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Pet sitter offers solution for summer travel

June 28, 2007

When the temperatures outside start notching up into the 60s and 70s, people start getting the itch to travel - especially those with kids who just closed their textbooks for the semester.

But who will watch the dog while the family is away?

For most pet owners, a dog or cat is like a child and the idea of those sad eyes peering out behind kennel bars is too much to bear.

Enter Wendy Drobnik of Urban Pet Care.

"My whole service is geared toward one-on-one, personalized attention and the convenience of having me come to your home, rather than taking your pet out of the comfort zone and putting them in a foreign environment," she said.

Drobnik, who is an accredited member of Pet Sitters International, began working with animals simply to help friends when they went on vacation. In 1997, while working at a law firm, a co-worker passed on a newspaper ad from a pet sitter in Oconomowoc looking to pass on her client base. Intrigued by the idea, she decided to take the plunge.

Meeting South Shore pets

A desire to be closer to her family and friends brought Drobnik back to Bay View in 2002. It meant saying goodbye to the clients and animals to whom she had grown attached.

In March, she decided she was ready to start a new business catering to pets here in the South Shore and Urban Pet Care was born.

The focus of Urban Pet Care is mostly dogs and cats, given their need for more regular care, but Drobnik also cares for fish, turtles, birds and other animals. Her services include watching pets while their owners are on vacation, during the work day or any other period of time when a pet owner will be indisposed.

For new clients, Drobnik begins with a meet and greet, which gives her the opportunity to meet both client and pet and observe the interaction between the pair. She then fills out a service agreement, profiling such information as the type of animal, whether or not the pet is crated, dietary concerns and the pet's fears, tastes and quirks.

Typical care routine

A typical visit from Drobnik will consist of putting the animal outside, feeding it and about a half-hour of exercise, such as going for a walk or playing catch with a Frisbee or tennis ball. If the pet has special medical or comfort needs, Drobnik will tend to them at no additional cost.

"Some people are very particular about pet foods or want their dogs to only have bottled water," she said.

For dogs, she usually will make three stops during the course of 24 hours. She places a priority on tending to dogs that have been alone overnight.

"I never let them go more than 10 to 12 hours alone in their house," she said. "If they've been alone overnight, they are absolutely my priority."

Following all visits, Drobnik leaves a note detailing what occurred during the visit.

Coping with emergencies

Although rare, should an emergency occur, Drobnik will take the pet to the veterinarian or emergency center of the client's choice.

"In the history of my business, there's only been one time I had to call a vet," she said. "Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, owners tell me to do what I have to do. … I've never had anyone willing to deny medical care."

As a precaution, Drobnik prefers pet owners contact their vets prior to leaving on trips, so they are aware animals are in her care. She also recommends clients leave something - clothing, a blanket, etc. - that smells familiar to comfort the animal. Finally, she stresses having enough food allocated for the amount of time a client will be gone.

Flexible scheduling

"I understand that it happens and try to accommodate any situation," she said. "If it's an established client, I can do 12- or 24-hour notices. But if it's a brand new client, I absolutely have to have the meet and greet before. … It's just common sense."

Right now, Drobnik is working to get the word out about her business, and said she hopes to be involved in Bay View's Independence Day festivities and the South Shore Frolic.

"We will hopefully be in the Humboldt Park Fourth of July parade," she said. "We're going to have my husband's truck decorated for Urban Pet Care, and we'll be throwing candy and milk bones from the back of the truck."

Dan Cowan wants to stick his nose in your business. Contact him at dpc5555@yahoo.com with tips for his Strictly Business column.

At a glance

WHO: Wendy Drobnik

WHAT: Urban Pet Care

COVERAGE: Bay View, Third Ward, St. Francis, Cudahy and South Milwaukee

RATES: Dogs - $14 per visit, cats - $13 per visit, birds - $12 per visit, fish and small caged animals - $11 per visit; discounts are available for those who require services more than once a week and for those with multiple pets needing care at one home.

CONTACT: (414) 254-9443

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