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Volunteering Helps

So, our roof still has a leak of some sort.  We also found old water damage in a dark corner of our bedroom.  We’re waiting until Wednesday to see if it’s something new or if we just didn’t fix the problem in October like we thought.  I was getting a bit morose, so I turned to volunteer work like I usually do when I’m in my own head too much.

Gift Wrapping for the Kittens and Puppies

SMART Animal Rescue is my current go-to (they’re the ones I foster for and the ones from which Mandy adopted Missy), and they are gift wrapping at local Barnes and Noble’s in exchange for donations.  I signed up for three shifts over the last week and it has been fun.  It reminded me of the time my dad taught me how to wrap a present properly when I was a kid.  We used to compete to see who could have the paper lined up the best after wrapping it around the total gift so it looked like a continuous, uncut sheet.  It had the added side benefit of giving me an opportunity to wrap all of my Christmas gifts and donate a little to animals at the same time.  :-)

SMART Animal Rescue

It also led to me meeting more of the women that keep SMART running.  They are some strong, dedicated women.  They each keep double-digits of cats or dogs and they all put way more into the rescue than anyone would think.  They cover the costs of some donation events just so SMART can reap all of the profits.  They take vacation days, and lots of them, to help raise money for the kittens and puppies.  They take in strays and cover the vet costs themselves before fostering them for SMART to help them get adopted.

Perspective

In short, Cindy, Donna, and the other volunteers made me realize that my little roof leak isn’t really the end of the world.  It’s just a leak.  No more, no less.  I look forward to having it fixed once and for all.  In the meantime, I’ll concentrate on keeping things in perspective.

Mr. BFS is meeting a new pet sitting client with me tomorrow.  If he can cover those pet sitting shifts right before Christmas, I can take on at least one more gift wrapping shift.  I’m looking forward to that.

Do you volunteer extra during the holidays?  Does volunteering help you find yourself too?

 

PS  Cindy would be pretty upset if I didn’t mention that you could help SMART when shopping at Amazon if you follow their sidebar link to Amazon from their site before shopping – http://smartpetz.com/.  Also, if you use Amazon Smile, http://smile.amazon.com, SMART’s legal name is Sunmart Animal Rescue Team Inc.  Thanks in advance!

Missy is Not a Foster Dog Anymore!

Our roommates, Mandy and H, successfully adopted Missy the foster dog last weekend!  We have a new furry friend in the house for the next year or two!

Mandy and Missy and H

Here is Missy’s first Christmas photo with her new family! H is smiling behind the mask. ;-) And yes, Missy is in a doggy halo. Don’t laugh too hard, this is their first pet as a couple. I went a bit overboard with Miss Doxie in the beginning too, hehehe.

Missy’s Interesting Life

In case you didn’t see the post last week, here’s a quick back ground for Missy.  She was apparently born in December 2007 and had a very loving owner.  A loving owner that passed away due to cancer unexpectedly in her 50’s.  :-(  Missy was turned over to SMART Rescue in late 2011.  Then she just got stuck there because she SUCKS at selling herself, lol.

Missy is as soft as a bunny rabbit, she plays fetch the right way, and she likes everyone.  BUT, she apparently acts completely NUTBALLS in new homes for the first few days.  She eventually gets sane again like she did in her foster home, but no one wanted to deal with a yappy, snappy, mess-making, crazy dog for 3-4 days on the hope that she’d calm down.

Why She Fit Here

Well, we fostered Missy and another foster dog friend of hers, Riley, for the same week while her foster mom was out of town.  Riley’s presence seemed to pacify her crazy tendencies immediately.  Although she did go out of her way to be dominant.  But all of that meant that when we took her in again for a few weeks, she already knew us and our home.  She never lost her bloody mind.

Now Mandy and H have their first pup.  And she is already being all sorts of spoiled – as it should be.  She’s a 7 year old with a hyper heart and is fun as heck to play with.  I’m loving the situation since I can get regular doggy love without taking on the usual responsibility.  Since I don’t think I’m quite over my own pups yet, this works.  And Missy gets to soak up the daily attention from four adults.  Win-win!

