Prosperity & Abundance to All in 2018!

I hope that 2018 brings each and every one of you happiness and joy. As we make our plans for this bright and shiny New Year, let’s also look back at the year that was and count our blessings with gratitude.

Personally, as I look back on 2017 I’m filled with gratitude for my continued good health, contentment and moments of sheer bliss.

The year held a few big highlights for me. In April, I got married and had the wedding of my dreams, complete with family that flew in from afar to attend and many priceless memories made. A perfect day!

I’ll always remember my handsome groom and 10-year-old son in their tuxedoes and beaming smiles.

Then, in late October, my book, “The Pet Sitter’s Tale”, was published. I couldn’t be happier with this news as I had been working on the book a very long time.

While I hope my book will reach the “Best Seller List”,  I’m learning to manage my expectations better and take criticism in stride. At the same time, I ‘m working hard at honing my interview skills both on the radio and television. I hope 2018 will give me many more opportunities to get better at both these things.

Between the two momentous months of April and October,  I was able to travel with my family while reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones. I intend to expand my tribe of people that love and support me and will search out those that share my passions and enthusiasm for animals and writing and travel, too.

In summary, I’d say 2017 was an amazing year and I hope that 2018 will be just as spectacular and even more so, which I have a feeling it’s going to be.

According to Chinese astrology, 2018 is the Year of the Dog, and that can only mean one: howling success and tail-thumping joy for all!

Many woofs!

 

Seven Things To Know Before Getting Your First Dog

How to Chose a Dog that’s right for You and Your Family

Are you and your family ready to get a dog? Have the kids been asking, more like begging for a furry friend? Is your family in a place where you can take on the added responsibility of a dog? Do you have the room and the time to commit to a pet? If the answers to these questions are yes, then read on because, while there is nothing quite like having a family dog and growing up with one, there are some things to consider before rushing out and taking home the first dog you see.

Here are Seven factors to consider before you chose a dog:

1.) Size. Yes, size does matter, especially when it comes to dogs. Which size is best for you and your family will predict to a great extent which breed you get. Do you have a large home with a spacious yard for a large dog to run around? Great, go for a big breed. If you have a smaller space or live in an apartment, perhaps a smaller breed would be better. Remember, if you don’t have a yard, someone in the family — I ‘m talking to you Mom or Dad — will be responsible for taking the dog out to do its business. And yes, this means in rain and snow so consider carefully which size dog will be best for your family. Smaller breeds can be fragile and possibly not best for families that have children on the very active side. Large dogs can easily knock down small children so be sure to consider this too. In most cases a mid size dog, around 40 lbs. or under will work well for families with small children.

2.) Age. Should you get a puppy? While puppies do have their advantages, they come with a heavier workload. Puppies need to be potty trained and this means a commitment to crate training and being at home to let the dog out, at least every few hours, to do its business. Puppies might not sleep through the night, in fact, I can guarantee you, they won’t. This might not be ideal for families who have to get up early for school and work. Remember, if you get a puppy, there is a ton of more work involved, including constant round the clock monitoring and cleaning up. Keep in mind that a puppy is a baby dog. Consider carefully what this is going to look like realistically in the terms of added work.

Adopting an older dog means there is a possibility that dog has already been potty trained and hopefully has had some basic obedience training. So, if you know that you don’t want a puppy, consider adopting a dog that is a bit more mature and already has been potty trained. Make sure your new dog gets along well with children and can tolerate kids. Some dogs do not mix well with children. Teach your kids to always keep their face away from any new dog they meet. Dogs can be unpredictable and suddenly bite or nip small children that get in their face. Set your family and dog up for success by choosing a dog with the best temperament for your family, which leads me to my next factor to consider:

3.) Temperament. While some dogs are happy to chill on the couch, others need lots of activity to wear them out. Making sure your dog gets the proper amount of activity for their breed is crucial to their development and happiness. Remember, a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Dogs that have too much energy tend to look for trouble by chewing on things they shouldn’t and running around in the house. Find a dog that is about the same speed as your family. If you are very active, look for younger dog with plenty of energy for outdoor games of fetch and hiking. Ideally, your family will be bringing your new dog on outings and vacations. Remember, the dog will become a much loved member of the family in no time so be sure the dogs physical fitness matches your family’s.

4.) Breed. This is a personal preference, and from experience I know that most people gravitate towards choosing the breed that they grew up with. Do a little research about dog breeds, but be willing to throw it all out the window when you fall in love with an unexpected sweet face, despite the fact it’s not what you had in mind originally. Labrador and Golden retrievers most always make fantastic first dogs, as do the hybrid doodles, which are hypoallergenic and shed less. Dogs with mixed breeding are less predisposed to genetic disorders which is another factor to keep in mind when considering which dog is right for you and your family. There is no rule of thumb here as any dog breed and mix can be fantastic.

Keep your heart and mind open. Use common sense; breeds such, as boxers, which can be quite jumpy, are perhaps not best with toddlers who can easily be knocked down. Tiny dogs like teacups are more delicate and need to be handled with care. It is probably best not to mix them into a family with children running around as they can easily get stepped on. Look for a dog that is size appropriate, healthy, friendly and a good fit for your family. Wondering where can you find such a dog?

5.) Adopt! I advocate adopting a dog from your local shelter. The folks there have been around the dogs in the facility long enough to steer you in the right direction towards a dog, or even two that will be a good fit.

