Category Archives: Travel

Wayward on Water: What Happened to this Boat?

Somewhere in the waters between New Zealand and Australia, this boat is lost.

1928 schooner

The historic 1928 American schooner called Nina departed on May 29, en route from Opua to Newcastle. The journey was estimated to take a minimum of 12 days.

No communication has been received from the boat – or any of its seven passengers – since June 4. On that day, one of the crew members sent out a text message during a storm, although the boat has never called out for help, nor has its emergency beacon been activated.

Search and rescue missions have scoured hundreds of thousands of miles of water over the past few days but so far found nothing.

The Rescue Coordination Center of New Zealand has “grave concerns,” but friends and family of the crew are hopeful.

My cousin Kyle is on that boat.

crystal n kyle

Kyle is one of the cousins I have been getting to know more as an adult than I did as a child. He is handsome, fearless and so much fun. He lives for adventure, and his curiosity has taken him all over the world.

The family hopes the current adventure ends soon, with Kyle safe and sound and back to tell us all one hell of a story.

Another rescue mission is happening today, a joint effort by both Australian and New Zealand officials.

Kyle’s sister, my cousin Megan, is keeping family and friends informed on the blog Universe to KBJ.

If you are in the part of the world where my cousin is lost, please keep an ear out for local reports that you can share. Comment on this post or tweet me.

How I Spent My Spring Break Staycation

Today, I clock back in at the office after a whole week off.


As much as I love my colleagues and enjoy my job, leaving Zach and the dogs at home is going to be extra hard this morning.

Our first “vacation” of 2013 did not involve a plane ride to the Pacific Northwest or even a bike ride through Missouri’s wine country.

But the time spent together, in our own city and with our beloved dogs was pretty amazing.


Staycation 2013 highlights:

1. Replenishing our supply of homemade, non-toxic household products, including DIY laundry detergent, dryer sheets, dishwasher detergent and citrus-scented all-purpose cleaner.

2. Warming ourselves by the fire of tree branches and twigs that fell down during Kansas City’s recent big, bad snowstorms.

3. Taking time to explore Red X, a big store in Riverside, Missouri, that is part hardware store, part grocery store, part liquor store and part purveyor of antiques and weird animal statues.


4. Having Zach’s sister and brothers over for dinner and taking an extra plate to our neighbor, who brought us a lovely bouquet of flowers to say thanks.

5. Challenging one another to consume the super hot sauce and dried pepper flakes that Bethany brought us from her trip to the Philippines.

6. Going to a movie – Oz the Great and Powerful – on a weeknight.

7. Getting into the St. Patrick’s Day spirit over Irish eats and a Bloody Molly drink at neighborhood dive bar Swagger.

Have you ever stayed home for your vacation? What did you do?

Frida Kahlo: A Wayward Woman and Her Little Dog

In 1938, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo painted herself and one of her dogs.


A reproduction of that painting – “Itzcuintli Dog With Me” – hangs on the wall of my house.

It’s a souvenir from our vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, exactly two years ago.

Our strolls around the city were full of Frida imagery.

We even ate at a restaurant El Repollo Rojo (The Red Cabbage) that served foods Frida Kahlo used to make for guests at her own extravagant parties.

El Repollo Rojo Puerto Vallarta cafe

El Repollo Rojo is decorated with images of Frida Kahlo and her art.

Frida Kahlo has always been a favorite artist of mine.

I will never forget hearing her story for the first time, on movie day in my high school Spanish class. The students around me were all screwing off, but I could not tear my eyes from the screen and the tale of an extraordinary and rather wayward woman who lived, loved and worked passionately, for herself and for her people.

During her life, Frida Kahlo’s heart and her body were both broken, but her spirit never was.

Along with food, high art and fellow artist Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo loved animals.

AnOther magazine has a great slideshow of Frida with her many pets, including xoloitzcuintli dogs like the one in the picture I own.

Itzcuintli Dog With Me detail image

This is not a Chihuahua

Itzcuintli is the Aztec word for day, and its sign is the dog.

