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 This Week From The Redbarn Studios

Animal Radio for June 27, 2020  

Tales From A Celebrity Pet-Sitter
Laura Vorreyer, The Pet Sitter's Tale

Laura Vorreyer with DogHave you ever considered quitting your stupid job to become a pet-sitter? Laura Vorreyer shares stories about her bustling Los Angeles dog-walking business. She'll share some strange pet-sitting stories and dole out advice for the aspiring pet-sitter.

Laura Vorreyer is a long-time professional pet sitter for Hollywood stars and the author of the book, The Pet Sitter's Tale. It's not hard to imagine that anybody who pet sits has some pretty interesting stories. One awkward story that Laura has is when people don't disclose that they have cameras in their home. When she started almost all of over 15 years ago, we didn't have the technology that we do today. And so there was a bigger expectation of privacy. Now, she never thought to ask clients, "Hey, do you have any cameras in the house you know, that I might, you know, want to know about?" One time she went to a client's house, not really realizing that they had a camera. She took a shower and came out of the bathroom in a towel. The client then called her and said that they forgot to tell her that they have cameras in the house. Good thing she had a towel on!

Now, when she goes into anyone's home, she acts as if there are cameras. She thinks this is really too bad and she doesn't like to about the cameras, but you have to. Now, when she hires employees, she always tell them not to do anything that they wouldn't want to see themselves doing in front of a jury of their peers. Keep it on the up and up. If you're questioning anything at all, don't do it. Laura says this is a slippery slope because clients say, "Help yourself. Make yourself at home," and then they're watching you. So it's a little bit uncomfortable sometimes.

Not all clients are good clients and fortunately Laura has only had a couple throughout the years she's been doing this. Recently she had a client that had two giant Dobermans and she crated them. This is fine, but they were aggressive and the client told her that she had to be the alpha. The client said you can't let them know that you're scared of them. Well, Laura wasn't scared of them, but they weren't her average sort of fluffy, happy go lucky dog. Laura felt that they were a little too aggressive and that the situation could turn bad at any moment. She felt she just had to say to the client, "You know, I think that they would do better with maybe a male caregiver, because they really responded to that male energy." She had to tell the client that they were probably better off going with someone else, because she felt uncomfortable in that situation with these two huge Dobermans. They made her nervous quite frankly and dogs never make her nervous, but those two did. So that was a situation where she had to say, she wasn't a good fit.

Then there was another situation with a client that was over feeding her dogs. The dogs were hugely obese and the client believed food was love. So, she gave them way too much food. The poor dogs were not even able to move very well. They couldn't even go on walks anymore. And it was just really sad. Laura felt she had to let that go too, because she just really couldn't reconcile the treatment of those pets and she couldn't come up with a delicate way of saying that in her opinion, what the client was doing wasn't right for the animals.

Both cats and dogs can be aggressive, and Laura says she would take on a gnarly dog, but would not take on an aggressive cat. If a cat scratches you or bites you, it will always become infected. This isn't always true if you get scratched or bit by a dog. But a cat, because of the bacteria in the mouth, will always leave you with an infection. Laura says cats are terrifying and if they were bigger, they would eat us!

When someone is leaving their pet with sitter, it is natural for them to want to keep everything to stay the same with their pet, as most pets love routines. So it is no surprise that Laura has clients who leave her with thick manuals. Some are even bound three ring binders. They include instructions about every single emergency that you might encounter plus things that you would probably never encounter. And then there are the instructions to turn on the TV and connect to the Wi-Fi.

The Pet Sitter's TaleShe also has a client who put Post-It notes wherever her pets like to hang out. The notes would say that their dog likes to sleep here or there, or yet in another spot. There were stickies all over the house with little Post-It notes saying, "Look here" for their animal.

Laura says this is a great business to get into. There is very little barrier to entry. You don't have to invest a ton of money into dog walking or pet sitting. You can kind of start where you are, make up a business card, get a website. But most of all, meet your neighbors and let your friends and family know that you're available for pet sitting and dog walking, if you're going to offer dog walking as well. Dog walking is the kind of service that people need and want. And once they've used you once and you've done a good job, they will definitely call you again.

