my boss pet-sat my animals and nearly killed them

A reader writes:

My boss nearly killed my pets while I was on vacation and I have no idea how I’m going to talk to him about this.

One of my coworkers usually takes care of my pets when I go away, but this time he could only do it for part of my vacation. He was going to do it for the whole week but then my boss sent him to out of town to do a course for something he needs him to learn how to do. The boss was aware that Bob was looking after my pets and offered to do the three days that Bob couldn’t do. I figured hey, my boss has pets and he’s diabetic (like my big dog is), what’s the worst that could happen? Plus he did the dog’s insulin shot in front of us the first time and had no problem with it, so we had no reason to think he would screw up so badly.

Well, we left him VERY clear feeding instructions with each pet’s name and physical description and we put each of their names on the bags of food to avoid confusion. For example, on the instructions we wrote “Bishop (black cat) – keep him closed in spare bedroom with litter box. Feed him 1 scoop of dry hypothyroid cat food and 1 forkful of wet hypothyroid food twice daily. Don’t let him out of the spare room, as he could get sick if he gets into the other cat’s food.”

Well, we come home, and instead find that our small dog Athena was the one closed in the spare bedroom. She was in there without water and without pee pads so there was dried up dog piss everywhere. We left the litter box in there too so he really had his head up his ass on this one. None of the other animals had water in their dishes either and we filled up each dish three times within half an hour of getting home, so they were clearly dehydrated. Then I went into our bedroom for a minute, where our cat Jane eats, and found Bishop’s food there. Bishop also now has a HUGE red mark on his face, which I’m thinking might be the result of an allergic reaction to getting fed the wrong food for three days. Literally the only thing my boss seems to have gotten right was the insulin shot for the big dog, but we are keeping a super close eye on all four pets right now.

I have to see my boss tomorrow and I really don’t know how I’m going to react when I see him. Please help!

Oh no, this is awful. This is every pet owner’s nightmare about pet sitters.

This is also why it is really, really tricky to cross streams at work and hire a colleague — and especially your boss — to take care of your pets (or kids, or anything else important to you). If something goes wrong, it’s tough to avoid having it negatively affect working relationships that you need to stay harmonious.

You can’t explode at your boss, as much as I’m sure you’d like to (and as much as I’d like to on your behalf). But you can ask him about what happened in a tone of Great Concern. You can say in a very serious, very concerned voice, “Do you know what happened while we were gone? We came back to the dog shut up in the bedroom instead of the cat and no one had no one had water.”

Phrasing this as “do you know what happened?” lets you start off without being instantly accusatory. And who knows, maybe there’s more to this … like maybe he was waylaid with a horrible stomach flu and for the last scheduled visit he sent his seemingly responsible spouse in his place and had no idea she’d messed everything up, or who knows what.

Also, in this language, I’ve just stuck to the most egregious parts rather than reciting the full litany of problems. I’ve gone back and forth on whether that’s the way to go, but ultimately I think it comes down to what outcomes you do and don’t want from this conversation: You do want your boss to know that there were serious problems (because his being your boss doesn’t require you to pretend this didn’t happen, and if nothing else, he needs to know that his pet-sitting skills are terrible), but you don’t want to cause so much tension between you that it causes problems for you at work (like your boss feeling so awkward around you that you miss out on professional opportunities).

That doesn’t mean that you can’t share more details as the conversation progresses. But I’d start here and see how it goes.

The other thing is, you’re obviously never going to rely on your boss for anything like this ever again. Because of that, you don’t need to cover every detail with him of how he messed up. It’s enough to let him know that things really didn’t go well, and leave it there. You don’t actually need him to understand each individual piece of how he let you and your animals down, when there are this many. (That’s not to say there wouldn’t be value in that. But it’s trumped by the work considerations.)

And to be clear, this sucks. You should be able to show that you’re really upset about this without having to worry about it affecting you professionally. But this is the exact reason why it’s dangerous to hire a coworker, and especially your boss, for this kind of job — because if something goes wrong, you will need to consider a whole bunch of other factors in how you respond.

I’m glad you came home when you did and that your animals sound like they’ll be okay.

P.S. I am a huge fan of setting up indoor cameras when we travel. We do it mainly because I’m neurotic and have a much better time on trips when I can periodically check and see that the cats are fine, but it’s also great for peace of mind when you can see that the sitter has come and has done what they’re supposed to do.

{ 728 comments… read them below }

  1. Murphy*

    OMG This is horrible. One of my dogs is on Rx food, and I’d be pissed if someone gave her the wrong thing.

    I’m glad your pets are OK, jeez…

  2. Andy*

    I had a coworker completely forget my dog for a whole weekend. NEVER AGAIN!!! It was SUPER hard to hear her call herself an animal lover after that. No, dude, you think they’re cute…but love? proof of such was not forthcoming? love requires care.