Itzcuintli Aztec daysign

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In ancient Mesoamerica, dogs were sometimes buried with humans, presumably to help guide the souls on their journey.

Frida Kahlo’s typically dark work often includes ancient symbolism. She suffered most of her life from compromised health, so it makes sense to me on many levels that this Mexican breed would appear in her self-portrait.

Modern xoloitzcuintli dogs are sometimes used as therapy dogs for people with chronic pain.

I wonder if they helped Frida.

Are you a fan of Frida Kahlo? Who is your favorite artist?

If you don’t know much about Frida, I urge you to watch the 2002 movie about her starring Salma Hayek.

For more about Frida Kahlo, check out related posts by InkPaperPen and Dear Kitty.

Remembering Holidays in Paradise

stray dog in Hawaii

A wayward dog in paradise.

Believe it or not, my favorite holiday memories have nothing to do with dogs.

In fact, these moments occurred in a tropical paradise where visiting dogs are required to undergo a lengthy quarantine before they are free to run on the beach with their people.

My favorite holiday memories happened during my childhood, in Hawaii. My family was incredibly lucky that my mother worked as a travel agent. She could lock in on good deals early and take advantage of some professional discounts so that we could hop a plane to heaven at least once a year.

Often, this escape coincided with Thanksgiving or Christmas and New Year’s. Because I didn’t grow up in a house with brothers or sisters, several times I was permitted to invite a friend or my cousin along for the beachcombing, hiking and “hanging loose.”

The vibe in my family wasn’t perfect in those days long before my parents’ divorce. But I will always cherish those family vacations as some of the happiest moments – and the most mele kalikimakas – of my childhood.

Who could have a bad time in a place like this, anyway?


Maui, 2008

The pictures above come from a more recent trip, when I was the guest of my best friend Kenton‘s family on an excursion to Maui. Somewhere, there is a little tape full of video footage of that vacation, too, which includes the first time I ever saw whales in Hawaii.

Spread between my parents’ homes are also boxes and boxes of photographs from those earlier trips, plus clunky VHS tapes of preteen me shakin’ my thang in a grass skirt at a luau and, I’m pretty sure, clips of my oldest bestie Stacy and me on stage at a concert by the world’s youngest Elvis impersonator (aka the young Bruno Mars).

Having all of my Hawaiian memory footage collected in one place sure would be nice.

Fortunately, technology is making that easier.


This post is sponsored by YesVideo, a service that specializes in transferring photos, videos and almost any type of media, including VHS, to DVD.


Once you have everything together that you want YesVideo to transfer, you can either mail it straight to the company or drop your media off at four major retailers, including the photo counter at Sam’s Club.

Sadly, the deadline has passed to receive a DVD by Christmas this year, but this kind of commemorative gift would be ideal for any family holiday or birthday.

To learn more about YesVideo, check out these links:

YesVideo website

@yesvideo on Twitter

YesVideo on Facebook


What’s your favorite holiday memory that you’d like to preserve on video?

Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Whirlwind Nebraska weekend

Sometimes getting out of town without the dogs is exactly what I need.

Especially when I know there will be plenty of cute animals and cool people where I’m headed.

Stop 1: Lincoln

Megan and Crystal

Grinning cousins.

That’s Megan, one of my second cousins on the Wiebe side. When I said I was coming to Nebraska for a  recent weekend, she and her partner Claire kindly allowed me to crash at their Lincoln apartment.

I first stopped for a dinner of homemade noodles and sauce with my best friend Kenton at his mom’s house.

The kitten Megan and Claire recently rescued from a tree welcomed Kenton and me when we arrived at their door.

Megan's kitten

“Mew are you?”

Sadly, I captured no photos of my other cousin Kyle – Megan’s brother – slaying the karaoke crowd later that night at the Ding A Ling Bar in Raymond, Nebraska. (He’s a braver soul than me. I stay far away from karaoke mics.)

I did, however, snap a few pictures – and throw down some cash – the next day at the Old Cheney Road Farmers’ Market.

