Why do we go on vacation? The obvious answer is to relax, but for a pet owner, that can be a difficult task. While we are stretched out on a beach towel in some tropical locale, our beloved pet is probably anxious and lonely, stuck in some metal cage with a hundred other dogs barking in his ear. It’s not a pretty picture.

I recently had that same anxiety as I left for a 10-day vacation with my family, and we left our dog at the local kennel. Sammy, a sweet-as-can-be yellow Labrador, at age 13, is getting on in dog years and losing strength in his back legs. Sammy also suffers from separation anxiety and debilitating seizures—there is no way of knowing when he is going to have an episode. I practically give myself an ulcer worrying that he will have a potentially fatal episode while we are on vacation. It’s a lose-lose situation.

After confessing these fears to a close friend of mine, she told me about a service that her parents recently used for their dog, also older with some special needs, while they went on vacation. DogVacay is an online community that sets dog owners up with over 10,000 vetted and insured dog sitters across the country.

The service also prides itself on being less expensive than the local kennel, starting around $30 a night; an aspect that I am all too willing to admit is a significant selling point (can you say poor college student?). Dog owners also get free pet insurance and DogVacay will even pay 100% of any vet bill that may arise during your dog’s stay. Sitters will also send a photo or video of your pet every day to ensure that they are relaxing just like you.

Before you start worrying as to how trustworthy these sitters may be, know that DogVacay sitters go through a strict five-step vetting process.

But I still was not completely sold on the idea. I mean, I’m supposed to trust the Internet and a total stranger with taking care of my beloved dog? The nice people at DogVacay put me in touch with a customer and sitter from the Houston area to pester further.

Ale Patino decided to try out DogVacay because her dog is “used to playing with kids, walking everyday, and he is active. Especially if you are leaving for a week, you need to make sure the dog is having a good time, too.” Patino also said that DogVacay stood apart from other services in that “you know that your dog is going to be treated as part of a family while you're gone” and “despite not being a vet or kennel service, they asked me for all the dog's paperwork to check that he is healthy.”

Sitter Jodie Hebert thought “it would be a great way to supplement my full-time job with extra income. I am a dog lover, and we have a big yard and my dog loves socializing with other dogs, so it made sense to try it out.” Hebert also said that she encourages her customers to set up a Meet n’ Greet, “which is when they come to my house and introduce themselves and their dog(s). We make sure their dog and my dog get along well, and also answer any questions they might have. Once they drop the dogs off, I just simply treat them as one of my own!”

Well, folks, I think I’m sold!  

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