We wanted to go to the Annapolis Sailboat Show last year, but we had a slight problem. We needed someone to watch Paz while we were there. My brother and his wife, who Paz had stayed with on previous trips, now live in a condo community that doesn’t allow guest dogs. And we didn’t know anyone in the Annapolis area.
To make it even more complicated, we’re kind of picky about where Paz stays. No cages, for one. Not too many other dogs. Paz loves to be outside, but on “sniffy walks,” not forced marches. Frankly, we’d like it to be as much like staying with friends as possible.
In similar situations in the past, we’ve sometimes been able to turn to friends. But that’s not always possible, and we had one less-than-great experience with a dog sitter once before in a new city. So how to find the perfect sitter?
Even though we were driving to Annapolis, the same problem can arise when you’re cruising. You’re in a new city, there’s either an emergency and you need someone to care for the dog or maybe there’s a day trip you want to do where dogs aren’t welcome. How do you find the right person to care for your furry family member?
As usual, I turned to the internet. And I discovered a great service: DogVacay. It’s a nationwide listing of available dog sitters . . . some do day care, some overnights in their home, some will come to your dog at your house, some just walk dogs.
DogVacay sets certain standards, but each sitter is free to offer the services they wish. Some take only large dogs, some small, some all sizes; some have one guest dog at a time, others have multiple. All sorts of options and a range of prices, too. Sort of like AirBnB or VRBO. And each sitter’s reviews are posted so you can see what other dog parents liked or didn’t like about a particular sitter.
I began by sorting though the listings to find people in the Annapolis area who had the dates I needed available, and who only took one small dog at a time. Reading the listings, I narrowed it down to four or five who sounded like a good match and sent each a message. Frankly, I think that any of those would have been great for Paz, but “Camp Mimi” really stood out as THE perfect match and it was even clearer when I got Mimi’s reply. So we made the arrangements. You pay upfront with a credit card; each sitter has their own cancellation/refund policy.
There were several things that I really liked about working with DogVacay:
- You can read reviews from people who have used each sitter.
- You can do a quick sort by the criteria you want: location, cost, number of dogs, size of dogs, special care needs.
- Listings include photos and really give you a feel for the different people. I found it easy to pick out several that seemed right for Paz.
- DogVacay gives you a 24/7 number to call if there is any problem at all.
- The stay includes medical insurance for your dog, so if he/she gets hurt or is sick, there’s never a question about taking the dog to vet or who will pay for it.
- Your host will send you at least one photo a day (Mimi sent us 5+) so you can see that they’re doing okay. It was obvious that she was having a great time!
- No cages, ever, unless you request your dog to be crated at night.
- If you take the time to read the listings and reviews, it’s easy to get the right sitter for your dog’s temperment and needs.
Admittedly, it’s not often that we need a sitter for Paz — she typically goes everywhere we do. But on the few occasions that we can’t take her somewhere, it can be tough to find the right sitter when we’re in a totally new city. Next time we need someone in a place where we don’t have personal connections, we’ll definitely use DogVacay again. And since I know there are other dog families that also sometimes need a sitter in a totally new city, I wanted to pass the info along.
And now a bit of the fun that Paz had at Camp Mimi:
Admittedly, we’ve only used DogVacay once so I can’t guarantee that every host/guest matchup is as perfect as Paz and Mimi. But when you don’t know anyone suitable in an area, it’s a whole lot better than blindly picking a listing out of the phone book. And like anything else, a lot depends on you spending the time to read the listings and find the right sitter.
Mimi, her husband Jim and their dog Peppy went out of their way to make Paz feel like “one of the family.”
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