I’ve been meaning to get to Lincoln on a Sunday ever since Megan helped me put together a post about the farmers’ market for this blog.

fresh produce at Old Cheney Road Farmers' Market

A Nebraska harvest.

I picked up some fresh produce for a veggie tray I was tasked with providing for my mom’s birthday party later that day.

I also picked up something for the dogs – chewy beef heart treats from Chisholm Family Farm.

Chisholm Family Farms dog treats

Chisholm Family Farm makes it easy to feed your dog raw, natural food and treats.

The booth next door held exactly the kind of gifts I had in mind to present to my mother on her 58th birthday – all-natural beauty products.


Wingsets natural beauty care.

Wingsets is a Lincoln-based business operated by a husband and wife team. In addition to a huge array of bath, skincare and hair products for people, they have developed a robust line of pet products. I look forward to trying some of those on our pack in the future.

Stop 2: Beatrice

My next stop was my hometown for a family portrait. I let the professional photographer take care of those shots.

Before everyone got together, though, I snapped this shot of my Dad’s friend Rosie’s adorable Yorkshire terriers.


Ermahgerd! Yorkies!

After the photo session in the park, my dad took me out to the farm where he helps take care of a real menagerie of critters raised for pleasure and food.

Jag and Prowler, the resident German Shepherds he’s been training, greeted us when we rolled up.

skulky german shepherds

“Welcome to the farm!”

Named after the rottweiler I grew up with, Prowler is growing up to be a handsome and mischievous fellow. The advice is to be careful when leaving small items, from caps and t-shirts to plastic bottles, unattended in his presence.

german shepherd dog

“I promise not to steal your water bottle in half an hour.”

Dad loves zooming around the farm on the John Deere Gator. I hopped in the passenger seat, and we said hello to some of his animal friends.

dad on a gator

Just a dad, a gator and a horse.

horse and a John Deere Gator

“Didz u say hai er hay?”

Zipper the horse is a sweet old thing who peacefully resides with a small pack of burros. They have all learned to equate the arrival of the Gator in the pasture with treat time.

burros and baby

“Did someone say treats?”

The bison herd on the other side of the fence knows what the Gator means, too. My dad’s favorite bison is this big-headed bull whose tongue is bigger than my wrist.

buffalo tongue

“Just a little closer.”

Apparently, the resident elk aren’t feeling very friendly this time of year.

But in just a couple hours, on the last stop of my whirlwind Nebraska tour, I would see another hoofed creature.

Stop 3: Peru

From Beatrice, I zoomed to Peru, Nebraska, a very hilly, very small college town where the Rains side of my family has roots.

My grandfather, who is buried in Peru, grew up in the town. He was a hometown football hero there, and it’s where he met my grandmother.

Peru is also where my mother originally met my stepfather in the 1970s. Decades would pass before they came together again and began to build a life together.

We celebrated my mom’s 58th birthday at the gazebo in Neal Park where they were married in 2005.

On this Sunday afternoon, my mother was showered with thoughtful and useful gifts, including a leather jacket, an iPhone and this hoodie I wish I could take credit for:

Walk with a Friend paw print hoodie

Who could say it better?

Of course, there was cake!

Catfish the Boston Terrier resented that no one offered her any.

Boston Terrier peeks onto table

That Boston Terrier needs a booster seat.

After the food was devoured and presents unwrapped, nature treated us all to another gift – a not-so-distant view of a deer.

My mom squealed with delight at the beautiful sight.

deer in the distance

Ermahgerd! Deer!

As you can imagine, by the end of this little roadtrip, I was exhausted. But what a great weekend!

Have you gotten out of town recently? What did you do?

Have you entered the giveaway yet? Don’t miss your chance to win a Lavender Neem Shampoo Bar from Baltimore Bumble Crafts!

Dog Sitting: How to Handle an Emergency (Guest Blog)

dog and person silhouette

The solution for many of us when we travel is to send the dogs to someone else’s house or hire a sitter. But if you ever find that you are the “someone else” in that equation  you know that dog sitting is a huge responsibility.

Today’s guest post comes from an expert on the subject of dog sitting. Many of her recommendations could also be helpful in an emergency with your own pets.