Have you had any new furry or otherwise additions to your family?  How’s it going?  :-)

Hoping for a New Furry Friend in the House

Yep, our home may be getting a new dog in it semi-permanently!  Best of all for us right now, she wouldn’t actually be our responsibility.  ;-)

Watching Missy

My hubby, myself, and my roommates have taken care of Missy for SMART Rescue before for about a week.  She was the one who came with fleas but fit in really quickly.  She was also the white dog on top of the humping pile I posted for laughs.  Anyway, the rescue needed us to watch her again for a month since there was a small kitchen fire in the home she was staying in that needed to be repaired.

Missy Sleeping

Yep, that’s her falling asleep with a raw hide in her mouth…

Missy and Her History

Missy is pure energy that conks out ONLY after an hour of heavy play at least once a day.  That’s great since she actually plays fetch – the real way.  She runs down the ball and then drops it at your feet.  Oh, and she’s as soft as a bunny.  Her only bad habits seem to be having potty issues if she’s stressed and growling if you mess with her back haunches a bunch.

Her history sucks.  She was given to SMART when she was a little more than 4 years old after her middle-aged owner died unexpectedly of cancer. If that isn’t awful enough, she’s been with SMART for 2-3 years because she doesn’t show well at Petsmart.  I can’t believe she is 7 years old!  She acts 2-3!  Even though she is a good dog, nobody has ever snatched her up.  :-(

Missy Sleeping More

She’s cute awake too, but come on, you can see why I keep snapping away when she’s passed out!

Hopefully Adopted Soon

Well, she’s been with us for more than a week, and our roommates have fallen for her even harder than me.  That works great for me since I’m still not totally over losing Mr. Pug yet.  If their adoption application is approved, Missy will be all theirs.  That means I’ll get to play with her and pet her super softness for at least another year before they buy their own house.  That’s most of the dog-having awesomeness without having to make the adoption donation, buy more food, pay vet bills, etc.  I’m considering this a total win and have my fingers crossed that the rescue approves them as soon as possible.  :-D

Hopefully Missy will have her new forever home soon!

Texas Litter Control and Other Not for Profit Clinics KICK BUTT!!!

We are fostering a stray dog right now who we’ve named Toby.  Yesterday was his have-everything-done day.  He is now neutered, micro-chipped, vaccinated, tested (HEARTWORM NEGATIVE, WOOT!!!), and on preventatives.

Toby

Isn’t he just the cutest pup ever?!

BUT, that wasn’t the total awesomeness of the day.  The total awesomeness was my introduction to Texas Litter Control.  They are a not-for-profit veterinarian clinic that is literally 15 minutes away from my house.  They operate out of a large, industrial-looking trailer to keep costs down.  But the inside is super clean and they run a well-organized and smooth operation!  They are AFFORDABLE and their staff was actually smart AND friendly!  That is rare in vets of any sort around here.  Heck, that’s special for doctors around here in general.

Texas Litter Control

Example of Awesomeness

Okay, I’ll stop gushing and simply work the numbers for you.  If I had to pay for everything that Toby had done yesterday (thank you SMART Rescue for your help!), here would have been what they charged me:

  • Neuter for small dogs (which includes basic vet visit) – $68
  • Microchip – $30
  • Heartworm Test – $25
  • All 4 basic vaccinations – $60
  • Oral pain meds for after the surgery – $12
  • One Month Flea Preventative – $14
  • One Month Heartworm Preventative – $15
  • Total = $224

I know that $224 is a healthy chunk of change, but we paid more than that JUST to have our black lab spayed in 2008!  I paid more than that for most of our Pug’s dermatologist checkups.  It’s sad to bring up, but it cost about $150 each time to have our sick pups put to sleep this year.  Seriously, $224 to have a random, small dog go from “stray” to “adoptable” is fantastic in my opinion!

