Adventures in Pet-sitting

One of the many perks of BarkWorld was a magnificent swag bag, which included $25 gift cards for pet-sitting via Rover.com.

Rover.com is Hotels.com for your dog, connecting you with pet caregivers in cities all over the United States.

I’m giving away two gift cards. That’s $50 of pet-sitting!

Enter to win both by:

  • Posting a comment right here on Rhymes with Safari

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Adventures in Pet-sitting

Before I had dogs, I was the single mother of an iguana named Emerald. He moved with me from Los Angeles to Chicago, to Alexandria, Va., back to L.A., to Burlington, Wash., then Olympia and Bellingham.

emerald

In Chicago and Washington, I had friends to stop by and feed him when I was out of town, but I moved to Alexandria just before Christmas and knew no one who would be around while I was back in L.A. for the holiday. The year was 2000 and I found my pet-sitter in the phone book (the Internet had already been invented but I don’t think it had replaced phone books yet). After meeting her briefly, I wasn’t remotely concerned that this stranger would steal of my stuff; I had just moved there and didn’t have any valuables (aside from Emerald). Worst case scenario, she wouldn’t feed him and I’d come home to a very hungry lizard. She definitely came by at least once, because she left behind a pair of leather gloves.

Nowadays, of course, you’d find an iguana-sitter online, and that’s what Rover.com is all about. You can find dog walkers, doggie daycare, sitters to stay at your house, and people who will take your pets into their homes, all for a range of prices. Older couples, college students, teenagers. Take your pick. Even though I don’t have an iguana anymore, I was delighted to find a listing near me for a sitter who cares for exotics as well as cats and dogs.

Like anything online, you want to make sure you’re dealing with trustworthy people, so you’d want to meet your sitter face-to-face before giving them a key and your itinerary in Barbados. Rover’s reviews also are helpful in that regard.

Usually, Rob’s parents stay at our house with our dogs while we’re gone (so when I tell the Internet we’re going to be out of town, be advised that breaking in during that time will not go well for you). But a few years ago, they treated us to a trip to Hawaii. When they first invited us, my ungrateful reaction was, “Wow, sounds great. Who’s going to watch the dogs?”

We boarded Leo at a place with a big fenced yard, because he’s such a handful, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that to Mia. We’d only had her a few months; how could I explain to her that she wasn’t being abandoned again? So we had a pet-sitter stay with her, and that worked out perfectly.

Rover CEO Aaron Easterly spoke at BarkWorld about the changing trends in pet care and technology. The biggest takeaway for me was that a recent poll found 76 percent of people with dogs considered themselves to be dog parents, rather than dog owners. Makes perfect sense, then, that people prefer for their babies to stay in homes, rather than cages.

To win $25 toward pet-sitting through Rover.com, comment below and tell me about your Adventures in Pet-Sitting. Then, “like” the Facebook page for Bark and Lunge, and enter there to win a second $25 gift card. Contest ends at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11. One winner randomly selected from each list of comments will be announced Thursday, Sept. 12.

Separation anxiety (mine) and the canine oxytocin connection

While in Atlanta for BarkWorld, I missed my doggies like crazy. More than usual, probably because I was thinking about dogs and surrounded by dog-lovers all weekend.

The highlight of the social “petworking” conference for me was meeting Victoria Stilwell. As a fan of her television show, I already knew that she is a champion of positive reinforcement training, but I did not realize the depth of her passion for educating dog owners and old-school trainers that force-free methods are the only humane way to work with animals. Her talk at BarkWorld was inspirational.

On the flight home, I began reading her book, Train Your Dog Positively, appreciating its well-written, scientifically backed explanation of dog psychology mixed with anecdotes about her own dogs and client dogs.

On page 51, I had to nudge Rob to take off his earphones and listen to this:

When we pet a dog lovingly, for example, the warmth and happiness we feel comes from a release into the bloodstream of oxytocin — a “bonding” hormone that has a powerful effect on dogs and humans. Dr. Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg, a doctor and professor of physiology and a pioneer in the study of oxytocin, studied this hormone release by taking blood samples from dogs and their owners before and during a petting session. When owners stroked their dogs, they had a release of oxytocin similar to what mothers experience while nursing babies.

Interestingly, petting also triggered a burst of oxytocin in the dogs themselves. Miho Nagasawah, of the Department of Animal Science and Biotechnology at Azabu University in Japan, showed that even eye contact between a dog and human causes an increase in oxytocin. This interaction between our two species has a powerful physiological effect on both of us, promoting feelings of love and attachment while lowering blood pressure and heart rate, soothing pain, and lessening stress.

Oh my god, yes. Forget eye contact, I feel releases of oxytocin just by saying my dogs’ names.

Here’s a scenario that played out in about a dozen variations throughout the weekend: Rob would mention one of the dogs, let’s say Mia. I would moan, “Meeeeeeyaa. I miss her so muuuuch.” Then I might chant her name, “Mia, Mia, Mia,” or sing the song Rob made up about her resemblance to a bear, then autotuned and used as the soundtrack to this montage of photos:

 

The Leo version often included some form of his nickname: Leo Bug or DJ Leo Bug, which I then abbreviated to DJ LB, realizing that LB also stands for Little Boy. Little Boy Leo Bug.

I know. I’m completely insane.

But saying their names, thinking about them, looking at their pictures in my Facebook albums — all of these fill me with a warmth and happiness reminiscent of petting them and kissing their soft heads.

Naturally since we’ve been home, I’ve been on an oxytocin bender. Every time I leave the house, I look forward to my next opportunity to revel in our scientifically proven bonding ritual.

Our dog sitters (Grandma and Grandpa) reported that Mia seemed anxious while we were gone, but Leo was his normal self. Maybe he wasn’t distraught by our absence, but I can tell by the smile on his face that he’s sure happy we’re back.

Leo sports his new bandanna, courtesy of Unleashed by Petco

Leo sports his new bandanna, courtesy of Unleashed by Petco

Packing for BarkWorld. What to wear?

I am queen of the convention circuit this year. Whether for fun (Emerald City ComiCon, Power-Con), work (Tribal Habitat Conference), enhancing my craft (Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat), or a blend of market-strategizing and craft-enhancing (PNWA).

Next up is the social petworking conference BarkWorld! Sadly, Mia and Leo will not be joining us, but based on the realization in my last post, perhaps that’s for the best. They need to guard the house anyway. Still, I know I’ll miss them all weekend as I watch other attendees accompanied by their furry friends.

Meanwhile, I’ll be passing out business cards and Bark and Lunge stickers, and I even have a couple of Advance Readers Copies of my book to seduce potential endorsers.

We planned to wear our various Dog is Good T-shirts. Rob’s got “I like big mutts and I cannot lie” and the “Hundhaus Hefeweizen” version of “Never Drink Alone.” I’ve got the aforementioned “Promise to my Dog” shirt, along with “Never Walk Alone” and “Dog is patient, dog is kind…”

bigmutts

In today’s inbox, I had a message from BarkWorld telling me, among other things, that the attire is “business casual.”

Now, I may have a somewhat skewed idea of appropriate attire, having lived in the Pacific Northwest for 10 years, but I really thought our doggie T-shirts would fit right in. Then I watched a video of last year’s BarkWorld, and indeed, there are a lot of men in button-down white shirts. Plus, I’ve been warned that the conference rooms will be heavily air-conditioned. So now I’m tasked with accessorizing my Dog is Good shirts with a little cardigan or something that will dress me up to at least business casual.