When pet sitting, caregivers should always have a plan for responding to an emergency.

Be Prepared
It is important to gather emergency contact information prior to beginning a pet sitting job. This list should include contact numbers for the pet’s family, the veterinarian, the nearest emergency facility, and the poison control hotline. It is also a good idea to discuss emergency procedures with the pet’s family before they leave.

Be Cautious
An injured or sick animal may respond in an aggressive manner. The caregiver should remain calm and use slow movements to approach the dog. If the dog is docile, he can be safely transported. If, however, the dog shows aggression, the caregiver should refrain from touching him and call for emergency help.

outside with a poodle

Emergency Situations

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and American Animal Hospital Associationoffer guidelines for recognizing emergencies. These include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Paralysis
  • Difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, or choking
  • Gagging or vomiting with a swollen abdomen
  • Vomiting or diarrhea for 24 hours
  • Difficulty standing, disorientation, or collapsing
  • Seizure
  • Weak/rapid pulse or no heartbeat
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Bleeding from the eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Blood in the urine, feces, or vomit
  • Broken bones or symptoms of extreme pain
  • Heatstroke
  • Poisoning

Next Steps

If a dog exhibits any of these symptoms, the caregiver should transport him to the nearest emergency facility. The pet sitter should also notify the dog’s family and stay in communication with them until the emergency is resolved.

playing with french bulldog

Emergency Care Before Transport

In some situations, the caregiver should take specific action prior to transporting the dog. Of course, the pet sitter should use her best judgment to decide if a situation warrants immediate transport or at-home life-saving measures.


If a caregiver believes that a dog has ingested poison, she should call the 24-hour ASPCA poison control hotline. Based on the quantity of the specific substance ingested, the toxicologist will provide instructions for how to handle the situation. If the caregiver is unsure what the dog ingested, or if the dog is exhibiting emergency symptoms, he should be transported immediately.


If a dog is choking, the caregiver can perform a mouth sweep by inserting her fingers into the dog’s mouth and attempting to dislodge the object. The sitter can also use a modified Heimlich maneuver by sharply thumping the dog on the chest. At this point, the caregiver can ascertain if the dog needs further assistance.

sleeping with a dog


If a dog is unconscious, the caregiver should check for breathing and heartbeat. If the dog is not breathing, the sitter can perform artificial respiration. To do this, the caregiver should extend the dog’s head and hold his mouth closed. Then, the sitter will form a seal around the dog’s muzzle with her own mouth and blow into his nostrils every three seconds. If the dog has no heartbeat, the caregiver can use cardiac massage by administering three chest compressions for each respiration.


If a dog is bleeding from a traumatic injury, the sitter should elevate the wound and apply firm pressure to stop the bleeding. If another person can drive to the veterinarian’s office, the sitter can keep this pressure on the wound during the journey.

Lauren Colman serves as the digital marketer for the dog boarding and dog sitting community at and is a true dog lover at heart. Lauren spends her days at the office with her dogs Squish and Brando by her side. For more dog tips, you can follow on Twitter @roverdotcom or on their blog, Dog Boarding News.  

Have you ever faced a scary situation while dog sitting? What happened? And what helpful advice would you add to this list?

A shelter pets can go to just for the day

“Behave or you are going to the dog pound!”

As it turns out, when the “dog pound” in question is the Saunders County Lost Pets shelter, threatening your dog with an admission there isn’t so scary.

In fact, SCLP looks like a pretty wonderful place — for dogs, cats and kids — to spend time.

SCLP is an animal rescue organization in Wahoo, Nebraska, that gives loving care to strays and otherwise homeless dogs and cats from the region. My oldest friend Stacy Ideus, who volunteers at SCLP, described the no-kill shelter on her blog as “more like a group home for dogs and cats.”

As a means of generating funds for the cause, the shelter also reserves a few of its kennels for boarding. Although I can’t speak personally about the level of care offered, I think SCLP sounds like a great option for traveling pet parents in the Saunders County area who want to support animal rescue and send their fur babies somewhere safe.

