Pet Sitter Spotlight: Beth Harwell of Dog Walkers & More at Coddle Creek

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This is Day 4 of our 15 Part Series to Spotlight the Professional Pet Sitter.

If there is one thing every pet sitting business owner knows, it’s the great need of ongoing public education of our thriving industry.

To no fault of their own, some pet owners will look to ask a friend, relative or neighbor to check in on their fur baby when leaving town.

In today’s spotlight, Beth Harwell of Dog Walkers & More at Coddle Creek, LLC has experienced first hand the true life saving benefit of hiring a skilled and trained professional pet sitter.

Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best

Beth Harwell photoSometimes people question the value of paying for a professional pet sitter and wonder why they cannot just use the kid next door or the random person they found on Craig’s List.

Last summer we had an incident that highlights multiple reasons a professional pet sitter is the best option.

We are quick to point out that even with professional pet sitters, emergencies can occur. The important point is how the pet sitter handles and responds to the incident.

A little background information will be useful. We had been pet sitting on an as needed basis for a family with two dogs over a period of 8 months. One dog was a large mixed breed and the other dog was a very small, fluffy mixed breed, off white in color.

The dogs had both been in the home for many years with no issues. Both were rescues and seemed to have settled in nicely. The dogs were not crate trained.

When their family members were away from the home, the dogs had free reign through most of the house with access to each other, their toys, furniture and their water bowls.

We made three visits daily. During our visits it was customary to let the dogs outside to potty, bring them inside to eat their meal or snack, play with them and then to put them out for a final potty opportunity.

That was the time we checked the mail, watered the houseplants, washed the food bowls, sent a message to the pet parents and wrote our note.

Last July I was following this typical routine at the dinner visit when I heard a great deal of loud barking. I went outside only to find the large dog standing over the little dog chewing on his ear.

I yelled for him to stop and he growled at me. That was a first with this previously gentle giant.

Thankfully, he then backed off the little dog and I was able to pick him up. His ear was bleeding profusely, but I could not see any other injuries. However, it seemed prudent to me to have the dog checked out by the emergency vet.

I was able to reach the pet parents by phone and got permission to take the dog to the vet. I would have taken him even had I not been able to reach the vet, but felt better getting permission.

Next Stop: Vet Hospital

Upon arrival at the vet hospital I completed the paperwork giving permission for examination and treatment. The vet was also able to get verbal permission from the owner.

After the vet examined the dog, we talked. I told the vet I would be taking the dog home with me as it was not safe for the two dogs to be together in the home alone at that time.

Imagine my surprise when the vet told me they would need to keep the dog overnight for surgical procedures on his ear. The dog had puncture wounds on his head and multiple abrasions around the tip of his ear and under his neck.

I was allowed to go into the crate area and talk to the dog and pet him to provide some comfort in this new surrounding and to reassure him that I would return the next day to take him home with me.

I then went back to the home to make my final visit of the day with the large dog. He was back to his normal self and there were no issues with him.

I talked on the phone with the emergency vet around midnight for an update on the little dog’s condition and early the next afternoon picked him up from the emergency vet hospital. At that time he was still a little lethargic from the medications, had a great deal of edema under his neck and was wearing a cone.

They had shaved the top of his head but left the wounds open to drain the serous fluid from the top of his head and under his neck. There was a small additional charge for the overnight hospitalization of around $70.00 which I paid as the vet hospital was not able to reach the pet parents on the phone again.

I brought the little dog home with me and my husband and I provided care for him at our home for two more nights. We administered his medication and coaxed him into eating and drinking. During that time we continued to make three visits per day to the home to provide pet sitting services for the older large dog.

We learned that there had been two recent incidents prior to that one in which the large dog attacked the small dog but each time one of the pet parents witnessed the attack and was able to intervene before any injuries occurred.

Unfortunately, the pet parents thought they had told us about these incidents but they had not done so.

The issue is a situation referred to as “predatory drift” and is not uncommon when there is a large discrepancy between the sizes of two dogs and the smaller dog is white or off white in color and has a fluffy coat.

Things turned out as well as they could in this overall issue. The pet parents took the large dog to the vet to be checked out physically to see if there were any illnesses that may have contributed to the incident. There were none so the pet parents followed up with a consultation with a behavioral vet specialist.

They faithfully followed the vet’s recommendations and there were no more incidents for a few more months. Then one day there was another incident. Their hearts were broken but they did the only reasonable thing at that point and returned the large dog to the rescue.

But to the point of our assertion that a professional pet sitter is a better option than the kid next door or the random person off Craig’s List.

  • A professional is mature and uses good judgment in making decisions
  • A professional is more concerned about getting proper care than being blamed for unanticipated occurrences
  • A professional carries liability insurance
  • A professional can accurately describe the situation to the pet parents and to the vet
  • A professional will attend to all the duties required instead of needing to run off to another job
  • A professional will handle vet bills if necessary and get reimbursement from the pet parents after the fact

How many of those points do you think the kid next door or random person off Craig’s List would be able to accomplish? This incident is just one illustration of why a professional pet sitter is your best option for pet care.

