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Meet Toby The The Legged Therapy Poodle

Meet Toby The Therapy Dog!

Dogs bring joy to their families, but not everyone is lucky enough to have a dog, especially those who need their love the most. Pet therapy teams consist of a therapy dog (or cat, or almost any other kind of domestic animal,) and a handler who brings them to hospitals, schools, nursing homes and other places where people could use some cheering up. Program like Caring Canines make sure the animals are friendly, gentle and well-suited for therapy work.

Toby’s Story

Toby is a 7-year-old Toy Poodle who was found by the side of a road in Mississippi in April 2013. He was all alone, and he had a shattered pelvis and a severely broken leg. He had two surgeries: one to place a metal plate in his pelvis to hold his hip together, and another to amputate his left hind leg, which was injured beyond repair.

In a short period of time, Toby learned to live with just three legs. Despite his trauma, he was happy to get a second chance at life, and ready to help heal others too.

Toby was placed on a pet transport truck to find his forever home up north. This is how he was adopted by Wendi, founder of A Better Way Pet Sitting Services.

Toby On The Job

Soon after adopting Toby, Wendi spoke to a friend who had been a pet therapy handler for a few years. She knew that her Toby, with his positive outlook and sweet demeanor, would be perfect for the job. Through his inspiring story, and his love and devotion, he proved to be determined for a bigger purpose.

In September 2014, just over a year since he was found by the side of the road, Wendi began therapy work with Toby. He had a natural talent for making friends, and has never met someone he didn’t love right away.

Sometimes, Wendi and Toby travel with other Caring Canines teams in community rooms at hospices, assisted living facilities and special needs classrooms, giving each person a chance to interact with each dog for a few minutes. At other times, they go for individual bedside hospital visits – his absolute favorite. At just 8 pounds, he’s able to snuggle up in patients. Even nurses appreciate getting love from Toby as relief from their demanding jobs.

There’s nothing Toby loves more than going visiting – Wendi can’t say the word “visit,” around him unless it’s really time to go do therapy work – he goes nuts when he thinks he’s going out to make new friends!

Are You Interested In Becoming A Therapy Dog Handler?

If your dog loves meeting new people, but is gentle enough to work with kids, the disabled and the elderly, they will love therapy work. Go to CaringCanines.org to get started.

Fall Flavors To Share With Your Dog

Fall Flavors You Can Share With Your Dog

As Thanksgiving approaches, you might be spending more time in the kitchen trying new and traditional recipes. Seasonal foods are already showing up on grocery store shelves, some of them make healthy treats that you can share with your dog during the holidays.

Important: Don’t introduce all of these flavors to your dog at once!

Pumpkin

Veterinarians often recommend pure canned pumpkin to help ease diarrhea and constipation in dogs. You can add up to a teaspoon per ten pounds of your dog’s weight in each of their meals to support their digestive health.

Pure canned pumpkin is safe for dogs to enjoy – avoid “pumpkin pie mix” which usually comes in a larger can and contains sugar and spices.

You can also use pumpkin as an ingredient in homemade dog treats. Combine pumpkin with a small amount of coconut oil, cinnamon, white flour (or a grain-free flour like tapioca flour,) a small amount of honey. If you want light, puffy treats, add baking powder. Never use raisins or chocolate, both are lethally toxic to dogs.

If you’d prefer to use a recipe, try homemade pumpkin oatmeal treats or pumpkin carrot pupcakes.

For an even easier treat, freeze pure pumpkin in silicone ice cube molds to make frozen treats. You can combine the pumpkin with banana, peanut butter or pureed leafy greens like kale or spinach.

Turkey

Every dog drools over the family’s Thanksgiving turkey – it’s just part of the tradition!

The skin and fatty parts of the turkey are not healthy for dogs. Thanksgiving leads to an uptick in veterinary visits for acute pancreatitis.

Only give your dog white meat from the turkey, never skin or fat.

Never give your dog cooked turkey bones to chew on. Once cooked, turkey bones (along with chicken, and all types of bones) because hard and splintery. Cooked bones can cause internal bleeding.

Raw bones are soft and safe for your dog to eat, but can cause stomach upset if your dog is not normally raw fed. Raw turkey necks and giblets that come with the turkey are safe for your dog to enjoy, but should be given with caution if your dog never eats bones or organs. Too much organ meat can cause diarrhea, so only offer small amounts. Your dog can choke on raw bones if they gulp them down without chewing, and too much bone can cause constipation.

