Updated: Aug 19, 2022
Photo Credit © Christine Weber Photography
By Karen Boyle
The Pitfalls of employing a dog/house sitter from a post on Facebook.
We were incredibly lucky to rescue a beautiful dog called Gypsy last November….the only issue we had with her was separation anxiety which I’m sure so many of you will be familiar with.
We have worked closely with a wonderful trainer and have introduced a crate to help keep her safe and teach her it was ok to be alone for a little while during the day (albeit with a bone, snuffle mat and a Kong, along with calming music on the tv and a camera that we could watch her on our mobile phone and speak to her if necessary to calm her).
At night she has learned that sleeping in the crate with the door closed was ok knowing that we were home.
We have employed a couple of dog sitters since getting Gypsy and they have made sure she was always with them and felt safe even though she knew we were not there.
Bring on the last school holidays – we decided at the last minute to travel overseas for 2 weeks with our Year 12 son before it all got really serious at school……
We had a bit of a conundrum as my husband would be home for the first 4 days after my son and I left before coming to meet us, thus we had to find someone flexible to day sit then move in and house sit for 10 days. We have an incredible network of dog helpers, a local groomer Petiquette by Caroline in Elwood and K9 Workouts in Moorabbin to help our dog sitter throughout the 10 days in case she needed to have timeout for work or whatever….
So….. how did it all happen? I posted my situation on the wonderful Bayside Dog Owners Group…. I had an amazing response by so many but as it was school holidays it became tricky. A young, recent school leaver responded with enthusiasm and references. We we had a couple of meet and greets. She was lovely and seemed to genuinely bond with Gypsy.
So many said I was crazy to put my trust in an 18yo girl but I truly felt comfortable. We spoke about Gypsy’s anxiety and I specified that there was only 1 rule that was non negotiable…. Do not leave Gypsy home alone in her crate at night. A couple of hours during the day was ok if she monitored via the mobile camera and she was available to get home quickly if Gypsy had an anxiety attack.
As most of you in the same situation know, it is one step forward and 2 steps back if you screw up these rules…
So Day 8, Saturday night and our young dog sitter decides that as Gypsy has been so good in her crate overnight (assuming here that she was actually home every other night) so she decided to go out with her boyfriend at 11pm after settling Gypsy in her crate and locking the door.
Moving forward and taking into account time differences I get a call from my neighbour who can hear Gypsy barking and crying in the middle of the night… she contacts my dog sitter as do I the next morning when I get the message…..
Apparently my trusted dog sitter had ‘slept though’ Gypsy having a nightmare and breaking out of a metal crate (she literally widened the metal bars) and then proceeded to destroy our front room shredding the paintwork and sash windows along with the front door while the 50cm TV crashed through another coffee table and shredding the wooden hall table…….
What followed was a nightmare of epic proportions for me…. Insurance claims, tv repair people, trusted handyman spending 2 days repairing the damage but obviously and most importantly Gypsy’s mental health since.
We are now on our 3rd new crate trying to settle Gypsy again.
Our so called trusted dog/house sitter finally came clean and said she’d gone out drinking with her boyfriend for 4 hours and hadn’t bothered to check the smart camera …. And had been met at the front door by Gypsy at 3 or 4 am…. Totally in panic mode. The house sitter said she then slept on the couch for the rest of the night to help her settle…
Didn’t realise the total damage until the next day…. Chose not to tell me and when we returned home 2 days later she couldn’t get herself out of the house quick enough. It wasn’t for another day that I properly inspected the damage and messaged her…. she finally came clean and offered to pay for the damage….
Fast forward a week…. I have now been blocked by her on FB and and she is not returning any emails or messages. Our total out of pocket bill so far is $1730. We asked her to just pay for a new crate and the excess on our insurance for a new TV and table. The rest of it we pay for ourselves….. I thought that was pretty fair considering…
So, what did I learn from this experience? No matter what, check your so called trusted FB dog sitter coming from the best FB page that I have encountered…. And I personally wouldn’t go with someone that wasn’t connected by family or friends.
She only had one rule – don’t leave her alone at night…. Addendum by Kate Mularczyk What can you do to help minimise or avoid what happened with Karen and Gypsy and their sitter? 1. Try and employ someone who has references and insurance. Look on our Business Page for local sitters who have been highly recommended.
2. Read this earlier blog post entitled Dog Sitting. What you should know. What you should ask.
3. Go through a sitter website such as Madpaws.com.au or similar. The sitters there are covered by insurance - need to read the small print though
The photos below show just a small amount of damage that was done by Gypsy in the time she was left alone. You can tell by the images how distressed she would have been at the time.