There are no kennels for Mia the Dalmatian when her people are away.
She’s one of the privileged pooches who resides at Missy Warrick’s Fresno home when her humans are off working or vacationing.
This home away from home includes a leopard-print dog bed, park to play in down the street, three-bedroom, two-story dwelling to wander, and a doting human who doesn’t appear too bothered by the spotted animal’s fetish for backyard excavation. (A hole in Warrick’s backyard has affectionately been named “Mia” in honor of its infamous creation.)
Warrick watches up to six dogs a day at her home as a pet sitter with rover.com, a website founded in 2011 that connects people with pet caregivers in more than 10,000 cities nationwide. More than 1,000 people used the service in the central San Joaquin Valley last year.
He cited a survey showing 76% of dog owners now view themselves as “pet parents,” not masters. It’s a trend behind his company’s growing success.
One of the company’s three founders, Aaron Easterly, 38, is a graduate of Clovis West High School who now lives in Seattle. He cited a survey showing 76% of dog owners now view themselves as “pet parents,” not masters. It’s a trend behind his company’s growing success.
He says most people feel “wildly uncomfortable” with the idea of taking their dog to a kennel.
“It’s kind of the emotional equivalent of taking your child to an orphanage.”
One thing I was struck by is how difficult it can be for single people to have a pet in an urban environment.
Rover offers doggie daycare and long-term boarding at sitters’ homes, along with employees who go to clients’ homes for house-sitting, drop-in visits and dog walking. The service provides care for all kinds of pets, including pot-bellied pigs, horses and snakes.
Easterly says he and co-founders Greg Gottesman and Phil Kimmey had seen online listings for pet sitter contacts, but nothing like what they’ve now created with Rover. The website provides detailed profiles of pet sitters and a handy menu that connects people with the best options based on their location, pet, and duration of stay.
The company got going in the Fresno area in 2013. Since then, the local market has grown more than 600% each year, Easterly says. The Fresno area ranks between 50 and 60 for Rover’s best markets, behind larger cities with denser populations like San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and Austin.
Easterly says the allure of sending a beloved pet to a comfy home instead of a large fenced facility – along with a growing reliance on the Internet and access to it – will only make companies like Rover more popular in the years to come.
There are between 75 to 100 Rover sitters in the Fresno area and around 550 in the Valley. Only 20 to 30 percent of applicants, on average, are accepted and posted on the company’s website.
Profiles are outfitted with informational badges. Warrick says she has the maximum for things like access to “Ask a Vet” services, passing a background check, taking pet care classes, being available for last-minute requests and long stays, and donating a portion of her proceeds to animal rescue groups. She also administers medicine to ailing pets. Rover takes 15% of her earnings.
One of Warrick’s clients, Carrie Rendazzo, loves the price and personal touches, like text message photos of her dogs while she’s at work. Warrick charges $30 per night for dog boarding and $25 a day for doggie day care. Rendazzo says she used to pay around triple that amount at a dog resort.
It’s one of those rare cases where customers view it as more affordable and a better experience.
During a recent visit, Warrick cuddled up with Rendazzo’s chiweenie, Sade, a chihuahua dachshund mix, on the couch.
Nearby sat Warrick’s little cockapoo, Sunny – a black mellow-mannered creature the resembles a shaggy-faced Teddy bear. Warrick and Sunny regularly host a number of four-legged friends, including Max the labradoodle, Angus the westie, Blue the pitbull, Enzo the chocolate lab, and Scotch the lhasa apso (a “white fluffy thing”).
“It’s more of a home atmosphere,” Warrick says of the service she provides. “They feel more comfortable, more settled in. I treat them like they are my own dogs.”