Monday, March 20, 2017

How Many Times A Day Should We Be Feeding Our Dog(s)?

As a pet sitter, I do my best not to judge the way my human clients care for their pets. Of course I think I am the most perfect animal mom and everyone should do things MY way, but sometimes I run across some practices that I'm really not fond of. And then I do some research and learn that my way is actually NOT the best way. Once example of that was when a few of my clients only use clay/non-clumping litter for their kitties. At first I thought it was gross and felt badly for the kitties but then I dove into the subject and found that clay litter is actually better in many cases for some cats...especially wee little kittens - another blog for another day!

So this brings me to my next "Oh-em-gee-I-can't-believe-that-Fido's-people-do-that-they-are-the-worst-pet-parents-in-the-world!" moment...feeding your dog only once a day. GASP!

I marched my righteous self straight to the interwebs and started researching why feeding a dog once a day is horrible. I planned to present my findings to my clients who would immediately change their minds! Yeeeeaaaaahhhh, not so fast, Miss. Know-It-All!

The short of it is that there really is no hard rule about how often to feed a dog, UNLESS they are a puppy, in which case they should be fed three to four small meals throughout the day. So, here's what I found...

With the proper food and diet for a healthy dog's size, breed, and age, once-a-day feeding is totes fine! In some cases, it's best! Why? The answer goes back to their physiology and the way their digestive systems work - NEWS FLASH!! Dogs are not like humans in the way their bodies process food. In fact, in the wild, dogs are hunters, they eat large meals and then may go days without another meal. This practice shows to allow their digestive systems to rest and "reset" to prepare their bodies for their next big meal. When your dog's digestive system is functioning smoothly, the typical meal takes seven to twelve hours to pass through their system. This largely depends on what they eat - raw diets digest faster than a dry kibble diet.

The behavioral aspect of once-a-day feeding is also interesting and makes perfect sense to me. The more often you feed your dog (or cat, for that matter), the more accustomed to that food they become. Take a dog who is free fed, meaning they have access to food 24 hours a excited are they about that food? Maybe at first they like it, but when they realize that's all they get all. the. time. they may not be too excited over it. It would be like us having access to an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet all the time (I think this is actually called "heaven"). We would most likely grow tired of it and our excitement about meal time would diminish. According to, "A critter with no passion for food is an unhappy critter. A pet should have an unbridled passion for food. They need to look forward to their next meal with anticipation and excitement. This lays the foundation for a well-tempered, happy pet." I tend to agree!

Some people say that their dog(s) would drive them batty if they only fed them once a day...I know my Jackson would most likely begin plotting my slow and painful death, so this is not an option for him. However, our Parker is about as excited about eating as I am about getting my yearly mammograms, so I am going to give this once-a-day feeding a go for him! Just keep in mind that you must make sure you are feeding a good, natural food and enough of it at meal time if you are going to make the switch.

Happy eating, everyone!!  

Allison Otero
Owner, AlleyCat's Pet Service, Inc.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pet Products That I'm Currently Obsessed With

As professional pet sitters, we are in close communication with other pet professionals - veterinarians, trainers/behavioralists, pet supply store owners, groomers, etc. Through these relationships, we are always learning about new products for our furry friends. I'd like to take this time to share with you some of the items that I am raving about (and, I'll even tell you where to get them!).

Here you see Parker rocking his
 Paws and Bone belly band
Belly Bands ( As most of you know, I have two dogs: Parker and Jackson. Parker has a terrible habit...he pees in the house. Yeah, yeah, I should have fixed this when we rescued him from the streets at the approximate and ripe age of 10, but I haven't. Not because of lack of trying - we have really tried everything and can't break the habit. Anywho, I had to find a way to deal with this issue and immediately thought, "diapers!" I headed to my local big name pet supply store and picked one up and brought it home. I put it on Parker and he looked at me like, "Bitch, you serious right now? I look ridiculous." Not to mention, his penis was hanging out of the front of it. So, back to the store I go to get another size...get home...same all hanging out and it was just bulky and uncomfortable. Then I took to the internet and found Ah-ma-zing! Not only are they custom fitted for your dog (they have male and female), but they come in several patterns so that your pup will look dapper in his/her diaper!

Kongs: This is an oldie but goodie. You know these things...usually red, look like bee hives and they are hollow. They are much more than a MOSTLY indestructible (I say "mostly" because I have known some dogs to completely destroy a Kong) chew toy. They come in different sizes and chew levels and the Kong peeps have cleverly come out with treats to put inside of them to keep your pup(s) busy...brilliant, I say! But here's a addition to the items that the Kong company sells to put inside, there are other yummy and healthier items to fill them with: peanut butter (PLEASE MAKE SURE IT DOES NOT CONTAIN XYLITOL!!!), unflavored yogurt, canned/purred pumpkin, soft dog food, apple sauce (again, make sure it's all natural and does not contain Xylitol), veggies (green beans, broccoli, carrots, etc.). And are you ready for this??? Hold on to your butts, folks - fill these Kongs and put them in the freezer!!! This will make them last longer and will keep your dog(s) busy!

