Nothing can prepare you for the first time you drop off your babies. They look at you with huge, sad eyes, no doubt thinking you are leaving them forever. The guilt sinks in, you stoically walk away (trying to pretend nothing is wrong), and then bawl your eyes out in the parking lot. You stop to wonder: Will they ever forgive me? Will they think I've abandoned them? Will they be safe? Yes, it's that time of year when you need to board the pets, and you are a hot mess.
If you're unusually blessed, you'll have the opportunity to bring your pet(s) along on holiday travel. The sad truth is, most people won't want you to bring along all of your animals -- particularly to a house like my mother's that has new, white carpet.
So, how do you prepare?
Find the Right Petcare Service
- Care.com is the top destination for people in need of childcare, elderly care, or personalized home/errand services. Now, they have taken on the world of pets, too. Care.com will find you dog walkers, pet sitters, or boarding options based on your needs and location. You can find an existing petcare provider within 1-50 miles from your home, or you post a petcare job and interview potential workers to find one that best suits your needs.
- PetSmart PetsHotel is a full-service pet boarding area located within PetSmart stores. I took my two cats, King and Webster, to the store in Chicago on multiple occasions. Call the PetSmart in your area to find out which types of pets they board and if there is any extra charge for holiday service.
- Some animals just don't do well in a public boarding situation. If it would make you feel more comfortable to have your pet stay at home, look into the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters to find out if any are available in your area. Also check with your vet to see if they offer boarding. When all else fails, ask a close friend or neighbor.
- Make sure you call early. Holiday bookings can be just as crowded for pets as they are for humans. You also need to ask about any requirements. For example, the PetSmart PetsHotel needed my cats to have current 1 or 3 year rabies and FVRCP vaccines before they could check in. Beware of any boarders that do NOT require any proof of immunizations. You don't want your animals catching something from a shady boarder.
- Check to make sure you can afford it if your pet's stay has to be extended. Particularly during the winter months, storms or airline delays can keep you away from home for far longer than you anticipated. Ask your pet service how much extra days or hours will cost, and budget for them just in case.
- Make sure you pack a bag of your animal's food. Quickly switching from one pet food to another can cause problems for many animals. You don't want your furbaby to end up eating "whatever's there" while you are feasting on fine holiday cuisine. Be sure to pack enough food to last for a few extra days just in case. If a petsitter is coming to your home, put all of the food and medicinal needs in the same place with clear directions. Always leave a note with the name and phone number of your animal's vet.
- Sadly, there is always the chance that something could go wrong no matter where your pet is. Designate a trusted, local emergency contact. Think about who you would trust to make a decision for you in a life or death situation, and let that person know you will be boarding the animals. It is far better to prepare for the worst than to be stuck 1,000 miles away with no one back home to help you figure out what to do.
Give Yourself Permission...
To cry, to feel bad, to feel guilty. Then get over it. You're being an awesome, responsible pet owner to take your animal in to a boarder or have someone come to your home. Trust me, it will hurt you far more than it will hurt the pets. They will get petted, played with, cooed at, and loved. They will probably have a blast. Be sure to give yourself that opportunity, too.
Blondie writes at Tales From Clark Street.
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