Do you dread coming home from vacation to a traumatized dog that smells like the kennel he's been stuck at for a week? Two entrepreneurs in Ripon have come up with a solution for you. Meet Terry Frase and Lori McNichols, the women behind 2 by 2 Petcare.
Pet sitting may sound like an easy part time gig, but Frase and McNichols are true professionals. Their business is licensed, bonded and insured, and they are members in good standing of Pet Sitters International. McNichols, who does much of the primary pet care, has taken courses in animal nutrition, basic obedience and even pet first aid. It may be a job they love, but they are committed to making sure that your pet is safe and having a good time while you can't be with your four-footed friend.
So what precisely does a pet sitter do? Well, for $18/day, Frase and McNichols will come to your house twice a day, spending no less than forty-five minutes each time with your cat or dog. Standard included with that price is feeding, watering and cleaning up the yard or litter box after your pet. That's not forty-five minutes of watching kibble collect dust, though. That includes making sure your pet gets some extra attention to tide them over until their beloved owner can return.
"There's a lot more to it than putting down a dish of food," McNichols explained. "We try to make a connection with every [animal] client."
Laughing, the women related a story of one particular job where they received a compliment from their client. The pet owner had returned from vacation to hear from her neighbor that Frase and McNichols had indeed been outside, frolicking with the dog. How did the neighbor know? He was watching from his two-story window next door. "People probably think we're crazy," said Frase with a smile. "We don't wear good clothes when we work, because we really get down and play with the animals."
"You've got to prove yourself every time. The neighbors watch," McNichols added.
The neighbors aren't the only ones. Because they come and go when people are known to be away on vacation, the two business women have found themselves scrutinized by cleaning services and staked out by the police. That's why they present every pet owner with a kit when they take a job. The kit includes cards to fill out and help owners to remember to notify neighbors, law enforcement and the veterinarian that someone else will be taking care of their cat or dog while they are away. The kit also includes a contract to fill out, so that both parties know exactly what will be expected from the experience. Taking your pet on outings to Petsmart or the park can easily be part of the routine, as can some simple conveniences you might not expect. McNichols and Frase vary the exact times they show up to take care of your pet to help foil any would-be burglaries. They'll also open and close blinds, adjust lighting and do other things to make the house look inhabited while the owners are out. And since they're there twice a day anyway, for a little extra, you can ask them to do other things, like water the plants or bring in the mail. They've even hand watered a lawn for a client. Although dogs are their mainstay, 2 by 2 has also been pleased to pet sit cats, fish, rabbits, king snakes, pythons, chameleons, and bearded dragons. From helping a cockatoo who can't perch, to a blind, diabetic Cocker Spaniel who needs a special diet and insulin shots, 2 by 2 Petcare are also accustomed to meeting pets' particular needs.
So who hires a pet sitter to come out to watch their animal companion? For the most part, their clients are people who go on vacation and either want their canine security system left on while they're away, or who want to make sure their pampered pooch doesn't get too lonely. Sunshine is a trained, first level attack dog whose mistress was going out of the country. Because of the animal's training, it could not be allowed outside to play, so Frase and McNichols were hired to spend two full hours a day inside the house with the hundred pound Rottweiler. Not every client fits that model, however. Bubba the bulldog gets to see Frase and McNichols once a week year round. His owners both work full time and don't like the idea of him being stuck in the house alone for so long. Frase and McNichols are more than happy to come by and give him some exercise and attention.
"We really enjoy that the pets are happy to see us come back," said McNichols. "We've never had a dog who wasn't." The two women understand that not every dog is willing to be an instant best friend, however. While learning how to interact with Sunshine (who only understands commands given in French) was an extreme, Frase and McNichols have lots of experience with "rescue dogs", too. According to McNichols, "There's still a chance for that connection, but you have to be patient and go a lot slower."
McNichols and Frase keep a daily log of the activities they perform with their animal clients, as well as the animal's general behavior and condition. They also have a cell phone on them at all times, and owners are encouraged to use the number. "For the most part, these are people's babies," Frase admits. "We have no problem with putting the phone right down to their ear, if that's what the owners want."
If pet sitting sounds like a lot of work, it can be. But these two business women love their job, and their clients love them. "All our clients are repeat clients," McNichols said. Sometimes very affectionate repeat clients, but neither woman minds. "We've been in business for several years," McNichols chuckled, "and I have yet to come down with some horrible disease from dog kisses."
"We've never had any cat or dog that hasn't been an absolute charm," Frase agreed. "We have a special love for each one of them."
A brief pause, then McNichols adds, "Even the bearded dragon."
For more information, contact 2 by 2 Petcare at (209)599-4684.
This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.
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