|It's New to Us by Jean Stratton|
Daily, Overnight, or Long-term Care From A-Door-A-Pet Animal Service
Growing up in Scotland, Lisa Watson was disappointed that she could not have a pet. She has more than made up for it now.
Owner of A-Door-A-Pet, the special pet sitting service, Ms. Watson and her staff have up to 50 clients at any given time, including many regulars.
"I always loved animals, but I had asthma as a child, and couldn't have one," explains Ms. Watson. "When I was an adult, however, the asthma went away, and I immediately got a Great Dane!"
Her family had moved from Scotland to Canada, then to New York, when Lisa was 15. After graduating from nursing school with a degree in psychology, she and her husband opened a health spa in West Windsor, which they operated for 17 years.
"Then, the Princeton Recreation Department asked me to set up an aerobics program, which I did, and we had it for 10 years," adds Ms. Watson.
"After I retired, I was bored, and my daughter said, 'Do something you love!'"
That, in a nutshell, is how Ms. Watson became owner of this thriving pet sitting operation, which offers daily, daytime, overnight, and long-term care for animals.
"I thought of how I loved animals," she notes. "I started in Princeton with daily visits to walk dogs when people were working. Then, it took on a life of its own. There was a lot of word-of-mouth, and it just grew."
Typically, she explains, the animals remain in their home, and the A-Door-A-Pet representative will visit to feed and water the animal, walk dogs, spend time with them, and stay overnight if the owners are away.
"The pet is never left alone at night," says Ms. Watson. "If the owners are away, one of our staff sleeps at the house."
This can occasionally test the resolve of even the most devoted animal lover. Ms. Watson reports on one situation in which a dog repeatedly woke the A-Door-A-Pet staffer at 4 a.m. to go out.
"She finally had to retrain that behavior," says Ms. Watson, with a smile, adding that the great majority of time, everything goes very smoothly, without incident.
If an animal should become ill, Ms. Watson and her staff are there to provide medication, and if necessary, make an emergency trip to the vet or clinic.
"We have spent the night with an animal in an emergency hospital," she says. "My husband Robert takes us down to Longhorne Emergency, if need be."
A-Door-A-Pet can also be there for people on short notice, adds Ms. Watson. "Sometimes, people call us when they're on the way to the airport, when there is a sudden emergency. They know we will be there for them. This is a very personal business. We can always have someone there on short notice."
It is also a big trust issue, she points out. "When someone gives you the key to their home, this is an enormous demonstration of trust. Our staff is extremely special and trustworthy. Our lives revolve around the animals. If I have a talent, it's that I am able to have wonderful people working with me. You are only as good as your staff."
Animals under A-Door-A-Pet's charge have never been left unattended, even under the most extreme circumstances, she says. "We are there for them at all hours. Not one animal has ever not been taken care of because of weather conditions, no matter how severe.
"We're there to take the dogs out or feed the cats at all times. Our clients know there are very few people you can totally count on, but once you are a customer of ours, we are only a phone call away."
A-Door-A-Pet's animals include dogs and cats (the majority), rabbits, birds, fish, turtles, iguanas, hamsters, guinea pigs, and one pot-bellied pig.
"He had his own bedroom, and we took him out in his yard or on the leash for a walk," reports Ms. Watson.
"Recently, we have been taking care of Martha, a wonderful rabbit that has her own yard and her own personal living quarters. She really has a very lovely living arrangement."
When A-Door-A-Pet takes on a new client, the staffers go to the home, meet owner and pet, get information regarding special diet, medicine, toys, and name of the vet. At times, instructions for special needs pets, such as the very elderly or disabled, are necessary.
Sometimes, owners will want music to be played for the animal; others call every day to talk to their pet while they are away.
"I never go out without leaving a radio on for a pet," says Ms. Watson. "It is comforting for them."
Whether they spend just a few days, a week, a month or more, with the animals, the A-door-A-Pet staff derives great pleasure from the experience, she adds.
"If you are an animal lover, there is no greater joy than walking in to see an animal and knowing that you are comforting and caring for it. These animals smile at me when I arrive! Any animal that you treat properly will respond to you.
"Also, sometimes, people feel guilty when they are away from their animals, and we relieve that anxiety."
More people have pets today than at any time, she adds, and many got them after September 11, 2001, she says. "It was an affirmation of life, a continuum. Pets are so comforting, and also, studies show that petting an animal reduces blood pressure."
Not surprisingly, after 15 years of caring for animals, Ms. Watson has a variety of anecdotes, humorous and poignant, about her charges.
"One story involved a little dog, Jamie, that brought a couple together. The owner was in rehabilitation, and our assistant took Jamie to see him every day for three months. Now, they are getting married! Sadly, Jamie died recently, but she brought a wonderful couple together."
Ms. Watson adds that individuals who have lost a loved one can receive great comfort from an animal, and also when a beloved pet has died, getting another can offer solace.
"When your pet has died, you won't replace him or her, but you can honor them by getting another as soon as possible. It's the serenity the animals offer, the understanding they have it's really another level of understanding. They can be intuitive about the feelings and thoughts of people.
"And if you get one from an animal shelter, it is very special. They know when they are being saved."
A-Door-A-Pet has five full-time and at least 18 part-time staff members, who range in age from 21 to 75. Matching the right person with the right client is a priority, and Ms. Watson and the staff are painstaking in their efforts to get it right.
"We look forward to continuing our work, and doing more of the same," she adds. "Remember, if you need specific, special care for your animal, we are just a call away." A-Door-A-Pet can be reached at 609-987-1117.