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Health & Safety

How to Choose a Pet Sitter December 28, 2013

How to Choose a Pet Sitter

How a family's tragic loss of their beloved dog could have been prevented

When Kim Rose and her family decided to go to New York City for the week of Christmas they spent endless hours researching pet care. Like so many of us, the Rose family loves their pets like children, and Gypsy Rose was no exception. Kim had deliberated and searched for months as to which pet sitter to entrust Gypsy with while she went on a one week Holiday trip with her Mom and Dad. This was the first time she had ever left her 6 year old baby in the care of anyone outside her immediate family. Kim decided to contact the adoption agency, Dogs Without Borders, where she adopted Gypsy five years ago, then a one year old Pekingese/Tibetan Spaniel mix. She eventually decided to use their recommendation - Fox and Hound Pet Service, owned by Jennifer Fox and run out of her home in Sun Valley. Kim visited Jennifer’s house on December 9th to interview Miss Fox and have she and Gypsy meet ahead of time.

On Dec.18th Kim took Gypsy to Fox and Hound and left her in Jennifer Fox’s care, who assured her that Gypsy would be well-taken care of. Leaving a check for $140.00, the agreed upon price for one week of care, including daily walks, feedings, constant supervision and daily updates via phone, email or text; Kim kissed Gypsy goodbye and left with her family on Thursday Dec.19th. Her planned return was set for the morning of Friday Dec. 27th.


On Dec. 20th when Kim hadn’t heard from Jennifer, she sent an email asking how Gypsy was doing. Miss Fox replied that Gypsy was taking some time becoming sociable with the other dogs, but was otherwise fine. When no other communication came in the following days, Kim sent another email early on Dec. 24th asking for an update, but received no further replies.

What started out as one family's Christmas Holiday soon turned into a nightmare they will never recover from. When Kim hadn't heard anything in response to her email, she assumed everything was fine and that Jennifer and Gypsy too were celebrating Christmas. But, then on the morning of Dec. 26th, Kim received a voicemail message that will send shivers down any dog owners spine. The voicemail was from Jennifer and stated that Gypsy had “escaped” from her care THREE days previously, on the morning of Dec.23rd, while she put the trash out, and that she had been unable to locate her since. That same day Gypsy went missing, Jennifer failed to put up any posters in the surrounding area or continue to search for Gypsy.

Obviously, upon hearing the news, Kim and her family became frantic and began contacting several pet-recovery services to help locate Gypsy. PetKey, Pet Alert, Pet Amber Alert, LostMyDoggie.com and Pet Rescue, all with high success rates, immediately posted alerts about Gypsy’s disappearance. Kim called friends who raced to the neighborhood where Fox and Hounds is located and hung lost-dog posters offering a $1000 reward. PDF’s of the posters were immediately emailed to a network of more friends who formed a rescue crew and began a ground search. Kim, her family and friends began calling all the local animal shelters and veterinary facilities to try to locate her. The Rose family was in NYC and quickly changed their flights to arrive back in Los Angeles at 9.30 pm that same day.

All the while, the person hired and paid money to be in charge, Jennifer Fox, did nothing. Not only did she wait 3 days to alert the family that Gypsy had gone missing, but, she never called Kim again, nor did she help, or even participate in the recovery of Gypsy. Kim had asked her to please leave her front gate open in the chance that Gypsy might try to find her way back; Jennifer seemed very reluctant to do this. She completely lacked the motivation to find and protect Gypsy. She told Kim that she waited 3 days because she did not want to ruin the Rose family’s Christmas. Instead, she did nothing so her own Christmas wouldn’t be ruined.

Taking action in the first 48 hours is always important in relocating a lost pet. Out of all the dogs that go missing per year, only 16% are returned to their rightful owners, according to Fidofinder.com, but, within that group, 84% of owners who follow expert advice claim the success stories. Kim and her family followed the steps offered here http://www.petrescue.com/petlibrary/pet-rescue/how-to-find-a-lost-cat-or-dog/ and http://www.fidofinder.com/find-your-lost-dog.php and took action. Had only Jennifer let them know Gypsy was missing sooner. Dogs without Borders also stepped into immediate action going straight to Fox and Hound to remove all other boarding dogs from the home and relocated them into trusted care facilities. Since, two more reports have come in that dogs had “escaped” Jennifer’s watch, but, were somehow thankfully found and returned.