The patty formula also
comes in nugget form!
Primal Pet Foods, Inc. ( If I could scream my favorite product from the roof tops, it would be Primal's Turkey & Sardine raw patties. Gross? Yes. A little pricey? Yes. But here's the deal-i-o, the higher quality food you feed your animals, the less they will eat and the less they will eliminate. It's true! Parker is picky and when I put this raw slab o' meat down in front of him, I am pretty sure I heard, "Ummmm, you gonna cook this?" So, he's not a fan and eats another brand of food. So, like humans, not all dogs are going to like this. However, my Jackson laps this up like a boss. It has helped him slim down to his current svelte self (he's fighting off the ladies), he basically poops tiny nuggets (so tiny that I sometimes don't even pick them up because they get lost in the grass) because his body is absorbing all of the healthy goodness that's inside these patties. It has given him a luxurious coat and tons of energy. A raw diet for your dogs and cats is, by far, the absolute best and making it yourself is messy and can be dangerous if you don't know what you are doing as far as supplements go. So, leave it to the pros and go PRIMAL! I encourage you to check out this company and it's products by visiting their website. When you realize that they rock, go pick up your Primal products at Gracies of Winter Garden (

Glycoflex Plus ( Keeping the nutrition theme going, THIS! Jackson, my special Puggle, tore his cruciate ligament jumping off the couch. The cruciate ligament is like the dog equivalent of a human ACL. He was gimping around for a few weeks and we thought he was going to have to have surgery to the tune of $2,000. Ugh! But, miraculously, with rest and anti-inflammatory meds, he is just about 100% healed. Since both of my pups are getting up in age, their veterinarian recommended a Glucosamine supplement. Off to Gracie's I went and Kim (the owner) recommended Glycoflex Plus. It contains Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM (this is short for a VERY long name, but is an organic sulfur that contains a compound that is known for it's join health benefits), and other antioxidants. It's a yummy treat so your dogs will enjoy taking it and it "helps cushion joints, promote cartilage building and alleviate discomfort caused by normal daily activities." This product is perfect for dogs of all ages! Check it out!

Catit Flower Fountain ( A while back, I wrote a blog about how important water is to cats and their kidney function. In an effort to encourage my six kitties to drink more water, I purchased two different water fountains. For some reason, cats are drawn to the sound of running or flowing water and it encourages them to drink. The first fountain I got was a bit expensive, but a few of my clients had the same one so I thought I would give it a whirl. After about three weeks, the fountain part (where the water flows from the top to get the desired "trickle" sound) started to fail. I asked others who had the same fountain if they experienced this problem and ALL of them said they did. So I set out to search for another fountain for my mittens and ran across this adorable thing. I mean, first off, it's the cutest fountain I've ever seen. Secondly, it's plastic and not heavy. It has a deep reservoir for the water and, my favorite thing about it is that it doesn't have a bunch of parts like the other one, which makes cleaning a breeze! My kitties love this little gem and I highly recommend it. I got mine from

So, there you have it, folks! My favorite products du jour. I'm sure I'll run across some other helpful and fun items soon and will report on them when I do! 

Allison Otero
Owner, AlleyCat's Pet Service, Inc.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Why You Should Hire A Professional Pet Sitter

***DISCLAIMER - this post is in NO way knocking veterinary offices or boarding facilities. Sometimes this is the best option for pets and there are some fantastic vet and boarding facilities out there.

I recently saw a heartbreaking story on the news about a family who hired a college student (friend of a friend) to care for their four dogs while they were away for seven days on vacation. Sadly, the student visited the dogs on the first two days and then "forgot" to visit them again. Tragically, two of their beloved dogs died.

Can you even imagine? I know, for me, my animals (don't ask how many) are my babies and I would be devastated if this happened to me. So, this got me to thinking. Before I started my business, I had ZERO clue that there were people who actually pet sit for...wait for it...wait for it...A LIVING! What?! It's true, so I set out to start and grow the BEST pet sitting business in all of the's a work in progress, but I, with the help of my insanely amazing team are getting there!

With that goal of running the best professional pet sitting company in the universe in mind, I did some research and found that more than 63% of all households in the U.S. have some kind of pet. Approximately 169 million cats and dogs make up the bulk of that number, which doesn't include: rabbits, reptiles, fish, etc. So THEN, my little, fake blonde brain got to thinking, "Why would hiring a sitter to come to the pet's home be better than boarding at a veterinary office or other boarding facility (see disclaimer!!)?" Here are some reasons:

  • the pet is kept in a familiar environment with sights, sounds, and smells that they are used to
  • keeping up with the pet's normal routine (potty schedule, feeding, medication, etc.)
  • one-on-one, personal attention
  • the convenience of not having to transport pet to/from boarding facility
  • pets not being exposed to fleas and illnesses that can be contracted from other animals
  • someone to check on the overall safety and condition of the client's home: adjusting blinds, watering plants, turning on/off lights to give the home a "lived in" or a "someone-will-be-coming-here-regularly-so-burglars-go-elsewhere look."