Not Just for Surgeries

Best of all, a basic vet visit with them is only $20.  Their extras like fecal tests, skin scrapings, and prescriptions seem to run from $10-$15 for each specific thing.  They can’t handle absolutely everything that pops up with pets, but they seem to be able to cover all of the big points for a fraction of the regular vets’ bills.  And again, their staff is on the ball and will happily explain absolutely anything.

They are a not-for-profit, which isn’t the same as a non-profit, but they do an excellent job of keeping costs low.  Their main goal is to be able to offer affordable spays and neuters to help keep the stray population to a minimum.  I applaud their efforts.

In fact, when we get our next long-term dog, he/she will be a Texas Litter Control patient.

Do you have a not-for-profit vet around you?  If not, are you sure?  I have been living in the same city as this one for years and didn’t even know it…

 

Pet Sitting – Not Just About My Return on Investment

I’ve been pet sitting even more lately than is my new norm. In fact, I haven’t slept in my own bed since last Thursday night. I won’t be until this Thursday night. Honestly, that part is probably the largest downside to my new business. But the upsides are worth it usually.

Pet Sitting Pros

I love pets – dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and even the exotics. I enjoy how simple it is to feed, water, play, and pet. My best days are when a skittish pet opens up to me or when an outgoing pet simply cuddles with me instead of running around bonkers. I am proud that I can help them enjoy the time that their humans are away as opposed to simply enduring it. That is fulfilling.

Sassy

Sassy is one of the five dogs that I am living with right now.

Pet Sitting Cons

Staying overnight in other people’s homes, cleaning up potty accidents, and getting scratched up by playful puppies are generally the negatives to the job. I also know that even though I charge more now than when I started, I only make “good” money because of the amount of jobs that I bring in, not because of the hourly wage.

I charge $15-$25 for basic visits depending on the location and the pets involved. I spend about 60-90 minutes on each visit if you include the driving time along with the visits themselves. That means that I am making about $10-$25 an hour depending on the job. BUT that doesn’t take into account the overnight jobs.

For overnight pet sitting, I charge $70-$80 per night. Of the 24 hours that amount covers, at least 8 hours is generally spent interacting with the pets one-on-one in some way. So best case, I am making $10 an hour but throwing in sleep time for free. Not so good.

Pet Sitting ROI

But I don’t just pet sit for the money. If that was the case, I would stop. I do it because I get out of the house and help animals and humans at the same time. It’s a win-win-win service for everyone involved. It also brings around similar feelings to charity work. I do enjoy helping.

I don’t make much more than minimum wage for the hours I put into taking care of pets. But there is something to be valued about creating a profitable business, getting to hang out with animals for hours every day, and learning that my entrepreneurial spirit isn’t nearly as limited as I thought it was 10-15 years ago. I’m a self-employed lady that attempts to impress the crud out of those that employ my services, regardless of the niche. That makes me content.

What To Do When You Find a Stray Dog

Please keep in mind that I am a professional pet sitter, an animal rescue foster mom, and an animal lover in general, BUT I am not a vet or anybody in authority over stray animals.  So take this post as intended, a suggested to-do list from one sucker to another.  ;-)

I spent the weekend living away from home since I was hired for overnight pet sitting.  Normally, that wouldn’t have annoyed anyone, but this time I took in a stray dog the day before I left.  My husband is a bit frazzled, my roommate and friend, Mandy, is pretty much co-parenting with me, and I have learned a bunch about what to do when you find a stray dog…

How I Ended Up with a Stray

Last Thursday, I drove the 5 miles to our old neighborhood to pick up the monthly rent for our rental home.  While I was there, a very frazzled older woman was going door to door with her neighbor’s help.  She was carrying around a stray dog, a sweet-tempermented Shih Tzu that she had found in the middle of the street about a half hour before.  She was nearly crying because both she and her neighbor own large dogs that don’t play well with others – they didn’t know what they were going to do with this little boy.

