Doggy Sand boxes

Hi all, Amanda here.  Today I would like to write about something that has given me so much joy and prevented some serious anxiety…Lucy’s sandbox.

Lucy is my dog.  She is a Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix who LOVES to dig.  She loves to play, she loves to be outside, and she loves to dig.  Did I mention she loves to dig?!  I am a very lucky person because I am home more often than most; but when I first got Lucy, I was leaving my house at about 8:15 am and my son was home by 2.   My landlord fenced in half of my covered patio so I could safely leave her outside when I went to work.*

It had a cement floor except for right where the door out of the patio was. Lucy dug there the first time I put her outside and didn’t sit out there with her.  I don’t want to leave her cooped up inside, but I have always had a fear that she would dig out of her kennel before someone got home.  So, cooped up inside it was!  That is, until I read an article about dog sand boxes.  Redirecting a digger to only dig where you want them to.  Give them a place to dig and reward them for using it.

The first step was finding or building a sandbox.  I was renting an apartment so building a sandbox was not really a good 20140704_115215option.  I opted to buy a sandbox.  Unfortunately, it was August and without ordering one on Amazon and having it shipped, I had no luck.  I really had my heart set on the red crab sandbox with the cover but settled for a cute purple wading pool and a tarp.  Before I had even finished filling the pool with sand, Lucy was in there digging.  She was so funny and so cute!  I sat down in a lawn chair and watched as she dug hole after hole.  Every now and again, she would sit down in one of them and ponder.  I wonder what she was thinking?  Before I could answer that question in my head, she was up and digging again.  She loved it!!!

But…would it keep her from digging out of her kennel?  One could only hope!  I left her out there and took a few short trips over the weekend to see.  When I got back, she was laying on the cement with several holes visible in her sandbox.  So, she had dug until she got bored.  This was a great start but since I had only been gone for two hours, it wouldn’t do on a normal day when she is out in her kennel area for 6 hours.

The article, and several others I read after I researched it, said that giving Lucy a dedicated place to dig would solve my problem.  Story after story about dogs that were reformed when given a special digging area.  Dogs dig for reasons ranging from boredom (Lucy!), attention, to looking for a cool place to chill out.  Because Lucy seemed to dig out of boredom, I combined the sand box with the idea behind a treat puzzle toy.  I went out before I brought Lucy out and buried a bunch of toys and treats in the sand.  That took care of rewarding her for digging where I wanted her to dig as well.  I left her in her kennel for three hours and returned.

She was still playing in the sandbox!!!  She had dug up everything I had buried but then she dug new holes and reburied some of the toys.  Not only did she have a fabulous time on the treasure hunt I had set up, she had learned a new game–bury the treasure.

That was two years ago and we have moved on a bit.  We live in a new place and Lucy has a new kennel and a new sandbox.  Her new kennel is on the grass but she still doesn’t try to dig anywhere except in her sandbox.  Her current sandbox is an old tractor tire witlucy sandboxh a tarp on the bottom.  I originally had a table cloth on the top (one of those cheap plastic ones that you bring on picnics) but I stopped covering the box.  My main reasoning was so that nothing pooped in the sandbox (like the neighborhood cats) but since the new kennel has such high sides, I don’t think anything can get in there. Also when it rains, the water goes through the sand and runs out the bottom, so that isn’t an issue either.   Lucy is not usually out there for 6 hours anymore since I am only gone for about 3 hours at a time now, and I have made the treasure hunt a bit more challenging.  At the advice of a good friend, I have added some decent sized rocks to her sandbox.  These rocks are too big for her to eat or choke on, but not too big for her to move.  I routinely put a toy or two under the rocks so she has to move them to retrieve what lies beneath.  I look forward to coming home and seeing if she has found all her buried treasure.  And Lucy runs right to her sandbox when she sees me reaching for my car keys because she knows I have left her goodies.  Win/Win!!!

*Lucy is never truly alone outside, the landlord was home and my mother is home now.  Even though her area is safe for her, there is unfortunately a risk that she would be taken out of the yard if unsupervised 😦


Free Meet and Greet

Hi there, Amanda here.  Have you ever wondered what is happening in the pet sitter’s mind when they come to your house for a meet and greet?  I mean, think about it.  If you have interviewed a pet sitter (Amanda’s Paw Pals is a really great pet sitting company!  You should call them!) you might not notice what is going on; but that pet sitter is “reading between the lines.”  Or, hopefully they are!  Did I mention that Amanda’s Paw Pals Pet Sitters do this?!

I am going to assume that you have called Amanda’s Paw Pals and I am coming to your home for a free meet and greet.  We have an appointment set up and you have made a list of questions to ask me.  Am I insured and bonded?  (Yes.)  How long have I been in business?  (almost 13 years!)  Do you have any references that you can give me?  (Of course!)  You may ask me about my experience, about my credentials (am I a member of any pet sitting institutions?) or my education in the field.  (Pet CPR certified.)  You may have questions about when I started and why I continued pet sitting.  (For answers to all these questions and more, call Amanda’s Paw Palsdog sitting in an easy chair at 860-338-7135).