In most cases these dogs have passed temperament and social tests. Ask the employees which dog is right for you. Plenty of times these dogs were previously in a family home and find themselves in a shelter due to circumstances beyond their control. Make sure the dog has zero sign of aggression or biting towards you and your children. Arrange for a visit with the entire family to see how the dog interacts with everyone.

If you have your heart set on a specific breed, search the Internet for a rescue for your breed or go to Pet Finder.  Pet Finder has a quarter of a million adoptable pets in the U.S. alone. You can search by your location and choose breed, age and sex of the pet you want. Pet Finder partners with many different rescues and I can almost guarantee you will find your dream pet on this site. And, given the increase in natural disasters both here in the U.S. and abroad, more pets than ever have been displaced and are in search of good homes.

Please consider opening your heart and home to a pet in search of a forever home. Remember too, that dogs in shelters are under a great amount of stress; they need you to overlook the fact that they might not be looking quite their best. This is a good opportunity to teach your children about compassion towards animals.

Adopt, adopt, adopt, please don’t shop, there is absolutely zero need to spend additional money with a breeder to get the dog you desire. Before you adopt a dog you need to accept that this is an investment and will cost money. Even if adoption fees are waived, all dogs need shots, spaying or neutering and the basic supplies, food, treats, chew toys, beds so they can have a happy and long life which leads me to health.

6.)Health. Of course, everyone wants to adopt a healthy pet and while all precautions must be taken to make sure this is the case, sometimes illnesses come to light after the pet has already become a fixture in our homes and hearts. As unfortunate as this is, cash expenditures for pet ownership must be accepted and planned for. As pets age, there is a good chance they will require medications and perhaps even surgery’s to make sure they remain with us as long as possible. Consider pet insurance or specialized credit cards to handle the unexpected costs of pet ownership when they arise. Remember, once you adopt your dog, that dog is relying on you to give him or her the best possible love and care — FURREVER.

7.) Commitment. While there is no unmatched joy for having a dog, adopting a dog is a lifelong commitment. On average, you can plan on having your dog for at least thirteen years. Smaller dogs typically live longer than larger ones. Pledge to teach your dog basic obedience commands. This is a great way to get the entire family involved with the dog, and will build the bond between your family and the dog.

Dogs require a lot of care, make sure everyone in the family is on board to pitch in and help raise the dog. It is no fun if the responsibility for the dog and his care falls entirely on one person. Young children can be taught lessons in responsibility by giving them age appropriate chores that have to do with taking care of the dog such as feeding and walking. Remember, your commitment to your dog is for its lifetime. Make sure to consider this carefully before deciding to bring one home.

To recap, when beginning your search for a family dog, consider which size and breed would be best for your family. After that, consider carefully the temperament, activity level and health of the dog. Once you bring your dog home, be sure to microchip them in case they are lost, you will increase your chance that your dog is returned to you. If your dog has been micro chipped by the shelter or rescue already, be sure to update the microchip information to your address and contact information.

Be open to falling in love with and adopting a dog you might not have seen yourself with. When I rescued my dog, Dexter, I had my heart set on a Pomeranian but the rescue had already adopted out the one I was going to see and there was Dexter, in need of a home. I have had him for almost 10 years and consider him my canine soul mate.

If you have the room and the energy, consider adopting two dogs. Many dogs that are in shelters have been given up but were already paired up with their best friend in their previous home. Remember, when you adopt a dog from a rescue or shelter, you are saving the life of that dog AND the dog that the shelter now has room for. You’re a hero, go you!

Please share your new dog story with me. I’d love to see the pictures of the dogs as they get adopted out. Wishing you many happy woofs!

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Give Your Dog the Star Treatment with a Professional Pet Portrait Session

Dexter’s Ready For His Close Up

I have tons of pictures of Dexter on my cell phone, so many that I wind up deleting them to make room for more. In spite of having all these pictures of Dexter right at my fingertips, I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never printed, much less framed any of them. When an opportunity to have a professional photo shoot with Dexter came up, I jumped at the chance.

Dexter can be a little bit difficult, and he picks up on energy, like all dogs.  While he is well socialized with other dogs, he is lukewarm towards people and has some fear aggression.  As far as traveling to someone else’s house, someone I had never met before, well, I didn’t know how he would act or what he might do to embarrass himself or me.

Raymond Janis and Charlie Nunn of Charlie Nunn Photography are professional pet photographers with an amazing body of work. They’re experts at pet portraits with creative and inspiring work.  They claim to use minimal props with simple backdrops to focus on capturing a dog’s (or cat’s) personality, but I questioned if Dexter would let them capture his.

Would he bite them? Poop on their floor? Lift his leg in the house? Nuisance bark? All these things remained to be seen and I was slightly nervous to see what would happen.  The day before the shoot, I had Dexter groomed (naturally) so he would look his absolute best. I explained to Dexter as calmly and clearly as possible that I hoped he would behave on the following day and that I was counting on him to make me proud.  On Friday afternoon, when we we’re driving over to the studio, despite pleading with Dexter for good behavior, he still acted like a maniac in the car, crying and barking the entire time. I hoped this wasn’t a sign of things to come…

We were greeted at the door by Raymond and Charlie and they warmly welcomed us inside their home. Experts at pet behavior, they wisely ignored Dexter while he explored their house. I was relieved that Dexter wasn’t showing any signs of aggression.  Dexter seemed very interested in exploring the yard, so Raymond invited us outside to meet their dogs and have a visit. Dexter enjoyed meeting the other dogs and I could tell that after spending some time in the yard, he was more comfortable and ready to come inside and have his picture taken.  