On landing back in Los Angeles, Kim received a text message from a man who had been out walking his dog that afternoon, December 26th. He had seen one of the reward notices posted by Kim’s friends that same day. He, who wishes to remain anonymous, had found Gypsy’s dead body lying under a bush at 7600 Clybourn Avenue, less than 300 yards from Jennifer Fox’s home.


The Roses drove straight to the location from the airport to retrieve her body for cremation. Shocked that they could not get a hold of Jennifer by phone or email the family left the neighborhood in dismay. Not only had their baby been wandering the streets for days, but, the professional pet sitter who had promised to take care of Gypsy seemed to have disappeared.


Since, The Rose Family has been trying to retrace the steps that may have led to this tragic and unnecessary death. They don’t know exactly when Gyspy died, but a local business owner had seen Gypsy alive at 3pm on Tuesday, Dec 24th at Saticoy and Vineland, a couple of hundred yards in the other direction from where she was found, running down the street. If only Jennifer Fox had shown concern for the safety of one of her clients’ dogs and began searching herself - Gypsy could have, and likely would have, been saved and rescued. Instead, Gypsy was either hit by a car sometime after the store clerk spotted her, or she found refuge under the bush and died of thirst and exhaustion.


Jennifer has had no further contact with Kim and continues to avoid communication with friends seeking answers and further details surrounding Gypsy’s “escape”. She offered no information on time and dates of the incident, and shockingly never participated in the recovery efforts. Instead, Jennifer ran from her responsibility. As a professional dog trainer and nanny myself, I know first hand that a professional pet sitter’s #1 responsibility is to keep their client’s pet safe, supervised and cared for at all times. If a dog gets out, it is the responsibility of the person in charge of that animal to begin taking action, immediately. The fact that Jennifer Fox did nothing short of leave a voicemail to let Kim know her child had been missing for 3 days is appalling.


Nothing can bring Gypsy back now. This is surely a case of irreparable damage, neglect and unprofessionalism; it’s downright malpractice. Our community of dog lovers and dog parents is outraged. Our dogs are our children and if we can not trust the care-providers who promote their services as professional business, who can we trust?

In an effort to prevent this type of tragedy from happening to another unsuspecting family, here are some tips when selecting a pet-care provider:


1. When doing a walk through of the premises of the home or facility where your pet will be staying, personally check the security of the house and yard.


2. Make sure the pet-sitter provides a list of absolute responsibility for:

*As many daily walks, food, fresh water as your dog needs and likes

*Constant supervision and attention inside the home or building and in the yard

*A warm, clean bed inside with plenty of space and comfort

*Toys, treats and playtime with the sitter and other pets

*Daily updates via photos, texts, emails or phone calls

*Video updates and face-time available at owners request

*Agreement to keep collar & tags on at all times

*Agreement not to put your pet in the charge of any other person other than the pet-sitter listed as the owner or primary caregiver.

*Guarantee that in the case of an emergency family will be immediately alerted and the caregiver will personally begin searching by the efforts listed on the links above.

*Agreement should also be made that the pet sitter takes 100% responsibility for all efforts to retrieve the pet since the owners are not physically on ground for search and rescue.

*Commitment to all efforts in case of emergency

3. Follow your gut and instincts. If anything seems off or you notice your pet behaving abnormally: scared, nervous, or confused, try another facility.


4. Read the reviews and make sure the professional is listed with yelp and other consumer based review websites. It’s good if the pet sitter has a website, or a facebook page too.

And, while Kim followed these steps to the T, there are sadly no guarantees that the person you trust with your pet is being fully honest, responsible and alert. Sure, accidents happen, dogs are animals, but, it’s our responsibility to keep them safe and watched over. And, if god forbid something happens DO SOMETHING! Take responsibility. Take action. HELP.