So what's the difference between a professional and say, the neighbor's kid next door? 

  • A professional will be...this is a BIGGIE...bonded and carry commercial liability insurance (probably the MOST important difference)
  • a professional will provide references
  • a professional will be trained and have experience (I say this with some hesitation because I was the new biz on the block once but had a TON of experience. Don't rely solely on the amount of time a prospective pet sitter has been in business but rather their experience with pets)
  • a professional will be a member of a national pet sitting association such as NAPPS ( or PSI (
  • a professional will have a contingency plan in effect in the event of personal illness or emergency
  • sometimes professional pet sitters will be trained and certified in dog/cat first aid and CPR...yes, there really is such a thing!
  • a professional will have established relationships with local veterinary offices
  • a professional will have a service contract that clearly spells out services and fees
Now, find me a kid neighbor who has all of that going for them in this arena! I mean, I'm sure the kid is cool and all, but wouldn't you rather a professional be in charge of your fur babies?

When you are looking for a reputable pet sitter, use that bulleted list above when you are choosing - ask about their credentials and call their references. Shop around! Different pet sitters offer different benefits, so choose one that is best for you and your family. 

Believe me, your vacation will be a lot more relaxing when you know your pets and home are in good, capable, and professional hands!

Allison Otero
Owner, AlleyCat's Pet Service, Inc.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Jason's Story

All of our fur babies have a unique story of how we rescued them...this is Jason's...

In early May of 2011, I was out for a run and as I returned home near dusk, I noticed two glowing eyes in the storm sewer right in front of our house. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a beautiful, buff-colored kitty. I approached, thinking he or she may need help getting out, but as I got closer, kitty was visibly scared so I backed away. I put a bowl of food out on my front porch in case he or she decided to come out - sure enough, after about an hour, I looked outside and there the kitty was, gobbling up the canned food.

This kitty was skinny and seemed to walk with a limp. It was then that I learned that this kitty was most definitely a boy. It's much easier to see the "dangly bits" on a lighter colored male kitty than say, a black male kitty. 

I assumed he had been hit by a car or sustained some other injury and needed to see a vet immediately. The problem was, he was feral - would NOT let me near, let alone pet him. I needed to trap him if I were to get him the medical attention he needed.

I promptly got my trap and lined it with newspaper and put a cozy blankie in there - I needed to make it look inviting so that he would feel comfortable going in it prior to actually setting the trap door. After a couple of days and several very stinky, fishy meals for him inside the trap, he was accustomed to it. Time to set it so that when he stepped on the plate, the door would slam shut and I could get him to the vet. Surprisingly, trapping him was a success on the VERY first try (sometimes it takes multiple times to trap a feral cat). I trapped him on Friday the we named him Jason, of course. This proved to be confusing when we had our good, human friend named Jason over to the house.

Jason (the cat) proved the be quite difficult in temperament and as soon as I dropped him off at the vet to be fixed and vaccinated, they called me and said they would have to sedate him to even do an exam. 

After his visit to the vet, we learned that he was FIV/FeLuk negative (there is a blood test given to determine this), approximately six-years-old, and indeed had suffered some sort of trauma to his hind quarters a while back and he had already healed with a dislocated hip and a fractured leg. He would, unless we opted for surgery, walk with a limp - the doc assured me that he was NOT in pain. We decided against the surgery given his temperament and the fact that I planned on releasing him back outside where I would provide shelter and food for him for his remaining days. He was also vaccinated and given his rabies shot. 

After recovering from being neutered for a day, the time came to release him. I chose to release him on my back porch, which was paved and had plenty of bushes for him to hide in and feel protected. I opened up the trap and off he groggily went into the bushes to, I assume, ponder what in the hells bells just happened to him. 

I was careful for the next few days to feed him at the same time so that he would learn that our back yard was his home base. He was a fast learner and very rarely strayed from our lot. I began hanging outside with him in the mornings with my coffee and I would just talk to him and blink slowly at him. For you non-feline experts, a slow blink is a sign of affection and love. Slow blinks all around!!!

This routine continued for a few months and each week brought more progress and trust between both of us - he trusted me not to snatch him up and put him in a cage again and I trusted him not to claw my eyeballs out. Before long, he was rubbing on me and letting me pet him - he was a little love bug. That's the problem with making friends with feral cats - they don't want to live inside, so you are constantly afraid of the dangers that the outside world can pose for a gimpy, slightly old, and weathered kitty.

