It's a dogs-and-cats world for sitters, walkers

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Kim Radke takes Chester, left, and Bailey, right, out for a walk near their Oronoco home on Monday.

These are the dog days of summer for Kim Radke, and she couldn't be happier.

With families trying to squeeze in their last vacation trip of the summer before school starts, Radke, who is a full-time pet sitter, has her hands full of dog leashes.

"I get to be around animals constantly, and dogs are my true passion," Radke, of Stewartville, who is also a certified dog trainer, said of pet sitting.

More and more these days, families take their pets — primarily dogs — with them on vacation. More hotels and resorts welcome pets, and even traveling by air with a dog is not impossible.

But, said Radke, "Some pets just do better at home. They're most comfortable in their own surroundings, with normal walking routines, normal potty routines."


So Radke and the other dog sitters in the Rochester area find themselves on the go, visiting and feeding cats, walking dogs and in some cases staying overnight with pets. "It's busy year-round," Radke said.

"Summers are busy, but MEA weekend, Christmas and spring break are really busy," said Elizabeth Plantin, of Rochester, who has been a full-time pet sitter since leaving her Mayo Clinic job six years ago.

"I started doing this because when we were going on vacation, I couldn't find anybody who would watch anything other than cats and dogs," Plantin said. "I thought, 'People have rats and birds, and there's a market there. Nothing intimidates me.' But it's mostly cats and dogs."

Besides walking dogs and visiting them while their owners are gone, Plantin will even stay overnight in the homes of pet owners while they're away on a trip.

"I do hear a lot from people who weren't able to go on vacation before and now they don't have to worry," she said.

And like all animal lovers, Plantin knows that pets can be quirky, fussy, jumpy or touchy. "For sure," she said. "But I've got five dogs at home, so I understand."

"For me, I've dealt with most everything, so I can usually figure out a solution to anything," Radke said. "People say, 'You get to go walk dogs all day.' But there's more to it than that."

There are payoffs, of course.


"You get to meet some really nice people and their pets," Radke said. "I have a client who is moving to Seattle and she said, 'When can you come?'"

Close relationships develop, both with pets and their owners. "You're just as sad as they are when a pet passes away," Plantin said.

"I have clients who started out as clients and now are friends," she said. "We even go on vacation together. Of course, if that happens I have to find somebody else to watch their pets."

Finding the right sitter for your pet

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Kim Radke takes Chester, left, and Bailey, right, out for a walk near their Oronoco home on Monday, Aug. 1, 2016.

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