Sunday, June 28, 2009

4th of July: Beware of fireworks

The pet sitters' nightmare week has arrived. While the rest of the nation celebrates, we cringe. Shelters hunker down and wait for the strays to pour in. Pet sitters can't be at every home at the same time, so they must prepare for the noise and their client pets' unusual reactions.

In areas where fireworks are allowed, the racket starts as soon as the fireworks stands go up, and escalates until the big blowout on the 4th. Meanwhile, especially if you are in the midwest, summer thunderstorms terrorize sensitive animals in the same way.

What to do about sensitive animals and their fear of loud noises?

There are loads of articles about how to desensitize pets to the noise. But as pet sitters, we aren't in a position to do advance training. And we may not even know that the pet will react badly when the racket begins. Here are some tips to help you prepare your animals for a peaceful SAFE holiday:

Turn on the TV or radio to mask the sound. Make sure it's not a channel broadcasting 4th of July concerts and fireworks shows! The Home Shopping Channel is a good choice. Even classical music radio channels are going to play the "1812 Overture", complete with crashing and booming. Animals can sense the atmospheric change when thunderstorms are coming, so this solution doesn't help as much for storms.

Double check doors, windows and gates to be sure they are securely latched. A terrified dog will tear through a window screen, so shut the windows.

Crate the dog if you know he is likely to panic. Talk to owners in advance, and ask them how their dog reacts to loud noises.

Don't forget cats. Put out some catnip out for nervous kitties, and confine them to their favorite room with lots of hiding places.

Try not to leave any pets outside. Even the calmest dog can panic and escape when terrified. If you HAVE to leave them outside, be sure they have on a secure collar and ID. Shelters fill up with panicked strays that end up miles from home.

And one last thought: The safest place for a pet on the 4th of July might be in a boarding kennel, not at home.

Here's to a SAFE and happy 4th of July!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fixed the gate!

A friend of mine who owns a doggie daycare in Seattle experienced the same incident as last weekend's near disaster (Read about it in my previous post). And here is what she did to prevent dogs from sticking their heads through the gate. Her victim was an Italian Greyhound, and he too was rescued safely, but who wants to go through that agony? 

This is a 4" corrugated plastic drain. I cut it with garden clippers, and attached it with zip ties. I hope this tip helps you prevent accidents. It just dawned on me, looking at this photo, that if I attach the drainpipe to the other post, it might work even better. 

Thanks Ann Marie, of SpawZ in Seattle, WA. 

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Close call-- pet sitting emergency!

Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
Last night was one of those events from hell for me. 9:30 pm: A small terrier mix named Rex was unhappy that he was out in the outer yard by himself. He is boarding here with his roommate, Makaso. Makaso was in the house. All of a sudden I hear a dog screaming in pain, fear, whatever. I go blasting out back and find Rex's head caught between the chain link gate and the frame. I couldn't open the gate– it pinched him tighter. He had stuck his head in through the corner, which is a bigger spot, then stood up and was stuck between the bars in a very narrow spot. 

I tried to get him to relax and lower his head; no go. I peeled his feet off the fence and tried to push him into a down position, but he was totally braced, screaming and twisting. I had to let go, run in the house for the phone, and call the neighbor. I told him he needed to bring a wrench that could take off the gate. By now I'm back outside trying to hold Rex still and calm him. 

God bless my neighbor, who came right over with the correct tool and removed the gate while I held Rex. I was afraid Rex would pass out from choking, which would mean I might be able to get him out, but then I'd be doing CPR on this dog. The second he was loose he was just fine, shook himself off and started wagging his tail. I stuck him in his crate and had a good cry. 

I haven't flipped out this much since I killed a rattlesnake. I could never have gotten him loose by myself. I'm not strong enough to unscrew the bolts. If I'd been gone, I could have come home to a strangled dog. My heart was pounding in my ears and my adrenaline was pumping. I swear my lungs are still burning from the stress. I am physically exhausted today. When you are in a life and death situation like that, the hardest part is to leave the victim and call for help. Which is exactly what you are supposed to do, as I've learned in all my first aid training. 

That's why we make the big bucks, huh? There is no way to be prepared for everything that could happen. 

The photo above: Rex revisits the scene of the crime. Bottom left hand corner of the gate (circled) is where he put his head through.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pet sitters' toolbox: get rid of ants

It seems like as soon as a client leaves on vacation, the ants move in. A trail from the garage to the kitchen greets me as I come in the front door, and the cat food dish is swarming with ants.

Here are some tips to get rid of and prevent ants without poisoning the pets.

Set the pet's dish in a larger outer dish filled with soapy water. This creates a moat that keeps ants out (see photo). For extra prevention, cover the edge with Vaseline to make a barrier. Pick up any spilled food. Pick up the pet's dish and rinse it out before you leave (harder to do for cats, who usually free feed).

Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it home, and  can't digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains.

Put bay leaves, spearmint, pepper, chili powder, cucumber, cinnamon, borax, or baby powder around the windows and other places where ants get in. I carry bay leaves in my car, along with the can opener and litter scoop! 

Spray ants with 409, Windex, Simple Green or other cleaner. Not toxic like poisons, and pets aren’t attracted to it. Vinegar is another good one. Add some liquid dish soap for extra sticking power. Wipe vinegar around windows and door sills. I can always find something like this under the sink or in the laundry room if I need it. 

Spread coffee grounds around the foundation of the house outside.