Winter came and I made him a super cozy shelter out of a Rubbermaid tote lined with hay. I put blankets in there and even built a tarp roof so that if it rained, his home wouldn't get soaked. I sprinkled flea and tick repellant inside and gave him a stuffed teddy bear to snuggle with at night if he wanted. He was thriving :)

One day I heard a commotion outside in the back yard and ran out there to find my poor Jason teetering on the wooden fence that divided our neighborhood from the one directly behind us - two large dogs were trying to get at him. Of course I flipped out and chased the dogs out of my yard then proceeded to walk door to door looking for the dogs owners so that I could chew them out. No such luck. On that day, it was decided that we would get a fence in our back yard to keep Jason safely inside and other, unwanted critters out. We had been wanting a fence for a while due to an incident with one of our neighbors, so this dog issue was the cherry on top of the "Keep Jason Safe" cake. 

Fence went up and things were good. We even screened in a portion of our back porch and installed a kitty door for Jason to go in and out of in case he needed extra shelter. Jason seemed to feel more secure and I felt a sense of relief that he was safer in our care. Our bond continued to grow - Manny was still not able to pet him (this secretly made me happy...I like when our animals love me more).

During the summer, that year, we had a NASTY storm - one of those Florida rains that blows through quickly and leaves a complete mess of tree limbs, standing water, and other debris in it's path. Right as the storm was hitting, I opened our sliding door to the house and offered Jason to come in - the rain was coming in at a sideways, Forrest Gump angle, so even the shelter of the screened in porch was not enough to keep him dry. He walked right in - BOOM! Done...he never went outside again. I thought he would want to, but he immediately got along with our other cats (how many we had during that time is escaping me, but it was at least three). I attribute their friendliness to the fact that all but two of our cats wandered into our back yard and most likely came from the same colony. I imagine they also had been watching each other through the glass sliding door for a while and felt a sense of non-threatening comfort with each other.

As an indoor kitty, Jason was aloof and any time we had company he would disappear for hours and emerge only when he felt the coast was clear. He continued to let me pet him and even smooch on him when I would lie on the floor to give him some extra lovin'. Manny and others were still unable to physically interact with him. But after about two years, there seemed to be a change in him - whether it was that he was getting older or grew more comfortable around humans, he slowly warmed up to Manny and even let the more frequent visitors of our house pet him. A few nights that I slept on the couch, he would jump up and snuggle right in for the night sleeping against my stomach. 

A few times, Jason got sick - allergies, URI, something else minor but serious enough that I thought he needed to see a vet. And here is the other, more challenging issue of having a feral or former feral cat...medicating them or getting them into a carrier is nearly impossible. Manny has suffered many a bloody arm at Jason's whilst attempting to wrangle him into a carrier. We would give up and luckily whatever seemed to ail him went away on it's own.

We moved houses once during our time with Jason and, holy shit...that was a mess - we HAD to get him to our new house so I got crafty and bought a ton of disgusting canned meats and fish to lure him into a large dog crate. I also caught The Dude, one of our other cats, in the crate during this mission along with Jason, so they made the trek to the new house (only about three miles away) together...Jason pooping in the crate on the way there...imagine me hanging my head out the car window gagging.

We just recently celebrated our one year anniversary of moving and a few weeks ago, during a visit to my house, my sister noticed that Jason looked thin to her. I suppose Manny and I hadn't really noticed since we see him every day. I thought nothing of it...chalked it up to his older age and just started feeding him more soft food in case his old man teeth were no longer capable of crunching up his hard kibble. Then, one day, I noticed that Jason was drooling and seemed to be wincing like he was in pain. I went to him and sat with him, tried to open his mouth to see what was going on but he would not let me. I noticed he was markedly thinner than usual. I immediately got that dreaded feeling knowing that I had to get him to the vet. Out came the dog crate and stinky food. It worked, again...thank goodness.

We got him to the vet and they had to sedate him to even get him out of the crate. They did a full exam (remember, the had only been to the vet once in his life), found that his ears were super dirty, they cut his claws (yay), and recommended doing some blood work to rule out FIV and Feline Leukemia. I told them he had been tested when we first got him, but the doc said he had a hunch so lets do it again. Apparently, the diseases can lie dormant in the body even when you get a negative test result early in life. He also received an anti-inflammatory and antibiotic shot for anything that could be causing issues. His gums were irritated and red (another symptom and sign of FIV).

NOTE - FIV is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. It's a highly species-specific disease that only infects felines and is not transmitted to humans or other species. It is spread just like the human AIDS virus mainly through blood from severe bite wounds and sexual fluids (although this method of infection is not very common). It can also be transmitted to kittens during the passage through the birth canal or when they ingest infected milk. Cats can live a long, healthy life for years before the disease manifests itself into symptoms.