Cooked, boneless turkey meat can also be blended and added to baked or frozen dog treats.

Green Beans

Green beans are a healthy treat for your dog to enjoy year-round. Given raw or lightly steamed, they’re fibrous and low in fat, often used as a filler to help overweight dogs feel full when they’re on a diet.

Fall Flavors To NOT Give Your Dog

Onions and garlic are toxic to dogs, so you should never give your dog any food that may contain either. To be on the safe side, don’t give them seasoned foods at all.

While cranberries are safe for dogs, they’re too bitter for most dogs to enjoy them. Dried cranberries can be baked into dog treats as a healthy addition if they do not contain much sugar. Cranberry sauce is usually too sugary for dogs.

Ham is usually cured; it’s too fatty and salty for dogs. One bite won’t hurt your pup, but it’s better to stick to healthier options.

Keep in touch for more dog care tips from A Better Way Pet Sitting. Like us on Facebook so you won’t miss our updates!

Hungry Bowls Pet Food Drive 2017

Our 2nd Hungry Bowl Pet Food Drive: Donate To Help Feed More Shelter Pets!

A Better Way Pet Sitting cares for the pets in Massachusetts homes every day. We also do our best to care for shelter pets who have not yet found their Forever Home. During the month of October, we’re collecting pet food donations (new, unopened bags of kibble and canned food) that will benefit pets at the Northeast Animal Shelter and MSPCA Nevins Farm.

This is our second annual Hungry Bowl Pet Food Drive, a community outreach program sponsored by Pet Sitters International (PSI). We’re joining pet sitters from around the world to join forces with pet owners like you to provide local shelters with much-needed resources.

You can contribute to the cause by donating any cat or dog food. Stock up on extra food next time you go shopping for your own pets.You can shop sales or use coupons to stretch your dollar. Any brand or variety will be put to good use.

Here’s 2 convenient ways you can donate pet food:

Leave Donations For Your Pet Sitter

Donating pet food is easy if your home is visited by A Better Way Pet Sitting.

Simply leave your donation on your kitchen counter and a note to indicate that it is for the Hungry Bowl Pet Food Drive.

We’ll be collecting donations from October 1 through October 15th.

Bring Donations To Your Elementary School

Pet food collection barrels will be available in Burlington elementary school lobbies. Send your child to school with your donations and have them deposit the food in the collection barrel. Kids love helping out, and this is a great opportunity for them to make a real difference while learning about helping the animals in their community.

Last year, Burlington students donated 473 pounds of cat and dog food! We know this year will be another great success.

Collection Barrels will be in these elementary school lobbies:

Francis Wyman School Lobby from Monday, October 2nd to Friday, October 13th. 

Fox Hill School Lobby from Monday, October 2nd to Friday, October 13th. 

Memorial School Lobby from Monday, October 16th to Friday, October 27th

Pine Glen School Lobby from Monday, October 16th to Friday, October 27th

More Ways To Make A Difference For Our Local Shelter Pets

You can also make cash donations directly to Northeast Animal Shelter and MSPCA Nevins Farm.

Please also consider volunteering, fostering and adopting. Shelters always need supplies and extra help, and will be happy to match you with a wonderful new addition to your family.

Mental stimulation keeps your cat healthy, happy and maybe even out of trouble.

Fun Ways To Provide Mental Stimulation For Your Cat

Cats, like people, get bored. Some cats express it by causing mischief, tipping over glasses and scratching furniture, and will stop acting up if provided with proper mental stimulation. Of course, some cats are mischievous with or without stimulation because, well, they’re cats. But most cats are happier when their environment is entertaining.

How To Get Your Cat To Play

It can take some trial and error before you find the right toy and playing style that gets your cat’s attention. Some cats like feathery toys, others like springs, while some will only play with catnip infused mice. Others still have a penchant for rolled up socks or toilet paper rolls.

Your cat may be stimulated by slow back and forth movements, while others will chase a fast moving object. You can also try tossing a toy between you and a friend or family member. Some cats only want what they think they cannot have.

