Trust your pets with a professional

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When her cat Charlie became asthmatic and needed inhaled medicine several times a day, Beth Martin knew she needed a professional pet sitter.

“My other cats were much younger, and didn’t have the same issues, but Charlie was my boy and I couldn’t just leave him with anyone. If his medicine got screwed up, it could’ve been disastrous,” Martin said.

So she went online and did a bit of research, ultimately logging onto www.petsit.com, the website for Pet Sitters International, which bills itself as the world’s leading educational association for professional pet sitters.

“I was looking for someone bonded and insured. After all, you’re opening your house to someone when you’re gone,” Martin said. “Security for me and my pets is very important.”

She entered her Canyon Country ZIP code, found Kyle’s Custom Critter Care, and scheduled a consultation with owner Kyle Harris.

A former substitute teacher, Harris had always loved animals and was a regular volunteer at Castaic Animal Care Center. She launched Kyle’s Customer Critter Care more than 10 years ago.

In addition to being licensed, bonded and insured, Harris is also pet CPR- and first aid-certified, which requires regular renewal.

“I’ve had to use first aid for minor things, but haven’t had to resuscitate a pet yet,” Harris said. “But I specialize in geriatric pets, so I need to know what I’m doing.”

Harris’ credentials and thoroughness during their initial meeting impressed Martin, as did her skill level.

“Most pet sitters would freak out about doing an inhaler on a cat, but Kyle did it no problem,” she said. “Charlie liked her immediately, too.”

During her visits, Harris would text Martin photos and updates of Charlie.

“I was a really worried mom. The photos really helped. I could see how comfortable he was,” Martin said.

While Charlie died last year, Martin has continued using Harris’ services for her remaining cats, Bandit and Sooty, whenever she travels.

“I leave a long list of stuff every time, little fussy things. Kyle looks after the fish, the plants, and picks up the mail. She’s super great about all my Type A personality stuff,” Martin said.

Over the last decade, Harris has watched pets ranging from cats and dogs to lizards, bird, fish, horses and pigs. She can handle dogs of any breed and size, as long as they are leash trained and not aggressive to humans.

Her only limit?

“No exotics,” Harris said.

During the introductory in-home consultation, Harris will ask potential clients about their pets behavior, medical history, feeding schedule, veterinary contact information, as well as any household items that need to be handled during her visits.

Currently, Harris is only accepting clients in three zip codes — 91351, 91355 and 91387 — in order to provide focused care close to her Canyon Country home.

That’s been very convenient for Kelly Ford, also in Canyon Country, who’s been a client for 10 years. Harris cares for her rescued Schnauzers, Milton and Amy, sometimes on a moment’s notice.

“Since she’s local, it’s not a burden,” Ford said.

Milton, 13, is blind in one eye and very easygoing. Amy, on the other hand, can be a bit of a handful, but Harris is able to manage her easily.

“Kyle makes them sit for their treats. When we get home, my dogs are better behaved than we left,” Ford said with a laugh.

Before hiring Harris, Ford would ask neighborhood teens to help with her dogs. The results were not what she hoped for.

“We were always worried a little bit,” Ford said. “We’d get home and our dogs’ water dishes would be empty. We wanted them to walk the dogs, but our neighbors would tell us, ‘I never saw your dogs leave the driveway.’’’

That’s why she’s happy to pay Harris $25 a visit or $80 for an overnight stay.

“How often do you get to have a woman with a Masters in education to babysit your dog?,” Ford said. “It’s a legitimate business for Kyle, not just some kid throwing food at your dogs. She’s a rock-solid professional and we trust her implicitly.”

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