On-call dog sitting? Is this a thing?
April 7, 2021 11:35 AM   Subscribe

At some indeterminate point in July, I will allegedly give birth to a human child. This is nice. However, I am having serious anxiety over some logistical questions about the actual process, the most pressing of which (don't judge!) is: how the eff do I find someone to look after my dogs if I don't know when or for how long I will be in hospital? Surely this is a solved problem....but my pregnancy-addled brain cannot figure it out.

I'm sure obsessing about this detail is just a way of displacing my other fears and concerns about birth/parenthood/etc., but let's just let that slide for the time being and consider the following conundrum:
- I have two large, very spoiled dogs. One of whom would be fine (if sad) on his own for many hours, one of whom is not at all trustworthy in the house without human supervision.
- I have no family or friends nearby. (We moved at the start of the pandemic, and have yet to form any relationships that I would feel comfortable relying on for a potentially call-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-ask-to-stay-at-our-house-for-unknowable-amount-of-time type favour)
- I could potentially be in the hospital for several days (I think? I honestly have no idea how birth works)
- I will most likely not have a planned c-section or induction, and therefore have no idea when I will need the dog sitter, or for how long
- Current COVID protocols at our hospital are that my allowed "support person" (i.e. my partner) can be with me in the delivery room/recovery room, but once they're in, they can't leave and return. So, for example, my husband could not drive home every few hours to check on the beasts.
- If given free reign of the house, the dogs do have safe access to an enclosed outdoor yard via a doggie door. However, at least one dog is really not trustworthy to be given free reign of the house. If left in a doggy-proofed area (our garage), dogs do not have access to outside and are therefore very time-limited on how long they can be in there. But regardless, I really don't fancy the idea of just leaving the dogs alone for many, many hours. That seems incredi-bad.
- We presumably can't "book" a dog-sitter to come stay with the fiends (my preferred option) because we don't have a definite date or duration for needing their services.

So, this is all a very long-winded way of asking: is there such a thing as "on-call" or emergency dog-sitting?? How does it work? Do you have specific recommendations for such a service in Seattle?

Alternatively, if the above is NOT a thing that exists, how do people deal with this obviously very common problem? Surely I'm not the only pregnant person with dogs (or other dependents!!) who require in-person care while I'm off doing horrible labour things?!
posted by Dorinda to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I used to do pet-sitting on short notice all the time.
posted by aniola at 11:47 AM on April 7

Rover and Wag are two apps that provide flexible/on call pet setting, so you might want to look into those.
posted by zdravo at 11:47 AM on April 7 [6 favorites]

Find a couple of nearby dogsitting services and ask. Many of these businesses are sole prop/family, but some use a number of subcontractors for coverage (and most of them know other sitters as backup/location recommendations) and would feel more confident that somebody/ies can be made available on short notice.

Having someone there constantly is harder - they generally have other visits/walks to handle. They need to leave for at least several hours at a time, usually. But if you're willing to throw enough money at that problem, it can be solved with multiple-sitter coverage.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:47 AM on April 7 [4 favorites]

For context, I did pet-sitting for a regular bunch of people, and sometimes they'd be like "I'm going to the coast tomorrow for the weekend, take care of my cats?"
posted by aniola at 11:48 AM on April 7

googling also turns up several pet boarding places in your area
posted by brujita at 11:51 AM on April 7

Another option is to ask your vet about boarding services and then talk to a few about what kind of notice they require. Even if they usually want a lot of notice, they should be able to accommodate this kind of last minute need when they have notice of the approximate time. It will be more expensive than a sitter, but they will have full time care.
posted by soelo at 11:51 AM on April 7 [3 favorites]

I had a good experience early this year with someone I found on rover.com. In my case (sudden family health emergency 2000 miles away), we were able to find someone to take the dog for an indeterminant length of time on one day's notice. So it can happen. But definitely try to start a relationship with someone first.

