Away for the day? Let Critter Sitters take care of Fido
Local couple shares their love of animals with their business
Susan Osborne and her husband Tim Reed have a house full of feline and canine decorations—statues here; picture frames there, paintings on the walls.
Then there are the real things — Kody, Shasha, and Jewel (three large greyhounds) and Tom and Charlie (the black and white cats).
It is quite obvious that this couple loves animals. It is also obvious that the feeling is mutual as Jewel stretches out on the sofa next to her "dad" and Charlie shares a seat with his "mom." - The couple has enjoyed numerous pets throughout their 20 years of marriage.
When it came time to select a dog the first time, Ms. Osborne wanted a greyhound. It took some convincing, but Mr. Reed came around. They have had three other adopted retired racing dogs over the years, in addition to the three that currently share their home. Tom, a 25-pound black and white tuxedo joined the family when he was found starving and Weighing in at seven pounds. The vet said he would not live through the night. That was more than 10 years ago. Charlie is part of the mix as well. He's kind of shy and although would be considered an average sized cat he's puny next to the big guy.
It makes perfect sense that when the two homeowners lost their jobs; they found what they perceive to be the perfect occupation as pet sitters.
Critter Sitters has been offering pet owners the convenience of having a beloved pet receive loving care and attention when they are unable to provide it themselves.
And has far as Ms. Osborne and her husband are concerned, they have a dream job.
When the production company Ms. Osborne "worked for was sold, she was let go. Part of her duties had been organizing an annual per show. That was how she first was introduced to the breed she loves so much.
"I was at a show and saw the greyhounds and fell in love," she said. "I researched the breed and decided this was the dog for us."
She had been working for the same place for almost 30 years and with time on her hands she knew she had a choice to make — continue in the same field at another company, or try something new.
"I was facing reinventing yourself, the job market was falling apart," Ms. Osborne said.
When she began to think of possible options, her pets were there with a not so subtle hint. The dogs never did well in kennels, so for several years she and her husband abstained from vacationing. The few times the couple went away, a friend of friend would drop in to take care of the pets.
"For me, you see a job and think in another life I'd love to do that," said Ms. Osborne. "I kept coming back to the pet sitting, and I never looked back. It's one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done."
After much researching and developing a business plan, Ms. Osborne launched Critter Sitters three years ago. She took on some clients and about a year ago the business was really taking off.
When her husband's retail job looked to be on the brink, he decided to join his wife and in July came on full-time.
Together they share clients, as each has bonded to certain pets they care for. A "typical" day begins around 10 a.m., after the couple has taken care of their own pets. Then they head out to visit their clients. They will take the dog(s) for walk, feed or give the pet a treat and make sure that they are doing well. They will also leave the client a note as to how the visit went.
In many cases they do drop-ins during the day for clients who may work long hours or are away on business. There are times too when the couple will visit a pet in the evenings in order to maintain the pet's routine — if the dog is used to be walked after 7 p.m. for example. The couple will also do overnights at a client's home if necessary.
The beauty of their business is not only the services they provide but also they can cover for one another.
"I've never been so happy working," Ms. Osborne said of the seven-day a week job she now has.
"We were two people who were used to going 150 miles per hour," said Mr. Reed. While their job has very important responsibilities and their schedules is not a routine 9 to 5; they find the flow or each day suits them well.
The couple has noticed that in this economy clients may not be taking the long vacations they once had, but still want to get away for a long weekend. For those who have tried kenneling their pet and had issues with it, this is a good alternative, and perhaps even a more affordable option.
For on thing, Ms. Osborne said, the pet can stay in his or home where they feel the most comfortable, they can maintain the same routine they are used to and they have gotten to know the pet well enough that the pet is not left with a stranger.
Mr. Reed said that when they meet a new client, they first interview the pet. Then they talk to its owners. They want to ensure that the pet is comfortable with them, that they are comfortable with the pet and that everyone is comfortable with one another.
Mr. Reed said that he is fully aware of the trust clients put in him and his wife, not only in taking care of their pets, but allowing them to come in to their home.
"You always know who will be in your home, we are bonded and insured, the animals get to know us very well," said Ms. Osborne.
Mr. Reed still laughs about the client who was away for three weeks, and when he finally returned, his dog had more love for Mr. Reed than his owner.
"When we are taking care of people's pets it's like taking care of our pets, Tim and I feel so passionately about our pets." Ms. Osborne said.
While dogs and cats tend to be the main focus of the work they do, Ms. Osborne said that there is no critter big or small, that she and her husband will not take care of. She has cared for ferrets, parakeets, a corn snake and guinea pigs. The snake did make her pause, but in the end, she did not have to feed it (snakes eat every few weeks) so she was all right with the situation. She did say that she has little experience with hoofed animals, but would be willing to help with them as well.
In the end, the couple knows just how much a person's pet can mean to them. They know too the difficulty in finding good care for them.
Once, when visiting the Florida Keys, the couple received a phone call that the person caring for their animals had something come up and would not be able to drop by and check in on their dogs and cats. Being thousands of miles away, they were stuck, someone needed to let their dogs and the animals needed to be fed. Fortunately a neighbor was available and things worked out in the end. But the couple decided that would never happen again. It's a lesson they had to learn the hard way and never want their clients to learn. If hired to do a job, they will be there.
"It gives people peace of mind," said Mr. Reed.
And as will happen on occasion, if a client has a change of plans, they can let them know and they will be taken off the schedule without being charged a fee. They provide their services to the Greater Hartford area.