Thursday, October 16, 2008

Plumbing for pet sitters

New Year’s Morning…

While the rest of the world slept off its collective hangover, I was out visiting pets, letting dogs out of crates, scooping litterboxes, and feeding birds. My last stop was to visit a dog, two cats and some bunnies. Hannah the border collie mix needed to go out for the day.

As I walked in the front door, Hannah greeted me frantically. I quickly realized that water was pouring down the stairs into the entry hall. The pipe under the sink in the upstairs bathroom had broken during the night. I had no idea how to shut off the water. I briefly looked in the family room, which is directly below the upstairs bathroom. The hardwood floors were soaked and buckled. Water continued to pour.

After (finally) shutting off the water under the sink, I looked for the main shut-off for the house. Usually it is by the front door, but not this time. It was located behind a utility shelf in the garage, where I never would have found it if not for some helpful neighbors who knew the quirks of the homes in this tract.

I called the owner, who would be flying in from New York that night, and she had me call a friend who took over, calling in a flood repair company to start cleaning up. If you live in an area that freezes in winter, be prepared for broken water lines.

Now, I ask my clients where their water shut-off is, and some even leave me a full notebook of instructions for the electrical panel, water, gas, and other mishaps that just wait until the owners leave to pop up and ruin my day. I’ve learned about sprinkler lines and septic tanks, gas meters and generators.

Septic rules, heat, electric gates

If your client is on a septic system, DON”T flush kitty litter or Kleenex. The best rule is to not flush anything down the toilet unless your client specifically tells you to. A septic system will back up into the tubs, sinks, toilets, and out of the ground up into the yard.

One Christmas, a client’s heating system went out. It was 19 degrees in the house, and the cats were huddled in a basket together, trying to keep warm. I called the owners and got the system repaired before they returned from their trip.

Another time, I accidentally knocked an electric gate off the track. My pet sitting insurance covered the repair. Another time, an electric gate closed on my car and pinned me with no way to escape. My car suffered more than the gate on that one...

The moral of the story: ask your client where the water shut-off is. Learn how to turn off water, gas and electricity, and ask what the client wants you to do when things go wrong!

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