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Who's taking care of Fido?

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The holiday season is a time to celebrate, but for the family pets it can be a time of stress

By Eric Turner
As the holidays roll around, many people will be traveling to various parts of the state, country, even world. In all this traveling, many will not be able to bring along a valued family member: the family pet, or in some cases, pets.

Some airlines do let four-legged family members tag along, but there are usually restrictions based on size and whether or not the pet is going to ride in cargo or in the cabin with the owner.

There may be seasonal restrictions, too says Tracee Williams of Destinations travel agency in Fayetteville. Williams cautions that, if you’re not staying with friends or family, not all hotels are pet-friendly.

Whether it be of fur, feather or scales, most family pets don’t usually make a holiday trip with the rest of the brood, so what’s a pet owner to do?

In Northwest Arkansas there are several options.
One option is to take your pet to one of many boarding facilities throughout the region.

One boarding facility in Fayetteville also provides a variety of services. Dogwatch Doggie Daycare & Boarding offers daycare services for dogs and cats where your pet can play with other pets, as well as boarding for longer stays. In business for six years, Dogwatch will also pamper your pet and save you some time with its grooming services.

But say that your pet has issues with other animals or for some reason is unable to leave the house or yard? Calling a pet sitter may be your best option.

Leslie Ray began pet sitting in 1999 when her son wanted to do something other than babysitting to earn some money. A year later she founded Angel Pet Sitting when she discovered that the she could do pet sitting as a profession.

“I went out, got insurance, did some research on how to do the job,” Ray said. “It’s grown from just me to where I now have about 8 or 9 people that I work with.”

Admittedly, most of her clientele is either canine or feline but every now and then, Ray gets to sit with a variety of animals.

“I’ve taken care of horses, ferrets, birds, turtles, a hermit crab,” she said. “The most unusual had to have been a chameleon, because we had to coat its food (crickets) in calcium powder before we fed them to him.”

Ray charges according to the time she spends with the pets. Most visits are usually about 30 minutes long, which allows enough time to feed, water, care for and play with a pet, but longer visits are available.

“It doesn’t matter how many pets they have, we charge based on the amount of time it would take to service the pets,” Ray said.

The service begins with an initial consultation with the pet owner and their pet. This entails some paperwork.

“There’s, of course, the contract and a vet release form in case something happens and we do end up having to take their pet to the veterinarian,” Ray explained. “We also have what we like to call our ‘Pet Scoop.’ It’s basically a log of what the pet does that day while we’re there, like ‘Fluffy seemed in a good mood today’ or ‘Spot seems to be favoring one leg.’”

Ray said that she and her staff are often able to spot something that may be wrong with the pet that the pet owner wouldn’t catch.
Pet sitter services like hers offer an alternative to kennels and boarding, plus, she has some clients who use her on a regular basis.

“They work a lot, or something like that, so they have us come out during the day and visit or walk their pets,” Ray said.

Of course the busiest time of the year for Ray is during the holidays. That was echoed by the folks at Dogwatch, who said that summertime is a fairly busy time for the pet daycare center.

Ray said that sometimes, boarding a pet is the best choice. She said she tries to maintain a healthy relationship with the kennels in the area “because they are a valued and necessary service.”

If you choose to take you pet with you when you travel, do your homework in advance. For answers to questions about taking your pet on a flight this holiday season, contact a travel agent or the airline directly. They will have information about restrictions and pricing. Be sure that you fully understand the guidelines and follow them precisely. Your holiday trip could be spoiled it the flight takes off while you are dealing with noncompliant issues concerning Fido or Peaches.

For information on hotels, check with a travel agent or call the hotel directly. They can advise you about costs and restrictions. You can also checkout websites like bringfido.com or letsgopets.com. These sites and others offer information about pet-friendly hotels, as well as tips on traveling with pets.

In the past few years, a number of hotels have changed their “no pets” policy and are now catering to pets. Many hotels now offer walking and play services, in-room pet massages, pet pedicures and even special room service menus for pets.

If you would rather leave Buster and Fifi at home, it may be too late to get them a spot in the more popular kennels and pet sitters this holiday season. Most kennels, boarding facilities and pet sitters are booked well in advance of the holidays. Some are even booked a year in advance. If you find that you can’t get a spot at the kennel and the pet sitter can’t fit you in, ask about a waiting list, since last minute cancellations sometimes occur. But, you should also be aware that some waiting lists might be so long that you will not even be able to get on the list.

Whatever you do, make the holidays a happy time for you pets—after all, they are family, too.

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