By Anjana Sankar
Spread the word to your pet-owning friends. If they’re going on holiday soon and are paranoid about what to do with Foxy the fluffball, they can contact a bunch of pet sitters who will be the perfect guardians
People usually take a break from work to relax and recharge.
All the pressures, deadlines and demands drain you.
But what if your work is your biggest de-stresser? Like your daily eight-hour therapy. Imagine, all you need is a few client meetings and appointments, to find your peace, to positively charge your soul.
That’s what petsitting is all about, a happy combination of pets, profession and peace.
If you love animals, are not particularly keen to load on the stress, and you need a steady income, why not give petsitting a shot?
That is exactly what British expat Diane did almost a year ago. A full-time petsitter in Dubai, Dianne says she earns a good salary, and also enjoys what she does. “When I moved from the UK, I had worked at a pet shelter, and found an opportunity to work as a petsitter. With many expats having a nine-to-six job, or families travelling for long holidays, petsitters are highly in demand.”
A self-confessed animal lover, Dianne says there is a not a single boring moment at work when you are a petsitter. “You are always on the move. My clients are animals. And they have a calming, therapeutic effect on me. If I am feeling low, all I have to do is get ready and go to work.”
Another fulltime petsitter, Rusty Madriaga, 31, Philippines agrees. “When you work with dogs and cats, what you get in return is unconditional love and loyalty. It is a special bond. The biggest advantage is you are always happy with your job,” says Madriaga, who has been working with Pet Shack in Al Reef in Abu Dhabi for the last three years.
It’s a great relief to residents who frequently travel out of the country.
A fulltime petsitter can earn anything between Dh5000 to Dh9,000 in the UAE. The market is also flooded with freelance petsitters who offer their services part-time. The rate card of petsitters varies between Dh35 and Dh65 per visit for a cat, and between Dh65 and Dh90 for a dog. Each visit may last 25 minutes to one hour depending on the tasks.
Cleaning, feeding, cuddling, playing, brushing, giving medicines — all these are in the to-do list of a pet sitter.
Madriaga says it is not easy to deal with five or six different breeds of dogs or cats on a daily basis. “Each pet is different. They have different moods. You have to be patient and loving to build trust.”
And the sad part is when you have to say goodbye to a pet after the assignment is over. “It gets difficult when you grow attached to a dog or a cat, but when the client comes back and your services are no longer needed,” said Madriaga.
British national Kate Lindley, owner of Dubai-based Paw Pals employs three full-time petsitters and several freelancers. She says the qualities she looks for in a petsitter are common sense, reliability and of course, a genuine love for animals.
“When I do the interview to hire a petsitter, I use my cat and three dogs as an interview tool. They should be able to understand the animals, and their behaviours.
“It requires a lot of dedication,” says Linday who herself pet-sits dogs and cats. Her first appointment starts at 6am, and she manages six to seven pet visits a day.
On a busy day, she does up to 16 petsittings. “Some days are busy, some are lean. Summer is peak season as lots of families are away and we have lots of clients to cater to.”
Fatina Mahmoud, co-owner of Pet Shack at Al Reef in Abu Dhabi said quality of service is crucial in this business. “It is a huge responsibility when someone opens up their house to you and leave s their pets in your care. Pets are precious and you can’t treat them lightly,” said Mahmoud. Which is the reason she does not trust freelance petsitters to handle her clients.
“They (freelancers) are flooding the market. But I only entrust the job only to my two full-time petsitters. We are offering our service only within the Al Reef community,” said Mahmoud.
Anjana is a humanist. Her cluttered desk is not indicative of her state of mind