Local Pet Sitting Company vs. Rover and DogVacay

I love technology. I’ve been a geek my whole life and am continuously amazed at how easy technology has made our lives. Technology has made it very easy to for me to keep my schedules updated, order groceries without leaving the comfort of my pajamas and even watching my pets from my mobile phone while I’m out. Now a slew of technology companies (rover.com, DogVacay.com, nextdoor.com, sittercity.com and care.com) are claiming to be the best alternative to providing pet sitting and dog walking for your beloved furry family members. Are they all they’re cracked up to be? Let’s take a look.

PET SITTING EXPERIENCE MATTERS

Recently, I read a story from a “hobbiest” pet sitter who was looking for advice in an online forum on how she could get into her client’s home after the client gave her copies of the wrong keys. The client was 2,000 miles away, and there the poor pets inside were waiting as the pet sitter sat in the driveway, in the dark, waiting for the locksmith to arrive. Two hours and $180 later, the sitter finally gains access to the client’s home. Why do I bring this up? Because in this instance, a hobbyist pet sitter didn’t have the experience to personally test all keys to ensure they actually work. At Away Home & Pet Care we personally test all keys to ensure they work properly. We also insist on having keys to the home even if the client prefers we use a garage door opener. Why? Because electrical failures occur, and garage doors come off their tracks. How do we know this? Because we have decades of combined experience caring for pets in other people’s homes.

I’m not one to have many nightmares, but there’s one experience from the early days of our business that still happens to haunt me occassionally. Very early in our business we would accept every-other-day cat clients. Cats are pretty self-sufficient right? They can eat from a kibble bowl, drink from a water dispenser, and can use the bathroom in a litter box. So no big deal if we check on kitty every two days, right? Despite the lack of providing tons of love and affection every day, we thought “What could go wrong?”. We arrived at the home of an every-other-day cat sitting client to find the cat had knocked a hair dryer of a bathroom countertop and the hair dryer was on! The hair dryer had been on so long that the room was actually hot. Scary, right? For this reason, we do not accept jobs where we cannot check on your pets at least once per day for cats, 2xs per day for dogs.

See, it’s our collective experience of running a professional pet sitting and dog walking business that has lead us to implement the policies and procedures we have in place today. And trust me when I say this: your pets will know the difference.

Experience matters.

PET EMERGENCY TRAINING MATTERS

Accidents happen. This is real life, so I implore you to ask yourself if the hobbyist pet sitter you have in your home is adequately trained to assist your pet in the event of an emergency. What happens if your dog starts choking? What if your pet’s stool looks different from day-to-day? What if your cat suddenly develops a loss of appetite, straining while urinating, or meowing in pain? Would your pet sitter know this could potentially be the indication of a Urinary Tract Infection and should be taken to the veterinarian right away? We would…and we would be well-equipped to handle a wide-range of other potential life-threatening issues that might pop up.

At Away Home & Pet Care, we care so much for the safety of your pets that we’ve taken pet first-aid courses, train our sitters regularly how to identify potential hazards and how to respond if an emergency rears its ugly head. Your pets are members of your family. You love them as if they’re your own children.

Emergency training matters.

SCHEDULING SYSTEMS MATTER

I remember reading the story of a hobbiest pet sitter who forgot to check in on a pet for whom she was scheduled to sit. The client sent a text message the night before asking for an alternative schedule, and the sitter forgot to set the alarm on her phone….so she overslept and 3 hours later realized she missed a visit. The sad part about this is the cat was diabetic, and had to receive insulin shots every 12 hours on….the….dot. What if this were your cat? If you hire a pet sitter or dog walker from a tech company, be sure to find out what fail-safe measures they have in place to ensure they will not miss a visit.

Away Home & Pet Care utilizes the absolute best scheduling and communication technology in the industry to ensure WE WILL NEVER MISS A VISIT. If your pet sitter or dog walker is late, our systems will alert our office staff that the sitter has not checked in. This kicks off a checklist of steps to be taken by our staff…including checking on the safety of the sitter, and determing if an emergency backup should be called in. Does your hobbyist pet sitter have these systems in place?

YOUR PEACE OF MIND MATTERS

Let’s be real. You’re out of town enjoying your vacation, and as much as you’d like to forget about your troubles at home, you can’t help but wonder about your pets. You’re wondering if your pet sitter actually made it to your home. Luckily, the larger technology companies make it easy for you to get a report card from each visit. These tech companies have actually improved the pet sitting industry as a whole, because this has led to a complete avalanche of professional software suites that professional pet sitting companies use to communicate with their customers.

For example, our system requires your pet sitter to check-in and check-out of each visit with their mobile phone, which not only creates a time log of your visits, it captures the GPS location of your pet sitter or dog walker at all times. At check-out, you receive an email and text message with a report card and pictures of the visit. So not only do our office staff always know the status of a visit, you will never wonder if your precious critters are being cared for.