The test results came back a few days later and Jason was indeed positive for FIV. I immediately had a small panic attack about my other cats that he roamed the house and socialized with for all of the years that we have had him. Then I realized, he's fixed, so no sex...also, he's one of the friendliest kitties ever and I had never seen him fight with his siblings - a bite wound bad enough to spread the infection to another cat in my home was unlikely. Manny and I were sad, but also realized that cats can live long lives with this disease and we were hopeful that Jason was one of those. We were wrong :(

The week after we found out that he was sick, he again displayed signs of discomfort and, most alarming, was that he pretty much stopped eating. I thought it was his teeth bothering him again, so I pureed all of his food in a blender to help him get some nourishment. This went on for a few days and I noticed he was even more thin and would spend most of his days sitting in a corner drooling. This was not the way I wanted my sweet Jason to feel or live. We made the difficult decision to put him down humanely last Thursday. Again, we had to rig the dog crate up and that about killed me because I didn't want his last hour on earth to be stressful for him, but we had to get him to the vet. I wish I had taken a picture of the contraption we set was quite the venture but worked like a charm and our sweet boy actually went in without much of a fight. I think he was "ready."

Once at the vet, they again had to sedate him to pull him out of the crate. I requested to go back and hold him for a little bit before they gave him the life-ending injection. Manny and I were both blubbering messes. Manny was happy because for once he also go to kiss Jason and snuggle him - something he really wasn't able to do as much as I.

We were ready - or as ready as we could be. The doctor gave him the shot and he was gone. We gave him one last kiss before we left his little body and made our way home. Although we had that sense of relief that his suffering was all over, one of the worst parts of losing an animal is coming home and seeing the reminders of them - bowls, his favorite bed, his brush, and even the next morning getting out the usual five bowls for soft food instead of the newly needed amount of four.

Jason was a sweet kitty, he was gentle (unless you tried to pick him up or put him in a carrier), he got along with everyone and was a fantastic baby sitter to the many, many foster kittens we cared for. He is proof that animals can learn to trust and even love again.

We will miss you Jason - RIP, sweet boy!! 

Allison Otero
Owner, AlleyCat's Pet Service


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cats and Water - Here Are the Facts!


Did you know that a cat's body weight is 2/3 water? Although most people don't think of water as a nutrient, it is vital to your cat's health and serves as the center of all chemical processes. To our feline friends, water is the "king of all nutrients!"

No, seriously...they need a lot of it to be healthy. It is common belief that cats were first found and domesticated in Egypt - the desert. They are carnivores. This means that they got their nutrition from killing their prey...fresh, bloody, moist, dead animals. Gross, I know. Their diets consisted of mostly rodents, birds, amphibians, and insects - beings whose tiny bodies contain 70-75% water. Because of their diets, cats don't naturally drink a lot of water. Outdoor cats or indoor cats who eat only canned food do not need as much water as indoor cats who eat dry kibble. Canned food contains a lot of water, and, as long as the water content of the food does not dip below 61%, extra drinking water may not always be needed. And, even with water bowls available to kitties who eat only dry food, they still will not drink nearly enough water on their own to compensate.

Domesticated cats' thirst drive has also diminished, so without feeding mostly canned food, control of water intake and balance can be difficult. When a cat is thirsty or dehydrated, they are slower to initiate drinking and will take up to 24 hours to replenish six percent of their body weight as opposed to dogs, who can take as little as one hour to do the same. Wow!! 

So, how much water DOES your kitty need??? Cats need five to ten fluid ounces of water each day.

Here are some tips and tricks up the water intake in your feline:

  • The number one way to ensure your kitty is getting adequate moisture is to feed a mostly canned/raw diet - it's important to know that not all canned food is created equal. Check the product label and the Guaranteed Analysis to see just how much water it contains. 
  • If you feed your kitty dry food only, moisten it with water or broth.
  • Provide plenty of water bowls throughout their living space to make access easy.
  • Fountains will sometimes lure kitties over and prompt them to drink.
  • Try adding low-sodium tuna juice or clam juice to your cat's can even get creative and freeze into little ice cubes to add to the water bowls.
  • Test different bowls - your kitty may not want to share your dog's water bowl...slobber...ew!
  • Embrace your cat's quirky need to drink from the faucet!!!

For more information on this subject and to see where I got all of these fun facts, you can visit:

Allison Otero
Owner, AlleyCat's Pet Service


Thursday, March 24, 2016

My Favorite Animal Non-Profit Organizations and Why You Should Donate to Them TODAY!