Now here is what I am doing when I come to your home to meet you and your pet(s).  I am not trying to be devious at all but I am definitely trying to glean some information on my visit.   This is my chance to figure out if your pets are going to love me as much as they love you.  I am truly hoping they do 🙂

The very first thing I do when I walk in the door is shake your hand.  Seems like a professional way to begin an interview (and it is!) but that is not why I do it.  What I am doing is transferring your scent onto my hand.  Then when your dog or cat smells me, they have your scent mingling with mine.  It usually puts them at ease and helps me to see their true selves, not the anxious, stranger-is-in-the-house-what-do-I-do self!

After we have formally met, I will try and steer the party to the kitchen table or another surface where I can fill out the contract I have brought.  While I am asking you questions, I am watching out of the corner of my eye what your pet is doing.  Is he or she sitting on the edge of the couch so he can be above me?  Is she laying on the floor with her tail tucked between her legs?  Sometimes I think people think I am uninterested in getting to know their fur families but nothing could be farther from the truth.  I don’t typically approach your dog or get in their face.  I will often let a cat come to me for affection rather than trying to get them to play with me.  Your pets will come to me when they have decided that I am not a threat, trying to force them to “friend me” before they are ready will just make it harder for me to win them over later.

I definitely don’t try to presume to know everything and I learn new things about new pets every day.  I learn the most about interesting things about pets from their owners.  I have said it before and I will say it again, pet owners know their pets better than anyone else knows their pets!  My hope is, when meeting every fur family, that I will find a new fur BFF to hang with and love.  After all, is there anything better?!

Adventures in Pet Sitting :)

Hi there, folks, Amanda here 🙂  I didn’t know what to write about so I thought I would tell you a story about a dog, a harness, and a pet sitter.  It is a happy story (eventually hahaha!) that ends with me learning a few things. And let me just apologize if this is not spaced perfectly, I am using my smartphone to write it as I am “out on assignment.”

This started out as any other day.  I am sleeping over at a job so that beautiful puppy got a morning walk, then breakfast while I was eating my own breakfast.  We enjoyed the fresh air and the fabulous weather we have been having lately.  We said “hello–woof woof” to a few of the neighbors (two and four legged alike!) and she did her business.  Home for some granola and kibble, meat and vitamins.  When everyone was settled and full, I was off to visit another house.

This home has a lot of charm, the kind of house I could see myself living in. It is full of dog hair, dog food, dog slobber and Dog love. Oh, and a really big yard. Not fenced in, but that is another story. Actually, that is THIS story!

It all started out innocently enough, I put one dog out on her run and took the other two to go for a ramble of fresh air. We were strolling along in the back yard, sniffing everything and barking at passing leaves. The dogs stopped to smell the roses (or was it the crocuses?) And before I knew what was happening, the Littlest Princess bowed down to the flowers, slipped herself backwards out of her harness and started to run! I looked to make sure the big dog was okay on her run and medium dog and I chased after little sister.


The Littlest Princess was having the best time exploring the area. She was running here and there, sniffing this and that, and barking at everything. Her sister and I were following behind her and she was happy to lead us to all her favorite and new favorite places. I kept getting close and she would run again. As long as we were not close enough for her to feel threatened, she would lazily and crazily (is that even a word?!) wander around. I had already talked to her father who told me to bring her sister alone to convince her to come home (check) and to keep her in eyesight. (Check check.) I sat on the ground and looked at the grass like it was made of gold. When I saw her coming closer out of the corner of my eye, I got on my hands and knees and “ate grass.” At my First Aid class the instructor (who is also a dog trainer) said that was the best way to “catch a runaway” because they can’t resist coming over to see what you are doing. Never fails, she said.  I have never needed it for an emergency but have, of course, tried it on every dog I meet.  It has worked on every dog I have tried it on. Except this dog. Darn!

It occurred to me that my little friend didn’t like me to be too close to her but also didn’t want me too far way either. Her owner told me to leave her for a bit and I wasn’t ready to do that yet; but I did want to leave this stranger’s yard. I made the executive decision to walk home and hope she followed me. I was obviously watching her very closely to make sure she was, in fact, following me.  We traveled home through the woods in which we came. I didn’t want her to walk in the road if I could help it at all and I needed us to stop trespassing. I got home, put her sisters back in the house, and walked back outside to the sound of the Littlest Princess barking. Phew! I had filled my pockets with carrots (her favorite!) and sat on the ground to eat them. She kept getting close to me, sniffing the carrots. When I moved my other hand, even a little, she rushed off away from me. At least she wasn’t leaving the yard anymore but still not ready to come in. It had been over an hour now and I was getting anxious. Her owner told me that sometimes he had to leave and he left the screen door propped open for her. He said she always came back and went to sleep in the mudroom when she was tired. I was at my wits end, and although I wasn’t going to be able to just leave and come back later without having a panic attack about it, I had to try.
I started my car and backed down the driveway. Littlest Princess didn’t even look up. I drove down the street to Mcdonalds and bought a bacon egg and cheese biscuit meal with a diet coke. I was gone 15 minutes or so and I prayed the whole way there and back. I pulled back in the driveway, opened my door and took out the hashbrown. Littlest Princess smelled it and jumped right in my car!!!! Yay!!! Of course, I didn’t give her that junk food. It’s bad enough that I eat it! I slipped her one of the carrots from my pocket and brought her safely inside.

