TAILS FROM THE TRAILS
For some of us, our pets are not like family — they are family. So when vacations and other times arise when we have to go away and leave them, it can present a real dilemma: board them elsewhere, or leave them at home and hire a pet sitter? A variety of factors come into play, including cost, the animals’ preferences and your own peace of mind.
Diane Gonzalez knows all about it. A licensed pet sitter, she owns and runs Passion for Pets. If it’s an animal and needs looking after, she’s ready and able to help.
“I’ve been pet sitting for 13 years now,” Gonzalez said. “I did it for two years down in Broward County. Then I moved to The Acreage 11 years ago and just kept going.”
Gonzalez has always loved animals. She grew up in Allentown, Pa., and always had pets. She and her family own a parakeet, a betta fish, nine dogs of assorted lineage and two miniature horses.
“We had a regular-sized horse for a while, for my daughter, Dakota. But she fell off and got traumatized, so we decided to stick to the minis instead,” Gonzalez explained.
Gonzalez decided to turn her passion for animals into a business because she really enjoys being with animals and knows how difficult it is to go away and leave part of your family in someone else’s care. Her full-time job is as a loan processor for a mortgage company, which she describes as “stressful, very stressful.”
“I’d love to be able to lose the day job and do pet sitting full-time,” she said.
Maybe one day. In the meantime, Gonzalez manages to keep up with her clients before and after work. She never takes on too many jobs at the same time, plus her two daughters, Dakota, 16, and Athena, 21, are now old enough to help out with the family business.
“We take care of all sorts of animals. The normal dogs and cats, of course, plus fish, birds, pocket pets like hamsters and gerbils, reptiles, sugar gliders, big land tortoises, horses and livestock. We do whatever the owners want,” she said. “Each stay averages a half-hour. We walk dogs, play catch with them, clean litter boxes, muck out stalls, change the feed and water, of course, plus whatever else needs doing, like bringing in the mail and watering the plants. We’re available on short notice, even if there’s something like an emergency meeting that’s going to keep someone late at work, and are perfectly fine with ‘bully’ breeds like pit bulls and Rottweilers.”
Gonzalez can visit once, twice or three times daily, if necessary, and the cost is nominal, starting at $15 per visit, more depending on mileage.
“I enjoy getting to know all the different animals,” Gonzalez said. “Plus I think that letting them stay home is a lot less stressful than boarding. I take each job seriously. My main goal is to make sure each and every animal remains happy and healthy while the owners are away.”
Kathy Cottier of Royal Palm Beach has used Gonzalez to care for her two cats.
“I met her through a friend,” Cottier said. “I’ve used her a couple of times when we’ve gone on vacation, and I’m thoroughly satisfied. It’s hard to find someone who embodies such a strong sense of professionalism plus great heart for the animals.”
And Cottier speaks from experience. “I used to do kitty-sitting myself for 15 years back in New Jersey, so I know what to look for in a pet sitter,” she said. “When I met Diane, I knew I could trust her. My cats are very important. They’re my family, the children I never had. Diane sent me e-mails every couple of days, which gave me peace of mind. I’d highly recommend her. You can’t go wrong.”
Colleen Hill also swears by Gonzalez. She has used her for the past two and a half years.
“I can’t say enough wonderful things about her,” Hill said. “It’s my honor to give her a recommendation. I sometimes hesitate to recommend someone to friends, in case they have a bad experience, but I never think twice about telling people about Diane. I tell everyone about her without the least bit of hesitation.”
Hill has two dogs, including one, Dixie, with special needs. “She’s on all kinds of medications for anxiety,” Hill said. “She’s a wreck, anxious all the time and nervous about everything, so going away and leaving her is extra difficult and stressful for all of us. She’s basically an 80-pound mess, and a lot of other pet sitters refused to take on this job because of that. But Diane has this way about her. When she came to visit, within five minutes, Dixie was sitting calmly at her feet. I’d never seen anything like that before. My husband was amazed.”
That is why she is quick to recommend Gonzalez.
“Diane is prompt and very professional. After all, when you go away and leave your home open to someone and have them care for your babies, you have to have a very high trust level. That’s what Diane gives us — great peace of mind,” Hill said. “Every time she visits, she texts us and sends us a picture. She’s caring, reliable, invaluable, trustworthy — I love her to death. I feel blessed that I found her.”
For more information, visit www.passionforpetspb.com, or call Gonzalez at (561) 628-8971.