“A glooming peace this morning with it brings, the Sun, for sorrow, will not show his head.”          Romeo & Juliet

We met these homeowners a few years ago. We’re now on our second sit with them and their awesome dogs, littermates and 12 years old.

The little one is a reluctant walker who, ironically, loves going for walks. I like watching her grab a mouthful of snow, without breaking stride, like a marathon runner taking water.

Once a day, she races down the stairs and hill running full-speed barking loudly at the sky.

She’s a sweet-heart.  Always a loving greeting when we return or sitting patiently as we get ready for walks, she insists on being outside regardless of the temperature.

Yesterday was like any other morning: a walk in the forest, breakfast, and a good nap.

24 Hours Later:

We awake to find her panting quickly and when she calms, her breathing is laboured. She’s distressed.  What’s going on?

We triage the dog.  Respiration, red flag. Heart rate, red flag. Abdominal pain, red flag.  We need a veterinarian.

The emergency hospital is around 45 minutes away while our vet is a 10-minute drive and opens in less than one hour. We decide on her regular vet.  Arriving early, the vet is not yet in, so I leave the dog with the professionals.

Returning a short-time later, I meet Dr. Dave.  He’s looked her over, done some tests and while the results aren’t encouraging, they’re also not definitive.

We discuss a course of treatment and contact the owner who follows-up with the vet. By mid-afternoon, the dog needs to be transferred to another hospital for further diagnosis.  

The hospital staff are expecting us, the dog is taken immediately for ultra-sound, and 20 minutes later I’m introduced to Dr. Jeff who asks, “Can you contact the owner?”

When pet-sitting, one should expect that someday, something may go wrong.

Today is someday and Dr. Jeff explains “something”.

I call the owner, hand the phone to Dr. Jeff and head outside for some air.

The owner was in transit on a two day-drive home.  Distraught, having had to euthanize another of their dogs just 8 weeks previous, our phone calls were very emotional. Quite understandably, they sent a text asking, “Can you handle this for me?” My answer was “yes”.


After the Rain  

Dogs “mask” pain. They may be sick or injured and show no sign, though eventually, they’re unable to hide it.

With each sit, we ask homeowners to sign a Consent for Veterinary Medical Care which grants us the authority to make medical decisions regarding care and treatment of pets and animals.

We’ve taken several dogs for treatment and in each case, we’ve waited until the veterinarian has assessed the animal before calling the owner. We explain the situation, prognosis and the treatment solution; however, we have contact with the homeowner.

What if…?

In the days following, we asked ourselves: what if the owner couldn’t be reached?

Has a sitter the right to commit the owner to thousands of dollars in medical care costs?  Alternatively, does the sitter have a right to make an end of life decision?

Over the past week, we’ve discussed this at length and concluded that, without communication, we’ve no right to make these major decisions.

We’re perfectly capable of working for the best interests of the pets to ensure they’re treated humanely.  However, what we feel is humane and in their “best interest” may not coincide with the owner’s interpretation.

Subsequently, we’ve altered our Veterinary Care Consent to specifically address critical events.  We now ask the owners to provide:

  • A financial ceiling for treatment in a critical care situation.
  • Consent to a 1-hour response time beyond which the veterinarian assumes authority.
  • Their agreement that the veterinarian has the right to make an end of life decision.


If You’re Pet Sitting:

Ensure the homeowner signs a Consent for Veterinary Medical Care.

Discuss plans for critical care events and write them out.

Learn the animals “normal” so that when things are off, you’ll notice.

If you suspect a medical issue, do something.

Pet First Aid is a great investment.

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