SHERIDAN — When it comes to working the week of Christmas, there are the usual suspects: medical professionals, emergency responders and a skeleton crew of some essential retailers. One unsung industry that booms during a holiday week is that of animal caretakers.
While pets are often unquestionably members of Sheridan families, the realities of the world often don’t accommodate that fact. Many holiday travelers must face the uncomfortable truth that their pets don’t take to the open road — or the skies — well, and they’re better off waiting at home. That’s when Sheridan’s pet boarding facilities and caretakers kick into overdrive.
“I’m completely full, and I have a waiting list of about a dozen customers,” said Todd Sarantopulos, owner of the Country Pet Inn, a dog boarding facility in Sheridan that boasts premium doggie suites with the option to tack on extra love and affection for pets whose owners have skipped town.
Sarantopulos added that while the months of November and December are generally slow for him, the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas were booked solid months in advance.
“Everyone saves vacation time for the holidays,” he explained.
In order to accommodate the influx of business, Sarantopulos said his Christmas will consist of splitting time between his business and his family.
“I spend Christmas Day kind of broken up,” he said. “First thing in the morning, I go let the dogs outside.”
After his charges have stretched and had breakfast, Sarantopulos heads back into his house to spend a few hours with his family before returning to the kennels. The back-and-forth routine continues through the week.
He said that while his kennels average between six and 10 dogs per day during a normal week, this week he’s handling approximately 20.
Julie Kennedy, proprietor of Caring Hands Pet Service, is another veteran of holiday work. Instead of keeping a facility for pets, she conducts home visits while pet owners are away.
“With our type of work, you don’t get much family time at Christmas,” she said. “There are times when we can be working from six in the morning until 10 at night with very little break in between.”
Kennedy said she strives to enable pets to maintain their regular routine as much as possible while their families are away, so sticking to meal times and exercise schedules means she often has to make multiple visits over the course of a day.
“Pet care anymore is a multi-billion dollar industry and they treat them more as children and part of the family instead of just a pet,” she said, indicating she has first-hand knowledge that stress-prone pets do much better at home than in a boarding facility.
Kennedy said this year, she’s been proactive about managing her schedule to achieve more work/life balance. This year, she said her caretaker schedule includes a lot of cats, which require less maintenance. From there, it’s simply a structural equation.
“I have to stagger everything,” Kennedy said, describing how she divides her schedule between work and holiday festivities.
The demand for pet care in Sheridan during the holidays keeps every business booked to capacity.
Office Manager at Country Hospital for Animals Jennifer Albrecht said the facility has been booked months in advance.
The overflow of pet boarding has even trickled down into Johnson County. Carol Cole, operator at Wag’in Tail Kennel on French Creek Road near Buffalo said she has clients from Sheridan making the drive to drop off their pets for the holiday.
“Some people said they couldn’t find any other place,” Cole said, adding she’s also booked solid and expecting 18 canine guests. “I can’t tell you how many I’ve turned away.”
While many people begrudgingly look forward to the end of the holiday week, they can at least look forward to an enthusiastic reunion with their four-legged friends.