That’s when a neighbor of mine, who had her own neighborhood pet-sitting business, asked me to help out when her workload started to overflow. Within weeks of us teaming up, our radius expanded from Lake Worth Beach north into West Palm Beach and beyond. Pet-sitting felt natural, and a great fit, from the start. I’d always enjoyed taking care of animals in my own household, so getting paid to do it felt like a special added bonus.
After 10 years of private pet-sitting in Lake Worth Beach, I moved north to Lake Park in 2016 and started a career at DogSmith, a day care, boarding, and remote dog-and-cat-sitting business in Palm Beach Gardens. My duties there included being the primary remote dog-walker on recurring weekday routes; picking up the day care and boarding dogs in the company van, participating in the care, exercising, feeding and medicating of the day care and boarding pets at the facility, and doing overnight stays at both DogSmith and remote residences.
Along the way, I made a lot more friends of both the two-legged and four-legged variety. DogSmith clients often requested me to care for their pets, which included everything from 100-plus-pound Great Danes and Rhodesian Ridgebacks to diminutive Chihuahuas and Papillons.
When COVID-19 hit in early 2020, the facility lost many of its clients, at least temporarily, when they either started working from home and cared for their own pets, and/or exercised caution in having outsiders enter their homes. With my workload dwindling there, I moved on after four years, despite having become one of the facility’s most-requested pet sitters. My employment since has included working for the non-emergency call center 211, which included taking calls on its suicide hotline and setting up drug screenings, and working as a team member in the grocery department of Whole Foods Market in West Palm Beach.
I grew up in West Palm Beach in a household where my parents, myself, and my younger brother always had pets. An early childhood photo of me, at age 2 (featured in my indoor video on the House and Hound Care site), shows me sitting on the couch with my left arm around the family dog Tammy and my right arm around our cat Terry. We even had one of the world’s few large, octagonal-shaped fish tanks.
So from an early age, I developed a love for, and strong bond with, all animals. They tend to gravitate toward me, for whatever reasons, most of which we as humans can’t fully understand. I think they have an innate ability to recognize someone who’s trustworthy, understands them to some degree, and is a friend. They can also easily detect anyone who’s the opposite, a predator and foe. Some of my best friends have been, and still are, animals. They have a language people don’t understand, and yet some of those same people seem to hold it against them that they can’t speak OUR languages. Animals are, I believe, more intelligent, intuitive, and compassionate than they usually get credit for.
Our parents divorced when I was 7 years old and my brother was 3, but they’d instilled a love for pets. I usually had one or more from grade school through my graduation from Twin Lakes High School in West Palm Beach, plus collegiate years at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth Beach and the University of Florida in Gainesville, where I majored in journalism. That was also true when we moved to Missouri as kids with my mother and her second husband, and when I lived in Montreal, Canada and New Jersey between 1987 and 1989.
Mom always said I should be a veterinarian because of my affinity for animals. The reason I didn’t choose that line of work was because I had a tough time witnessing animals suffering. But as is the case with every pet owner, there were such trials and tribulations. My tortoise-shell, indoor/outdoor cat Dweezil simply disappeared in 1987. She’d had two kittens, each of which passed away in adulthood. Simba was run over by a car in 1989; Vladimir died naturally under my house, and I had to crawl underneath and retrieve him, in 1997.
Then there were the dogs. My 10-year-old Rottweiler, Tayle, had to be humanely put down by a remote vet after suffering a hard-to-believe case of cancer that I could actually see growing up his neck and into his face in the moment. My Great Dane, Mowgli, died overnight when his heart couldn’t keep up with his oversized body. He was only 5 years old. I also had to have my brother and sister-in-law’s beloved Australian Shepherd, 14-year-old Hogan, put down when he went lame while they were vacationing in Hawaii and I was pet-sitting him in 2003.
Still, there were lessons in compassion, acceptance, and beyond through each of those difficult experiences.
I currently have no pets, though, primarily because the pain of my two most recent losses still linger. My Rhodesian Ridgeback and Greyhound mix, Ginger (1996-2010), suffered from hip dysplasia and had to be humanely put down after she didn’t take to a harness with training wheels. She’d become a mother figure to my Dachshund, Chuck (2008-2019), who was humanely put down after suffering from heart issues.
Yet Chuck had become one of my life’s all-time triumphs in 2014. He’d jumped off of the couch and become paralyzed in his back legs because of a severely slipped disc in his spine. The emergency surgeon told me time was of the essence, and that the recovery would be long — plus the $5,000 operation was a 50/50 proposition with no refund if it failed.
I didn’t hesitate, and thankfully it didn’t fail, but Chuck could neither walk nor urinate on his own for three weeks afterward. Which meant my having to catheterize him to remove the urine several times daily and nightly to avoid him getting sepsis, and take him outside to defecate (when it didn’t happen indoors involuntarily) several times a day as well. I would put him on a leash for muscle memory, walk several steps ahead of him, and hope he’d found a way to use his wounded back legs to follow me.
For three weeks, he couldn’t. Until one day, when I turned around, he was right on my heels, and it was all worth it. Which it would’ve been even if the surgery had failed, because the time, effort and money eventually gave me five more years with Chuck.
Before pet-sitting professionally, I’d started ongoing careers as both a freelance journalist and musician (playing drums and percussion, and singing). My writing credits include the international glossy magazines JazzTimes, Modern Drummer, and Jazziz. I also wrote a bi-weekly local music column for the Palm Beach Post from 2001-2016; added sports writing for the paper from 2006-2017, and I currently write for the Palm Beach Arts Paper, Florida Weekly, JazzBluesFlorida, JazzTimes, and Jazziz.
As a musician, I’ve appeared on more than 30 albums, and toured throughout the Southeastern United States up through the East Coast into Canada, with a variety of different groups and singer/songwriters including InHouse, Rod MacDonald, Big Brass Bed, Tracy Sands, Brookes Bros., Acoustic Remedy, Boss Groove, Fran Snyder, Lite-N-Up, Big City, Black Finger, Jason Colannino, Jasplazma, The XS All-Stars, Blatant Disregard, Friction Farm, Netheresque, The Banyan Street Jug Band, The Hellhounds, The Funky Blu Roots, Andy Stein, Illumination, Sub Groove, Marc Ward, Monty Warren, The Humdingers, and The Cravens.
Along the way, I’ve opened for and shared stages with B.B. King, Don Henley, Ani DiFranco, Bonnie Raitt, Queen Latifah, Johnny Winter, Jennifer Nettles, Chris Barron, Warren Hill, and Sarah McLachlan at festivals including the Lilith Fair and SunFest (three times), and at venues including Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Georgia, the Mizner Park Ampitheater in Boca Raton, and the iTHINK Financial Ampitheatre and Carefree Theater, both in West Palm Beach.
So playing is obviously in my nature, and something else that animals can detect and feel comfortable about in my presence. I’ve also administered medicine, and am capable of basic training and grooming techniques. It’s a privilege to be able to care for all pets, and especially to be welcomed into someone else’s home to do so. I look forward to helping you meet all of your pet-sitting needs with House and Hound Care!