I asked her, “IF I take this little guy home and give him a place to sleep and eat, would you promise to put up flyers all over this neighborhood and do everything possible to find his real owners?”  She said that she would, and looked more relieved than I could describe.  Her neighbor promised to help too.  I took the dog.  Yeah, I’m a pushover.

Steps to Take When You Find a Stray Dog

1.  Take care of the immediate problems before you bring the dog into your home.  In our case, Toby (trying that name out right now, although “Crazy Dog” seems to be the one sticking…), was thirsty and infested with fleas.  I hate fleas.  He got little quantities of water at a time until he seemed good to go.  Then I gave him the bath in Dawn that I have mentioned before, but he was too matted for it to do much good.  So I used $45 of my fun money for the month and took him to the awesome groomers that I had used for my fur babies.  They take care of all sorts, so a stray with fleas was an easy one for them.  In a few hours, I picked up a flea-free, shaved, nail-clipped, adorable Shih Tzu that was about 2 pounds lighter from when I dropped him off.

Shih Tzu BEFORE the Groomers

This was Toby before I took him to be groomed.

Shih Tzu AFTER the Groomers

This was Toby when I picked him up 3-4 hours later. TOTALLY WORTH $45!

2.  While I was waiting for the groomers to call for pick up, I listed him everywhere I could think of online.  The neighbor in the other neighborhood did the same.  I ended up with him being listed as FOUND on the Houston SPCA website, Petfinder’s Facebook page, Craigslist, Nextdoor.com in both neighborhoods and surrounding areas, and Texas Lost Pets.  Other rescues picked his info up from there and I had 3 calls by Friday evening about this little guy.  Sadly, none of them were actually his owners.  Shih Tzu’s tend to look a lot alike…

3.  We went directly from the groomers to my old vet on the way home.  I picked him up a $10 Capstar, a pill for him to take to kill any remaining fleas just in case.  I also had him scanned for a microchip.  No microchip.  He’s an un-neutered male with no identifying microchip, collar, or tattoo.  :-(

4.  For the last 3 days, my husband and friend/roommate have been taking care of the little guy while I’m pet sitting out of town.  I’ve been answering a couple of calls and emails from owners who lost their little guys recently, but he isn’t the one that they are looking for.  One lady sent me a picture and they looked nearly identical, but this one isn’t neutered and hers was…and hers has a microchip.  Good luck, Joan!

5.  I called SMART Rescue, the animal rescue that I foster for when I am home for more than a few weeks at a time.  This little boy is obviously a very young adult, maybe 1.5-2 years old, and his super high energy level just won’t fit into our household permanently.  That said, I asked SMART if they could take on another little one if I was willing to foster him until he gets adopted.  They agreed and he is now their nearly-adoptable dog.  We have an appointment on Wednesday to get him a full evaluation, neutered, micro-chipped, and we’ll be picking up heartworm and flea preventatives for the next month.  I didn’t have the remaining fun money to tackle all of that in less than a week, and I didn’t want to hit our emergency fund for a pup that I rather not adopt for life.  Honestly, rescues are life savers for pets and humans alike.

Based on the fact that he is adorable, sweet, and mostly house trained, I think that he will be adopted out in less than 2-3 weeks.  We’ll see.  I have my fingers crossed since I know everyone I live with is definitely thinking the sooner, the better since this little guy wants every speck of attention that you can possibly give him every moment of every day.  He is a purse dog…he thinks he should be with you all of the time.  And since he is just a 14 pound dog, he really was bred that way.

Have you ever rescued a stray?  How did you handle it?

Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting Update

I mention my pet sitting side hustle frequently, but haven’t written a thorough update post lately about Crystal’s Cozy Care.  I saw this question left in my newsletter post this month from Leilani (thank you for subscribing and commenting!) and thought it would make a good lead in, LOL:

I also have a pet care hobby business and so far have to limit the jobs I accept because of my day job. I’m hoping to grow this hustle. Right now, I only accept cash and checks, but would eventually like to accept credit cards. So, my question: What type of payments do you accept for your pet sitting gigs?