      1. RJ the Newbie*

        This happened to a far worse result at my old job and it ruined the relationship between two project managers. The aggrieved party referred to her co-worker for the duration of her employment (which wasn’t long) as ‘that bitch who killed my dog.’ I felt awful for them. I have four cats and my dear best friends (also cat owners) cat sit when we are away. They are treasures.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          My BFF felt horribly guilty when she was asked to petsit a family who had a cat and a goldfish, and she forgot about the fish. To be fair it was easy to do, it was closed in a room the cat was not allowed in (for obvious reasons). Luckily she remembered after day 3, and I worked very close to the person she was petsitting for (and knew them and knew where the spare key was) so when BFF called me freaking out about the fish I just drove over on lunch and fed Fish, then reported back that Fish, being a goldfish, was perfectly fine.

          I can’t imagine the guilt if you forgot a larger animal. Cripes.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I still feel guilty about a fish that died on me in like 2003 while I was fish-sitting it. I was feeding it and all, but it was already sick and the owner knew it. Didn’t help with the guilt.

            1. Flower*

              A friend petsitting my guinea pig had him die on them. He was old and hadn’t been doing so hot in the weeks leading up to our trip, but I was… 14 or 15? Maybe? And they are a year younger. I immediately reassured them that I didn’t blame them, but I was pretty devastated – as were they. We’re still friends, even though life doesn’t have us in frequent contact anymore.

            2. Joielle*

              In college, my roommates and I agreed to sit for a friend’s fish and it died… after she had left it at our house for two months past the originally-agreed-upon time. We were feeding it and cleaning its water! It was just, idk, a fish, that had reached the end of its short lifespan. The friend was SO MAD but I don’t feel that guilty. There was nothing else we (or you) could have done!

              1. Pomona Sprout*

                The fish’s age notwithstanding, your friend forfeited her right to be mad at you, imo, when she left it with you for two (TWO?) freaking months past the time you agreed to care for it. You don’t say why she did that, and for all I know she may have had a good excuse (or at least one rationalized to herself as “good”), but I have a hard time imagining a good enough one to justify doing that, much less then having the gall to be mad at uou when the fish didn’t make it. I don’t think you have a danged thing to feel guilty for!

            3. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

              My family was feeding and keeping an eye on my neighbors chickens while she was on vacation…and a neighborhood dog got into the coop, with predictably bad results. It was in no way our fault and everyone involved new that, but it was also rather upsetting for all involved

              1. Artemesia*

                I took care of a neighbor’s koi pond. I was to feed them in the morning but I strolled over to just see them that evening of their departure. The pool maintenance person had left the pump on drain and there was about an inch of water in the pool and the fish were flopping around. They would have been dead by morning — all 15 or so big koi. We turned off the pump and then put a house above the water fall hoping that the water going over the waterfall would aerate and mitigate the effects of the chlorine — we knew tap water wasn’t great, but no water was worse. They all survived. But close call and pure luck we caught it.

                On another occasion a raccoon broke into the koi food supply kept in a can on the porch and ate it all; that was easier to fix but we had to go to a pet store to get the right kind of food.

                1. Erin C.*

                  OMG, I thought you were going to say the raccoon ate all the koi. I gather that many a koi pond has met that fate courtesy of a great blue heron.

              2. whingedrinking*

                I have a very long story that about a friend, her then-husband, and me trying desperately to get a stubborn duck into a duck coop. Short form: it includes two dogs, a semi-accidental 911 call, concerned neighbours, a tetanus shot, and fireworks (it was Canada Day). In the end we got the stupid thing into the coop and all was well. The next week, the person who actually owned the duck got sick of chasing it around herself and left it out for the night, whereupon it was eaten by a coyote. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

            4. Airy*

              I had a similar situation – they didn’t know why their fish kept dying off, they were working on it with the vet but had no answer yet, and when I went to pet-sit they said, “Do your best with the fish but don’t worry if they die, just scoop them out of the tank. As long as the cat’s alive and happy when we come back it’s fine.” (Fortunately she was. And she was a very nice cat.)

            5. Artemesia*

              When we had a grad student stay in our house for a semester — free rent in exchange for taking care of the cat, I specifically told her that the cat was old and that they were authorized to put it down if the Vet recommended it if she became seriously ill and we would not be upset with her if the cat died on her watch. Luckily the cat was fine and lived many more years, but we didn’t want her to feel bad or guilty if the inevitable happened when she was in charge.

