"A dog could get the loving care that they need," said Collins, "and that they (the family) wouldn't have their only resource as the kennel."
Collins' first stop a recent day was to Ozzie and Sophie's house. They became clients of hers - she has about 60 total - a month before.
Collins lets the dogs out of the house, walks them, feeds them, gives them treats and their medicine, and spends anywhere from 20 minutes to more, depending on the care each pet necessitates.
Collins will visit Ozzie and Sophie two or three times a day, and will also check on the house, making sure lights are off or on, windows are locked, and everything is in order.
Lynn Wylie, Ozzie and Sophie's owner, likes the comfort of having someone check on her animals in their own home. "We just seem to find having them in our own home, in their own environment," said Wylie, "with someone who's going to take the time to bother with them."
Fred, Sally, and Chloe Cheatum are also clients of Collins. The three poodles (one standard, two toys) are frequent customers of Paws for Care. Their owner - Viki Cheatum - likes having someone on call. "I don't have to worry about going to the kennel, preparing my dogs, so forth and so on," said Cheatum. "I can simply give Melinda a call, and she'll be here to help me out."
You know, cats, guinea pigs, ferrets: they all get pet sitters too. But there are certain questions you must ask yourself before you get a pet sitter.
"What's the value and reward of having your pet at home verses the kennel," is one question Collins said you should ask yourself. "How's my pet going to respond in a kennel? Is it going to do well, or am I more comfortable with it being at home?"
Collins and veterinarians said not everyone can take good care of your pets.
"Neighbors are fine, but my responsibility is to the owner and the pet, whereas neighbors might not take it as seriously as I do."
Besides, a pet sitter doubles as house sitter. "That provides an element of security as well," said Cheatum while her three poodles sat around her. "Not only do the dogs enjoy staying in their own house - more than a kennel or a cage - but I have someone coming and going from the house at different hours of the day."
And that's peace of mind - for both human, canine, and anyone else in the animal kingdom.
Kansas State Veterinarian Dr. Susan Nelson suggests considering the following when choosing a pet sitter:
- Meet and Greet. Have the pet sitter come to your home to meet your pet prior to the setting so you can observe how sitter and pet interact.
- Get the Package Deal. Asking what services the sitter offers, such as in-home grooming, walking, training, and playtime.
- Training Day. What training the sitter has received.
- Get It in Writing. If the pet sitter can provide written proof of insurance, and/or if they are bonded.
- Refer to References. Asking for a list of other clients as references.
- Vet Check. Ask if the sitter is associated with a veterinarian and if the sitter is willing to use your veterinarian in case of an emergency.
- Call for Back-Up. Ask if the sitter has an experienced back-up.
- House Calls. Ask if the sitter is comfortable with giving medications and/or injections, if needed.
- High or Low Frequency? Ask how often the sitter will check on your pet, and if you will require any other house-sitting duties.
- Get It In Writing II. Ask for a written service contract that spells out sitter's service and fees.