Sorry for how long this post is…this was the first time a dog had backed out of a harness on me. I had of course heard of it but never actually seen it happen. And I am not going to lie–I have always figured it wouldn’t happen to me. So that is lesson number one. Even the best pet sitters have situations come up and being prepared (AND NOT FREAKING OUT AND PANICKING!!!) is the most important thing to bring to the table.  Lesson number two, “eating grass” is not foolproof. Turns out having a couple of tricks up your sleeve is the best way to be.   And lesson number three (which I already know and practice but reminders are never a bad thing!) is that your first action (after assuring the pet is safe) is to contact the owner. They have more than likely been through it already and can tell you what works before you waste time trying it. I didn’t want to leave Littlest Princess, but it was what worked. The owner knew his dog!!!!

Continue reading “Adventures in Pet Sitting :)”

Insurance Fun Facts

Hi, Amanda here 🙂  I have to be honest, I don’t think there is anything fun about insurance; let alone fun facts.   But, I like the alliteration of it all!

A question was posed to me recently about insuranceone of the “clauses” in the legal section of my contract and I was caught off guard.  I didn’t know how to answer the question and, truth be told, had never even thought about it.  I have had the same contract since I began my business in May of 2003.  I purchased the contract from a reputable web site because all the legal leg work had already been done and I was able to adjust the questions to fit my needs.  Of course, I didn’t really know what those needs were yet (LOL) but I knew I would soon figure it out.  (I did.  I am pretty sure I have changed the questions on that contract at least 3 times a year for the last 12 years!)  I read over the legal portion and that was that.  I understood everything and nothing seemed out of sorts.  I purchased pet sitting insurance soon after that and even though some of the parts of the contract were probably already covered in the insurance, I left it all as is.  A lawyer wrote it up so who am I to start monkeying with it, right?!

The question that was posed to me was why there was a section that said any physical harm done to the pet sitter (i.e. a dog bite) was the responsibility of the client.  That should be covered under my pet sitting insurance, should it not?  Does anyone else hear the sound of the ocean in my empty head?!  I shooed away the seagulls and told the client I would research that question and get back to them.

My first stop was my pet sitting insurance company’s website.    I started to hit the tab for contacting them and decided to look on the FAQ page first.  It turns out that it is not the out of the blue question I thought it was!  Under the heading “What isn’t covered?” (Duh?!)  The answer was right there in black and white.  My pet sitting insurance does cover medical expenses acquired (up to $5,000) by someone OTHER than the pet sitter.  An example they give is if a pet sitter is walking a dog down the street and the dog bites a passerby, Amanda’s Paw Pals pet insurance policy will cover their medical bills.  Good to know, makes sense.  So surely it would cover the pet sitter if she or he gets bit?  That clause in the contract (along with others, I am sure!) is redundant and can be taken out.

Nope.  It very specifically states that it will not cover medical expenses for the policy holder.  The pet sitting insurance is considered general liability insurance and that type of injury would fall under workman’s compensation insurance.  Many states have laws about how much insurance a company must have and Connecticut is no different.  As a sole proprietorship, I am exempt from being required to hold workman’s compensation insurance.  Good for me, I can’t really afford it anyway.  Right?!  Unless a dog bites me while I am working and I have to pay out of pocket for my medical expenses.  I wonder if my personal insurance would cover that or if it would be something they would deny paying as well because it falls under “workman’s comp.”  That question, I am embarrassed to say, is still floating around in my head.  As soon as I am finished with this blog, I will find out!  I think the safest thing for me to do at this moment would be to look into a health care savings account.  That way, if it isn’t covered under my personal policy I can just pay for it.  I have actually been toying with the idea of a health care savings account anyway.  And anyway, I am pretty good at reading animals (knock on wood) and I don’t accept jobs if I have even the slightest reservations; so I am not overly concerned that this kind of problem would ever even come up.

I took that clause out of the contract and moved on with my day.  There is such a thing as being TOO concerned with insurance issues.  I mean, I could get hit by a bus crossing the street and all the insurance in the world wouldn’t help me.  I started this business because I wanted a less-stressful life and career so I don’t want to get worked up over “what-ifs” in the future.  Call me crazy, but I don’t have time for all that drama.  Ain’t nobody got time for that drama!!