Mental Stimulation Puzzles That Your Cat Can Use Alone

Not all cats will play with their owners, and you may want to provide toys that your cat can play with when you’re not home.

Food puzzle toys are great for this. You can use dry food or treats to fill puzzle toys, either homemade or store-bought. A paper towel roll, with one side stapled closed and the other filled with kibble, can be batted across the floor like a mouse to dispense food.

By prompting your cat to work for their food, you’ll stave off boredom eating and encourage exercise, which can prevent obesity. In the United States, 58% of cats are obese, though this is preventable because you control the cat’s food intake and exercise.

Environmental Enrichment For Bored Cats

You can turn your home into a kitty wonderland without sacrificing your deposit. A few cat trees will provide your cat with high places to perch, nap and watch over your home. The surfaces will give your cat a scratch-worthy alternative to furniture legs. Some cats prefer scratching posts made of a carpet-like material, others like sisal rope. Some cats will be happiest if they have different surfaces available to suit their moods.

Tunnels, shelves and caves are all fun, cat-friendly additions to your decor. Shy cats appreciate having safe spaces to hide when you have guests over. Some cats feel safer when they can nap in high places.

You can even set up a bird-feeder or birdbath outside your window to give your cat something to watch during the day. For a cat, bird-watching is addictive, it’s their version of reality TV!

Get A Pet Sitter

If you often leave your cat for the whole weekend, or for even longer, an enriched environment and fun toys won’t provide the mental stimulation and socialization they need to be happy. It’s good to have a reliable, professional pet sitter in your contacts that you can call whenever you’re going to be away from home for an extended period of time.

Set up a free consultation with A Better Way Pet Sitting so you’ll always have a familiar, readily-available sitter for your cat. Our sitters will take the time to feed, play and brush your cat, plus provide you with updates each day so you always know that your cat is loved when you’re away. Call or contact us today!

Should your dog take the #CanineGoodCitizen Test?

Should Your Dog Get Their Canine Good Citizen Certification?

Have you heard of the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Program? It’s a certification that dogs can achieve as a groundwork for agility, therapy, obedience and other activities. Even if you don’t plan to train your dog to become a therapy dog to participate in dog sports, the Canine Good Citizen Test is a good goal to work towards for raising a happy, well-mannered dog.

Why Take The Canine Good Citizen Test?

One of the most common reasons people take the CGC with their dogs is to prepare them to become therapy dogs. A therapy dog is not a service dog, and cannot be taken into public places with the exception of hospitals, schools and nursing homes, with permission. Therapy dogs are used to help patients and students feel relaxed, so they must be mannerly enough to calmly interact with many different people.

Even if you don’t plan to do therapy work with your dog or participate in dog sports, the CGC certificate you and your dog can earn together. It will motivate you to take time each week to train your dog and socialize them, which will strengthen your bond and make your dog more enjoyable to be around.

How To Prepare For And Take The CGC

During the CGC test, the evaluator will go over ten requirements:

  1. Accepting a friendly stranger
  2. Sitting politely for petting
  3. Appearance and grooming
  4. Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
  5. Walking through a crowd
  6. Sit and down on command, and staying in place
  7. Coming when called
  8. Reaction to another dog
  9. Reaction to distraction
  10. Supervised separation

These are basic skills that you can teach with or without the help of a professional trainer, depending on your training skills and your dog’s age, temperament and abilities. It’s always useful to take a basic puppy class if you get your dog as a pup, or a basic obedience class for adult dogs so you can get a gain a foundation on how to work with your dog in an environment full of distractions.

You can use food to reward your dog while you’re training, but you cannot use it during the test. Food rewards are best used when first training new behaviors and to keep skills sharp, but as your dog learns, you can use food intermittently so they will not expect treats every single time they respond to a command.

Many dog trainers are CGC evaluators, and you can also visit your local Petco, as many stores regularly host CGC tests.

Why The CGC Test Isn’t For Every Dog

As beneficial as it is to shoot for passing the CGC Test, it’s not a realistic expectation for every dog, particularly the requirements for accepting strangers and dogs they don’t know.

The toughest part of preparing for the CGC isn’t always obedience, such as sitting and coming when called. Many dogs feel uncomfortable around strangers, especially those who have not been introduced to many different people when they were puppies in the early socialization period.

