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SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO SAY NO

One of the hardest things to do as a pet sitter is turn down business. Until recently, I had never said no to a potential customer unless he or she told me their dog had bitten someone.

That’s an obvious, easy call. No second-guessing there. But this month there’ve been three occasions when alarm bells went off, once with a dog and twice with owners.

My boarding service is a little different. It’s in my home. No cages are used, and I take dogs from only one customer at a time. The customer’s dog (or in one case, pig!) stays with me, my dog and my cat as if he lives here. That means the run of the house and backyard, getting up on the furniture if the owner allows that at home and an extra dog rushing to the front door when someone arrives.

On that basis, my pets and I have hosted dogs of all sizes and age without any problem – until we met Jube.

She’s a female shepherd mix with issues regarding other dogs. She hadn’t bitten, so her owner brought her to the house for the meet-and-greet with me and my dog, Brownie, that every new customer does before any boarding is scheduled.

The first five minutes went fine. Then Jube’s owner bent down to pat Brownie. Jube erupted in a fit of jealousy and attacked Brownie. After a long and scary 10 seconds, we managed to get the snarling animals away from each other before anybody got hurt. No boarding for Jube!

The next situation involved a woman who called and said she had lost her apartment (through circumstances that sounded odd and vague), was living with her boyfriend’s mother, that her dog was kept in the garage and she needed a place for him until she could get settled elsewhere.

This sounded like a situation where I might end up with a dog dumped on me after the owner failed to come back for it. Her life wasn’t stable right then and her explanations raised more questions than reassurance.

I’m pretty booked up, I told her. It will be a long while (never) before there’s an opening.

Then a man called wanting a one-week stay for his 95-pound dog. That’s more than twice Brownie’s size. I didn’t consider it a problem until I asked him whether his dog got along with other dogs.

She’s very dominant, he said, but she’s never actually bitten another dog. The alarm bells started to go off.

Has she gotten into fights with any dogs, I asked. “Nothing terribly violent,” he answered.

That did it. I pictured myself explaining to Brownie’s vet that the dog who injured her hadn’t been terribly violent. It didn’t sound good.

So we passed on that job, too. The customer understood.

It might have cost us much-needed income, but the peace of mind is priceless.

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