Do you know the best places to find a pet sitter for your special needs dog or cat? With vacation season starting, anxious pet parents have been emailing me this question nearly every day. They know they need respite time away from the 24/7 demands of caring for a paralyzed pet, but they don’t know where to find a qualified caretaker.
Well, I want to reassure you that there are people in your community who can help. There are angels out there who want to care for a dog that can’t walk or potty on their own. You just need to know where to look.
After 18 months of caring for Sophie, I needed a break. I put out the word and a wonderful pet sitter (now friend) named Claire came into our life. That was 2010. I’ve written about Claire, who I call my “Practically Perfect Pet Sitter,” many times. Today Claire continues to take care of my dogs and cats like they were her own. Let me help you find the perfect caretaker for your pet.
This year I’ve ramped up my efforts to give you more suggestions about the best places to find a pet sitter for your special needs dog or cat.
My first recommendation is to check out Rover.com. It is a pet sitter website for people who live in the USA and Canada. Rover recently contacted Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog because they want pet owners to know they are ready to serve our community of paralyzed dogs and cats.
Here is how it works:
When you type in information about your pet, your dates and zip code, Rover takes you to a screen with potential caretakers. Click on the “More Filters” tab in the center of the page. Another screen will appear with additional criteria. Click on “Dog first-aid certified.” A new list of caretakers will pop up. Click on the name of a pet sitter and you will see their resume with a list of “additional skills”. Look for a sitter with Special Needs Dog Experience. In my town of Henderson, NV there are 20 sitters from which to choose.
If you haven’t used a pet sitter website before, here is what Rover.com said about their services. I was lucky to get the chance to talk with Courtney Heitter, Community Marketing Manager for Rover.
1. What are the goals of Rover?
Rover.com exists to make the lives of dogs and the people who love them better. Some dog lovers have a good salary but not enough time to spend with their dogs, and other dog lovers have more free time and flexibility, but can’t afford a dog. Rover helps connect all types of dog lovers, so people who love dogs but wouldn’t be traditional sitters can still enjoy the love of a dog, and people who love dogs but are worried about leaving them in commercial doggy day care or at a kennel can feel comfortable getting a dog and boarding them with a sitter they met on Rover.
2. Are you in all 50 states?
Yes, we have sitters listed in all 50 states.
3. Are you located in other countries?
We’re now in Canada!
4. What kind of vetting and background check do you do on the pet sitters?
Each sitter on the platform is required to pass a background check through a third-party company. Every sitter profile submitted for approval is hand-reviewed and approved, asked to improve, or denied by an in-house, specialized team. If a sitter is approved and an issue arises with a stay, Rover has a sitter team for coaching as needed, and will remove any sitter that violates our terms of service.
5. You have a Special Needs Dog Experience skill listed. What type of services does that include?
We have a “first-aid certified” option for sitters, which yields many sitters with experience caring for special-needs dogs. The services included vary from sitter to sitter, so reading the individual profiles is helpful to see what sitters specialize in.
There’s an excellent program at Rover called Match–emailing firstname.lastname@example.org will get you in touch with a team who will take your dog’s special needs into consideration while searching for the perfect sitter for you. This service is free and a great option for your pup and your peace of mind.
More resources to find a pet sitter
- Check out Pet Sitters International. It is 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.
- 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.
- Check the Internet for a veterinary palliative or hospice care company in your city. Many of these companies offer in-home pet sitting services.
- Organize a pet sitting exchange with the owner of another disabled or elderly dog or cat.
- Check with a local animal rescue group for a referral to their most reliable foster families. Many of these volunteers frequently care for special needs pets.
- Get a referral from your veterinarian for the best “regular” pet sitter in town. That person might be willing to learn what it takes to care for your dog while you are away. It worked for me.
Tanya, who is pet mom to a paralyzed dog named Reuben, got creative when she had to find a pet sitter. Reuben is on 4 weeks of bedrest due to a hygroma he developed from scooting on the floor. Tanya wrote, “I found a vet student for a nanny when I work. She’s lovely and so good with him!”
Make time for a trial run before you start your vacation.
Once you find your perfect pet sitter, be sure to schedule several short trial runs before you leave town.
I can’t emphasize this enough. Having a trial run can smooth out rough patches, test whether the pet sitter can perform the duties to keep your dog safe and it gives you a chance to see if your dog likes the person.
Start slow with short visits. I first scheduled an evening away from Sophie to have dinner and then worked up to longer periods of care. 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.
Finding a qualified pet sitter takes a bit of work, but it will give you peace of mind so you can take the relaxing vacation you deserve.
Note: I am not being compensated by Rover.com or any of the other sources suggested in this story for pet sitters. They are organizations I personally like and want to share with readers.