Pet babysitters: Skype your pet while you're on holidays

I can't believe it's come to this.

We're sitting by the pool at a resort in Phuket but instead of sipping cocktails, we're Skyping our pet.

Yes, you read that right. The kids can't bear to be away from the border collie so we've hired a nanny to care for Arabella, connecting to Wi-Fi at either end to chat – erm, bark – each day.

Sometimes I feel like I've lost the plot but apparently this is the new normal.

A survey by "babysitting" company Pawshake, shows 38 per cent of pet owners Skype furry family members while on holidays and nine out of 10 people say they'd postpone, or cancel, a holiday, if they couldn't find a trusted sitter.

And we're not just talking about dogs.

Pet sitter Sarah Gaul, from Sydney's inner west, says some of her colleagues have looked after rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, snakes, horses, even ferrets.

"Pets are as much a part of the family as the people," Sarah says. "I always send daily photos or videos of the pets I'm looking after to their owners. And lots of them Skype."

Families are moving away from kennels, which our kids call "puppy prisons".

Sometimes, I think this anthropomorphising of animals is a First World indulgence. Many people even go as far as leaving the TV on for their pet while they're at work.

(Seriously, do you think wild dogs are watching Survivor in the jungle?)

Then again, pets provide valuable companionship to children.

Whenever Taj and Grace have a tough day at school and don't want  to talk about it, they self-soothe by cuddling the dog, who has become a beloved member of our family.

(Of course, when she chews someone's socks, or digs up my vegetable garden, I threaten to get rid of her. Which I wouldn't do with the children – I think…)

But this adds to the anxiety of going on holidays.

"Instead of being excited, the lead-up to holidays in particular can be a stressful time for pet owners, who can become anxious and worried about who will look after their pet while  they're away," Pawshake co-founder Tanguy Peers says.

The company connects thousands of vetted and insured sitters with pet owners, often with only a day's notice.

You can leave your pet at their place, or they can stay at yours.

There are also walking, home visits, and day care services.

We found our doggy nanny, Glyn, on pawshake.com.au. She volunteers for animal welfare, and loves being around dogs – especially after hers died last year.

I feel a bit sorry for Glyn, wrangling our wriggly collie to the computer.

But the "conversation" – if you can call it that – seems to settle all of our children, furry or not.

We lounge back in our day beds and order a cocktail, as the kids splash happily in the pool.

No longer shall we hear the chant, "What about Arabella? I'm worried about Arabella!"

And that is priceless.

tracey.spicer@fairfaxmedia.com.au

The story Pet babysitters: Skype your pet while you're on holidays first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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