Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 39
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

Stockton Real Estate, LLC

Weichert, Realtors

Advertise in Town Topics

Iris Interiors

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Weather Forecast

It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

BEST BUDDIES: “Oliver is my co-pilot. He often goes with me on my pet visits, and he’s an absolute sweetheart. He was rescued, and now lives in a happy home in Princeton.” Cindy Valush, owner of A-Door-A-Pet, sits with Oliver, a black and white terrier mix, who has visited residents at nursing homes. His photo has also appeared in a children’s book, “Custard and Mustard”, and he even attended a book signing.

Daily, Overnight and Long-term Service Available From A-Door-A-Pet Animal Care

A-Door-A-Pet can provide peace of mind to you and your pet. This daily, overnight, and long-term animal care service, founded by Lisa Watson, has been in business for 16 years. Cindy Valush became owner in 2007, after having been a part of the operation for six years.

“I absolutely love what I do,” she says. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Actually, Ms. Valush came to A-Door-A-Pet after an initial career as a medical technician, but she had always loved animals, having grown up with Snoopy, a beagle, and walking dogs as a child. When the opportunity to work with A-Door-A-Pet came along, she decided to go in a new direction.

Now, with customers in Princeton, Belle Mead, Lawrenceville, Pennington, and beyond, Ms. Valush and her staff of seven full-time employees and an additional five to 10 helpers for overnights, keep very busy tending to their charges in the comfort of the pets’ own surroundings.

Animal Clients

“We offer daily, overnight, and long-term service,” explains Ms. Valush. “This includes dog-walking, daily cat sitting, feeding the animal, and spending time with it. If the owners are away, we always stay overnight with a dog, and with a cat at the owner’s request. The animals are all ages, from kittens and puppies to older pets.”

Current animal clients are mostly dogs and cats, but also include rabbits, birds, lizards, fish, hamsters, gerbils, rats, and a chinchilla; in the past, a pot-bellied pig, turtles, and guinea pigs were also cared for.

The A-Door-A-Pet staff includes men and women of all ages — college students to retired people over 70. In order to meet Ms. Valush’s high expectations, they must be dedicated, focused, knowledgeable, trustworthy, and love animals.

“We are bonded and insured, and offer references, and everyone who works for A-Door-A-Pet has been in the pet business,” explains Ms. Valush. “They all love animals, and they must meet very high standards. I tell them about our pet clients, ‘You love them as if they’re your own.”

When A-Door-A-Pet takes on a new client, the staffers go to the house to meet owner and pet, get information regarding special diet, medicine, toys, and the name of the vet, also an emergency contact, and even flight information, if the owner is traveling.

At times, instruction for special needs pets, such as those who are very elderly or disabled, is needed. Insulin injections, IV hydration, drops, and pills are all services Ms. Valush and her staff provide. If an animal should become ill, A-Door-A-Pet is there to give other needed medication, and if necessary, to make an emergency trip to the vet or clinic. Fortunately, this is not the norm, but it does happen.

E-mails and Pictures

“One time, at 4 a.m., I took a dog with a severe inner ear infection to the Red Bank Veterinary Hospital,” says Ms. Valush. “And there have been other middle of the night emergencies. I would do anything for my pets. Also, if the pet is very old and sick, the owners may leave permission to have the pet put down, if absolutely necessary. Of course, we would make every effort to contact the owner in such a case.”

“Most of the time, people will call to see how their pet is doing, and sometimes to say hello to them on the phone. We’ll also send e-mails with pictures. These people really care about their pets.”

In the case of overnight stays, there is a big trust issue, she adds. When a client gives Ms. Valush and a staff member the key to their house, this is a very big demonstration of trust indeed.

“The clients know they can totally count on us. We are there in all weather conditions, no matter what. If people have a sudden emergency and must go away, we are only a phone call away.”

With overnights, A-Door-A-Pet representatives have stayed in everything from studio apartments to mansions, and visited households that frequently have more than one pet. “It’s often a dog and cat, or two dogs, two cats, etc.” points out Ms. Valush. “More people than ever have pets now, and many have multiple pets.”

Studies have shown that having a pet can help relieve stress, and petting an animal can reduce blood pressure. They are also comforting, she notes, and after the events of September 11, many people added a new pet to their household.

Best Friends

Ms. Valush looks upon all her charges as individuals, each with its own personality, and of course, caring for cats is quite different from the responsibilities involved in dog care. “One time, I had been caring for a cat named Pumpkin for more than five years. I left food and water, and I had never seen Pumpkin. One day, I heard a meow behind me, and there was the cat! I guess she felt I had ‘auditioned’ long enough, and now we are best friends.”

There is no question that Ms. Valush loves her work. “How lucky I am to do something that means so much to me. I am so thankful for my customers, who have been loyal, even in this economy. And to my great staff. We are all like family.”

In addition to pet care, Ms. Valush has added a “Home Care Only” service, available for people without pets. “We will bring in packages, mail, newspapers, water your plants, and check on your house,” she reports.

A-Door-A-Pet is a 365-day a year operation. Summer vacation and holiday times are especially busy, but the business is steady throughout the year. (609) 799-3111. Website:

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