When the owner’s away, the pets do play.
Castle Sitters, Inc. wants to see to their
Cheryl Feder, co-owner of Castle Sitters, inc., talks to Buddy the cat,
a daily client of the Reeders pet & house sitting business.
Janey, 6, has seizures. Sophie, 5, wants a lot of attention. Buddy, 10, has an immune deficiency condition. Sparky, 5, needed a place to go.
These family members keep Carol Stockdale of East Stroudsburg busy. But as a consultant to a jewelry store and owner of an embroidery business, Stockdale worries about leaving her little ones alone. Her husband, Jim, is often away because of his engineering job.
Janey and Sophie are long-haired dachshunds, and Buddy and Sparky are cats.
“I’m very animal-friendly,” Stockdale said. “I believe they have personality and feelings.” So last July, Stockdale hooked up with Castle Sitters, a pet-sitting and house-sitting service. She wanted someone to check on her pets, feed them, dispense medication and leave her house secure.
“It would have broken my heart to break their routine,” Stockdale said.
Besides, a change in routine might mean stressed pets and a destroyed home. But that doesn’t happen in the Stockdale household.
Stockdale said having a pet sitter allows her the freedom to work or travel with the peace of mind that the pets are safe and happy.
Stockdale said, “I would be very torn if these guys weren’t taking care of them.”
TRAPPED AT HOME
Last summer, Cheryl Feder realized that she could never go away for a vacation. What would she do with her two cats?
Cheryl Feder and her husband, Mark, talked it over with their business associates, Bryan and Diane MacFarlane. The two couples own the Community Express Newspaper, a monthly news journal.
The MacFarlanes had two dogs and often couldn’t manage to get away, either.
“We couldn’t ever go away. If it was a problem for us, it probably is for others,” said Cheryl Feder.
After doing some research and confirming what they suspected, the business associates opened Castle Sitters last July.
“We thought we’d be doing more house sitting, but pet lovers have really responded in the Poconos,” Bryan MacFarlane said.
The business has about 40 steady clients with other periodic customers. Customers are commuters, tourists, senior citizens and full-time residents. The majority are full-time residents.
They care for dogs, cats, birds, reptiles and fish. They also can fill bird feeders, water indoor/outdoor plants and lawn, mow the lawn and do snow removal for additional fees.
“People ask us if we’re bonded and insured. It’s a real trust issue,” MacFarlane said. “We take care of pets who are like members of the family. They’re giving us a key and a security system code.”
The business is bonded and insured. And, keys have only the pets’ names on them. This ensures that if the Castle Sitters’ owners’ homes are broken into, no one will have access to their clients’ homes.
Plus, people don’t have to take their pets out of their own environment.
“Most people are working all the time and (have) very little leisure time. They want to be able to take that weekend or week and know that their pet is not stressed in a kennel,” Cheryl Feder said.
That means making sure that there are ice cubes in one dog’s water dish, serving bottled water to a cat, cooking steak a certain way for a dog and opening the blinds to a certain position for a parrot, who also likes country music.
Cheryl Feder said, “They love their animals and want us to love them.”
A PET’S CASTLE
The sitter who first meets the pet is the one who will take care of the pet.
“Our goal is to keep the animal feeling happy and safe in its own environment,” Cheryl Feder said.
The preliminary visit includes filling out an information sheet, which includes the pet’s name, age, emergency phone numbers, pet’s habits, play activities, food instructions and more.
“We treat them better than people,” Bryan MacFarlane quipped.
The basic pet sitting service includes: cleaning the pet living area; cleaning and refilling food and water containers; letting the pet out for exercise and fresh air, if requested; taking the pet out for a walk, if requested; and playing with the pet.
After a visit, the pet owner receives a report card about the visit. It is also a place for notes to the pet owner about supplies or other details. They have also faxed these reports to vacation destinations and offices.
In conversation with these business people, animals were often referred to as “children,” as a result of recognizing their place in many households.
One client, a terrier named Max has his owner’s last name. Mark Feder and Max have developed an affinity for one another.
“I walk and feed him. Give him treats. We play; we talk. With Max, I don’t even put him on a leash. He is very smart and personable and we have a great relationship,” Mark Feder said. All animals are put on a leash for a walk, but Max’s owner recommended a walk without one.
The job does have its own set of hazards. After all, many dogs are territorial and act as guard dogs.
“A pet can have an attitude. They can be moody. They could have had a bad day,” Mark Feder said.
That’s why developing a relationship and having the same sitter is critical.
Mark Feder regularly visits a 130-pound black Labrador retriever. “He has the largest head I’ve ever seen on a creature with four legs,” said Mark Feder.
Once he gets in the home, he often finds it difficult to get out because the dog won’t let him go. He had to discover a trick to get out of the house: give the dog a bone with one hand while the other hand releases the leash and opens the door.
The sitter also must be alert at all times. Plus, they try to match the sitter to the animal. If the dog was abused by a man, they send a female sitter. If the cat only likes men, a male is the sitter.
“These pets are there to protect their home,” MacFarlane said. “We are respectful of their position in the home.”
– – Article written by Helen George / Pocono Record Lifestyle Writer