To learn more about SCLP, check out the video, photos and the accompanying post Stacy wrote about the organization over at her blog.

After watching the video, what do you think? Would you send your pets to SCLP?

All photos in this post used with permission from Stacy Ideus Photography.

Those who are in the Kansas City area have an opportunity to be photographed by Stacy next weekend. For more information about scheduling, pricing and her photographic style, check out her KC Urban Shoots guide.


A kennel to feel good about (Kennel Creek review)

In the interest of keeping the business of pet care in the family, if we lived closer, we’d send our dogs to spend our vacations at my aunt’s Waggin Tails kennel in southeast Nebraska.

Some of her clients drive upwards of two hours to bring their pets to the boarding and grooming business she operates out of her farm.

Since we discovered Kennel Creek Pet Resort in Overland Park, Kansas, I’m beginning to understand the loyalty a pet owner can feel upon finding a quality place for your fur babies to go when they can’t go with you.

I met Kennel Creek owner Christopher Sailors back at the Great KC Pet Expo. We struck up a conversation because he has the world’s most well-behaved labradoodles (says I).

Photo by Fido Fetch Photography

Photo by Fido Fetch Photography

Months later, I took Chris up on his offer to show me around his pet care business that is conveniently located on the route I take to work every day.

My first impression of Kennel Creek, which operates out of a building that used to house the headquarters for the Applebee’s restaurant chain, was that it is huge, clean and uber-professional.

Like me, Chris said he was always hesitant to board his beloved dogs. In fact, to get around the issue of having to send them somewhere else while he traveled, years ago he bought an RV to make it easier for them to go with him.

Guessing there were other particular pet parents like himself in the area, Chris pursued the development of a facility to meet his personal criteria.

The result is a place for pets that serves practical needs and offers an array of little luxuries.

Some of the things that impressed me:

  • All animals receive reverse osmosis or carbon-filtered water to help protect their urinary tract health.
  • Rather than being bagged up and tossed in a smelly dumpster, dog waste is disposed of in power flush toilets, a solution that greatly keeps the odor down at the facility.
  • Although dog owners can be taken to a window to view the actual kennels where the animals stay, no one besides staff is allowed inside the kennel or play area. Chris says this helps the dogs remain calm — no need to sound an alert due to strangers entering their area.
  • Several times a day, pet parents can tune in to Kennel Creek’s play cams to watch their dogs romping outside.

Of course, I couldn’t really appreciate the value of checking your pets into Kennel Creek without trying it for myself.

So, I made a reservation for Luke the weekend Zach and I headed to Ponca, Nebraska, for the dedication of the shooting complex named after my cousin.


Crazy dog lady disclosure: I originally made the reservation for Luke and Scooby but at the last minute sent Scooby to my mom’s house due to the combination of his suddenly finicky eating habits and need to take medication several times a day WITH food.

I did take Scooby with me to check in Luke, though, and the little guy seemed confused about why he couldn’t go with his big red buddy.

Zach and I enjoyed getting to watch Luke on the play cams, although when we peeked in, he seemed more interested in the Kennel Creek staff than his fellow visitors. (Typical golden retriever.)

When I retrieved Luke after his three-night stay, he didn’t seem that excited to see me.

Because he is a notoriously needy dog, I took this to mean Luke was comfortable at Kennel Creek. Also, the staff reported that he did not hesitate to eat his food – something he more or less refused to do when he came along for our Katy Trail bike trip.

Luke returned to Kennel Creek a few days later for a groom, which was performed satisfactorally.

And although with two dogs the overnight rates are at the top of our price range, Zach and I decided to leave both Scooby and Luke at Kennel Creek during another recent weekend excursion. Because they are housemates who get along, they stayed together in a single roomy kennel.

This was the first time I ever sent Scooby to a professional boarding facility.

And you know what? He returned to me happy, healthy and a little more interested in napping in the plastic crate he usually ignores at home.


The report card for Luke and Scooby I received upon their check out revealed that our dogs were “best friends” who stuck close to each other rather than romping with the other dogs at playtime. In fact, Luke preferred to go out with Scooby and the small dogs rather than playing with the dogs his size.