Over To You

Read More: See other stories from professional pet sitters in our 15-part series, 15-part Professional Pet Sitter Series.

This story highlights a few important points.

One, it’s vital that the professional pet sitter continue education and training in her business. The professional needs to be a quick thinker and decision maker when any situation arises.

And Two, it was noted that the pet parents did not let Beth know about previous incidents with the dogs fighting. Perhaps the parent didn’t think it was relevant but the professional pet sitter must learn to ask a variety of questions from different angles.

As we all know, preparation is key!

Tell us, how have you personally come to save the day for one of your clients?

Josh Cary

Josh Cary is a respected and well sought-after speaker and business consultant within the professional pet care industry. Since 2009, having grown his own pet sitting business, Josh provides his industry with the tools, support, and resources to build and maintain a thriving and respected pet business.

With a strong focus on digital marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and website development, Josh’s one mission is to help you Get Found First through a professional and effective website.

This Post Has 15 Comments
  1. Beth thank goodness you were there to break up the attack before major injuries occurred. Dog attacks can be frightening and sometimes it is hard to differentiate between playing and attacking. No doubt the owners appreciated you going the extra mile and taking care of their injured pup.

  2. Wow Beth, scary situation. It sounds like you remained calm under the circumstances which is what a professional does. A professional pet sitter makes the quick decisions needed to resolve the issues. I can’t imagine the kid next door/neighbor thinking so clearly when an attack happens. Great job!

  3. Beth, what a great example of how your experience, education, common sense & your ability to adjust under pressure proved invaluable. Nice job!
    I like to compare using a professional pet sitter (insured, etc) with having car insurance. You get behind the wheel & you may drive your entire life never “needing” it but you know you’re covered in case you do.
    99% of the time, our pet care visits may be uneventful but it’s the 1% that can & do happen & how we deal with those situations matter, whether it’s an issue with a pet or a client’s home. That’s when a professional’s creds kick in.
    I’m often challenged in networking groups when I mention that my clients DO, in fact, care that I’m CPR/First Aid trained, that I’m a member of my Chamber & participate in local events, that I belong to National Industry Orgs & that I make an effort to continue my education as it pertains to my business.
    People may have varying definitions on what it means to be a “professional” but
    however you define it, the way you portray yourself is how others are likely to view you.

  4. Beth I think your quick thinking and professionalism saved the little dogs life! Way to go!!! Those instances among others are what keeps us pet sitters on our toes and set us apart from the neighborhood kids! That pup was so lucky that you were there at that time and it’s unfortunate but the iwnwrs did the right thing to turn the larger dog back to rescue! He obviously was a dog that needed to be the only pet per household. Great job Beth!

  5. Wow, that was a very scary situation, Beth! WHEW! You handled it very well! Your story is yet another excellent illustration that pet sitting isn’t always all about fun and games and that it requires more than one skill to perform the job. One has to take a multidisciplinary approach to do it. It’s more than just watching and playing with pets. In fact, having multiple skills from previous and current interests and/or occupations immensely helps. Your previous background helped you deal effectively with the situation. I’ll be also mentioning these points on my story coming up next week. I always drive them home whenever I talk to people about what folks in the pet industry really do.

    This is also why I always tell people that not just anyone is able and/or willing to perform the job. Not all adults know what to do in an emergency situation, much less the average random kid next door. I also tell folks that continuing education is very important because we can’t predict what’s going to happen in our next job(s).

    I’m definitely learning from your experience. Nothing beats the school of hard knocks!

  6. Your story is such an important one to get out to the public. Pet parents often don’t think of the skills, education and experience needed to handle emergency type situations. You handled that situation in a professional matter, and because of that, the dogs were prevented from having a tragic outcome. Bravo to you Beth and thank you for sharing your story.

  7. Excellent synopsis. One of my sitters faced something very similar. Malamute grabbed the smaller white dog and had his entire body in her mouth. It was awful. Thankfully the little dog wound up being okay. If a younger person, teenager, or otherwise had not training, how would they have responded? Its hard enough as a trained professional adult to make certain you are thinking and responding clearly. Bravo for the way you handled this!

  8. Great job saving the dog’s life Beth! My story: several years ago, I was doing 1x/day cat visits for a client. On new year’s day, I got to the job, and the small cottage they lived in was filled with smoke! I ran in to see a small old space heater was on fire in the kitchen. About 2 foot flame. I remember seeing the clients fire extinguisher, found it & let it rip, extinguishing the fire. I called fire department, they came out quickly, told me I was brave, but should’ve let them handle it. Yeah, right, like I’m going to let 2 cats burn. I sequestered the cats in the client’s bedroom while the firemen inspected the house. This was before cell phones were common, so I couldn’t even get word to my client before he came home. I left a note, explaining why his house was sooty. He brought the cats to the vet, who cleaned their noses & all was well. Client was very appreciative. Would a knd handle this the same way? Doubt it.

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