Local Rescue Groups

Whether human, environmental, or animal-based - you should support local! My favorite local groups are (I have included their web links):

  • The Way Home, Inc. - A cat rescue group that works with foster homes to help find homes for many cats and kittens who find themselves dumped, homeless, or at Orange County Animal Services. You can visit their adoptable cats and kittens every Saturday at Pookie's Pet Nutrition and Bow Wow Bakery in Winter Park, or visit their website.
  • Polka Dogz Pet Rescue - A small dog rescue dedicated to pulling Chihuahuas, Min Pins, Rat Terriers, Dachsunds, Shih Tzus, and others from kill shelters throughout Florida. You can meet their adoptable dogs every Sunday morning at the West Orange Dog Park, located in Winter Garden off of Marshall Farms Road.
  • Candy's Cats - A no-kill cat rescue based in Central Florida with foster homes across four counties. You can visit their adoptable cats and kittens on Saturdays at the Winter Garden PetSmart or visit their website.
  • A Forever Home Animal Rescue - A place for homeless dogs to go and be loved, cared for, and trained in hopes of finding their forever homes. Their dogs come from shelters, stray situations, or owners who can no longer care for them.
  • Rooterville A Sanctuary, Inc. - Provides a safe and compassionate refuge to hundreds of rescued farm animals. Located in Melrose, FL and founded in 2004, Rooterville is home to over 300 rescued animals, which include: pot-bellied pigs, farm pigs, cows, turkeys, chickens, goats, horses, and honey bees. You should drop what you are doing immediately and call them to set up a date to visit - you will not be disappointed!!
Non-Local, Larger Rescue Groups

If you decide to donate to a larger cause, these are my three, all-time faves:

Paws and Stripes - Paws and Stripes is a non-profit organization providing service dogs for wounded military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury through integrating service dog training and education with mental health support. And the BEST part...their dogs come only from local rescues and teaches the dogs and veterans as a team! How amazing is that?

2nd Chance 4 Pets - If anything happened to you, what would happen to your pets? Did you know that thousands of companion animals are surrendered to shelters and euthanized each year because their human caregivers died or became too ill to care for them? These animals became homeless because their caregivers made no plans for their continued care. 2nd Chance 4 Pets is a unique organization that provides the tools to help you plan for the lifetime care for your pets as well estate planning as a means to effectively plan for your pets' future. They also work with a meals on wheels program called "We All Love Our Pets" that distributes free pet food in all 50 states to elderly pet owners. Pretty cool, right?!

And happy place - the place that changed my life when I visited. It even made me want to move just to be closer - my family wouldn't allow it. :)

Best Friends - I will try not to gush too much about this place, but if you are an animal lover and ever went, you would understand how I feel. 

Thirty years ago, a group of friends decided to take a leap of faith and created a sanctuary for abandoned and abused animals of all kinds. Little did they know that this endeavor would put them at the forefront of what is now known as the "Save Them All" movement to end the killing of 17 million dogs and cats who were dying in our nation's shelters at that time.

To date, Best Friends is the LARGEST no-kill animal sanctuary IN THE WORLD! With their help, the number of animals killed in our shelters is down to about 4 million. WOW! 

While the main sanctuary is located in Kanab, UT in a magical place known as Angel Canyon, Best Friends has several pet adoption centers, spay/neuter clinics and no-kill initiatives in Los Angeles, New York City, and Salt Lake City, as well as a No More Homeless Pets Network of animal rescue groups in every corner of the nation.

Their main focus groups are: 
  • Puppy mill initiatives
  • Pit Bull Terrier initiatives
  • Cat initiatives
  • Spay and neuter education
  • Promoting adoption vs. buying
  • Animal advocacy
Best Friends is, perhaps, most known for taking in 22 of the 47 dogs rescued from Michael Vick's Bad Newz Kennels dog fighting ring. You can't walk into the main building of Dog Town without being reminded of the horrors these innocent beings suffered at his hands...more, you can't help but be reminded of how resilient, forgiving, and trusting these dogs are after reading their stories and meeting them. 

I had the life-changing opportunity to visit Best Friends Sanctuary in Kanab two years ago with my good friends, Kelli and Carolyn (fellow animal-obsessed peeps). We rented a cottage right on the property, next to a cliff where we were greeted each morning and evening by deer, coyotes, and other wildlife. Our cottage overlooked Horse Haven and Marshall's Piggy Paradise. We spent the week volunteering in different areas of the sanctuary including: Dog Town (the filming location of Animal Planet's "DogTown" TV show), Cat World, Piggy Paradise, Bunny House, Parrot Garden, and Wild Friends. 