In the past, when you told people you were a pet sitter or dog walker, they would usually look at you like you don't really a legitimate job and you were a loser. But these days, it can be a six figure salary for some people and once everyone sees you hustling and you've got many clients and you've go many people working for you, along with payroll systems and tax returns and you're really working, it's an eye opener.

Laura thinks that the consensus on it is changing, because now you see things like DOG VACAY and ROVER.COM and WAG, on demand dog walkers and pet sitters. There's even been a lot of venture capital go into these startup companies, which are disrupting the whole industry with their 'on demand this' and 'on demand that.' So you can do very well, especially if you are one of these people at the top of those startups. Being a pet sitter is the kind of business that you can take it as far as you're willing to go with it. You can hire employees, you can franchise, you can have multiple locations and there's a lot that you can do in your own home without even needing to get a facility. This is now a very lucrative business.

Even though things have changed with on demand APPS, Laura says these usually aren't for her generation. Her clients, who are usually in her demographic, want to know somebody who is coming to their home to care for their pets. They want to meet them before they come to their house. Now that's Laura's generation. But the people that are much younger than her and their 20's, the Millennials, are a different generation. Everything is on demand for them and they're okay with that. So it depends on your comfort level. They don't work for Laura or her clientele, but it's obviously working for some people!

Laura's book, "The Pet Sitter's Tale" is funny, wacky, incredibly heartwarming and paints a vivid picture of what it's like to witness, and be a willing participant of, the pampered life of a celebrity's dog.

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Making A Living Taking Animal Selfies
Allan Dixon

Allan with CamelAllan Dixon won the best job in the world. He gets paid to take pictures with animals. Allan has an uncanny ability to 'talk' animals into posing for a selfie with him. This might sound like the most privileged, millennial job in the world, but Dixon worked for this role. He'll explain to Animal Radio listeners.

Besides traveling the world getting paid to take animal selfies, Allan also does what he calls basically pop culture of wildlife conservation. He teaches kids in a cool way to conserve wildlife and the environment.

This all happened to Allan out of the blue. He actually won a job called, "The Best Job In The World," from Tourism Australia. This was about six years ago. It was one of those dream job competitions and the stakes were ridiculous. The winner received $100,000 for six months and an all expenses paid trip to Australia. All they wanted you to do was to make media to showcase why the country was so great. A quarter of a million people entered the contest and miraculously Allan won.

Traveling from Ireland, where Allan was from, to Australia he started taking pictures of animals in wildlife parks. But while he was obviously taking pictures of the animals, because he's so meticulous and pays attention to detail, he started chilling with the animals like kangaroos and wallabies for a good few hours to the point they got curious. They would then come up to him and since they wouldn't fit in the camera lens, he just turned the camera around and took a selfie.

Allan with SealThis was six years ago. Basically he was taking these animals selfies and was just doing it for fun. Allan believes he invented the animal selfie trend.

Allan has taken some really phenomenal pictures of animals. To do this, he has to take many pictures to get that perfect one. For the perfect picture, there is that moment of curiosity from the animal where Allan is clicking burst mode to caption that moment of curiosity when the anima's head looks down and then miraculously just looks in the direction of the camera.

It's just that pinnacle moment of a happy, funny, smiling face from the animal. It then looks like there's a human connection between the animals, as they have feelings too.

There was one time when Allan actually felt he could have been in danger by taking an animal selfie. He did a commercial with a grizzly bear, so he took a selfie with the bear. But now that he thinks about it, he doesn't think he had any health insurance coverage at the time.

Allan with KangarooAllan doesn't have a most memorable animal, but the most memorable thing to him is that he created this whole experience. He has been able to take selfies with animals that some people had never heard of. One of these animals is the Quokka, which he uses for his profile photo. They are this little animal in Western Australia and there are only around 12,000 of them. To picture them, Allan says imagine an animal the size of a cat with the body shape of a kangaroo. Next you stick a face of a smiling bear on top. That's what a Quokka looks like. Nobody had heard about these animals and he managed to go out there, hang out with them and capture some really cool pictures. He spent days upon days with them.

