One of the key things about being a pet sitter is the clients pets become like your own. You form a bond and relationship with them as you get to know each other. I always have people telling me what a fun job pet sitting sounds like. How easy I must have it as a pet sitter getting to play with animals all day. My key reply phase is “It’s not all Sunshine, Rainbows, Puppies & Kittens.” This weekend was one of those examples. It was supposed to be a routine, basic, easy pet sitting weekend with a lot of my regular pets to care for but that all changed on Friday afternoon. I had pets scheduled that I had been taking care of for a long time. I had a good rapport and routine with these pets. But as I found out that trust and rapport is easily destroyed with the simplest change.
It started out with “Dude” the rabbit’s owner calling me. This was a red flag because she NEVER calls me. We always communicate via email. Dude had taken a trip to the vet earlier that morning for constipation & not eating. Dude was in need of medication & force feeding. His owner asked if they should cancel their trip and stay home or if I felt comfortable caring for him. I admitted to to her that I had never force fed a rabbit before. However, I was willing to do it and try my best. After all it wasn’t that much more different than force feeding a dog or cat. She said they would be easy to get a hold of over the weekend. The vet said I could call at anytime with questions or concerns, and the clinic was right down the street. We added a couple extra visits to the schedule for observation and administration of medication and feeding.Gus hiding behind the loveseat
Friday afternoon I went to visit my kitty friends Gus & Neville. I’ve been pet sitting these 2 cats for almost 3 years now, and they are always a pleasure to take care of. Last time their owner needs a pet sitter though I was unavailable so my affiliate Sally had filled in for me. Sally is the first to admit she is not a cat person but she does her best to make the pets happy & make sure they are well cared for. Gus must of sensed it because Sally had text me that Gus was hiding from her. Gus NEVER hides from me so I knew that was a red flag. I showed up Friday afternoon to take care of Gus and Neville, and only Neville came to greet me. Knowing what had happened when Sally had cared for them, I started to talk to Gus. I went about my normal routine caring for them with Neville following me all over. I just kept talking out loud saying “Gus it’s Auntie Shannon. You going to come out & say Hi to me? It’s okay honey.” Gus wasn’t having any part of it. I found him resting behind the loveseat. So I leaned over the top & talked to him. Even Neville jumped up next to me & looked down & talked to Gus, as to say “Come Gus, look it’s Shannon.” It REALLY bothered me that Gus was hiding from me, after all I’d been caring for him for almost 3 years. I had to prepare a plan to win him over again.
That evening I went to visit “Dude” the Rabbit for the first time. Dude is an exceptional rabbit in that he has had a very social lifestyle. He has an entire bedroom to himself as his enclosure. His owner’s son took himForce Feeding Dude the rabbit
to college with him and he lived in a dorm. So Dude is a very friendly, curious and social rabbit. Dude’s outgoing and friendly personality is one of the reasons I love caring for him and didn’t worry about medicating or force feeding him. I walked in to find rabbit droppings which was a huge sense of relief knowing he wasn’t constipated anymore. I proceeded to give him his medication which went off without a hitch! I moved on to the force feeding part of the visit. The trick was trying to restrain him and figure out the best place to put the syringe of food in his mouth to get it in. A little trial & error of Dude using a rabbit’s best source of defence – their strong hind legs to kick and get away. But we finally figured it out. He actually was better behaved and ate better than most of the animals I have force fed in the past! But the downside was he wanted nothing to do with me afterwards.
For a pet sitter the best feeling you can get is when a pet is happy to see you and wants to interact with you. Now I had 2 of my favorite regular pets Gus & Dude who both wanted nothing to do with me. I was bummed out.earning Gus’s trust
Saturday morning I got up early to be able to spend some extra time with Gus. I came in and again Neville was the only one greeting me at the door. So I went on talking to them both and preparing their breakfast and cleaning their litter boxes as normal. Then I went and located Gus who was hiding behind the loveseat. I sat down on the floor where he could hear and see me and just started talking to him. I caught his attention and he turned around to look at me. A couple more kiss sounds, and reassuring comments and I had his curiosity peaked. He started slowing coming out to investigate. Within 5 minutes I had Gus out from behind the loveseat getting loving, pets and a ton of praise. Then he walked into the kitchen to eat breakfast. Neville & I followed him into kitchen. While Gus ate, Neville and I hung out and I pet Neville. When Gus was done he went over by the kitchen window, flopped down and rolled over looking for belly rubs. I was so relieved! We were back on track!Gus getting love’n
Later that morning I stopped to visit Dude the rabbit. We had more droppings and he ate all of his veggies from the night before. So the constipation and appetite issue had been resolved. I was very relieved he didn’t need to e force fed again. I called in a report to his owner and she was ecstatic! However Dude laid in the caged portion of his room not wanting anything to do with me. In the 3+ years I’ve been caring for Dude I had never seen him lay in the cage. So I went about my business cleaning up and he eventually came out on his own. I went to pet him and give him some loving and he actually lunged & nipped me! Dude had NEVER bitten or nipped me before. I gave him his medication and let him do his own thing. I came back that evening and it was the same thing all over. He was lunging and nipping at me. Even though I didn’t medicate him he wanted nothing to with Shannon.
Sunday morning I started out early again to spend time with Gus & Dude. Dude was eating and pooping but again wanted nothing to do with me. I wasn’t force feeding him or giving him medication. But he had decided he was mad at me and wanted to let me know it. He continued to lunge and nip at me after I put his veggies down.
I moved on to go visit the cats Gus & Neville. I opened up the door and Gus came running to greet me before Neville! I literally had to sit down right where I was because Gus was all about getting loving and pets from Auntie Shannon. Which I was all about doing of course! The Neville had to jump in the act and get his loving and belly rubs too! it was a great treat after a disappointing visit prior with Dude. Gus & I were back on track! I text his owner and she was ecstatic to hear we had made up and he wasn’t afraid of me. We both realized now of course Gus couldn’t have another pet sitter come in except for his Auntie Shannon.Dude the rabbit eating
My last visit with Dude was Monday morning before his owners returned home. After the way the weekend had gone I didn’t really expect much of a reaction or interaction with Dude other than cleaning up his room. I walked into his room and he sat and looked at me for a second. Then he hopped over and smelled me. Then the break I was waiting for, Dude hopped over to his favorite ball, rolled it around the room and hopped back to me for attention. I went to pet him and he just sat there eating up the attention. I was able to rub his head, rub his nose and pet him as if nothing had ever happened. Dude had forgiven me and we were back on track!
A pet sitter forms a bond with the pets they care for. They learn to trust and rely on the pet sitter for care, love and attention in their owners absence. That had been proven to me this past weekend with Gus and Dude. Their pet sitter routine had been interrupted. Gus had a different pet sitter come in who he was not comfortable with. Dude had trusted me and I had treated him in a way he did not like. Even though these were both situations that they were both cared for in the manner they needed to be at the time it disrupted their normal routine. I had to work hard and be patient with them both for them to lean they could trust me and that I meant them no harm. I’m very relieved that my boys love their Aunt Shannon again and I look forward to caring for them again in the future.