Boarding, Pet Sitters and Other Options When Your Pets Must Stay at Home


Sometimes when you travel, it’s not possible to take Fido or Fifi with you. So what do you do with them? Obviously, someone has to care for them while you’re gone.

Many years ago, first when I was single, and later when we married and our family began to include children, we chose to use a boarding kennel during those trips when we couldn’t take our dogs with us. We researched, probably using the Yellow Pages and making a few phone calls, and picked the one that was convenient and seemed a good place for them to stay.

by wknight94 via WikiMedia Commons

Generally this worked fairly well, and although they were understandably happy to see us when we returned, we trusted that they had been well cared for in our absence.

That changed one time, though, when we returned to find Bootsey with a bad cut on her paw, where the kennel operator said someone had opened a swinging door and her foot was caught under it. They had treated it and told us they’d cover any vet expenses we had. While the explanation was believable, I felt terrible and never used a boarding kennel again. I know things have changed since then, and there are some truly fabulous boarding establishments now, but we decided on another option for our furry family members.

We installed a doggy door that fit against the sliding glass door to our fenced backyard, and began depending on friends or relatives to check on them at least once a day, feeding them and playing with them.

At least they were in a familiar environment. They still were ecstatic when we returned, but truthfully, they acted the same way when we came in from the grocery store.

That changed when we returned to find our bedroom looking like a cat had spent a week in there. We later found out that’s exactly what happened. Somehow, when we were loading the car, we closed the bedroom door, trapping Oliver inside.

All week long, the people who were checking on the animals (two dogs and a cat this time) fed them but never saw the cat. Sometimes the cat food was gone, sometimes it was still there. Finally, after almost a week, someone heard the cat, followed the sounds, and opened the door, freeing him from his prison.

He’d eaten soap, from the looks of it, drunk from the toilet or a dripping faucet, and done his best to use the tub as his potty, finally using our bed as well.

Another time, a different friend was told to be sure to “put the stick in the door,” our method for “locking” the sliding doors with the pet door installed. This time, however, they put the “closed” door in the pet door, trapping the dogs inside…

by Alelaidasofia via WikiMedia Commons

So we decided to begin using professional pet sitters. This has definitely worked best for us.

Our first pet sitter was a young woman who worked at our vet. She was fabulous, visiting at least twice a day, feeding, watering, medicating and playing with the animals, bringing in the mail and papers, taking the trash can to the curb and returning it after it had been emptied, and even locating a “lost” credit card we’d inadvertently left beside the computer. She was with us for many years, through a series of pets, until she finally moved out of state. She handed us off to her replacement at the vet’s, but we moved shortly after that to a house without a pet door or a fenced yard.

So now we have a true pet sitter, who is also a long-time friend.

We take Sasha to her house where she’s spoiled and loved until our return. She has doggy friends to play with, and even sometimes goes for “play dates” if our schedule includes a long day when we wouldn’t be able to take her out. It’s absolutely the best solution for us for those trips when Sasha can’t go with us.

She still likes to travel, being a true “people” pup. But when I get her bag out and start putting her food in it, she gets excited, because she knows she’s going to her Aunt Betty’s. Most times, she doesn’t even give me a backwards glance when I leave. We sometimes get Facebook updates and phone calls. It’s truly the best!

If you don’t have a trusted friend, or your vet doesn’t know anyone to suggest, you can check websites like,, and many others.

Be sure to check references and visit before using any kennel or pet sitter. Your furry child will thank you!

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