Allan says he basically invented this whole experience of making people discover animals that they'd never heard of. This is what he's quite proud of and that's kind of what he's trying to showcase, that there's such a diversity of animals that it makes your heart melt.

So how does Allan get such great pictures of these rare Quokkas? It's all about trust. Allan says if you can get them to trust you and to be around you, then obviously at some point they're going to sit down and they're going to have some food. The Quokkas eat the leaf stems that fall from the fig trees. A lot of Allan's Quokka photos are taken underneath thee trees. The Quokkas love these fig trees and it's that moment when they look directly down the barrel of the lens and they're chomping away on some food, that allows him to get a great picture. This takes perseverance and patience. Allan explains that it can sometimes take five hours to get the perfect shot.

Allan with QuokkaSo what is Allan doing now? He is taking pictures of Alpacas in Sweden. He tells us that one of his friends has an Alpaca farm. It's cold there and snow on the ground. However, the Alpacas are having fun and it looks like a winter wonderland.

Next Allan is thinking of going to Costa Rica to find the most diverse animals out there. He says the Internet has pushed him on this adventure to show just how awesome the world is. Well, if you go to Costa Rica, you got to take pictures with sloths. Hopefully he will find some sloths there and they will be slow enough for him to take their photo!

Hopefully this job will never come to an end. But just like everything else, it's evolving all the time. There are all these new apps coming at everything. And the core of Internet, according to Allan, is about cats. So it's all about animals. So as long as he keeps doing what he's doing in a fun and effective way, it's a really cool way of teaching kids and everyone about wildlife conservation environment in an engaging way. So he says he will be sticking it out for the long term.

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Second Hand Smoke Sickens Pets - Dr. Debbie

Dr. Debbie WhiteLooking to save money on veterinary care or wondering how to keep your pet in peak health? If you are a smoker and have pets, there are some very compelling reasons to quit - second hand smoking's link to causing cancer and illness in pets. If threats from your spouse haven't gotten you to stop smoking yet, maybe looking at that furry friend on the couch next to you will. The life you save may be his.

It's long been known that smoking causes serious health repercussions in people, even to non-smokers in the same environment. According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), secondhand smoke contains 7,000 different toxins, hundreds which are toxic and 70 which cancer-causing.

In people, secondhand smoke is linked to cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and childhood asthma, ear infections and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Similar research in pets has found that animals from smoking homes are at greater risk of chronic lung disease like asthma and bronchitis, respiratory cancers and other cancers.

Pets are exposed to smoke and chemicals not only through inhaling air, but also by ingesting the toxins directly. Smoke particulates settle on pet's fur or are transferred from the owner's hands through petting. Pets then ingest cigarette's toxins through licking humans, self-grooming and grooming other household pets. Cat's especially fastidious nature permits increased intake of smoke residues through kitty grooming behaviors.

What Are Secondhand Smoke Effects In Pets?
Research from Tufts University discovered that cats exposed to smoking had a higher risk of developing the malignant cancer, lymphoma. In fact, cats living in smoking homes had double the risk of developing lymphoma as cats from non-smoking homes. When two people in the home smoked, the risk of lymphoma in cats increased to four times.

Other veterinary research identified increased rates of oral, nasal and lung cancer in pets from smoking households. Cats from a smoker's home are four times as likely to develop the disfiguring cancer, squamous cell carcinoma. And in yet another study, long snouted dog breeds from smoking homes were at greater risk of developing nasal cancer, likely due to greater absorption area in long nasal passages.

Cigarette and DogHow Can You Safeguard Your Pet's Health?
If you are a smoker, consider stopping - for your sake and your pets. Short of giving up the habit, take steps to minimize second hand smoke on your pets. Only smoke outdoors, away from pets. Wash your hands after smoking, before handling your pets. If you enjoy lighting up in the car when driving, leave your pet at home. Even with car windows down, cigarette smoke inside a car creates a toxic environment for pets.

Have your dog and cat examined by your veterinarian every six months. Alert your veterinarian to any lethargy, trouble breathing, and coughing or unexplained weight loss. Early detection and treatment permits the most effective treatment of chronic respiratory conditions and cancers. Your pet's veterinarian can detect illness through regular exams and preventative screenings.