I'd suggest looking now, identifying one or two candidates (they'll indicate whether they board dogs at their house, drop by for walks, or stay at your place), and connecting with them. Maybe have them come by and get to know the dogs (masked, socially distanced, etc.). Let them know what the situation is and talk about whether they can be flexible. You'll probably only have to talk to a couple people.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:55 AM on April 7 [7 favorites]

I would definitely say identify an entity to do this and have them come meet the dogs and figure out your house as soon as possible, so you're not like in labor trying to explain the dog door and get a key to somebody (we use a combination lockbox on our gate for this reason - we can send someone to the house without us being there). Plan out your strategy in advance, even if you don't know the timing.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:00 PM on April 7 [9 favorites]

By July surely a large percentage of the population will be vaccinated and the hospital will have re-thought their enter-but-can't-leave policy.

Lots of good advice above about how to secure a dog sitter or boarding facility, but this particularly difficult restriction on your husband will likely be relaxed by mid-summer. I hope so for the many women expecting summer babies!
posted by citygirl at 12:19 PM on April 7

We send our dog to the sitter, as opposed to the other way around. Is than an option for you?
posted by sm1tten at 12:20 PM on April 7

Will you have a doula? We did, and when my wife gave birth, our doula handled a few household things like this. She definitely walked the dog and scooped the kitty litter at least once each. It was part of the service she offered - not sure if that's common.
posted by Dr. Wu at 12:22 PM on April 7

In the event of a late-night hospital trip, could you leave the dogs in the garage until the morning and have someone come in the morning to pick them up for a couple days? A lot of dogsitters or even dog boarding places would likely be fine with being "on call" for this if you talk to them about it in advance (and get them set up with a key etc). I'm sure it's not the first time they've heard a similar request. Alternatively, a friend might be able to swing by in the morning and drop the dogs off at a kennel?
posted by randomnity at 12:23 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]

If you’re in the NW as your profile suggests, my Mom lives nearby and adores dogs and would be delighted to have overnight guests for a few nights. She has a neighbor who drops off his pooch monthly and he has pooped on her floor several times and is STILL a desirable houseguest so if your pooches are good with being taken to her house I bet she’d be up for it.

Message me if you’d like her contact info and for me to talk to her about it :)
posted by arnicae at 12:30 PM on April 7 [15 favorites]

Unless it’s an emergency, you may have some time after labour begins before you have to go into the hospital. In my experience they prefer you to labour at home for as long as you can; even though I was induced unexpectedly we still had time to go home and take the dogs to the boarders m, have dinner etc, before we had to go in.

Have you considered boarding your dogs? If you have somewhere you like and get the paperwork in place, you can likely make arrangements to take the dogs in without a booking. For a fee some boarders will pick dogs up and drop them off too.
posted by sizeable beetle at 12:32 PM on April 7

"Ask a favor, make a friend."

If you could somehow meet your neighbors -- go out on a limb, leave a Zoom/Discord invitation or your phone number/e-mail address in your neighbors' mailbox -- you still have time to learn enough about them to find someone very nearby who can be a backup if your professional pet sitter doesn't work out, or who can check on the house to make sure everything is going well.

Plus, friendly neighbors! So great! Now is a great time to start establishing those relationships.
posted by amtho at 12:38 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]

I know someone who needed a pet sitter at the last minute due to a family emergency. As I understand it, this person connected with the pet sitter via rover dot com, but managed all the details (e.g. payment) outside the system, because it was so last minute.

Similarly, I know a different person who once had a great experience with an Uber "black cab" driver. Now this person reaches out to this driver directly when needing to go to/from the airport.

In short, systems may not be flexible, but individuals can be.
posted by oceano at 1:02 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]

I agree with all the suggestions to call a few local dog-sitters and boarding places and lay out the questions. If you find someone you like who's flexible enough, you could even do a test run.

July is still a few months out and the US is finally really moving on vaccines, so the constraint about your partner not leaving the hospital may be relaxed by then too.

Would also like to add that, despite what the movies say, the beginning of labor for a first kid is typically long and boring and at home. Not guaranteed! But usually you've got hours of infrequent contractions, so your partner will probably have time to sort this out a bit while you are bouncing on a yoga ball, moaning, and timing things. (Probably I'm telling you things you've already heard in a childbirth class or from your ob/gyn, but just in case.)
posted by february at 3:07 AM on April 8

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