Raymond and Charlie showed me some of the pictures they had taken of other dogs and I was impressed. Each portrait was a piece of art; every frame captured a different part of the pets’ personality. All custom printed and framed, they were gorgeous and stunning. We chatted awhile about some of the pets in the pictures and then it was time to move to the studio.

Their studio is located in their home but they also have a mobile studio with the ability to set up anywhere. Dexter marched right into the studio space as if he was born ready for his close-up!

For this special occasion I had bought Dexter an all-in-one bow tie and collar. He looked very handsome wearing this but Raymond and Charlie also have plenty of options to offer in the way of accessories and props.

Dexter sat comfortably on a backdrop while Charlie readied his camera. Raymond sat next to Dexter reassuring him and giving him treats. Dexter was right at home, eating treats with abandon and letting his new friends pet him. Charlie began to click away with his camera while Raymond worked his squeaky magic causing Dexter to look into the lens. Dexter did so well, I was impressed (and relieved) by his good behavior.

Both Raymond and Charlie’s presence was reassuring to Dexter and kept him on his mark even while the flash went off. When it seemed Dexter was getting restless, Raymond knew exactly what to do to re-focus his attention. I could not believe it! Dexter was not only behaving but he was enjoying himself. If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t have had any way of knowing that this was Dexter’s first time having his photo professionally taken.

After changing positions and lenses, Dexter had a “costume change.” Raymond and Charlie chose a different bow tie for this additional set of pictures and Dexter was so used to it all by now, he even let Raymond put this one on him. Dexter was completely comfortable with Raymond and Charlie and basked in all the positive attention he received.  At the end of the shoot, they were even kind enough to let me sit in with Dexter on a few of the shots. I can’t wait to see them!

We wrapped up the shoot and said our goodbyes. On the drive home, Dexter sat quietly in the back seat of the car; apparently his afternoon in front of the camera wore him out. Reflecting on the afternoon, I concluded how wonderful of an experience this was for Dexter and how so many other dogs would enjoy it, too. If you love your dog, YOU NEED to do this for him.

I cannot recommend Raymond and Charlie enough to anyone considering having professional pictures taken of their dog. If you are in the Los Angeles area, give them a call at 310-424-8065 and tell them I sent you. Even better, share the pictures with me. Woof!

 

Top 5 Reasons The Pet Sitter’s Meet & Greet is Essential 

Pet Sitter’s Advice

Top 5 Reasons For Client Meet & Greet

  1. For safety’s sake. During the initial meeting you will have the opportunity to assess the dog and the house to make sure it is a good fit for you. Pay particular attention to aggressive behavior and ask about it. You want to know if the dog has ever bitten anyone. Aggression has only been an issue a handful of times in my experience however, you don’t want to get bit by the dog or even snarled or snapped at.  Make sure the dog becomes familiar with you so he will recognize you when the client is gone. The meet and greet is as much for you, the pet sitter,  as it is for the client. Remember – it is perfectly acceptable to turn down jobs that make you uncomfortable for any reason.
  2. To make sure everyone’s tail is wagging when you meet. This is a phrase I always use when I tell clients I’d like to schedule the meet and greet. It is imperative to meet the dog with the client BEFORE you agree to anything. How else will you be able to find out everything you need to know to take care of the dog and the house, if you’re house sitting.? Pet sitters must write down pertinent client information. (If you haven’t already, download my client checklist here.) Do not count on your memory to remember valuable instructions.
  3. This is your opportunity to decide if you want the job. Is the neighborhood safe? Does the client seem friendly and agreeable? Are you communicating with the client in a manner that is acceptable to you? Remember, there is plenty of business; you do not need to take every job that comes along.
  4. Get the keys! If you and the client have agreed to move forward and the job is confirmed, have the customer give you the house keys and make sure they work. Do not assume the client has given you the correct key. There is nothing worse than arriving at a clients for the first visit only to realize their house key is in fact, not the house key. Also, be sure to go over any alarm instructions. Practice deactivating and activating the alarm while the client is present. And last, but not least:
  5. Get the money! During the meet and greet, after everything has gone smoothly and you’ve collected the keys and confirmed that they work, take payment. Honestly, if you have the customer’s house key, the job is yours so get your money. I often take payment on the spot. In these days of electronic payments, its easy for a client to PayPal you or write you a check. I also have a credit card processor on my smart phone so I can take credit card payments. Avoid having the client leave you a check on the first visit if at all possible. The one thing worse than setting the alarm off on the initial visit is to get in the door and see the client has gone on their trip without remembering your check. If a client insists on paying you at the end of their trip, ask for a post-dated check. Remember, you are trying to avoid multiple unpaid trips to the clients. There are a few different schools of thought on wherever you want to hold the clients money until the job is over or not. I say cash the check. I’ve only issued two refunds after fifteen years as a professional pet sitter and in both cases it was because the trip was cancelled and both times due to medical reasons.

I hope this list will help you in your pet-sitting career. Remember, you are providing a valuable service and the client is counting on you to take care of their furry children and their home. Be professional at all times and you will have tons of loyal clients. Happy sitting!

Please leave a comment below or ask any questions. I am here to help and support all of you in our pet sitting adventures

Animal Exploitation is All Wrong!

Horse Racing, Dog Racing, Dog Sledding, Circuses and Zoos Are Animal Exploitation.

An article in The Washington Post written by Norman Chad inspired this blog post. You can read his Washington Post article here.

I’ve never heard of Mr. Chad before reading this article, he is in fact a sports writer. Frankly, if it’s not about the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, I am not interested in articles about sports.