Payment Methods

I started at the very end of February 2013 by accepting just cash and checks.  But then I was asked about other methods in April 2014 so I started accepting Paypal.  Finally, about 3 months after I started, I came across a photographer client who highly suggest the Square payment system.  It’s fees are less than Paypal, so I use that now exclusively for credit card payments (although only one client uses it regularly).  I still have two ongoing clients that prefer Paypal.  The vast majority, more than 95%, still leave me cash and checks.

Payment Methods that I Accept

Business Growth

I still advertise my services mainly through Craigslist, word of mouth, and Nextdoor.com.  Craigslist has led to the most jobs.  I also apply to gigs on Care.com and Sittercity.com, but that has only amounted to a few positions.

Crystal's Cozy Care Pet Sitting

In super happy news, most of my monthly income now comes from repeat customers.  A couple of neighbors and families near me use me for every weekend trip or major vacation that they take.  Two mommies have such odd work hours that I pet sit for their pups for at least a few days if not more of every month since they met me.

Snake Drama

One proud papa of a 10 1/2 lavender reticulated python has hired me for one visit a week pretty consistently since the end of May 2014.  Her name is Sephoria and here she is under a black light:

Sephoria the Snake - Lavender Reticulated Python

Sephoria is gorgeous and has grown to be nearly 11 feet long in less than 18 months.

The drama behind Sephoria is that for about 3 weeks, I was replaced with a “snake specialist” only because her owner wasn’t comfortable with her size and me mixing when she was hungry (every 4-8 weeks depending).  Well, that specialist ended up being truly dumb and unethical…he stole Sephoria.  Within 5 days, her owner had posted a want ad for Sephoria on Craigslist that explained the whole situation and asked for help.  The stupid guy’s cousin saw the post, the guy freaked out, and he returned her.  Yay!

Needless to say, I have my job back since I can be completely trusted not to steal her.  Her owner has now requested to be allowed to go home from his trucking job at least once every 2-3 weeks so I won’t even need to feed her myself (her giant frozen rabbits take more than a day to thaw properly and the feeding process is too complex for my schedule).

For my non-snake loving readers, here are some of the cute mammals (mostly dogs and cats) that have become regulars:

Eisley

Fred and Ginger May 2014

Jackie and Daisy

Khaleesi

Khari and Kori

Nunchuck

Pendek

Ricai

Zim

Income

Unless I start taking on more employees, other than my close friend and roommate, Mandy, then I think I am pretty much around the most business that I can take on right now. School is back in session, so there will be a slow down. I’m totally okay with that since I was working 30 hours a week just for pet sitting in August 2014. Here have been my total income numbers so far (not taking into account my driving deductions and stuff like that):

  • March 2014 – $1100
  • April 2014 – $400
  • May 2014 – $580
  • June 2014 – $1640
  • July 2014 – $785
  • August 2014 – $1680

I have put more than 5000 miles on my new car.  I am slowly making sure to stay within a 15 mile radius from my house so that those driving numbers should decrease each month from now on while my income stays above $500.  The more popular I become, the pickier I can choose to be on the locations of the jobs that I accept.

Pricing

Along those lines, I have increased my pricing as I’ve developed my reputation as well.  I used to be $15 a visit or $50 for overnight care.  Now I’m $20-$30 per visit depending on location and $70-$90 for overnight care.  Yet, my business is growing.  I also still charge a little less for my returning clients since I grandfather in their rates unless I was being simply unrealistic (like $60 a night for more than 5 pets that are all high maintenance or $50 a night for locations about an hour away…I’ve changed those and informed those families of my actual rates with a slight discount just for them).

Overall, I’m enjoying myself and am honestly trying to keep myself to 30 hours or less per week of total time towards pet sitting.  That only became difficult during the craziest parts of the summer so far.  I expect the holidays will be packed too.

Did I miss anything that you wanted to know about?  Please let me know!