Kindness to animals is so very important, says dog-lover Vidhya Aratish who loves pooches so much that she looks after other people’s pets for a living.
“Looking after people’s pets is my passion,” says Vidhya.
“When someone goes out to work and there’s nobody at home to take care of their dog, they send them to me for daycare or pet sitting. They send them here in the morning and pick them up in the evening after work.
“And pet boarding is when they go outstation or overseas so they send their dogs here when they’re away. Some of the dogs have stayed with me for a few days up to a month,” she says.
During the recent Chinese New Year holidays, she also had a few pet owners who sent their dogs for boarding for about a week or more.
As a child, Vidhya says that she grew up with different pets all the time and her father introduced many different breeds of dogs to her – Doberman, German Shepherds, Pomeranians etc.
How a person treats an animal says a lot about them and their character, says the 43-year-old who lives in Kuala Lumpur with her husband and two children aged 13 and nine.
“Dogs are very intelligent, they can sense whether a person is genuine or not. That’s why they respond to certain people and not others,” she says.
Vidhya only started her pet sitting (daycare) and boarding services in 2020 during the recovery MCO after she realised there was a need for such services.
During the pandemic, people were cooped up at home and some got pets to accompany them during this time. But after the movement control order ended and people returned to work, their pets were left at home alone, she says.
“Before the pandemic, I used to be busy with my children’s school and activities. But when the pandemic happened, all that ended and everyone was cooped up at home. My children were busy with their online classes, and my husband was working from home,” she recounts.
“I wanted to do something to keep myself occupied. I got the idea to do pet sitting and boarding while talking with a pet lover friend.
“My friend gave me the idea because I used to take care of her dogs whenever she travelled. She thought that I was good with her dogs and since I have a spacious house and compound, she asked me ‘why not start taking care of dogs for other owners too’,” she says.
Vidhya admits she wasn’t keen initially because she has young children at home, and there might be health issues with all the dog fur around. But after much consideration, she thought, why not give it a try since she already has a pet at home.
Most of her customers are referred by word of mouth, and she also has a listing on several pet services sites.
“I started by taking in just one dog because I had to give my own dog time to adjust to having other dogs around,” she says.
Vidhya reveals that before taking in a dog, she does do a check with the owner on whether their dog has been vaccinated and spayed/neutered to make sure nothing “untoward” happens.
Although a dog’s needs are simple – food and water, shelter, comfort, and most importantly, love and emotional support – a lot of patience is needed in pet sitting and boarding, says Vidhya who adds that it’s really fulfilling when she sees the pets respond to her.
According to Vidhya, doggie daycare or pet sitting is important because dogs need the human touch. They need companionship and will feel lonely if they’re left alone at home.
If the dog is left at home alone, they’ll get lonely and anxious, and as a result, exhibit unhealthy behaviours such as scratching doors, destroying furniture, and others, she says.
But if they go for daycare, they have other dogs to play with and human companionship, she adds.
“Exercise is important for them and as part of pet boarding/sitting, I do walk the dogs when there’s good weather. There’s also a fairly large space for them to run around in because our garden is huge and the dogs are uncaged.
“It’s not easy, there are the ‘dirty’ jobs that have to be done like picking up their poop. There’s also fur and pee around your house and garden,” she says.
She reveals that she went through a bad phase in 2020 when her father (in Bangalore, India) passed away and she couldn’t be there because of the pandemic.
But the emotional support from my family and dogs really helped me go on, she says.
Keeping owners updated
Dinesnathan Kasinathan, 35, has been sending his two-and-a-half-year-old husky Bryan, to Vidhya for pet boarding, usually for two to five nights, at a time. He has been sending him there for almost a year.
“I feel that Bryan is in safe hands because Vidhya keeps me updated on what he is doing from morning till he goes to bed by sending me photos and videos through WhatsApp,” he says.
Yong Yoke Keong, 38, first sent Hiro, his six-year-old Shibu Inu for boarding with Vidhya in 2020.
“Whenever I travel abroad or needed pet care services, I would look for Vidhya whom I found on a pet services app. I chose her because of the distance – it’s near my house – and also because she has a huge space and Hiro likes this. He can run and play in the house compound,” says Yong.
“Vidhya walks Hiro when he’s there for pet boarding, and she updates me on what’s happening by sending photos and videos of him playing and his daily activities at her place and this gives me peace of mind,” he says.
“Most importantly, it’s Hiro’s response. He feels good when he comes home after the service. I still remember when I sent him to another pet boarding provider previously and he came home traumatised and wouldn’t eat for two days. However, he’s always happy when he returns from Vidhya’s place,” he adds.
Lucky for us
Vidhya also has her own dog named Lucky, whom she rescued five years ago.
“On Dec 30, 2017, we saw this dog sitting outside our house compound. It was raining heavily and she was drenched. She was very scared and shivering. We didn’t know if she was a stray or someone’s lost/abandoned pet and she didn’t have a collar,” she recalls.
Her two boys wanted to take in the dog.
“We told our kids we’ll see how we can help to rescue and rehome her,” she says.
The family went out on New Year’s Eve and when they returned in the evening, the dog was still sitting there waiting for them.
When Vidhya walked back to her house after chatting with her neighbour that night, the dog tried to follow her in.
“My heart sunk and I couldn’t close the gate on her.
“My only worry was whether my husband would object. He loves dogs too, but we didn’t know if we would have to move because of his work, and we might not be able to bring her along. We were also worried about our kids because our youngest one was just three at that time,” she says.
It was 7pm and Vidhya asked her husband whether it was alright to let the dog in and he agreed.
“That’s how Lucky came into our lives – she’s lucky for us and she’s also lucky to have found us so it’s both ways. And she’s family now.”