It is with great sadness, that a family’s loss becomes our way of educating each other. But, in the name of our beloved Gypsy Rose we sincerely hope you and yours never have to go through the deep and harrowing pain the Rose Family now bares.


Rest in Peace, dear Gypsy Rose.

Storms and Dogs! #Sandy October 29, 2012

Storms and Dogs! #Sandy

Dogs are hyper sensitive to storms, thunder, rain, earthquakes, wind, and other natural disasters – they can “sense” a lot of activity on frequencies that we humans can’t. Sometimes in storms where there are loud noises, winds/thunder, cracking trees, lightening etc  -  it’s important not to “soothe” anxious behaviors in young puppies (or dogs).
Try holding puppy close, maybe even tight in a cozy blanket, and pet or cuddle only when calm and relaxed. If pup needs to be near you that’s ok. Just let him/her know they are being a good dog for helping you protect and be alert. If they follow you more closely – let them – this is a dogs way of keeping safe and also protecting you – their master. This is positive behavior.
Don’t over reprimand for slight variations in behavior. Dogs may act a little different or even random. They may seem extra tired/ or sleepy, or maybe even more alert. Just keep an extra eye on your dog and don’t bring them out in the storm if you don’t need to. You don't want to scare them, rather, try and build confidence through a variety of excersises.
If your puppy freaks out or exhibits anxious whining, trembling, barking, self-biting, or any anxious behaviors – your instincts might be to pick them up and coddle, you may say “it’s ok, it’s ok, that’s a good boy” – DON’T DO THIS. While, you don’t want them to be scared – you also don’t want to reward a negative reaction by giving affection and praise for exhibiting anxious reactions.
Instead, if the dog is freaking out – Say “NO” – in a calm, but firm way. Then nicely ask them to ‘SIT’, place them gently between your legs with their back to you, hold the head steady and have them look at you in the eyes. The dog may want to look away – don’t let him. We call this ALPHA TRAINING. It tells your dog you are in charge; you are the alpha. This will alleviate some, if not all, of puppy’s anxiety, and keep them calm. When the pup relaxes, calmly and gently massage their shoulders and back for about 5 minutes. SO LONG AS THE PUP IS CALM – say GOOD BOY/GIRL. Release them from the hold and allow them to calmly stay by your side or be in the crate. You can cover the crate with a sheet and give  a chew toy if calm.
Sometimes puppies develop long-term issues from storm anxiety because their owners reward them for exhibiting scared behavior (often to make themselves feel better) so much so, that when the puppy gets older and along comes another storm  – the dogs auto-response system will go back to the past experience where they learned the unwanted behavior. You don’t want this.
Storm = scared + anxious behavior = owner feels bad = reward/affection for bad behavior.
This not only rewards unwanted behavior, but, it can also be dangerous to the dogs safety because other symptoms of storm axiety can be relentless chewing of self or unsafe objects, frantic scratching, or biting their own fur off.
SO – it’s important for owners to remain calm, centered and positive. Say NO to nervous responses to the storm and make sure anxious/fearful behavior is re-directed by using the above exercise.  You can also try an interactive game using a rope toy, frisbee, or ball so your dog will be positively challenged and safely engaged with their alpha leader; then reward with treats or affection for good, calm, and focused behavior.
Often in storms dogs don’t get regular exercise and as a result build-up nervous energy - not because they are nervous, but, rather because they need to burn it off.  Interactive game play can also help burn this extra energy. Or if you live in an apartment building take them up and down several flights of stairs – it’s a great way to get their energy re-balanced and their mind off the stress a storm can bring. Get creative to help your dog feel their regular routine is intact.

gis.nyc.gov/oem/he/map.htm?lon=-73.98930223603902&lat=40.7738269277431 listing of evacuation routes with shelters and rescues mapped out.
Most of all - stay together! Keep dogs food and water supply in air tight "to-go" dishes, bring vaccine papers, vet telephone numbers, id tags, medications, and any other essentials your dog needs to feel safe and secure.

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