All clients of Away Home & Pet Care also have access to our online portal, which provides up-to-the-minute verification that your pet sitter visited your home, including pictures and a report card FOR EACH AND EVERY VISIT. So in terms of communication, you get exactly the same thing (and in some cases more) as you’d get from hiring a hobbyist sitter from Rover or DogVacay.

WHAT YOUR PET SITTER DOES FOR A LIVING MATTERS

Many, if not most of the pet sitters and dog walkers on the larger technology platforms are hobbyist pet sitters. They are simply using technology to help them connect with pet owners. They’re looking for some side cash so they can go out of town next week or pay off a few bills. There’s nothing wrong with this, and I’m incredibly thankful that the “sharing economy” has really leveled the playing field in many industries by removing control from the larger monopolies and giving us all a chance to succeed in life. If you’re leaving town for a night or two, you might be okay hiring a pet sitter from one of the tech companies. Keep this in mind, however: if you hire a “hobbyist” pet sitter, you may have a difficult time getting in touch with your sitter, especially if they have another job. You will also want to think about what happens if you need to get a backup because your sitter fell ill, had a car accident, or had to take a child to the hospital? It will be your sole responsibility to find a backup.

At Away Home & Pet Care we live and breathe pets. Caring for the pets of Columbia, SC and Ogden, UT is in our blood, it’s our passion. We aren’t in business to make a little extra cash on the side…Away Home & Pet Care is a real, full-time business. We pay business taxes. We’re bonded and insured. We don’t take days off. We are open 24/7 365 days per year. We don’t juggle other committments while caring for your pets. THE LOVE AND CARE OF YOUR PETS IS OUR FIRST PRIORITY. We operate on YOUR schedule, not ours.

Because we are a full-time business, we are able to take your calls, answer your emails, and respond to your text messages quickly. When you send us a text message or email, our office staff is able to review those and respond appropriately. When you reach out to us you won’t be calling a national call center many miles away…. you’ll be connecting with us locally. And if your sitter ever has an emergency, you’ll automatically have a backup sitter. You don’t have to lift a finger.

Whether you hire a pet sitter from a tech company, or from Away Home & Pet Care, be sure they have contingency plans in place to ensure your pet gets the proper care while you are away and you never have to worry. Talk about peace of mind!

What your pet sitter does for a living matters.

WHO YOUR PET SITTER OR DOG WALKER IS MATTERS

Any Tom or Sally (no offense to real Tom or Sallys) can set up a pet sitting profile on these large tech company platforms. Let me be clear – ANYBODY CAN SET UP A PROFILE ON THESE PLATFORMS. Some of the companies do background checks, some don’t. But one thing is for sure, not just anybody can be a pet care professional at Away Home &Pet Care.

Our pet sitters and dog walkers have undergone a thorough background investigation, to include employment verification, drug testing and interviews to ensure we hire only the best. Our pet sitters and dog walkers undergo regular training and include topics such as pet first-aid and handling emergencies so you can be sure you are hiring the absolute best.

Your home is your sanctuary, and your pets are part of the family. Who you let in your home matters.

LIABILITY MATTERS

We all know mistakes and accidents happen. But what happens if a pet sitter forgets to lock a crate and the puppy gets out and destroys half the house? What if a dog walker accidentally trips and loses her grip on the leash and Fido gets attacked by another dog? Who pays for this? The answer is: it depends!

If you hire a pet sitter from a large tech company, you’re likely on the hook for an insurance deductible. Hire from Craigslist or nextdoor.com and you’ll likely be responsible for all damages. Hire a pet sitter from Away Home & Pet Care and you have no worries. Our insurance covers many common issues that can arise while your pets are under our watchful care.

IN CLOSING

I remember the day we got that very first call from a prospective client asking us to care for her cats, ferrets and dogs while she went on vacation. 15 years later and Away Home & Pet Care has become a professional, full-time pet sitting and dog walking company, trusted by hundreds of pet clients in Columbia, SC and Ogden, UT. Much has changed in our business since that first call: enhanced scheduling systems, top-notch employee training, pet first aid certifications, and processes & procedures to ensure your pet will always be taken care of when you schedule us to care for your critters and furry friends.

Let me ask this in the most straight-forward way possible:

DO YOU WANT YOUR PETS TO BE CARED FOR BY A LARGE TECH COMPANY WHERE ANYONE CAN CREATE A PROFILE AND BE A SELF-PROCLAIMED PET SITTER, OR WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE A PROFESSIONAL PET SITTER CARE FOR YOUR PETS?

As the owner of a full-time and professional pet sitting and dog walking company, I felt the need to share with you some of our experiences and insights from being in business for over 15 years. If you chose not to hire us, I can’t pretend we won’t be sad, but we’re not going to hate you. We’re all pet owners doing the best we can for our furry family members. There is a time and place for these tech companies and they do provide a valuable service to their communities. But they are not our competition, because I know without a shadow of a doubt that our pet sitters are some of the most experienced and trusted in the industry. And when you’re hiring someone to care for YOUR pets, in YOUR home, your pet’s experience matters.