By Meredith Somers
Santas elves and seasonal workers aren’t the only ones extra busy for the holidays — it’s prime time for pet sitters on Capitol Hill.
The people who walk dogs, feed cats and spend the night with pets say their schedules are packed around Christmas like no other time of year.
“Christmas is by far the busiest,” Rachel Humphreys, owner of Little Friend(s) Big Heart(s) Pet Service, said.
By the end of next week, she will have helped seven households with cats and four households with dogs, staying overnight at some homes and just stopping by to feed cats at others.
While a normal week for her involves taking dogs on lots of afternoon walks and letting them out for bathroom breaks, around Christmas she takes on more overnight jobs.
Metro Mutts, which has locations on Barracks Row and H Street NE, sees a holiday spike in cat-sitting requests, pet services manger Darnita Brown said. Pet owners book help as early in as September or October.
“It’s not so much for dog walkers, it’s a lot of watching cats,” she said. “In an area like the Hill, more people are out of town.”
Martha Burns, who’s been walking dogs on the Hill for more than a decade, said her schedule still had spots open because some regular clients are taking their pets on vacation with them this Christmas.
“One couple is going to the beach in Mexico and they’re taking their two dogs,” she said as she made her way past rowhouses on 5th Street NE, holding four leashes.
But even the best-laid plans can fall through. While the holidays can mean big business for pet sitters, they can also mean big headaches.
“It’s kind of a frustrating time of year,” said Grace Steckler, owner of Saving Grace Services, which has an office on 9th Street NE.
The Hill is full of responsible owners who plan ahead for the holidays, but plans fall through and emergencies occur, leaving pet owners with travel plans but no sitters.
“We really try to bend over backwards. It’s not your fault, you didn’t procrastinate. Some people are leaving the next day, so we’re sympathetic in trying to help,” Steckler said.
To make sure your pet gets taken care of and no one gets left in the cold, she had these tips:
- Commit to the sitter you reached out to in an emergency
- If you’ve been working with a sitter for some time and it ends up you don’t need a sitter after all, it doesn’t hurt to say thank you for the effort.
“We want to help,” Steckler said. “Doing business with animals here, we really do try to make the extra effort.”
Despite all the busyness, pet sitting is a joy, Burns said.
“What other job does your boss meet you at the front door and say ‘Oh, I’m so excited to see you?” she said. “And at the end of the day, they say ‘I hope to see you tomorrow!'”