Frankly, based on their general avoidance of each other at our house, this information came as a pleasant surprise, and it gives me hope that Luke and Charlie Machete could also one day become “best friends.”

Overall, my opinion of Kennel Creek Pet Resort is favorable. The most challenging aspect of the process anytime I have taken my dogs there is the check-in.

As I would recommend to anyone boarding their pets anywhere, bring detailed instructions regarding your pet’s food and any medication needs, and be prepared to go over them verbally, too.

The only real downside to Kennel Creek is that due to being located in Overland Park, Kansas, a city with breed specific legislation, pit bull type dogs cannot be boarded at the facility.

However, I would recommend Kennel Creek to any of my Kansas City-area friends with other kinds of dogs. Head to the Kennel Creek website for more information about doggy daycare, boarding and grooming specials.

Special promotion for Wayward Dogs readers:

If you make a reservation at Kennel Creek Pet Resort, be sure to tell them Wayward Dogs sent you. Your dog will receive a free bizzy bone on his or her first stay!

Disclaimer: I received a discount for Luke’s initial stay at Kennel Creek, but we paid full price for all additional services. My review reflects my honest assessment of the services provided by this business.

Boarding your pets when you go on vacation

This post is part of a series about pet care options when you travel.

If you’re a pet helicopter parent like me, you’re a bit neurotic about ensuring your fur baby’s care when you go out of town.

My fears are rooted in two places: my worry that something bad will befall my beloved pet while I’m away and my worry that he will do something offensive while under someone else’s supervision.

As discussed in previous posts, we are fortunate to have friends and family members who are willing to help us out by taking care of our pack — in their home or in ours — when we travel.

However, there are times when neither of those two options are feasible. Maybe no one is available. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable letting someone stay at your house. Maybe your pet needs so much special attention that you feel bad making someone who isn’t you or a professional deal with it.

In these cases, boarding your pet can be a great alternative.


After years of resisting, we began incorporating boarding into our options for pet care solutions in 2011.

Simply put, we had too many pets to saddle any sitter with.

Our solution was to split the animals up – sending the problem pets out of the house and letting in-home sitters have fun with easy Luke, Minnie and Luxor.

My precious Scooby-with-the-leaky-bladder typically went to someone else’s house. We took to dropping not-yet-fully-socialized foster dog Charlie Machete at the vet’s office, where boarding was really cheap and we felt reasonably sure the staff could handle his willfulness.

That worked well until he came home with kennel cough that spread to Minnie (even though both were current on their bordatella vaccinations) and ultimately cost us a whole lot of money.

We swore off boarding.


Then, we realized that we just needed to find a quality boarding facility.

For us, the fix was to stop being cheap. By paying a little more, we purchase peace of mind for ourselves and, as far as we can tell, comfortable accomodations for our pets.

Tomorrow’s post will review the particular Kansas City-area pet boarding facility we have become partial to.

For now, here are some recommendations for choosing a place to board your pets when you travel:

  • Get recommendations. Ask fellow pet people you trust where they take their animals and why they like their favorite place.
  • Go to the kennel before you send your pet there. See if you can tour the facility and get a sensory idea of the experience your pet will have. Does the place smell bad? Is it noisy? What is the staff like?
  • Consider your dog’s personality and how the kennel’s exercise and socialization routines will serve him. Is he socialized enough to participate in a playgroup? If not, how will he be exercised?
  • Ask lots of questions. Is the facility up to date with any state-required licenses? What is the staff’s solution for an animal that refuses to eat? How much interaction with people do the animals get daily? What vet service do they contact in case of an emergency?
  • Find out what additional services the facility offers. Can you pay more to ensure your pet gets special attention or extra treats? Can you schedule a groom? Is it OK for you to call anytime just to check in?
  • Be sure your pet is up to date on any vaccinations required by the facility.
  • If you have a pit bull or any type of dog impacted by breed specific legislation, make sure the facility can and will board your pet legally.

