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Tips on finding housesitters to keep pets, homes secure

Cameryn Flynn poses for a photograph with her dog Sadie at her home in Spokane on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. She prefers to hire a housesitter/petsitter if she travels so that person stays overnight in her home while she's gone. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Cameryn Flynn poses for a photograph with her dog Sadie at her home in Spokane on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. She prefers to hire a housesitter/petsitter if she travels so that person stays overnight in her home while she's gone. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

After traveling, Cameryn Flynn will hear from neighbors whether a hired housesitter takes her dog out as agreed for regular walks.

Most do, and Flynn said she feels more secure when away knowing that Sadie, her active 3-year-old black lab mix, is getting individual attention at home. She said it’s also reassuring that a sitter is watching her property and staying overnight.

She’s among Spokane-area residents who prefer to pay someone trustworthy to stay in a residence, with pets or without, while they’re traveling or gone for the winter. Sadie seems happier in her own surroundings, Flynn said, and she carefully screens before hiring someone.

“I prefer that I don’t have to take my dog somewhere to a kennel or to another location,” Flynn added. “That’s just a personal preference.”

How to find someone and make the arrangements work for all parties – pets included – can be the tricky part. Some people ask friends and neighbors, and others rely on professional sitters often hired through websites or smartphone apps.

Flynn gets referrals through Rover.com, and she meets with candidates. She’ll select someone who connects best with Sadie and seems likely to be the most attentive to her dog.

Though sitters set their rates, an average payment is $25 for each 24-hour period, Flynn said. A typical holiday overnight rate is $35. Rover.com sitters have various prices for different scenarios, such as dog-walking only, briefer home visits or a pet stay in the caregiver’s home.

To find good housesitter candidates, Flynn recommends screening whether someone will be respectful of property, tidy in the home and good with the animals. She also suggests that along with an interview, to go with candidates on a short walk with the dog to see if they can handle the pet.

Flynn’s favorite go-to person is Spokane housesitter Amanda Crumbley.

“Amanda is so good not only with my dog, but also with my house,” Flynn said. “She sends pictures of Sadie while I’m away on trips. Neighbors tell me she’s constantly out playing with her and walking with her.

“When you’re searching for housesitter, you need to understand how they would interact with the house, with you and with the dog, while making the focus on the dog.”

Crumbley, who housesits part-time, said it helps if a homeowner has a written list covering a pet’s routine and care, household info, emergency contacts and veterinarian info.

“I typically stay in the dog’s environment,” Crumbley said. “A lot of my clients, they regularly have different people come and stay while they’re gone. The animals seem to be happier in their own environment and in their own routine.”

Linda Hagen-Miller in Liberty Lake finds sitters through recommendations. With a recent candidate, she did an informal interview at her home. Juneau, her husky-malamute dog, had to seal the deal.

“We talked, and then I let the dog in,” Hagen-Miller said. “It was obvious she really likes dogs. She passed the interview with the dog.”

Hagen-Miller prefers the dual benefit of someone watching both her beloved pet and the house.

“It costs me $35 a day just to have him in boarding,” she said. “I’d much rather have someone watching my house too.”

Plus, she had a bad experience years back when a teen neighbor occasionally came over for cat care. Thieves broke in when the house was empty.

“She just walked in, fed the cat and didn’t even notice the house had been broken into. What if she had walked in during the time thieves were there? That would have been awful.”

Finding a new housesitter has raised challenges for Susan Frey, a Coeur d’Alene resident, who is asking for referrals from friends about care for her Yorkshire Terrier, Kiah, while she travels next year.

“Another time, I got a name from someone I knew, and I had her come over and meet the dog,” Frey said. “I think it’s important to find someone who has experience with a small dog, because they’re quite different than a larger dog. Then I get a vibe, does the dog like them?”

Frey added that it’s worth the search. Her house is in a rural area, so she is more comfortable leaving if someone stays there. Kiah sleeps with the sitter, and her dog seems more calm. When previously boarded at someone’s home, she had seizures.

While attending to pets, Crumbley said a sitter’s arrangements can include help with basic upkeep. She’s noticed Spokane has independent sitters and regional providers in addition to Rover.com, which takes a small portion of sitters’ rates.

Rover.com says on the website that its pet caregivers are reviewed by the company, and those who are listed as housesitters also complete a general background check.

Ilona McCarty, a photographer, gets regular housesitter gigs solely through word-of-mouth. While photographing wherever she stays, McCarty has worked semi-regularly as a housesitter in Spokane, Idaho, Colorado and California.

McCarty plans to move to this region after recently selling a house in southern Idaho, so she’s housesitting all winter in Coeur d’Alene for homeowners who are snowbirds. While that job doesn’t involve animal care, many of her clients have dogs or some combination of pets.

“You can see the difference with dogs being in their own homes; they’re happier,” McCarty said. “The kennels do a good job, but just like you’re happier in your sense of place that’s home, the animals are like that too.

“For many people, their home is one of their biggest investments, and they like having someone they trust staying in their home.”

What McCarty gets paid ranges, but for one animal it’s usually about $35 a day. Additional pets or special-needs animals cost a bit more. One client in California pays her airfare and provides a car.

In addition to a caregiver list, McCarty suggests that all parties meet the first time for at least an hour. She said some homeowners set up an independent entry code for sitters to open a garage door. She likes to know what pet owners use as preferred words for dog commands, and household rules.

“I want it to be a good fit for both of us,” McCarty said. “It’s good to know about any quirks of the animal, whether they expect two walks a day, and where they like to walk. It’s nice to walk to them just to see how the animal acts.”

Sitters also should be tidy and respect the property, McCarty added.

“You’re a guest in their home. I buy my own food. They usually pay all the utilities and for their animal’s food. They’re keeping their animal warm in addition to me. The dogs and cats that I have sat for, you can tell they’re really well-loved.

“Basically, some of these animals are their kids.”


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