I learned so much and got to do things I never thought I would do like: 
  • Take a cat for a walk on a leash and in a stroller
  • Prepared lunch for 20 or so hungry piggies
  • Cleaned parrot enclosures
  • Strolled through the beautiful Angel's Rest cemetery where many of the sanctuary's residents as well as volunteer's pets are buried
  • Played with bunnies
  • Learned about the local, wild animals who call Angel Canyon their home - crows (known as ravens in UT), minks who escaped a local mink fur farm and now safely live at the sanctuary, a tortoise, a guinea foul, and countless others
  • Observe and even help in the socialization of extremely terrified and aggressive dogs who are trying to overcome their insecurities
  • Participated in a puppy socialization class
  • Rolled around in the mud with pigs
  • Hiked up the rock formation where the Lone Ranger exclaimed, "Hi Ho, Silver!" (this is just outside the Welcome Center at the sanctuary)
  • Saw original hieroglyphics left behind on the rocks
  • Saw where Jackson Galaxy got married
  • Hiked Zion National Park (which is just a short drive from Best Friends)
  • Had lunch and froze my booty off on the edge of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (on our drive back to Vegas, which is where you fly in/out of to get to Best Friends)
  • Explored Las Vegas for one night
  • Had slumber parties with dogs who are waiting for their forever family to adopt them and cats who were rescued after being left in a suitcase to die - they are now known as the "Suitcase Kids." 
  • Drove the sanctuary at night and saw the Milky Way lights and so many stars that we were speechless
  • Had happy hour every night with wine and lavish cheese plates...ok, mostly I had the wine...
It was absolutely incredible and I plan to go back next year and continue to donate money and sponsor different animals at the sanctuary. In fact, Mom's birthday gift this year was the gift of sponsoring Chauncy - a special needs kitty who lives in one of the cat houses at Best Friends.

Ok, ok, so maybe I should have dedicated an entirely separate post to Best Friends, but my point is...pick a cause that is important to you - find groups of like-minded people and volunteer, donate, learn, advocate! You may start out doing it to help others, but you will quickly find that you get WAY more out of it than you could have ever imagined.

If you would like to learn more about any of the organizations I have included in this post, please feel free to contact me via my website below or comment. I hope you enjoy the included photos from my trip - they are some of my favorites!

 Our Cottage and home for the week!

Angel's Rest Cemetary

 Lucas' grave stone - Lucas was the last dog of Michael Vick's dogs who passed away while living at Best Friends

 Morning dog walks

 Dog Town resident

 Bruno - a Dog Town resident who got to have a slumber party with us!

 Slumber party time!

 Blackjack enjoying a walk around the sanctuary - he had to stop to enjoy the view


 Parrot Garden resident

 The Suitcase Kids all settled in for their slumber party with us

 Meow - the resident kitty at Piggy Paradise

 Piggy lovin'

 Bounced Bruno out of Dog Town for a slumber party

 Sweet Bruno all tucked in for the night!

 Vegas, baby! This is me ordering a $24 martini at the Monte Carlo

 Kelli and Bruno

 Puppy socialization class


 Time for a hike with this buddy!

 Me, Carolyn and Kelli at Angel's Rest

 One of the many beautiful views at the sanctuary


 Piggy lunch prep

Post by: Allison Otero, owner of AlleyCat's Pet Service

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Nip Slip!

One hundred bucks says this post gets the most views because of the title :)

So, this an hour ago...I want to die!

We look after a super cute black lab, who is about seven months old. Being the puppy that he is, his manners are not totally up to par yet and my nickname for him is the "Jumping Bean." Important to this story is the fact that (Manny, look away here) this dog's dad is quite handsome. The other sitter who helps take care of this pup and I have had conversations about how handsome he is. I am happily married to an even more handsome man, but I can appreciate another nice looking man or woman when I see one.

Now then, after a brutal winter here in Florida with a few weeks of temperatures consistently dipping into the 60's, the heat has returned. I believe today's high is around 89 degrees. Yesterday, I finally broke out my first pair of shorts of the season and today was the same. I paired my shorts with a tank of those tops that are tight and stretchy at the top and then flowy around the mid-section. It has thin straps, so I didn't even wear a bra, but rather those handy nipple covers to provide some sort of barrier and discretion. 

Can you see where this is going???

This dog's dad works for a construction company and often works jobs very close to his house and will stop by to let the dog out. He still wants us to visit, though, just in case he can't stop by during the day. So, we have run in to him a few times at the house as he's leaving. Super nice guy. 

Today was one of those days; I pulled up and his work truck was there. I see not only him, but three other men (co-workers, I presume) playing with the dog in the garage. Fine. I get out of my car, walk to the garage. The dog sees me, makes a bee-line for me, full on sprint and jumps right up on to my chest. 

Yep, you guessed it...paws/claws get hooked onto my tank top and down it goes. Full-on boob flash for all to see. Awesome. Perfect. Swell. Lovely.

Silence befalls the garage and then some throat clearing and the guys tried to carry on like nothing had happened, no one acknowledged the show. I quickly got the leash and off I went with the soon as I get out of ear shot (so they thought), the laughing ensued. I mean, roaring. I'm mortified.

Perhaps it's a good thing? Maybe I'll get some new clients out of this. I mean, I DO say that we provide, "dog walking, pet sitting, and other services."

Post by: Allison Otero, owner of AlleyCat's Pet Service


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Locked Out!