            6. Nessun*

              One of the first “jobs” I ever had as a kid was looking after a neighbor’s goldfish. It should have been straightforward – feed for two weeks, clean bowl as required. Except it died – of old age – and I freaked out. I was SO very upset, and didn’t know how I’d break it to them when they returned from holiday. I lost my mind, my mum tried to comfort me…and explained the fish was old and they’d thought this might happen. Say WHAT?! Nobody’d thought to tell me! After that, I was just mad.

              Lesson learned: do the job to the best of your ability, but don’t own the things no one tells you…and ask all the questions you can up front!

          2. Loux in Canada*

            A buddy of mine was pet sitting for me once, and I had recently gotten a hamster. She was kind of sickly, and during that weekend, she died. My friend felt sooooo bad when I told him!! He had been feeding her, but hadn’t realized that she was actually dead.

            The kicker: She was lying belly-up on the floor of the cage. Very obviously not conscious. It’s actually kind of funny if I think about it – my friend apparently failed to notice this, but diligently fed her anyway! There was food and stuff in the cage, so I know he wasn’t lying, and also my cat wasn’t dead, so, you know. (And trust me, if my cat hadn’t been fed for three days, I would know.)

            He still feels very guilty about it, but I keep telling him not to because honestly, that hamster didn’t have long for this world anyways. It likely would have happened had I been home that weekend or not!

          3. Kittyfish 76*

            Just a tidbit FYI (off topic), fish can go as long as 2 weeks without feeding, so 3 days was probably not so bad. But I do understand about feeling bad about forgetting.
            Signed- Cat and fish fanatic (hence the username)

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Yeah- if we’re on vacation for less than a week, we don’t bother getting someone to feed the fish. It’s a lot worse for them to be overfed!

            2. FishyFish*

              Another fact about fish: They have longer life spans than you think. Goldfish can live for 20+ years, bettas can live for 3-5 years, guppies and other livebearers 2-3 years, and barbs, tetras, danios, etc. vary from 3 up to 10+ years. Also, many of the fish in pet stores are only a few months old (guppies, bettas, and goldfish reach sale size in 4-6 months), so if you had any fish less than 2 years, it almost definitely did not die of old age (except certain killifish, but the short-lived ones are almost impossible to find in pet stores).

              The most common causes of death for fish are ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate poisoning, internal and external parasites, jumping out of the tank, medicine/algaecide overdose, and being bullied by other fish.

              1. Wintermute*

                As a child we had a goldfish that became rather enormous, by the end it had lost its gold coloration and was well on its way to reverting to a feral carp. it outlived the dog and the cat. Not bad for an animal obtained from a 4th of July carnival, but we always were careful to take good care of it and apparently got lucky to get one that was healthy to start.

          4. Zombeyonce*

            I did some petsitting for a boyfriend’s family back in college and I was sitting on the back porch reading while the big dog ran around getting exercise in the the huge backyard (w/trees and sheds and outbuildings), when the dog came up to me and laid a dead chicken at my feet. Turns out he had spent his running time killing 5 of the chickens and leaving them around the property.

            I feel bad for the chickens, but the owners didn’t give me any warning that he might hunt them or that he shouldn’t be allowed to run around back there! Needless to say, I wasn’t asked to petsit again.

          5. Beth*

            I did much worse I persist for a coworker who was paying me. She had a dog and a cat, or so I thought. She also had a hampster that I had no idea about. It starved to death. I didn’t know. I feel guilty til this day.

        2. it's-a-me*

          Assuming it actually was neglect or abuse, I would absolutely use that sort of language in every conversation henceforth if someone was responsible for killing my cat. I don’t even care if I would get fired because of it – and I WOULD get fired because of it, because everyone is going to know loudly and at length.

          1. eee*

            super agree! dying from neglect is just about the worst death i can imagine for my pet. luckily the only time i cross the streams with work and asking someone to sit for me is with my plants, so worst case scenario i would in fact be pretty pissed if they forgot, but calm enough to be able to restrain myself from calling someone the bitch that killed my plants

        3. poodleoodle*

          OMG yikes!! I can’t imagine that at all!
          I remember one lady wanted me to watch her elderly German Shepherd while she was away and he wasn’t doing that well health wise. Her dog passed away before she left on her trip :( i can’t imagine if he had passed away while she was out of town. I have dogs too and my worst nightmare is something happening to them when i’m not there. I never had anything serious happen while pet sitting but yikes :/

          I feel bad for your former coworker too even though I’m sure it was ages ago!

    1. Ananas Bananes*

      To my great shame, I agreed to petsit my mother’s cat while she was gone for a week. I completely forgot about it until the second-last day of her trip. Fortunately, Cat was not every shy about drinking toilet water, but still!

      The only thing I can say in my defence is that I agreed in the course of a casual lunch-time conversation with her, and neither of us mentioned it again. I had taken care of her cat during several trips before. But for some trips, she boarded her cat at a kennel.