Other dogs take issue with the last qualification – supervised separation. Your dog might bark or cry when you’re out of their sight, which means they will fail the test.

While every qualification of the test can be trained, you may need a professional trainer or behaviorist to help you. Improper training can make certain issues worse. If you force your undersocialized dog to interact with strangers, they may have a scary, negative experience that could intensify their fear. It’s crucial that you work at your dog’s pace and make each new experience brief, easy and positive. If your dog starts barking when they see a stranger, it’s unfair – even dangerous – to hold them in place on their leash and have the stranger pet them.

Working at your dog’s pace may mean it could take weeks, even months to get them totally comfortable with strangers. If your dog cannot pass the CGC test, that does not mean they are a bad dog. It just means that they would not be a good candidate for therapy work.

You should still keep your dog’s brain active by training at home, taking small group or private training classes, going on walks and hikes, and even doing nosework. There’s plenty of fun, engaging things your dog can do without a CGC certificate.

Keep in touch for more dog care tips from A Better Way Pet Sitting. Like us on Facebook so you won’t miss our updates!

When Should Your Cat Go To The Vet? #Cat2VetDay

When Should Your Cat Go To The Vet? #Cat2VetDay

You hate taking your cat to the vet, and your cat hates it even more. From trying to squeeze your cat into their carrier to the long, nervous wait in the vet’s office, checkups are no picnic for you and your feline. Though it’s not easy, it’s oh-so-necessary to helping your cat live a long, healthy life. August 22nd has been named National Take Your Cat To The Vet Day by the American Association of Feline Practitioners because over half of all pet cats in America do not get annual checkups. If your cat is one of them, don’t feel guilty – but please do pick up the phone and schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

Why All Cats Need Annual Vet Checkups

Cats may be more independent than dogs, but they still need the same regular medical care. Our feline family members are less likely to appear in pain, and may only show very subtle signs of discomfort, if any at all, when they are sick or injured. Regular checkups allow you to catch minor illnesses before they become serious.

Kidney failure is the leading cause of death in cats. Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, weakness and weight loss. However, by the time these symptoms appear, your cat is already suffering from severe kidney damage and your cat’s life expectancy has already been greatly reduced, even with treatment. Yearly blood tests, twice-yearly for senior cats, is the best way to catch kidney disease in its early stages.

What Your Vet Should Check For Each Year

When you get to your vet’s office, be prepared with any questions about your cat’s health and behavior – you may want to write them down so you do not forget to ask during your visit.

Your vet will weigh your cat and palpate their torso to determine if they are overweight. They may check your cat’s ears and eyes, and examine their mouth to see if your cat has signs of dental disease.

You can also expect your vet to check your cat’s vaccination history and give your cat any needed shots so they stay up-to-date. Even indoor cats need vaccinations, plus a vet-prescribed heartworm/intestinal parasite preventative, usually in the form of a chewable pill, administered monthly at home.

How To Make Vet Visits Less Stressful

Your cat’s carrier should be left out at all times, not suddenly dug out of the closet the morning of your vet appointment.

Fill your cat’s carrier with a thick blanket, catnip, toys and treats – anything to help your kitty see it as a sanctuary. Don’t place your cat inside; allow them to explore it on their own, preferably at least a few weeks before their appointment.

Practice handling your cat, looking inside their mouth, and massaging their paws, ears and stomach while you pet them. Don’t push your cat’s limits, simply get them used to gentle handling that they’ll likely experience at the vet’s office. You can also practice wrapping your cat in a towel so they won’t mind being swaddled for examinations, vaccines and bloodwork.

Keep in touch for more cat care tips from A Better Way Pet Sitting. Like us on Facebook so you won’t miss our updates!

How To Keep Your Dog Hydrated

8 Creative Ways To Keep Your Dog Hydrated

Dogs, like humans, need adequate water intake each day to stay healthy. Water regulates your dog’s body temperature, and aids digestion and waste removal. Your dog should take in about 1 cup of water per 10 pounds of body weight.

Animals only drink water when they’re thirsty, and much of their water intake comes from their food.

But that doesn’t mean your dog will always drink enough water. On hot days, or when your dog is playing, they may need extra water, and they may or may not drink more. Some dogs get dehydrated when they are stressed, or distracted when they’re running around outdoors.

Encouraging your dog to stay hydrated will help prevent kidney problems, urinary tract infections, and other health issues.