But this article is different. I was alerted to it’s very existence by one of the Google alerts I have set up to find articles on my favorite topic, dogs. In his article Mr. Chad writes about coming to the realization that dog sledding is cruel to dogs. This is a quote directly from his article.

“Sled dog racing is cruel, unusual and unacceptable punishment for the animals.”

Dog Sledding is Animal Cruelty

Well, Mr. Chad is right! And I’d like to lean in on his article and proclaim that not only is dog sled racing cruel and unusual punishment but so is horse racing, dog racing, circuses and zoo’s and oh yeah, I am looking at you too, SeaWorld. Anytime we steal animals from their natural environment to perform tricks for our entertainment we are wrong, when we force animals to fight, race, sled or even swim with us, we are doing them an injustice.

Any animal in captivity for our entertainment and profit is purely wrong.

Just last week I watched a video of a gorilla splashing in a kiddie pool. Someone had set the video to the song “Maniac” and I have to admit, at first, I thought it was funny. The gorilla spun and danced completely uninhibited and clearly was having a good time in the water.

Zola in the popular but infamous video

Here was this magnificent gorilla experiencing what could only be described as sheer joy. It was entertaining and delightful, at first look. But then, something happened…

After a couple views, my delight turned to disgust. My minutes of voyeuristic escapism turned to shame. I realized I was essentially watching a prisoner in the showers, fundamentally invading his privacy.

I did some on-line research, and found out the gorilla’s name is Zola and he lives at the Dallas zoo.

Zola is a 14-year-old gorilla taking part in the zoo’s enrichment program. “The program is in place to provide stimulation in order to encourage more natural behaviors.” According to the Dallas Zoo.

Isn’t it enough that humans have plucked Zola away from his family and friends, away from his proper home in the jungle where he should be frolicking in waterfalls and not plastic kid pools? No, not enough, we had put him on display for all to see.

Since when have animals become our entertainment? We hunt them, eat them, enslave them and make them perform dangerous tricks, all so they can delight us. And this is wrong.

I believe mankind is here to safeguard the earth and the animals. Unfortunately, humans have endangered and killed off more species than can be counted and destroyed the natural habitat of so many others. Why? Greed? Sure, that has to be some of it.

More than that though I believe humans have come to assume we are entitled to the animals and that they belong to us. This is simply not true. Animals are not ours to use and abuse. We are here to safeguard the earth and it’s inhabitants.

Let's stop exploiting these beautiful animals.

Mr. Chad said it better than me and I am so glad he did because he has a far greater audience and that is

“Animals should not be subjected to our whims, in any way, shape or form, for the sake of our sporting-and-entertainment needs.”

Thank you for using your reach to educate those who aren’t on board, yet.

And yes, we should stop eating them.

So, You Want To Be A Dog Walker?

Download My Free Dog Walking Client Checklist.

Whether you want to work for a dog walking company or establish your own business, here are some things you should know:

You MUST truly love and care about dogs. Anyone can adore a dog from the sidelines but it takes someone who is committed to show up, walk the dog and do the dirty work. This means picking up poop or even cleaning out a crate. If that’s not for you I suggest you stop right here.

Are you punctual and reliable? The dog is waiting on you to go and showing up consistently around the same time is important to the dog and to your relationship with the client. Yes, you will have clients; they will be paying you to take care of their furry children when they’re not there. You must have a solid work ethic.

No flakiness. No forgetting. No excuses.

Which leads me to my next point, which is, you will have to walk in all sorts of weather. Rain, shine, snow, extreme cold and heat. It’s not ideal but when nature calls, nature roars! Thoroughly examine if you are willing to work in all weather conditions.

If you are still reading and haven’t been put off by the realities of the job, there is one more thing you need and that is street smarts. You must be able to pay attention and always be scanning the area you are walking in to be on the lookout and anticipate any and all challenges. You cannot be on your phone while you are walking a dog and even more so if you are going to offer group walks. Always be looking out for other dogs, squirrels, garbage and people that might cause your dog to pull suddenly on his or her leash. And one more thing, NEVER use a retractable leash. Even if your client supplies you with a retractable leash for her one-pound Chihuahua, leave it at home and bring your own nylon leash or lead.

In fact, any dog walker who is any good carries leashes, poop bags and dog treats with her or in her car at all times. You never know when you will come across a stray and need to leash them up. Make sure you carry at least one leash that is the slip over the head kind so if you come across a large or small dog you might be able to rescue them.

Click here to download the free Client Checklist I promised. It is customizable so feel free to add your business name and logo.

This is a client intake sheet. Bring it with you to all your client meetings and make sure to add all the pertinent information about the client and the dog.

Questions? Hit me up at Laura@thepetsitterstale.com

Le Tote Monthly Subscription Box Review

To Le Tote or Not to Le Tote?

Here’s a post I promised when I first started blogging; a post on things I love. Does it come as any surprise that I love receiving a monthly subscription box of clothes? Whoever came up with this model is a genius.  I’ve tried a few of these boxes but haven’t staid with any of them, until now. Let me introduce you to Le Tote and why I love it and why it works for me.

I’m a dog expert, providing care for and knowing a thing or two about dogs has been my career for the last fifteen years.  Clothes, on the other hand, have been my passion since I was a kid. Even in third grade I can remember telling my mother I didn’t want to wear something again because, “I wore it already.” Yes, I am a true clothes-hound, I believe the original term was clothes-horse but I changed it to have something to do with dogs.

