog sitter and a backup boarding facility that we use. The dog sitter is amazing! I knew he would be perfect when he came over for the pre-sitting gig meet & greet and Sadie never barked at him, not once. The boarding facility is a farm about an hour away from our house. The dogs get to romp & play in actual grassy fields all day long, which makes me happy about leaving them. I like to kid around that when we board them, it’s like they are going to doggie camp.

    With 3 dogs, it can get pretty expensive. I look for people & organizations that give discounts for multiple dogs. Since they can and should share walks, kennels, etc, I feel that multi-dog discounts should be standard. I also think long stays should get a discount as well. We are looking to take a 10-14 day trip to Central America next summer so I’ll be talking to both our pet care options about how many free days we’ll get for all 3 dogs for 2 weeks (also, this is why we plan most of our vacations to include the dogs because it gets pricey FAST). I usually budget $75/night for all 3 dogs. The sitter costs a little less and the boarding facility a little more.

    Since all 3 of my dogs have some issues, I require that our sitter/boarder is well-versed in dealing with leash reactive dogs. This is not so much an issue with the boarder since they are off leash most of the time. I’ve talked extensively with our dog sitter about how we train to make sure he’s on board with our training methods. I also really like boarding facilities who incorporate training/basic obedience into part of the package. For instance, when we boarded Maggie at camp the first time, I was that crazy dog lady who told them repeatedly and wrote all over the paperwork about how she was aggressive towards small dogs and then reminded them a million times. When I dropped her off, they asked me if it was all right if they worked on that with her (no extra charge – they just have it part of their boarding fee to work on basics with each dog every day). When we picked her up, she was hanging out in a play group with a Chihuahua! That was the turning point in her getting over her aggression issues.

    So my priorities would be:
    -trustworthiness & positive training/handling methods
    -multi-dog & long stay discounts
    -offer more than just the basics: feed 2 meals and 1 walk. I want my dog’s caretaker to engage in play &/or training.

  8. Well, like you, I don’t like being without my dogs so most of my vacations are to my parents house a few hours away in the mountains. I even bring my cat, Gina, too! But if I have to fly somewhere, I have my petsitters stay with them at my house. I wouldn’t mind the dogs staying at someone else’s house but then Gina would be lonely so that’s how it is. I do like this option though because they’re comfortable there and know the routine. I would never board them because they’ve never been kenneled or even crated and I don’t like the idea of them being in one place with so many dogs.

    Non-negotiables – They have to stay overnight. The dogs have never been alone overnight and since I work from home they are used to having someone around a lot in general. At least an hour a day exercise, preferably off leash. It may sound like a weird requirement but 99% of our outings are off leash so that’s what they’re used to and they build up too much energy otherwise.

    I looked for and like the fact that my petsitters know dogs and have a lot of experience around them. They know their body language and instincts so they can read what a situation or iteraction means and how to deal with it, especially since Kaya & Norman go off leash and run into other dogs. Couch time is important too. I want someone who will just hang out with them, not just stop by and feed/walk them.

    My petsitters charge 30/day which I think is very reasonable for 2 dogs, 1 cat.

    Best experience – I love that my petsitters have the right balance of being doglovers and stay relaxed about the little silly things they do but they are also serious about their care and well being. They also send daily texts, pictures and videos and reply to me right away if I text them first. I’ve rehired them several times, I love not worrying about the pets when I’m away!

    Worst experience – The first person I found to watch the dogs left the gate open, the dogs got out and ended up at the shelter! Luckily their microchips were scanned and they got home safe. In the end I think she was just too young and inexperienced. She ended up suing me for the money she spent to get them out of the shelter and I lost even with plenty of evidence that she was careless:(

  9. I hate leaving our dogs even for just one night, but when we both have to go away overnight I have two good friends I can trust to look after them and if it is for a few nights then they go to a kennel. Bundy seems to cope well but Maxi always looks like she loses a little weight, both our vet and the owner of the kennel we use have said that they are good kennel dogs, they get daily walks and playtime, plus a bath and their nails clipped before they come home which is a nice touch.

    When we went overseas for 2 months Maxi stayed with my folks, they’re used to looking after an old dog and Maxi loves being on the farm and walking in the paddock with my Mum. Mum also has a good vet and we were able to send down all Maxi’s x-rays and medication just in case she had problems with her arthritis. Bundy stayed home with a friend who agreed to housesit, she had only ever looked after a cat and a small dog but is the type of person you can trust to look after your house and pets better than you can. The non-negotiables with Bundy is that he is not allowed outside of our yard off leash and when he and Maxi are together, no bones or pigs ears because Bundy guards them. I let our vet know that someone else was looking after him in case something happened while we were away, the vet said they would just bill us when we returned if required. The worst part was re-introducing them and getting them back into ‘our’ routine which took some time, Bundy had been used to being king of the castle and wasn’t happy about sharing the attention and space.

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