Here’s how you can keep your dog hydrated, even if they don’t want to drink enough water:

1. Provide More Water Bowls.

Your dog may not drink enough water if there’s just one water bowl in your home. You should keep a bowl outside, though you’ll have to remove outdoor debris daily. You can also keep water bowls in your living room, bedroom, and anywhere else your dog hangs out.

2. Get A Doggy Drinking Fountain

Some dogs prefer standing water, others are tempted to drink from bubbling fountains. Drinking fountains contain filters that remove any taste or odor that may be preventing your dog from drinking enough.

3. Make A Doggy Smoothie

If you love making smoothies in the morning, you can make a little extra to share with your dog. Just make sure not to add any sugar, or other ingredients that are not safe for dogs. Dogs are typically lactose intolerant, but may be able to handle a small amount of yogurt; the probiotics are excellent for digestion. Green, leafy veggies like kale and spinach provide vitamins K, C and E, plus protein and calcium. Sweet fruits like strawberries, blueberries and apples are all good for dogs. Smoothies should be given in moderation, about 1 tablespoon per 5 pounds of body weight.

4. Add Water To Your Dog’s Food

You can add water to any type dog food: kibble, canned, or even homemade and commercial raw. You can soak kibble in water and keep it in your fridge for up to three days. Crunchy kibble does not actually clean your dog’s teeth – canine toothpaste, water additives and rope bones are better for that – so you shouldn’t avoid adding water for that reason.

5. Make Doggy Ice Pops

Some dogs aren’t interested in water, but love licking ice cubes. You can make iced treats by freezing blocks of water, or even mixing in a smoothie, low-sodium broth or other flavor additives before freezing. A silicone ice tray can make perfectly portioned ice treats.

6. Wash Water Bowls Daily

Some dogs will drink out of mud puddles, while others will avoid a slight murky bowl. Others are sensitive to the sound of their tags clanging on the stainless steel or ceramic.

7. Get A Bigger Dog Bowl

Your dog’s water bowl should be larger than their food bowl. It should be large enough to hold much more water than they typically drink each day, so it’s never empty. Instead of filling a dry bowl, you should be dumping it out and refilling it.

8. Offer Water From Your Hand

After a run at the park or dog beach, you might have trouble getting your dog to drink water, even if they’re panting and look like they could really use a drink. If they’re refusing to drink out of their travel bowl, your dog might lap up a small amount of water from your cupped hand.

Keep in touch for more pet care tips from A Better Way Pet Sitting. Like us on Facebook so you won’t miss our updates!

Use these tips for leaving your cat at home while you're away.

How To Prepare For Leaving Your Cat At Home When You’re On Vacation

While they may not show it the same way dogs do, cats really do miss us when we’re not home. It’s tough to totally relax on vacation if you’re worried about your cat. Are they safe? Are they happy? Are they lonely?

Here’s some ways you can prepare before you leave your cat at home for vacation.

Provide Multiple Water Sources

A single water bowl could evaporate, get tipped over or contaminated. Provide multiple water bowls in your cat’s preferred areas of your home, and a cat water fountain, if possible. If you’ve ever had your cat drink out of the sink faucet, you know how much they love to drink moving water.

Create An Enriching Environment

There’s many ways to entertain your cat when you’re not home.

Leave blinds open and install a bird feeder just outside your window to create opportunities for bird-watching.

Puzzle feeder toys, purchased at a pet store or made from household items, allow your cat to “hunt” for their food. Something as simple as a toilet paper roll with one end stapled shut, or a shoebox with holes cut out of the sides, can be filled with dry food. Get creative with materials, but take care that your cat cannot choke or get caught on the components.

If you want to go high-tech, you can watch your pet on your phone with a Petcube pet camera. The Petcube Play has a built-in laser so you can play with your cat while you’re on vacation.

Separate Housemates That Don’t Get Along

If you have dogs, or multiple cats that don’t always get along, you can keep your animals in separate rooms, or use baby gates to section off your home.

Create A Cat-Proof Environment

Before you leave, check for any hazards that your cat could get into while you’re away. These might not normally be too tempting for your cat when you’re home, but the change in routine could prompt your cat to be more mischievous than usual.

