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Doggie Vacay

A house-sitter, or pet sitter who comes to feed, visit and often stay overnights with your creature, are less stressful than a kennel.

By: Alex Newman Living, Published on Thu Feb 06 2014

Spring break is fast approaching and, in addition to worrying about whether last year’s swimsuit will fit, you have to figure out what to do with Buddy, Lucy and Mittens. While more Canadians are taking their four-legged family members on vacation — an estimated 53 per cent, according — some places just aren’t that pet friendly.

So unless you’re heading to Canine Camp Getaway in the Adirondacks for some face-time with Fido, or you’re dying to try out Yappy Hour at Boston’s Liberty Hotel (where the four-legged set is offered pup-tinis), better to leave them at home.

The questions how and with whom have many pet owners choosing to take shorter vacations — or none at all. But there are options, the best being someone to stay in your home with them.

Pet- and house-sitters, though, aren’t all that easy to come by. A few years ago, Andy Peck was given the keys to a luxury mountaintop villa in Spain and a Land Rover to drive for three weeks in exchange for taking care of three large dogs.

The homeowner could not find a house-sitter, Peck says, which turned into an opportunity — a great holiday — for him.

And thus was born his business,, which operates on the basis that both sides get a great deal — free pet-sitting in exchange for free vacation accommodation.

“No matter where you live, pets aren’t happy in kennels,” Peck points out. “Meanwhile, there are plenty of people who love to travel and love taking care of pets.”

It doesn’t seem to matter where you live, he adds. “There will always be someone who wants your location for some reason — downtown Vancouver for a weekend, skiing in Banff, or just visiting a child studying at University of Toronto.

“It’s a tremendous value for the travelers, but the point is you have a responsibility — you’re looking after someone’s pets,” Peck adds. The website connects homeowners and sitters through listings that are emailed out. The sitters are registered and most have had police checks. They meet with homeowners via email, Skype and phone before making an arrangement.

Although it’s not for everybody, Peck has facilitated thousands of house sits — about 250,000 nights’ worth.

If this isn’t for you, consider hiring a pet-sitter to come in. Shae Marie-Janssen’s company offers daily pet visits ($15) and overnight stays ($60 for the first pet, $7 for each additional). They’re fully trained, police checked, and insured, and besides staying overnight, they check in regularly throughout the day, bring in the mail, switch the lights on and off.

The advantage of living in a condo is the extra security that having a concierge provides. Jessica Gunawardana, with First Service Residential property management which manages Fly Condos in downtown Toronto, says there’s a process residents must follow when making arrangements for their pets at home. First, property management must be notified — and given a signed permission form — outlining who is coming in and for how long. Each day the concierge will ask for ID and require the person to sign in. Once the agreement is over, the homeowner must let property management know.

Sam Crignano, director of development for Cityzen Corp, often has one of his adult children take care of Poppy, a three-year-old Yorkie-poo, when he goes on vacation. Crignano’s kids live in the same condo he does — London on the Esplanade. If they’re not available, though, Poppy goes to a luxury boarding kennel.

“My wife found this fantastic place with carpeted sleeping areas and cameras in all the rooms so we can check in on her anytime and not have to worry,” Crignano says.

Although not all kennels offer such state-of-the-art options, most have good facilities with large kennels and outdoor runs, extended play times in large open spaces, and plenty of canine company. Most kennels have stepped up their amenities packages, just to compete with the increasing number of people who board pets in their own home.

Home boarding is almost like having your pets at home — and it’s been my choice for Emma, my yellow Lab, the past few years. But like every other unmonitored cottage industry, you have to be careful. My experience has been good but a friend returned home to a cat with mange, ringworm and high vet bills. is a site that posts people in your area who board pets, along with their bios, home photos, prices and availability. The company also provides insurance (up to $25,000 per animal).

Whatever option you choose for your pets, do the research and shop around. Personally check out the accommodations, the business owner’s references and the reviews.

Holidays aren’t much fun if they’re spent worrying about your pets.

Alex Newman is a Toronto-based freelance writer and mom to two children, two cats and a dog. Contact her through


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