I love having new clothes, to me, there is nothing better than putting on a great new outfit. While I don’t always love trying clothes on, (bad dressing-room lighting) and I definitely don’t like paying for them, (so expensive!) I love the way a new outfit makes me feel. Putting on something new I’ve never worn before is just awesome because it’s not the same old, same old. Any occasion is an occasion to buy a new outfit. And because I wear many hats: Mom, entrepreneur, boss, dog walker, writer, wife (wait, why is that last?) You get the picture. True, I do work from home on some days but it’s rare that I don’t leave my house for one thing or another.

Twice a week I head to Pilates and at least a couple times a week I have new client meetings where I meet other actual humans. While dogs don’t mind what you wear or don’t wear for that matter, it is always a good idea to look as neat and professional as possible for whatever role you are in that day. Walking dogs requires comfy clothes and gym shoes so I can easily sprint after them if necessary. Meeting with clients requires clothes a bit more upscale and Pilates calls for workout studio clothes. So you can see that, regardless of what my husband says, I do need a lot of clothes and a variety of them. Of course, there are also those times too when my hubby and I go out somewhere fancy and I always try to dress up on those occasions.

Sadly, buying new clothes for every occasion isn’t always practical and my budget doesn’t always allow for something new.

Enter Le Tote.

Le Tote is a subscription clothes rental service. Because you are renting the clothes, it’s expected the clothes will not be new, however, the clothes are new to me and that’s good enough. Rest assured the clothes come dry-cleaned and unless I knew it, I could never tell the clothes may have been worn before. I smell all the clothes as they come out of my Le Tote box (I am a weird-o like that) and they’ve never smelled like anything but fresh, new clothes. With my subscription I also can chose two accessories. I love having new earrings and a necklace to wear with my new clothes. This option has really helped me cut down on my impulse splurges of earrings and necklaces. I have drawers full of trendy pieces I don’t wear anymore and I definitely don’t need to add to it.

I purchased this tunic as it’s versatile and I’ve worn it more than a few times. The scarf is from Le Tote too, I borrowed it as one of my accessory options. I didn’t buy the scarf even though I sort of wish I had.

I started subscribing to Le Tote about six months ago. When my first box  arrived only one item was a hit. Now, I am pleased that at least four out of five items will work for me every time a new box arrives. You can get as many boxes as you want within your billing cycle. The faster you turn your boxes around, the more clothes you can try during that cycle.

The service takes some trial and error; at least it did for me. However, this is a great time to take a chance on clothes you may not want to commit to buying. Why buy that dress for your high-school reunion when you know your only going to wear it one time? If you’re like me, you have lots of clothes you only wore once and probably won’t wear again. I confess too that I am somewhat of a weight-fluctuater.  For my wedding a few months back I dieted and exercised into an easy and predictable size six. Now that the wedding is over and I am not as restrictive about calories, I’ve settled back into my usual size eight. It’s easy for me to become careless about eating and drinking and slide right into a size ten, which is a bit too big for my frame. I am 5’5” with a short torso so if I gain too much weight I look busty and top heavy. I try to stay a size six but realistically I hover around an eight. In my closet I have sizes ranging from a pair of super skinny jeans in a size two up to a size twelve in a designer dress I wore to a funeral (here on out this is my funeral wearing dress, hopefully I don’t have to put it on too much.)

Thank goodness, I am a solid medium in most tops. It’s the bottoms where I can have difficulty. There seems to be no uniformity in the sizes offered by stores and designers.

Here’s me with a Le Tote Vince Camuto top. It has a pink bottom trim which I really fell in love with. I am at a casino trying to win money for more clothes!

To avoid getting Le Tote boxes with items that don’t fit you, take the time to answer the questions about your measurements and clothing preferences when you sign up. Use a measuring tape. I fudged this and guess-timated my sizes and this is probably why some of my things did not fit in the beginning. Chose the colors and styles you like the best and your Le Tote stylist will put together a Le Tote based on your preferences. Chose the entire tote or swap out pieces for different items. They’re always adding new things, and they have a variety of clothes from athleisure to formal and everything in between.

Pick clothes that you like and accessories to match. There are different subscription options to choose. I have the three clothing and two accessories options. The Le Tote monthly fee starts at $49. I also have the accidental insurance on mine. This covers spills and stains and in my case muddy dog prints. Oh yeah, you don’t have to wash these clothes. Use them, abuse them, get tagged on FB and Instagram in them and send them back. Just like that.

There’s also a style share option on the Le Tote app where you can see other women wearing the clothes. I love this option and have used it to get ideas about styling outfits or see what the clothes look like on “real” people. Le Tote has models wearing the clothes so it isn’t always easy to tell what an item will look like on you just by seeing it on a model.

Here are some pointers, Vince Camuto runs big and French Connection runs small. The Le Tote stylist will advise you if they think something will be too big or tight based on your measurements.

I only struck out with one of my entire Le Tote boxes and I reported it to Le Tote and they gave me a credit toward the purchase of an item and delayed my billing cycle by a few days. The Le Tote customer service is pretty great, I have both called and e-mailed them and both times I was satisfied with their solutions. I have an affiliate link her in this blog post so if you would like to try it for yourself you can. If you fall in love with something on Le Tote, you can keep it and they will charge you for it. The prices are pretty reasonable and if you keep everything in your box, your next one is free.

Subscribing to Le Tote has definitely helped me cut down on my need to purchase new clothes. They add new stuff to their selection all the time and I really do get a thrill at looking at their pages and pages of clothes knowing I can try anything I like.

