A Tale of Two Dogs; In Home Versus Kennel

Years ago when trying to find week-long care for our dogs, we struggled with the decision as to whether to use a kennel or to use the services of an in home pet sitting service.

At the time, Jake was an old golden retriever. He had had minimal socialization with other dogs through most of his life. (We have since learned our lesson.) Because he was older and suffering from some arthritis, he didn’t move well and liked to sleep long hours on the cushy sofa. He had a tendency to be a bit cranky if pestered when he wanted to sleep. And although he liked to ride in the truck, he was adverse to adventure – liking his own house and yard.

Baxter, our two-year-old Labrador retriever, had gone to doggie daycare since he was old enough to be accepted. When we didn’t find sufficient ways for him to funnel his excess energy, he would find his own ways, such as chewing on house molding and ripping up carpet. To Baxter, riding in the truck was a means to getting someplace for a new adventure – away from home.

Jake & Baxter

Jake & Baxter

We had two very different dogs, with two very different sets of needs. As a result, we hired a woman who owned a pet sitting service to visit Jake three times a day and we took Baxter to his daycare facility, which also provided boarding, to keep him entertained and out of trouble.

Whether you choose a kennel or an in home service is largely dependent upon the needs of the animals. If your pet is uncomfortable around other animals, or stressed outside their own environment, consider hiring a professional sitter to come to your home. If your animal needs more interaction with people and other animals, consider a kennel. If your pet doesn’t react well to visitors or strange people entering your house, he or she may also be a good candidate for a kennel.

You need to also decide whether the amount of time required for crating is acceptable. Many kennels offer extra out-of-crate playtime for an additional fee. Some overnight care facilities also provide a non-crated environment. An older animal with health issues might be a good candidate for a veterinarian-operated facility.

Cost is another consideration. You will usually pay more for an in home service than you will for kennel service, unless there are multiple animals involved. But there are side-benefits to having a someone visit your home: you don’t need to stop the newspaper or mail, plants will be watered if necessary, and someone going in and out of your home makes it look “lived in” while you are gone. They will also put food into an often forgotten fish tank.

Check with friends, relatives and co-workers for suggestions about reliable kennels and pet sitting services in your area. Also check with the Better Business Bureau to determine if there have been any complaints about them.

Do not wait until the last minute to book either a kennel or a pet sitter. The better companies are often booked far in advance of popular, get-away periods. You will enjoy your vacation far more knowing that your furry family members as safe and well cared for while you are away from home.

How Green is Your Pet’s Lifestyle?

Green is the topic of the day, and it is not just the green of our money. The polar ice cap is melting, sea levels are rising, and glaciers are retreating. Whether you’re watching television, listening to the radio, or eavesdropping on someone’s conversation, you can expect to hear words like organic, eco-friendly, and sustainable bandied about. People are going green, and living a green life style is not just for the human members of our families.

The Three Rs

But what does “going green” mean? To some it boils down to the three ‘R’s: Reduce – finding ways to lessen the amount of trash we throw away; Reuse – finding ways to use things over and over again instead of throwing them away; Recycle – taking something old and turning it into something new. Things that are called echo-friendly are made with minimal or no effects on the environment. Organic products are grown and produced without chemicals or preservatives in a natural environment. These products are biodegradable and do not contain harmful pollutants.

It can all be a bit daunting and hard-core environmentalists can be intimidating. But every green choice we make can only help.


The first, easy green choice you can make is in the recycle category. Adopt a recycled pet. Visit a shelter or contact one of the many rescue groups when the time has come for you to expand your family.

Eco-Friendly Poo Bags

Many communities are discouraging the use of plastic bags for carrying home groceries. And now we are also being discouraged from using them to pick up our pet waste. The plastic lingers in landfills for a long time, preserving it for future generations. Instead, use biodegradable or compostable pet waste bags.

Cat Litter

Cat litter presents another environmental conundrum. Most clumping litters use natural clay (sodium bentonite), which is strip minded — an earth destroying process. In addition, the dust kicked up by your cat, or you while performing daily scooping, contains silicon particles that are a known carcinogen.

Fortunately, there are now many non-clay alternatives. They fall into several categories: wood-based (pine, cedar), plant-based (wheat, corn, grass fibers), and paper-based (newsprint, recycled newspaper). Unlike clay, most of these litters are biodegradable. Consider disposing of the litter in a paper bag rather than plastic one. Otherwise, the soiled litter will be preserved right along side the dog feces in a landfill.

Flushable cat litters are controversial. Cat feces may contain Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite not filtered by most municipal sewage-treatment systems, thus being allowed to enter our water system. This parasite is harmful to marine wildlife.


When buying toys for your pets, purchase ones made from recycled material or sustainable fibers, such as hemp. A green alternative to purchasing new toys is to reuse (remember those ‘R’ words) items you already have. An empty plastic water bottle can make a fun toy your dogs and they love the crunchy noise. Old socks can be turned into tog-of-war toys and old blankets into pet bedding.

Cats and kittens have been known to have great fun with a pinecone. It’s hard enough to withstand playful abuse, but light enough to be tossed around. You can’t get much more natural than that.

Healthier Food Means a Healthier Environment

The pet food recall started people really thinking about healthier foods for their animals. But healthier made food is also healthier for the environment. Select food made with meats that are raised in sustainable, humane ways without the use of hormones or drugs.

Does your cat really need an electric powered water fountain or self-cleaning litter box Going green can seem overwhelming, but begin with small changes – it will help. What is your pet’s carbon paw print?


As my ten-minute struggle ended–the cover finally lifting off the food canister–Zack, an African Grey parrot who had been watching me from his perch, erupted into laughter. At the end of a long, difficult day, I found myself laughing too.  It was a joyous, uninhibited surrender to the day’s events.

I often find myself laughing when I am caring for people’s pets. I also do things I don’t typically do–singing, dancing, and just acting silly. Mickey, an old, one-eyed hound dog, often made me me howl–literally.  Sometimes he would start the howling sessions,  at other times I would. We’d alternate howls, each getting louder and introducing various warbled effects. I swear Mickey would smile at me when the game began.

The animals often make me laugh, but there are times that the laughter comes with a great sense relief. One day I walked into a home to find that the resident Maine Coon cat had climbed to the top of a stepladder that had been left standing next to the Christmas tree. As I opened the door, his large paw was reaching for the twinkling star atop the tree.  He scampered down at my loud, “Ahhh, NO!” I had to laugh.

I fear the day a nanny cam is present and my antics show up on YouTube. But the daily presence of animals has lightened my spirit in a very profound way. I take life a little less seriously and often find myself LOL.