In the latest installment of our DOGTV Interviews series, we’re meeting Angela Laws. As well as being a full-time house and pet sitter, Angela is the Community Manager at TrustedHousesitters, a global, pet-loving community that connects pet parents with kind and caring sitters. We sat down to chat with her about all things pets and house sitting…
Let’s start at the beginning – can you tell me about the first pet you ever had?
Growing up, I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have a pet, but my first ever were two tabby cats, funnily enough, both named Busty! Shortly after the two Busty’s, we rescued a dog called Rex. Growing up, we always had animals – I’d need an encyclopedia to tell you about them all!
How did you first get into pet sitting?
It was after my heart dog, Holly, passed away. Holly’s sitter, who we’d used a few times, knew I loved animals and suggested I try pet sitting.
Initially, I wasn’t sure I could – losing a pet is something that never leaves you. But she knew someone who needed a sitter just 10 minutes from my home. It was the most healing and cathartic experience I’ve ever had – and that was that. Pet sitting healed my heart.
As well as being a full-time pet sitter, you also work for TrustedHousesitters as their Community Manager. How did that happen?
I was pet sitting in the UK at the time when Andy Peck, TrustedHousesitters’ founder, reached out to me via email. That turned into a 5-hour long conversation and by the end, because of my background in PR and marketing, he asked me to help get the company off the ground. And here we are, 11 years later!
So, how is TrustedHousesitters different from your more traditional pet care?
Pets come first with TrustedHousesitters. And no money exchanges hands, so you know our sitters are actually doing this because they want to, not just for monetary gain. It’s a mutual value exchange where everybody wins – especially the pets.
What do you think the main benefit is of having a sitter?
The obvious one is that it keeps your pets at home. Their routine stays the same, they’re surrounded by familiar sights and smells. The only thing that changes is their human caregiver. And we can give them undivided time and attention. Our total focus is on them – we look after those pets in the exact same way their pet parents do.
Some pet owners might be nervous about trying a sitter for the first time. Any advice?
It’s like anything you use for the first time – you have to experience it for yourself. But owners that do sign up then wonder how they ever lived without it!
We understand that nervousness. But there is a process in place with TrustedHousesitters that helps reassure owners and find the right sitter. There’s background and ID checks, you can read reviews from other pet owners, and there’s also support from the community. The owner is never alone – there is help, support and guidance at every step of the way.
What does it take to be a great pet sitter, in your opinion?
To start with, you obviously have to be an animal lover! But you also need to be flexible and able to meet the needs of the pets you’ll be caring for. It’s also important to be a good people person – you’ll need great communication skills to connect with the pet parent and manage their expectations.
Over 10 years, you’ve must’ve cared for a lot of pets! Any favorite breeds?
I love all animals, so to say I have a preferred breed always makes me personally feel a little guilty. That said, I’ve had six Springer Spaniels in my life, so if I see a sit with a Springer my heart does a little skip!
Wow – six Springer Spaniels!
I know – I’ll always remember the first sit I ever had with TrustedHousesitters. I was living in Canada and I applied for a 3-month sit in the UK caring for a dog and a cat. I had a phone call with the owner and asked him, ‘can you tell me about your dog?’. He replied that his name is Woody, he’s an ex-army sniffer dog and – to my amazement – he was a Springer! Well, that was it – I was sold. I ended up looking after him four times.
Sounds like fate! Have you ever cared for a particularly nervous dog?
Yes – Stella, a Cockerpoo from Vancouver. She was terrified – she’d been rescued from a puppy mill and it took her owners four months to even get near her. They warned me she probably wouldn’t get close to us.
It took four days to get Stella to put her leash on – I’d have to slide across the floor on my stomach so she wouldn’t see me tower over her. But on the fifth day, Stella finally came upstairs and spent the next three weeks in bed with us at night. That was the most joyous thing – not for me, but for her – because I then knew she felt safe.
Wow – you have a magic touch! I guess for pets like Stella, it’s a much better solution to traditional kennels?
Absolutely – and there are some amazing, luxury kennels out there. But for an animal, nothing will compare to staying in their own home. Pets need stability and routine – and that’s the one thing you can’t get when you take them away from home.
So, tell us! What are the best bits about pet sitting?
Well, the pets – obviously! I love having animals in my life and every single sit is different.
Pets also give you a great work/life balance. Pre-Covid, I’d been a full-time sitter for six years and walking the dog is a much better way to start your day than jumping straight into work. Also, there’s nothing better than having a cat stride across your laptop and nuzzle you!
Wow! Six years on the road as a full-time pet sitter – do you find that can get lonely?
With pet sitting, even if you’re travelling on your own, you’re never actually alone – because you’re around pets!
Also, dog walking is a great way to meet new people – people gravitate to dogs and I’ve made many lifelong friends from sitting. And what better way to explore a new area than with a furry new best friend?
So, what’s next?
I will be heading back to California this February. We have been working with the San Diego community down there to run a series of live events at the Little Italy Dog Park, and I’m so excited to be able to be there in person. We’re going to be meeting pets, their humans, and spreading the word of TrustedHousesitters!
Many thanks to Angela for taking the time to talk with us!