She sits, they walk


Tina Hollis found a cure for corporate stress: Looking after other people's pets


Tina Hollis

Pet sitter/owner

Happy Tails Pet Sitting, Hampstead

Salary --$26,000

Age --41

Years on the job --Six

How she got started --After graduating from Towson University with a degree in marketing, Hollis worked for 12 years in the hotel industry as a sales manager. She decided to switch to a job that offered greater flexibility and one that she would better enjoy. She looked into pet sitting and decided to open her own business. "I was really tired of the corporate world and the stress that goes along with that."

Typical day --Hollis pet sits a core group of about eight dogs that she lets out and exercises every day while their owners are at work. She also watches dogs and cats while owners are on vacation. For these pets, the schedule usually involves visiting dogs three to four times a day and cats one or two times a day. She works her morning visits between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Her midday visits are typically between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. She makes dinner visits between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. The night runs - between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. - are made with her husband, Bob. She works with about eight to 15 different pets a day and she travels within a 15-mile radius from her Hampstead home. "I've taken care of a 150-pound mastiff all the way down to a half-pound sugar glider [a type of marsupial]."

Types of pets --Besides dogs and cats, she has taken care of birds, fish and monkeys. Luckily, said Hollis, she only had to feed the two monkeys through the cage. "Monkeys are a challenge. They are quite intimidating because they are so smart."

Taking on clients --"It's a huge responsibility to be a pet sitter," said Hollis. She offers clients a two-page agreement and meets "extensively" with the pet before taking on a client.

Her dog --Spanky, a 16-year-old pit bull, often goes on the job with Hollis. She acquired him four years ago after his owner, a client, died. No one else would take him. "I just brought him home."

Additional services --Not only will Hollis take care of people's pet needs while they are away, she also will bring in the newspaper and mail, water plants and place trash cans out for regular pickup. She once called a plumber for a pipe that had burst in a client's home and has taken sick pets to the veterinarian for owners.

Vacation time --Hollis said she does take vacation and works with other area pet sitters who cover for one another. "We're like a big family."

Cost --Between $18 and $25 per visit, depending on the number of pets and location.

Dog bites --"I've never been bitten." She adds that dogs seem to know that she's not a stranger entering their home.

Work out --"I do a lot of walks and play a lot. It's a very active job and I consider that my workout."

The good --"Dogs always greet me with a wagging tail and make me feel very appreciated."

The bad --When clients' pets pass away. "It's amazing the bond that you develop and how attached you become."

Philosophy on the job --Three years ago Hollis was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She's now cancer-free, but she said the pets, especially the dogs, have taught her how to live for the moment. "Enjoy every treat, every walk and all those belly rubs. It's all about today with the pets. They are experts at that."

Certification --No state certification is needed to be a pet sitter in Maryland. However, she is a member of Pet Sitters International, has taken classes in animal care offered through the American Red Cross and is bonded and insured.

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun

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