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Having a Pet Sitter in Your Home

You need to leave town for a week, but there's a hitch. An affectionate black lab recently joined the family. When it was just the two cats, you could arrange for a neighbor to stop by daily while you were gone. But a dog requires more care.

You could take the dog to a kennel but maybe you'd rather not remove her from the home environment. Hiring someone who does both house and pet sitting could be the solution.

Southern Oregon pet sitters offer services that fall into two main categories - the stop-by and the stay-over.

If you have one or two cats but no dog, a stop-by arrangement can work if you don't feel comfortable asking a neighbor for help. The sitter stops by your house one or more times a day to check on the cats, fill food and water dishes, clean litter boxes, etc.

But if you do have a dog, you'd probably prefer to have the sitter live in your home while you're gone.

House sitting can also provide security. "There is someone in your home to make it look lived in, someone to pick up your mail and newspaper and water plants," says Rachelle Schaaf of Medford, who does pet sitting for friends and by referral.

How do you find a sitter? Ask neighbors you see out walking their dogs, or check with pet-oriented organizations and businesses. Some sitters perform services on an informal basis while others belong to professional organizations like Pet Sitters International (www.petsit.com) and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (www.petsitters.org). Jim Ward of Medford, member of PSI, likes the affiliation because it allows him to get bonded and obtain liability insurance.

When you are ready to hire a pet sitter, ask for references.

"Make sure they are insured and bonded, licensed to do business in the city/county," adds Karen Ivan, who operated the Doggy Nanny in Boston for several years and now works out of Klamath Falls. "Ask to see proof of insurance and license. It would be good that they are also pet first-aid certified and a member of a professional pet sitting organization."

Even more important, sitters agree, is to be sure you, the sitter and your pets are a good fit.

"A homeowner and pet sitter should meet first, to chat and get to know each other a little, get a 'feel' for each other," suggests another local sitter, Sharon Coffman of Medford. "And of course, meet the pets, see what needs to be done, discuss every aspect of the job. That gives both parties a chance to decide and see if they want to work together."

"It is critical that you write things down: when to feed and how much," says Schaaf. "Be open and honest. Don't worry about alienating the sitter. We just need to know." And it's also a good idea to let your veterinarian know you are hiring a sitter and give permission for treatment should the need arise.

How much will this cost you? If the sitter is just going to stop by for a 30-minute visit, figure on $15 to $20 a day. Stay-overs cost more, anywhere from $35 to $55 a day, depending on the number of animals, how many hours the sitter is expected to stay in the house and mileage.

Some sitters offer more than care for dogs and cats. Schaaf once forwarded medications to a client who needed them

in a pinch.

Ward has been known to pet-sit farm animals if it's just a matter of feeding and watering. "But I don't do snakes," he says.

Having a Pet Sitter in Your Home