Do you know how to find a pet sitter for your handicapped dog? If you are the pet parent of a paraplegic dog or cat or any pet with disabilities, you know taking care of their needs is a demanding 24/7 job. While I like to call our paralyzed pups “handicapable” because of all the life, energy, and love they have to share; it is equally true that they need our constant support to accomplish normal daily activities. As their caretaker this can leave you feeling exhausted physically and mentally.
This post is dedicated to your needs and why it is important to understand the benefits of respite care and where you can find a qualified pet sitter to help. It’s an important step to take before you suffer from caretaker burnout.
When Sophie became paralyzed my husband and I didn’t take a break for the first 18 months. It made us cranky with each other and with our poor dog. Finally I realized all three of us needed respite care, but finding help wasn’t easy and I had to think outside the box. I couldn’t just hire the teenager that lived down the street to pop in to give her meals and a potty break. Early on in this blog I wrote a story called Practically Perfect Pet Sitter and my adventure trying to find a skilled person to take care of Sophie. To save you from going through this frustrating experience, I have compiled a list to help you find your own perfect pet sitter.
What is respite care?
Respite care is short-term assistance for a disabled person or pet that gives the primary caregiver a break from his or her duties. It is not a luxury; it is a necessity!
Benefits of respite care
- Allows a pet parent to get refreshed and rejuvenated
- Helps a person reconnect with the outside world (taking care of a paralyzed dog can be very isolating)
- Enables a pet owner to do a better job
While respite care for people has been around for a long time, the concept for a disabled pet is relatively new. It takes some creative thinking to find a person with the right set of skills.
Clancy was an 11 1/2 year-old dog who slowly became paralyzed in his hind legs. His pet parents Paul and Terri took Clancy to several veterinary specialists, but nothing could be done to keep the dog on his feet.
Clancy needed round-the-clock care that included carrying him whenever he needed to be moved, hand feeding him meals, making sure he was turned regularly on his waterproof mat to prevent pressure sores, and holding him while he relieved himself. Terri and Paul saw that Clancy was never left alone.
After 10 months, the couple had used up all of their vacation and sick time at work. They were exhausted and frustrated. They looked for signs that Clancy was unhappy living this way, but Terri described her dog as “happy and alert.”
Finally, Terri turned for help at the doggie day care where Clancy had gone before his illness. The workers behind the counter turned silent after she described the level of care her dog needed. They told her the day care was for active dogs only. Terri carried Clancy back to her car and cried.
Ultimately, Terri was able to find a family member who was willing to learn how to take care of Clancy and he filled in so the couple could take occasional breaks. This is a situation I hope no pet parent has to go through because there are people in the community to help.
How to find a pet sitter for your handicapped dog
- Check out the resources at Pet Sitters International, the leading educational organization of professional pet sitters. Their “Find A Local Pet Sitter” tab can help you find a pro with the right skills. They even have pet sitters who do Hospice Care.
- Hire a vet tech from your veterinarian’s office or a canine physical therapy clinic in your area. There is probably someone who is looking for extra work.
- Board your pet at your veterinarian’s office, even if it’s just for one day of respite for yourself.
- Search the Internet for websites that specialize in licensed pet sitters. Two national companies are DogVacay or Rover.com
- Check the Internet for a veterinary palliative or hospice care company in your area. Many of these companies supply in-home medical respite care.
- Organize a respite exchange with another caretaker of a special-needs pet.
- Check with a local animal rescue group for a referral to their most reliable foster families. Many of these volunteers are used to hand-feeding pets and taking care of sick animals.
- Get a referral from your veterinarian for a “regular” pet sitter who might be interested in learning how to help your pet. This is what worked for me.
Once you find the right person, schedule a short trial run to make sure he or she is a good match for you and your pet. I can’t emphasize this enough. Having a trial run can smooth out rough patches, test whether the pet sitter can perform all of the duties to keep your dog safe and it gives you a chance to see if your dog likes the person.
Start slow with your respite visits. We first scheduled an evening away from Sophie to have dinner and slowly worked up to longer periods of care. Then, once everyone is comfortable, be sure to let your veterinarian know the name of the person taking care of your dog in case of an emergency.
Being the full-time caretaker for a handicapable dog is challenging, but with help from the right pet sitter it can be a rewarding experience for the whole family.
How did you find a pet sitter for your handicapped dog? I’d love to add your suggestion to this story!
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