A few years back I tried Stich Fix and hated it, to me, everything looked like it was from a Wal-Mart in the Midwest. I heard it’s gotten better but probably wont give it another try. I really look forward to getting my Le Tote box because it’s predictable. I picked the clothes, I can see what the outfits will look like and with my subscription I can chose accessories to go with the outfits. When your finished with your Le Tote, mail it all back in their self addressed mailing bag and in a few days you will get a text and an email that your new Le Tote is ready to be styled. I adore having this service because I can order clothes based on events I have coming up. I have used Le Tote to borrow a dress for my wedding shower, a cute romper for my wedding rehearsal dinner, a pink number for a Sunday brunch with friends and more. Recently, I took a few items with me to Palm Springs. I am including a few pictures so you can see what I got and where I wore it.

I just started hearing a lot of good things about Trunk Club from Nordstrom’s, which is another subscription service so maybe in the future I will give it a try. I also use the Poshmark app to sell my clothes that I am not going to donate. Poshmark is a super easy way to make extra money by selling the items in you closet you’re not going wear anymore but still have a lot of life left in them. I sold a ton of shoes this way because my foot “grew” after foot surgery and I couldn’t fit into my old size eight shoes anymore. You can find me on Poshmark @calilala

If you do wind up giving LeTote a try be sure to use my link to get a discount. I am an affiliate and if you try it, we both win.

Take 60% off the first month of your Le Tote subscription! Use code SAVEME60 to redeem. Offer ends 6/30 – Sign up now!

Drop me a line at Laura@thepetsitterstale.com and tell me what you think or leave your comments and opinions in the section below. I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on Le Tote and what your experience has been with their service.

 

 

Surviving A Puppy

Tips and Tricks After You’ve Succumbed to Their Cuteness

Don’t hate me but I don’t like puppies. There, I said it, puppies just aren’t my thing.  Now before you fire off hate e-mail to me, let me explain. See, after fifteen years of professional pet sitting, I’ve puppy-sat my share of puppies. Now, when I see a puppy, I automatically smell crap. It doesn’t matter if the puppy has pooped; it’s just my natural reaction after having taken care of so many of them.  I’ve cleaned up enough puppy poop to earn some type of medal. Cleaned up poop that a certain puppy who shall remain nameless managed to get on the ceiling.  The ceiling!  Nope, no puppies for me, give me a mature dog or even senior dog any day of the week.  Sure, puppies are cute and all, their pictures make you say “Aww” and your puppy, well, your puppy is super, duper adorable but really I don’t want one.

Well, what’s the problem Laura, you ask? What kind of pet sitter and dog walker doesn’t like puppies?  Well, I tell you, one that likes a clean house for starters.

A clean house, see, that’s my thing, well one of my things anyway.  At times my OCD kicks in and I have to vacuum and scrub and dust and a puppy, well a puppy puts that all into overdrive. Walking in my front door and smelling clean, well cleanish anyway, I do board dogs after all, that is my thing. There, I admit it, and I love it when my house is clean. Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first) but I can’t get anything done if my house isn’t clean.  In fact it took me eight years to write my book because I kept hopping up to change the laundry over, sort, fold and put away and then, oh my, look at those dust bunnies, and down the rabbit hole I went.

You know what another one of my things is is my thing? Sleep, yes, sleep is a thing of mine and as I get older I realize I need more of it well, it seems I do. And, sleeping, that isn’t a thing for puppies.  Puppies are not known for their sleeping.  

Peace and quiet, there that’s a third thing, well two things.  I need peace and quiet.

And no person ever got any peace and quiet while raising a puppy.  All this came back to me recently when I decided, yes decided, I would board a puppy at my house for one week.  Now boarding dogs is not something new to me. I board up to six dogs at a time in my home. Usually small ones only (under 40 pounds) but not puppies. Must be two or older, all shots and good temperament too. All the usual stuff.  I have a pack of regular clients and everyone knows everyone and we all get along. Everyone knows, when it’s time to walk and time to eat, time to play and time to sleep.  There is no barking, crying, pooping in the house or fighting allowed. Those are the rules.  Of course, they all makes mistakes from time to time, but if they can make them during daytime hours all will be forgiven.

Puppies, now there’s a major rule breaker.  It’s not the puppy’s fault, don’t get me wrong. Puppies don’t even know the rules yet so they can’t be entirely blamed.

That being said, I bend, well, break my no puppy rule all the time. If you’re a professional pet sitter like I am then you have one (or two) clients that you can’t say no to. You know the one, they pay top dollar, never haggle over pricing, trust your good judgment and take your sage advice about puppy training.  So, when a great client of mine called me the day after my wedding to say he had adopted a new puppy, I could not say no. Oh, I wanted to say no, no NO! But like all too often, if I say no, someone else is going to say yes and that could mean goodbye client, so reluctantly I agreed to pick up Hannah and board her for a week at my house.

“She’s adorable, wait until you meet her.” He said.

“Can’t wait.” I said but what I meant was, can’t wait ‘til she goes back home.

Hannah’s a rescue and she is a black Labrador and something else mix. Since black labs are my all time favorite breed, I knew she would be adorable and hard to hate… But not impossible.

Did I immediately fall in love when I saw her in her crate with her oversized Yoda bears? No, I did not because I was too busy trying to figure out what to do with her while I cleaned up the smelly mess she made in her crate. Did I fall for her cuteness in my car on the ride home?  No, I did not, all I could think of was the sounds of her dry heaving in my back seat. Actually, my husband just reminded me it wasn’t dry. Did I think my senior dog; Dexter would meet her with open arms and open paws? No, he did not, he gave her a short snarl then ran into the bedroom when he saw her while she immediately pee’d on my rug.  

