Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Knotty Plant Killer

I suck at watering plants. I know, it's not hard. You just put water on the dry part. But somehow this challenges me. So much so, that I have put a line in my service contract saying I am not responsible for what happens to plants while in my care. Here's what happened ...

It was mid September and a client called me up to check on her cats and her plants for a week. She even toyed with the idea of having me come over to see how she watered the plants. Well that's just about the last thing I want to do with my spare time, free of charge, so I told her I could handle it. The only caveat was that my out-of-state grandpa was reaching the end of his life and I needed her to have a backup person in case I had to skip town to be with family. No worries, she provided me with a backup friend and prayers for my grandpa.

All went fine during the pet sits. I was able to come every time as scheduled, spending 30 wonderful minutes snuggling her cats and listening to the sound of the rain falling outside. "It's raining," I thought, "no need to water the outside plants."

Except they were hanging baskets. And partially covered by the deck.

By the time I checked on them at the end of the week, they looked a lot more brown then I had remembered. Panicked, I quickly drowned them in as much water as possible. To no avail. I reasoned that it was mid September, and plants have a tendency to die around this time of year anyway. And my daily notes clearly stated that I thought the rain had taken care of it. Woops. At least the cats were fine.

Relaxing at home that Sunday evening, all the bells and whistles on my cell phone started going off. The client was pissed. She wanted to make sure "nothing tragic had happened" to my grandpa. I took the bait and said no, knowing she couldn't possibly be insinuating he should have died this week. Well apparently she was, because only that would explain why her plants were brown and crispy and dead. I apologized profusely for my oversight and explained that I thought the rain had been ample for the plants. She went on and on about how upset she was because hundreds of dollars of plants were now dead.

I'm going to take a break here to ask: Who the hell buys hundreds of dollars worth of plants?!

I offered her a full refund. She refused, and asked only that I reimburse her for the tip she left. This made me feel lower than scum, so I sent her tip back with a note that the remainder was sent to the local Humane Society in honor of her cats (not her, the cats.)

In retrospect, I should have gotten my insurance company on the horn. But it's such a shock to have a disappointed client, let alone a meltdown based on plant life, that I wasn't thinking straight.

Plant watering is a very common part of pet sitting. And no matter how good your company is, unsatisfied customers come with the territory every now and then. It's unavoidable, but I can be honest with my flaws and fully inform my clients in advance from now on.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The dog did whaaaat?

Sometimes, you need to drop a client. It's no fun, but let me give you an example of when it's time.

I used to watch two large, hyper Portuguese Water Dogs (think Bo Obama times two in a town house). In fact, let's call these dogs Bo and Obama. The family didn't take them out for much exercise, and my 3X a day pet sits when the family traveled were pretty much their only energy outlet. I knew this because oftentimes there would be a couple of trips spaced a week or two apart and their leashes and harnesses would be left exactly where and how I stored them. Not cool.

Let's also take a sidebar here to discuss what 3X a day visits mean. Most people book their pet sits around meal times: breakfast, lunch, dinner and/or bedtime. While a 3x or more a day client can be a money maker, it's pretty exhausting. I have to be up and at their house by the time their dogs are used to getting up first thing in the morning. I squeeze their midday in with my other noontime clients (there are a lot, and they don't stop needing me because someone else went out of town). And then I come as late as I can in the evening because, really, no dog should have to hold it more than 12 hours. This can go on for days or even weeks, depending on the trip. I turn down social plans due to being booked at meal times. Brunch anyone? Can't go out for drinks, Bo and Obama need to be tucked in by a sober pet sitter.

I was on another week-long adventure with Bo and Obama, who are so crazy I walked them separately for safety. One night I noticed thunder clouds rolling in. Bo was terrified of thunderstorms so I decided not to walk them and to just use our alloted time in the back yard. That worked out fine until the next door neighbors let their yippy dog out, causing a commotion on both sides of the fence. I quickly herded Bo and Obama back inside, fed them dinner and went home.

After a long day I was finally laying down to bed when my phone rang. It was Bo and Obama's mom. Apparently the next door neighbors called and reported that Obama bit their dog through the fence. 

Say whaaaaat?

I explained that there had been a kerfuffle, in which both households played a part. She said that the neighbors rushed their dog to the emergency vet, and that they would inspect the fence when they got home from vacation to find the hole through which their dog must have bit the neighbor's dog.

Mortified, I felt like crap. How on earth could Obama bite another dog and without my noticing? Was I really that tired from the 3X a days? I immediately documented everything that happened in an email to the owner of the pet sitting company. I bent down as low as I could get, hugged my knees, and prepared to kiss my butt goodbye. Surely he would not be pleased, but at least he knew the dogs in question. In fact, he offloaded them to me because he didn't want to deal with them anymore!

The next morning, he responded. He said that the neighbor's story did not pass the sniff test. The dog was probably dim witted and ran head first into the fence. It is not possible to bite through a fence. It is, however, quite possible that the neighbor saw our handy "bonded and insured" car magnet advertisements and thought they might make a quick buck. I was instructed not to apologize and to go about business as usual.

He was right. The neighbor never resurfaced and upon inspection of the fence, I couldn't find a single hole.

Bo and Obama continued to be a handful. I continued to be exhausted by them an their lackadaisical owners. I felt like the scum of the earth, but I left them a note with their key explaining that the dogs were just too much for me to handle and I wouldn't be back. It sucked, but I'm glad I did it.