Pet sitters turn their love for animals into growing businesses
JANESVILLE—Roxie patiently waited for company in front of the full-length glass door.
Her dog walker, Lisa Jummrich of Furry Blessings, was about to arrive for their half-hour morning walk.
When Roxie noticed Jummrich approaching the driveway, she barked with excitement.
Roxie's owner, H. Mitchell Bliss, said his wife, Pat, walked their 5-year-old female Scottie until a month before she died in July. He hasn't been able to walk Roxie since falling on the ice and breaking his left femur last winter.
"I tried it one day with the walker, but there's no way I could do it," he said.
That's why Bliss about six months ago hired Jummrich, a professional pet sitter. He'd gotten a referral from a neighbor.
"She's absolutely great," Bliss said.
In addition to walking the dog, Jummrich administered eye drops to Roxie.
Bliss said he isn't sure he'd be able to keep his dog without Jummrich's help, and the thought of giving up Roxie is unbearable.
"She's just a great pet and companion," he said.
DEMAND IS UP
Bliss isn't alone in his need for local pet services.
Jummrich started her business in 2004 and has grown it to 300 clients. She provides services 365 days a year between 4 a.m. and midnight.
Among her clients, about 5 percent are elderly or physically challenged older adults who need their dogs walked or care for their cats.
"Many are senior citizens that travel. Other clients are people working long hours, wanting to get away, or they may not feel like walking during inclement weather," she said.
Kauffman said most of her clients are single people, commuters and people who work long shifts who don't want to take advantage of family and friends to care for their pets.
Demand for pet-sitting services has grown so much locally that Jummrich has helped nine other animal lovers become professional pet sitters. Of those, five are still going strong and cover a large amount of The Gazette subscriber area, she said.
Among them are Tammy Kauffman of Aunt Tammy's and Sandy Welles of Creature Comforts.
All three women are insured, are members of Pet Sitters International and work with any breed of dog and most other pets. They meet pet owners before taking them on as clients and require contracts detailing feeding and exercise schedules, medications and veterinarian contact information.
Dr. Terence McSweeny, a veterinarian at All Creatures Vet Clinic in Janesville, said it's important to have a pet sitter who is insured.
"It shows the sitter is serious and interested in being professional and while taking care of animals provides that added protection," he said.
Exercise is as important for animals as it is for humans, he said.
"It helps us stay in shape, helps the cardiovascular system, our muscles and overall weight when burning calories. It's also important to expend the energy in some breeds that are high strung. If they don' get exercise, they tend to get a bit naughty," he said.
Providing care for a pet in its home typically means less anxiety for the pets, McSweeny said.
Barb Tapovatz, Janesville, agreed.
"It's just better for them and less distress when they're in their own backyard and neighborhood. They're just happier being home," she said of her 14-year-old Bichon and 6-year-old Schnoodle.
Tapovatz said she feels lucky to have a dependable pet sitter such as Jummrich.
"I couldn't just leave them with anybody,” she said. “That piece of mind is everything to me."