I put Hannah outside so I could clean up her new mess but now she was scratching at my patio screen and of course, being ancient, it ripped and she managed to get back in the house looking all proud of herself.  I needed to board a puppy like I needed a hole in my head (as my mother used to say). This is going to be a long week.

I went to the garage and dragged out a crate and put Hannah inside. She let out a bark, but not just a bark, the loudest bark ever. Shhhh, I said to her making eye contact.  More barking, even louder than before. Oh dear god, what have I done? How many days is this going to be? I look at my calendar. One full week! It’s not quite 5pm yet but I pour a glass of wine. A big one.

I mix up Hannah and Dexter’s dinner. Hannah gobbles hers down at the speed of light while Dexter daintily nibbles at his. I let Hannah out of her crate so she can go outside and she lunges at Dexter’s bowl trying to polish off what he has left. She manages to spill his food bowl all over the place, gobble it down and run away from me at the speed of light.  I try and grab her and miss, and she is running around the house jumping on my dining room table still covered in wedding gifts.

Those were new champagne flutes.

I finally manage to grab Hannah so I can clean up the glass and put the items on the dining room table away.  It takes maybe all of 5 minutes but, imagine that, Hannah has crapped in her crate. The dog has been here less than an hour and I’ve cleaned her crate out twice already. I need to find Wee-Wee pads so if she continues this, of course she is going to continue this, then I won’t have to hose the crate off every time. One thing you should know by now, puppies are a big time-suck!

The first rule of puppy club: Tire the puppy out as much a possible so they will fall asleep so you might get some, too.  So I spend the rest of the day trying to tire Hannah out.  I put her on the leash to teach her leash walking, or at least try to, but she just jumps on me and bites at my hand.  I let her run around the yard but she digs up holes everywhere.  Dexter is clearly giving me the evil eye. “Don’t say it!” I tell him.

Finally I give up and put her back in the crate.  She is like a jumping bean in there but I am exhausted.  I put her near the kitchen where she can see me hoping she won’t bark, but she barks, LOUD.  I stick her outside again but she tries to crawl her way back in.  I finally decide on in the crate.  If you’ve got a puppy or are thinking about getting a puppy then believe me a crate is your new best friend.

Anyone whoever told you they raised a puppy without a crate either a. Lives on a farm or B. has a serious poop fetish. Puppies need crate training or they will never figure out that they should be pooping outside. In the yard, on the walk or wherever, but not in the house. Do not let your puppy get used to pooping on you nice soft carpeting unless you are comfortable with poop stains and an unforgettable smell.

Crate training is not cruel; in fact, most dogs love their crates.  They see it as their private lair, which is a safe and secure place for them.  When my kids were younger, Dexter would go in his crate and actually pull his crate door shut himself!  In the wild, dogs find or build small burrows, which are usually dark and hidden.  Ideally, they can only be seen or see out of one side making them feel more secure from predators. Cover your puppy’s crate when you want them to go to sleep. Blocking out light and sound will help and when all else fails, drag their crate into the garage because in the garage no one can hear you scream, I mean bark.

Reward good behavior! I cannot emphasis this enough. Puppies typically only are given negative attention so don’t do this.  Give your puppy tiny puppy training treats anytime they are doing something right.  You come home and they are not barking in their crate?  Great job!  Give a treat.  Didn’t crap in there? Another great job, more treats!  Use your best Disney princess voice so they know they did something special.  It should not be your OHMYGOD what did you do? voice.

Make eye contact with your puppy and learn some basic training and commands.

“For the love of god will you please stop whimpering, crying and barking!” are not commands. Come, heel, sit, stay and lay down are all proper commands.  So is “leave it” and “off.”  You will use “off” a lot, especially if you succumb to the cuteness of a puppy and just have to get one. If you do get a puppy be ready to commit at least two years of a smelly house and little sleeping.  Be sure to get your puppy out on walks as soon as possible. Remember, a tired puppy is a good puppy.

After your puppy is trained to a crate it is time to move him to a slightly bigger area but still one where he is confined.  I suggest going from the crate to a small bathroom or a kitchen area where they can be gated.  Again, the gate is to keep the puppy secure but let him explore a little more. Keep graduating your puppy to larger and larger areas until he is accident free or mostly so.

Maybe these survival rules will help you, I hope so! Here’s another one that is particularly useful and you can use things you already have at home. When your puppy starts to teethe they will gnaw on your hands, legs and clothes like the chew toys they aren’t. Here’s a solution. Buy a couple dozen cotton washcloths then wet and freeze them.  Always have a couple in the freezer and put one in the crate with your puppy when you have to leave. This will give her something to chew on and keep her occupied for a few minutes, at least while you think about what to do next.  The frozen washcloths will also sooth sore gums while satisfying the urge to bite things.

You should keep your puppy busy with other things to chew on, there are puppy size chew toys which can fill with treats, and you will lose less shoes, purses, clothing and furniture to puppyhood. Try out this big nibbler for bigger puppies. I was lucky the week I had Hannah that I only lost those glasses, (and a ton of sleep). Don’t strive so much to puppy proof your home but to home proof your puppy

Finally, after a difficult week of cleaning out Hannah’s crate, listening to her incessant barking, trying to get her to not wreck my entire house and losing sleep, she finally went home. I have to admit the week with the puppy was difficult and stressful especially on my new marriage. I was glad to see her go home but I have to admit I got used to her cute big ears and constantly wagging tail. I do kinda miss her… NOT!

