Going on vacation and afraid of leaving your pet behind? Meet these animal lovers who take care of your furry companions in your absence
FOR PUNE-based Shalaka Mundada, it all started in March 2008 when one of her dogs fell sick. While waiting for her turn at the veterinary clinic, she observed several cases where pets were coming back sick from boarding services. All the owners she spoke with rued the dearth of quality places in the city to look after pets in their owners’ absence. This sparked off the idea of a quality boarding service for dogs and PetSitters was born in 2008. “Pet-sitting is an expensive proposition and I realised that people were paying a lot for bad service,” says Mundada. “I started PetSitters with the idea of providing quality care and a hygienic place for pets, where they could enjoy their stay. When owners go for vacations, it’s important that their pets are well looked after,” says Mundada, who previously worked in the banking and information technology sectors. She currently offers pet-boarding services for only dogs, but is planning to include boarding options for cats soon.
While planning a vacation, the paramount worry for a pet owner is where to leave it and whether it will be well looked after in their absence. While the option of taking your pet along is always open, factors like prolonged travel, enclosed spaces and a sudden change in surroundings often are big hurdles. So while you are travelling, these pet-sitting and wellness centres make sure that the animals are comfortable and happy, with activities like grooming sessions, regular walks, socialising, etc, to keep them engaged and active.
“There is a marked change in the attitude of ‘pet-parents’. They are researching the options and making extra efforts to visit my facility and see the place,” says Mundada, who has 14 dogs herself, adding, “People come with their pets for regular play sessions as well.”
Mumbai-based Pooja Advani, the owner of Doggie Dog World, a one-stop pet services and wellness centre for dogs, says every pet has a different personality and is handled accordingly at her centre. “Like humans, a lot of dogs who are exposed to a new surrounding don’t take it well. Human beings can be classified as extroverts or introverts and the same rule applies to pets as well. So it is important that we approach every pet differently, because only then will it feel comfortable and safe in its new surroundings,” says Advani, citing the example of a Mudhol Hound, which is under her care currently and tends to get startled easily. Naturally, she approaches it very gently and carefully. “I started Doggie Dog World with the idea of bringing everything related to pet care under one roof,” adds 32-year-old Advani, who started the centre last year.
With a team of 12 people working with her, Advani personally oversees all grooming, therapy and obedience training sessions. Besides these, Doggie Dog World also offers daycare and boarding services for dogs. “For this generation, pets are like their first kids. And they don’t want to leave them with servants while they are away. They want a safe and attentive environment, and that’s where we come in,” says Advani, who has five dogs—a Labrador, three Shih Tzus and a French Bulldog.
Advani says pet owners should be very careful while choosing a boarding service. “Apart from cleanliness and basic sanitation, the most important thing is that pet-sitters should be compassionate,” she says. It’s also important that you are satisfied and happy with the place. “If you are comfortable and happy, so is the pet. Your body language is very important because the pet picks up on that,” says Mundada.
However, if you are one of those pet-parents who’s a tad too busy with no time to research a lot of pet-boarding services before leaving for your vacation, Waggle is the best option. Essentially an online community where dog owners can connect with pet-sitters, it helps find the perfect home for your pet in just a few clicks—as easy as playing ‘fetch’.
Started in February 2013, Waggle, which provides services in Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi, allows dog owners to scroll through a list of verified pet-sitters in their city and send a reservation request. Once the sitter accepts the request, the pet owner can pay for the stay on Waggle, which is transferred to the sitter and the reservation is complete.
Arjun Mathai started Waggle after enduring a bad experience when he and his former wife left their Golden Retriever, Zoe, at a friend’s place when they were travelling. “Zoe was a pup at that time. One of our friends visited her and saw that she had been locked up in a room for three days. We realised we needed to find someone who could keep and take care of our dog when we were away. That led us to build this platform,” says 31-year-old Mathai, adding, “We have a questionnaire in which the hosts/pet-sitters have to answer a few questions, enter images and their experience in handling dogs. The questions are framed in such a way that they tell us whether the hosts can handle dogs and show their level of involvement with pets.” Waggle handles around 20-25 reservations a month.
“The most encouraging response has been from Bengaluru. The awareness here is very high. We started with just five hosts in Bengaluru, but now have at least 70,” says Mathai, adding, “The pet market in India is just picking up. Pet-sitting and other services are growing. And we want to be in the game as the market matures.”