Pet sitter provides comfort to animals | Thestar

Pet sitter provides comfort to animals | Thestar
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LAOTTO — Six years ago, Tina James stepped off on a new career.

“I wanted to start my own business — I was ready to change,” she said.

A mental health therapist by trade, James left her position to launch TJ’s Pet Sitting and Dog Walking at 101 N. Main St., LaOtto.

James knew she wanted to work with animals, and after reading articles about pet sitting, she got involved with a national group, decided to take their online course, from which she earned certification to work with every type of animal. She used to have a hobby farm, so she always works in some ways with animals, including fostering.

The course also included information to care for birds, reptiles and other large and small two- and four-legged pets. She passed the 100-question test and retains a binder with answers to many situations that come up along the way.

James is also trained in first aid, training techniques and especially how to recognize if and when a dog is not friendly.

Meeting a dog for the first time is more than just common sense, James said. When you go into a home with a strange dog, although it is hard to do, stand still and ignore the dog, and then let it come to you and sniff you out.

Taking the course also gave her a leg up on people just calling the kid down the street who wants to earn extra money by pet sitting.

“They don’t always have their whole heart in it,” she said. “It’s more than just hanging out and petting the dog. You have to clean up after it, too.”

As a dog sitter, she often stays the night at the client’s home. While some dogs and cats do well in kennels, sometimes dog sitting is the only option if kennels do not work out. She even overnights with birds and turtles, and with chicks and horses on pet farms.

“That’s a need in this area, because there are a lot of people who have farms,” more than just a dog to take care of if they go away for a few days, James said. She had the same problem with her own hobby farm and just stayed home, because no one was out there to watch the animals.

She also has heard complaints from clients that some kennels are too loud for older or smaller dogs

“Putting them in a kennel for a week is stressful. They don’t understand why they can’t run, or are intimidated by bigger dogs and out of the comfort of their own homes,” she said.

With COVID, it’s been hard to keep the sitting business going as people are not traveling as much. But James has been able to keep the dog-walking side of the business going, and recently added another employee on her staff who mainly does dog walking.

“People still want dogs walked,” she said.

James walks 4-6 dogs daily, plus visits twice a day. She also does a tuck-in visit to get pets settled in for the night, a 40-45-minute stay when she cuddles with them on the couch, maybe watching a bit of television.

James said she never says yes to a client until she goes to the home and meets the dog. Dogs will let you know if they want you to pet them, she said. When walking a dog, people often come and try to pet it, unaware she is not the dog’s owner. For the most part, she doesn’t let anyone else touch them. James has liability insurance and is bonded if something should happen.

“I am protected as well as the animal owner, accidents do happen,” she said. She also has a background check for cases where she stays at people’s homes.

James has been keeping in shape with five walks a day, Sundays have six. The 30-minute midday walks are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dogs go back to get a treat and water. On hot days, James carries water for drinks along the way. Like clockwork, her blue Ford Flex can be found parked through the week along the north side of Auburn, where she has regular clients along Midway Drive and Van Buren Street with names such as Brutus, Frankie, Mimi and Duke. She also has clients in Kendallville.

Since beginning, James has found she now has a 24-hour business. But the pets are often happy to see her and are more excited.

“I can’t believe it’s been six years already,” she said, describing 2020 as a a weird year so far.

She works with area veterinarians who refer her service, and James reciprocates in turn.

“They have been so awesome as far as marketing. It’s a real compliment,” James added.

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