Should Your Dog Be In Your Wedding?

2 Quick Questions to Help You Decide.

Wedding Picture
Me and my hubby at our recent wedding, our dog Dexter stayed home.

Here is a quick questionnaire that will help you decide if your dog should be in your wedding. As a professional dog wrangler I’ve helped out at a number of weddings to drop off and pick up the flower dog or ring bearer pup and can honestly advise, even if you plan on having your dog IN your wedding it is probably best to plan on NOT having him or her there the entire time and here’s why:

Dogs are unpredictable. You on the other hand have planned all the details of your wedding down to the exact time of cocktail hour and which hors d’oeuvres will be served when. Do you really want to leave it to chance that your dog is going to behave? Or that the person who agrees to look after him or her is actually going to remember to do that? Dogs can become restless and bored or they can become over-stimulated. This can lead to bad behavior such as jumping up on people (and who wants that when we’re wearing our best) OR pulling food off the tables such as the counter surfing they might do at home. And, consider that as the bride you do not want to be worried about watching after your dog. No bride ever should have to pick up dog poop on her big day and especially in her wedding dress.

Some dogs simply do not like strangers and small children can be especially troublesome for them. Given all the excitement of the wedding, it is easy for your dog to become over excited him or herself and growl or nip at someone.

1.)  Is your dog socialized? I mean really, really socialized with zero episodes of biting, growling or other aggressive behavior. If your answer is no, stop right here and be confident your dog is going to be happiest at home. He will be just as happy watching the wedding video with you and rejoicing with the fact that you are on TV! Wait until he hears your voice, you will love the reaction.

Couple with their dog.
This happy couple had their dog Collins be their flower girl. But she only stayed for the ceremony.

But what if your dog is tremendously socialized? What if you have a big lovable Golden Retriever that would literally not hurt a fly? Can your dog be in your wedding then? Well my next question is:

2.) Is your dog well trained? Does your dog understand commands? Both hand signals and the spoken words? Remember, you will be up front saying your vows and you don’t want them to include the words down or sit!

So, if your dog is incredibly socialized and excellent listening to commands not just from you but also from ANYONE that uses them correctly I say, Yes! Go ahead and have him or her in your wedding but just be sure to make sure they get home before the dancing starts. As always, your dog is happiest at home in familiar surroundings.

Connecting with LA’s Wildlife

Saving the Mountain Lions of Los Angeles

I am passionate about animals. There, I said it. I love all animals, not just the dogs and cats I regularly care for. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my and elephants, too. Elephants are a big one for me because I am devastated by news of them being hunted and killed for their ivory. My greatest wish is to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary and work hands-on caring for them. But recently, the plight of another species has come to my attention and this one is hits real close to home. In fact, it’s in my own back yard. I am talking about none other than our own Los Angeles Cougars.

You see, cougars need lots of space to roam, approximately 250 square miles and that’s per one male, typically. When the cougars run out of space, which they have, they attempt to find more space. And because they can’t just call up a realtor, they have been trying to find space by traveling up and down the available Los Angeles mountain ranges, only there is a huge problem preventing them from getting to more space. Freeways. Freeways are preventing these animals from getting to new territory, which is leading to the degradation of their gene pool and to their fatalities while attempting to cross.

All this is leading up to that on Monday afternoon I had the pleasure, (along with my husband, (I just like saying that) to attend a talk given by Beth Pratt. Beth works for the National Wildlife Federation and is on the #SaveLACougars Campaign Advisory Team.

Beth was here in Calabasas educating attendees about an initiative to build the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing. The Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing Initiative provides a solution to animals and wildlife trapped by urbanization. This wildlife bridge would connect the Santa Monica Mountain range with the Simi Valley Mountains and beyond giving the animal a safe passage to larger areas in which to roam, mate and live out their lives.

Well it just so happens that the LCWC is right down the street where I live and I could not be more excited or supportive of it.

In Beth’s words:

            “These mountain lions live on an urbanized island, a small population isolated because the dangerous freeways do not allow them the room to roam. Let’s get them off an island and give them a future before they die out.”

Beth is essentially talking about connectivity. Connecting the mountain ranges to each other so the animals can safely cross but more than that, connecting us to the animals. Connecting us to the natural landscape and connecting us to each other. In a world of digitalization and technology, what we seek and need most to survive is the very same thing the animals need. Connectedness.

What a fantastic legacy for our children if instead of just seeing new shopping centers and condominiums here in beautiful Agoura Hills, we build this wildlife bridge. Wouldn’t it be great to know the population of the cougars increased because of this action we as humans took. Bridges like this one, the Liberty Canyon Wildlife bridge have been successfully constructed all over the world so why not here?

Beth tells me the funds are still being raised for the bridge but they are hoping to break ground in 2021. That seems like a long time for a cougar to wait to get to the other side of a freeway. Let’s try and make it happen faster, if you’re interested in helping you can donate here www.savelacougars.org. Please share this and use the hashtag #SaveLACougars in your social media post to raise awareness about saving these beautiful creatures.

Here I am with a near life size cutout of P-22, He’s the lonely cougar living in Griffith Park, trapped on all sides by freeways with a measly 4300 acres to roam. P-22 rose to fame when he was discovered by a wildlife camera and then rose to infamy when he ate a koala bear in the zoo. He has garnered international attention as the plight of the LA cougars has made world news headlines.