Make sure your counter and tabletops are clear of glassware, food, houseplants, and anything else your cat could mess with. If your cat can open cabinets and drawers, install some child safety locks.

Get A Pet Sitter

A daily visit from a professional pet sitter ensures that your cat is safe, healthy and happy while you are away. Your pet sitter from A Better Way will clean and refill food and water bowls, freshen the litter box, administer medications, and spend some time socializing with your cat.
Daily pet sitter visits are also a good way to make sure your home is safe and secure in your absence. Should a pipe burst, your basement flood, or any other disaster occur, your pet sitter can alert you and prevent further damage. Your sitter can also bring in the mail and newspapers and alternate lights and curtains to prevent burglary.

Planning your vacation? Contact us to set up a consultation. We’ll have a pet sitter available to keep your cat safe and happy while you enjoy your trip.

Your Guide To The Best Massachusetts Dog Beaches

The Best Dog Beaches In Massachusetts (Plus Dog Beach Safety Tips)

Heading to the beach this summer? Why not take your dog?

Dogs love to dig in the damp sand, splash in the waves, and kick up sand as they run around. A sunny day at the beach is perfect for tiring out your energetic puppy, but also a great opportunity to take a relaxed stroll with a senior dog. Every dog has its day at the beach!

Most beaches allow dogs off-season, but our favorites allow our furry friends to enjoy a day with us even in the summer. Here’s some of our favorite local beaches that allow dogs year-round:

Best Year-Round Dog Beaches In Massachusetts

Marshfield Beaches – Marshfield, MA

Website – Phone: 781-536-2500 x294

Dogs are allowed on-leash. With miles of pet-friendly beach, this is one of the most popular places to take your dog along the Massachusetts shore.

Marconi Beach, Cahoon Hollow And White Crest – Wellfleet, MA

Dogs are allowed on-leash year-round, away from lifeguard protected sections, but only before 9AM and after 5PM.

Plymouth Long Beach – Plymouth, MA

Website – Phone: 508-747-1620

Dogs are allowed on-leash year-round, all day long.

Francis Street Beach – Nantucket, MA

Website – Phone: N/A

Dogs are allowed on-leash year-round.

Cape Cod National Seashore – Cape Cod, MA

Website – Phone: (508) 255-3421

Dogs are allowed on-leash year-round, away from lifeguard protected sections, and some other exceptions depending on the time of year. See website or call for more details.

Nauset Light Beach – Eastham, MA

Dogs are allowed on-leash year-round.

What You Should Bring To The Dog Beach

  • Water and a travel bowl
  • Treats for working on training, and to get your dog’s attention if they accidentally get loose
  • A muzzle if your dog is aggressive with other dogs, or likes to eat trash
  • Poop bags
  • Towels for sitting on the sand and cleaning your dog before they get back in the car
  • Hydrating, dog-friendly snacks like watermelon, apples, cucumber or carrots
  • Paw wax, dog shoes or other paw protection against hot sand
  • Harness and collar with up-to-date tags and microchip
  • Dog-friendly sunscreen for dogs prone to sunburn – those with sparse hair, pink skin
  • Toys that float and are easy to clean

Should You Let Your Dog Off-Leash At The Beach?

Most dog beaches have posted rules about letting dogs off-leash. They typically require a 6-foot leash, but may have some sections for off-leash play, or may be more lax about leash laws when it’s not summer. Even so, you may notice other dog owners breaking the rules.

Regardless of the rules, it’s best to keep your dog on a flat, 6-foot leash. Some loose dogs will be friendly, but others may fight with your dog. Your dog could run into the road, chase after wildlife, or eat something gross.

Unless your dog is reliable off-leash AND you’re permitted to let them run loose, use a leash. If it’s safe to do so, you can clip together a few leashes or use a long line to give your dog some extra freedom.

Retractable leashes are not recommended; they’re known for causing injuries.

When You Can’t Bring Your Dog – Call Us!

Many beaches in Massachusetts don’t allow dogs at all. Sometimes, it makes sense to leave your dog at home so you can shop inside stores, eat inside restaurants, and go to concerts and shows. Your dog won’t hold it against you if you spend some time without them.

Contact us before your trip to set up a consultation. Then, we’ll have a pet sitter available for you whenever you go on vacation without your pets. We’re happy to help your summer plans go off without a hitch!