And now...let me tell you all a story...
I'm having my busiest day in a very long time due to three of my sitters being on vacation today. Usually, I would pout like a baby since it's Saturday and I want to get my Saturday on with my husband, but husband had a busy weekend with his company (he owns an adventure racing company that puts on days-long races) so it was a good time to do some visits myself...besides, I get to see many furry faces that I miss!
So, I got up at 5:30AM to get my monsters taken care of so that I could be at my first visit by 6:30AM. Get to first visit around 6:45AM, take sweet pibble, Candy, out in to fenced-in backyard, crack door from house to back yard so she can run in and out whilst I prepare breakfast and tend to indoor/outdoor kitties. I go outside to feed kitties and Candy jumped up on the door and slammed it shut. Well, fart...keys to car and client's house are on pool table inside house. I thought, "Perhaps I left the front door unlocked." I go around to front door...locked. My sister is always hounding me about locking the door behind me, lest a serial killer follow me in to a client's house. Curse caring sister!
Ok, now what...ah, other sitter who has back-up key. FAIL...she's about 2 hours away with 13-year-old son who is taking SAT's (darn you smart, little overachiever!!!). Next step...get next visit covered, b/c this is surely going to take a while. Got next visit covered (love you, Kate!). Call client to see if there is a key hidden somewhere...there is not. Client calls neighbor to see if they have a key...they do not. Call other pet sitting company who I referred once to client when I was solo and too busy to take her last-minute answer.
Ok, looks like I have to call a locksmith. Call locksmith...will be $20 and then tech will assess sitch and let me know other, additional costs. Locksmith tech comes...large, nice, Russian lad. I actually couldn't understand if he said he'd be there in 15 or 50 mins because of his accent, which vacillated between endearing and annoying throughout this entire fiasco.
I tell him the door in the back will be the easy lock to pick as front door is deadbolt only. Lead him around back and open gate, he see's Candy and says (in endearing accent), "No, Pit Bull...two weeks do front door for $250." about NO!
I tell him Candy is nice. Nope. He won't budge. I told him to send another tech because I can't do $250. He says I have to pay for his visit out there to the house (endearing accent is quickly turning to annoying). I explain that car keys are inside the locked house, wallet inside car. He says the locksmith company will call me to discuss. Oh, did I mention that every time I leave the back yard, the dog tries to dig out? She dug up the cable line AND a sprinkler head during this whole process. About 10 mins later, he comes around to the back gate...says he will do the back door (I'm assuming the company told him to suck it up and go back there) for $140. I told him fine. I was working on two hours by this time, so I was desperate.
On a side note, I did feel sorry for this guy...being bitten by a dog does do a number on you and leaves quite a mark, physically and mentally. So, he says (accent is returning to endearing), "You sure dog nice? I afraid." I assured him that Candy is sweet, although she lacks some manners and jumps. So, I open the gate, holding on to Candy's collar (no leash in backyard) and let her slowly go to him to sniff him. Her tail was wagging, no threat, she's a good dog, but the dude was visibly scared. Don't cha know...Candy pulls back suddenly and gets out of her flipping collar. Zooooom! Out the gate and proceeds to run about the neighborhood like a crazy dog. I, of course run and as soon as I get near her, she plays "keep away." Ugh...I look up to the sky and audibly say, "REALLY?!"
Meanwhile, large Russian is standing just outside gate and Candy decides she now wants to meet him properly. With a full-on GALLOP, she runs to him and he was, most likely, about to soil his pants. She jumped on him and he gently pushed her away. I yelled, "She's super friendly, don't worry!!"
After large Russian (LR from here on) gathers himself and Candy has lost interest and gone back in to her yard, I managed to find a rope in the yard that I tied to her collar (not safe, I know). I took Candy for a walk while LR does his thing and picks the lock.
BOOM! Not even five minutes and he was in. Great! Good! I get Candy inside and settled, gather my things and I'm out. LR is there waiting to settle up and says (accent now SUPER endearing since he just gained me access to this house), "Will this be cash or credit?" I said, "Credit." He says (endearing-ness is fading here), "6.5% interest with credit, no interest with cash." I say, "Well, sir, I wasn't planning on locking myself out of this house today, so I don't have a cool $150 on me, so credit." Get credit run and have to wait another 20 mins for the company to call him back to say it went through and he can leave.
GOOOOOOD GRIEF!!! Oh, and I know many of you are wondering about the locksmiths needing proof that I had authorization to get into the house. They gave me an e-mail address to have my client send a message stating that I was authorized, but the e-mail didn't work after four failed attempts. So, basically, LR let me in unauthorized. In this case, it was good...I must thank Candy for freaking LR out enough for him to forget this nugget of required info.
Moral of the VERY long story - ALWAYS keep the key ON your person even if in a yard, ALWAYS keep your phone on you...I would have really been up a creek if I didn't have it.
I post this message sitting at a local bar....
CHEERS, everyone!

Post by: Allison Otero, owner of AlleyCat's Pet Service