What is important to you in a pet boarding facility?

Hiring a sitter for your house and pets while you travel

This post is part of a series about traveling without your pet.

When you have a lot of pets, a lot of plants and are on the hook for a mortgage, the prospect of leaving it all behind for a few days can be scary.

Rather than sending the pets to someone else’s house or to a (possibly expensive) professional boarding facility and hoping the garden doesn’t wither and the house doesn’t get broken into while you’re away, getting someone to stay at your house is sometimes the best option for traveling pet parents.

If you’re lucky like us, a friend or family member may be willing to play house during your trip. There may also be professional house sitters in your area.

Although this option requires you to clean your house real well, going with in-home pet care when you travel has a few important benefits:

  • Your pets likely won’t experience as much disruption to their daily routine.
  • Someone will be around to alert you quickly and/or take action if a pipe bursts, a tree limb crashes through the roof or other such unfortunate incident happens during your trip.
  • The very presence of people can help discourage burglars who may otherwise target a house where nobody seems to be home.

Unless the sitter you’re inviting over owes you a favor, it’s always good to plan on providing a little monetary compensation or at least bringing back a super awesome gift. This will help encourage a willingness to assist during your future travels.


If you don’t know anyone who can house, pet and plant sit while you’re away, ask friends or co-workers for recommendations.

Back when I was a college-aged newspaper intern, I got hit up to house sit for colleagues all the time. I loved the chance to get out of my cheap apartment and enjoy the luxuries of someone else’s house and pets for a few days.

However, there are a few things to consider before entrusting someone, even a close friend, with the safety and security of your pets, plants and domicile.

    • Will this person’s work and life schedule allow him or her to perform all the duties you require?
    • Is this person responsible? If you aren’t well acquainted, ask for referrals.
    • Are you comfortable with the idea of this person bringing other individuals to your home? If not, say so.
    • Do you mind if this person eats your food?
    • Is there anything  in your home (private possessions, weapons, valuables) that you don’t want this person to find or have access to? If so, can you secure these items?
    • Can you expect your pets to obey this person?
    • In your gut, do you trust this person to manage your home base to at least the minimum degree?
    • Bottom line: Do you trust this person with the life of your pets and, considering a key to your home is involved, your own future safety and security?

Once you are satisfied with your answers to the above questions, do everything you normally would to get the house ready for overnight guests. If possible, have the sitter come over a few days before you leave so that you can walk them through your house, answer any questions and — most importantly — introduce your pets to their new friend.

Summarize everything you explain verbally to the sitter in a comprehensive written list placed prominently in your home.

Here are a few things to include on your list for the house and pet sitter:

  • Instructions for feeding the pets – how much food? where is it? what if they run out?
  • Pets’ daily medication needs (if applicable).
  • Instructions for exercising the pets – walk every day?
  • Other special instructions, such as rooms the pets are not allowed in or rules about the pets interacting with strange people.
  • Contact information for your regular vet, as well as an emergency vet
  • Watering instructions for your houseplants and/or garden.
  • Location of the fusebox, as well as flashlights and anything else needed should the power go out.
  • Contact information for a trusted neighbor or other in-town friend or family member. 
  • Contact information for you.

Important fact to remember: Almost no one will be able to take care of your pets and home exactly the way that you do. 

If the dogs aren’t allowed on the couch, don’t be surprised if you find evidence, i.e. hair, indicating they got up there during your absence. (That’s an actual mistake I got called out for in my house sitting days.)

Our experiences with house-sitting friends and family have been overall great. We have come home to a few oddities, including a chewed-up baseboard that suggested a certain golden retriever was overly anxious. A lesson there is that even under trusted care, your pets are almost guaranteed to miss you. That’s OK.


However, on rare occasions you may find yourself with a house sitter who loves your pets more than you do.

That happened for us last spring when Zach’s sister and her husband stayed at our house for a week and fell in love with the Luxor, the lynx point Siamese who had by then already taught me I’m not a cat person.

He’s now much happier as the only pet and king kitty of their household.

Do you have an in-home pet sitter? How did you find this person? 

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