While smoking isn't the only factor causing cancer in pets, it is increasingly scrutinized as a significant health risk, one that we humans can control. The health decisions we make not only influence our children's health, but also affect those devoted pets that warm our hearts and beds.

Featured veterinarian known as "Dr. Debbie" on national pet radio program, Animal Radio. Ebook author of "Yorkshire Terriers: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend"; "Pugs: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend"; "Mini Schnauzers: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend"; and "Shih Tzu: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend." Dr. Debbie's books.

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Animal Radio News - Lori Brooks

Lori and Flo BearBreed Specific Legislation Doesn't Work
There's a new study out by researchers in Denmark on the impact of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), which is often a city or even country's attempt to ban dog breeds it deems as vicious. This study was done by Karlstad University using data from Denmark's third-largest city. The results showed that BSL there had no effect on hospitalizations for dog bites. In 2010, Denmark banned the ownership, breeding and import of 13 dog breeds. Two of those breeds, the Pit Bull Terrier and the Tosa Inu, had to be euthanized. Then, any existing pets of the remaining 11 breeds could be kept, but they had to be muzzled and leashed in public. The study looked at data on people visiting the city's ER during a 13 -year period. During this time, there were 2,622 dog bite injuries. Since the banned breeds had to be muzzled and leashed in public, you would expect an immediate difference in public dog bites if BSL were effective. But that's not what happened. The results showed no effect of Breed Specific Legislation on hospitalizations for dog bites. None. They did show something else very interesting, of the 2,622 dog bites, 874 occurred in public spaces. In other words, the majority of dog bite injuries (67-percent) occurred in privately owned places such as someone's home.

Australia Bans Cosmetic Testing on Animals
The Australian government has passed a bill that effectively bans animal testing for cosmetics sold in the country. Australia will no longer accept results derived from animal experimentation as evidence of a product's safety or effectiveness. This means cosmetic brands will be required to show that their products are safe with non-animal testing methods. A majority of Australians, 85-percent, are against animal testing for cosmetics.

ElsaCat Frozen to Guardrail
A woman in upstate New York recently saw a post on Facebook about a cat thought to be sleeping on a highway guardrail. She rushed to the location and realized the cat wasn't sleeping, it was stuck. Two of its paws and the cat's tail were frozen to the guardrail so it couldn't get free. The cat, whose name is now "Elsa" from the movie Frozen, was checked out at a veterinary hospital and found to be in pretty good shape.

Museum of the Dog
The newly rebooted Museum of the Dog has made its return to the American Kennel Club's headquarters in Manhattan after spending the last three decades in St. Louis. The museum is using its 200-item collection to put the dog/human and dog/art relationship in context. Some of the relics you'll find at the museum include a 30-million-year-old dog fossil. The museum also presents famous dogs from throughout history, including Edward VII's wire fox terrier Caesar, who was part of the king's 1910 funeral procession. Likenesses of U.S. presidents also made the cut. There are paintings of George H.W. Bush's English springer spaniel Millie and George W. Bush's Scottish terriers Barney and Miss Beazley. The crown jewel of the museum is its 42,000-volume library on dogs and specific breeds.

Small Dog WarningNational Weather Service Issue 'Small Dog Warning'
The National Weather Service is typically pretty stoic with its forecasts and advice, but on one day earlier this month a satellite office of the weather service in Ohio issued an "unofficial Small Dog Warning" on Twitter due to strong winds gusting to 50 mph in parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Tweet said "Hold on to your pooch!" Be sure to make sure both your trash can and your dog don't blow away!"

People Cuddle Pets More Than Significant Other
According to a new report slash survey from; nearly half of pet parents cuddle with their pooch more than their significant other. The report also found that 24-percent said they took more pictures with their dog than with friends or family members; 81-percent say they use a high voice to baby talk to their dog; 33-percent admit they plan their weekend around their dog; and one in three pet parents take their dog along on dates. Why? Thirty-percent said it's because their dog is a good judge of character. And, more than half (53-percent) of pet parents said they would consider ending a relationship if their partner didn't like dogs or was severely allergic.

Ear Listen to the entire Podcast of this show (#1073)

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