      The cat was healthy for years afterward, but Mom & I have agreed that I will never petsit again.

      1. Bubbleon*

        I’d place most of the responsibility on your mom for that one. If I had someone volunteer to petsit I’d be following up with them for at least a few days before I left, even if they’d done it before.

        1. JamieG*

          I agree. Whenever I have someone pet sit, I send a text on the first day asking how the cat is. No one’s forgotten so far, but if they did they’d realize it right away!

        2. TooTiredToThink*

          Same. There is no way on earth I wouldn’t follow up a week before a trip to verify that they could still do it.

          1. LSC*

            Definitely! I hope you don’t blame yourself for this, because your mother definitely should have followed up.

        3. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Yes, my mom and I often feed each other’s animals when we travel and we both text each other updates constantly. Neither of us has ever forgotten the other’s pets, but we always figure over-communicating is better! Plus we like to get pics of our animals while we’re away.

          1. Cacwgrl*

            Same! I stress out about my cat with them only because hers are allowed out and my nosy jerk is NOT ever and she will send me pics all day long of him enjoying life with grandma. Now my dog I never worry about. He’s litter mates with hers and basically grew up with them. He’s always just fine but the kitty requires updates and I still worry about him.

      2. sofar*

        OMG my husband and I did the same — for a friend’s cat. We didn’t remember until the last day of our friend’s vacation. I’ve never been so relieved to open a door and see a LIVE cat (cranky, but alive). The litter box was a mess, and the cat was very hungry (I assume she drank toilet water). We fed the cat and cleaned up. We went to a pet store and bought the cat all kinds of toys and treats.

        We had agreed to cat sit about a month in advance and both forgot to put it on our calendars. Our friend did not remind us (we already had a key to her house) and didn’t check in while she was away.

        We of course told our friend everything, and she was mad at us, or course. Luckily, she’d put a lot of extra food in the cat’s bowl, knowing the kitty liked to graze. So, the cat survived. The friendship went on hiatus for a while.

        I guess the lesson for pet owners is: If you have someone pet sitting, check in frequently and follow up about important details, like medication/special food.

        1. kc89*

          man I really can’t blame you when you agreed a MONTH in advance and they never followed up with you??? that’s crazy to me

          1. catwoman2965*

            I agree. I pet sit for several co-workers/friends and non-work friends. I’m always on top of things, maybe to the point of being a bit anal, but i would never in a million years forget an animal I’m supposed to be watching! and if someone asked me, but never followed up, I’d be bugging THEM

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          My brother watched my sister’s animals years ago, I think for just a weekend. He didn’t forget, but he put the dog’s food in the cat’s bowl and vice versa. When my sister came home, the dog was very hungry. The dog knew he wasn’t supposed to eat the cat’s food, even when the cat ate his, and “mom, please feed me!”

        3. Artemesia*

          You are a better person than me; I would not have mentioned it once the cat was fed, cleaned up and thankfully alive.

      3. AnotherAlison*

        Seems like this thread is evidence that one should hire a professional pet sitter, especially in a case like the OP’s where the animals need special care. I had a neighbor mess up my dog sitting with a previous dog, which resulted in extensive scratches on 3 door jambs and several doors of our 1 year old house and a lot of poop in my son’s room. Most people don’t want to do this for other people, but it doesn’t seem THAT bad, and we want to help, so we agree. (Of course, there are horror stories about kennels, but at least there’s some recourse other than being furious with a friend, neighbor, relative, or colleague.)

        1. xarcady*

          This thread is why I have found a very nice kennel and I take my cats there if I’m going away longer than over night.

          They let the cats out to play daily. On Thanksgiving, they cook the dogs a whole turkey. And there are toys everywhere. They even have a room set up for someone to sleep over in, if there’s a bad blizzard forecast, so that no one has to drive in really bad weather conditions and also so the pets are taken care off. I have friends who are a bit miffed because their dog seems to love it there so much.

          1. TC*

            When I moved, I was so bummed out to lose my favourite (not my cat’s favourite) kennel. They were a big part his life for us — they were the ones that tipped us off about his thyroid condition. I tried to find a good cattery in my new city, but the one I found was quite abysmal for cats and it seems petsitters are the norm here.

            1. valentine*

              I have friends who are a bit miffed because their dog seems to love it there so much.
              This is wild. I would expect them to treasure anyone who loves their furbaby as they do.

        2. SierraSkiing*

          Yepp. Not everyone can afford a professional pet sitter, but for me the money is worth EVERY DOLLAR. I can give him the exact care instructions for my pets without worrying that it will be “too much” (if it is, he can just ask me to pay him more). Because he’s an experienced pro, I know that if something went wrong or the cats showed some sign of being sick or injured, he’d know what to do. Also, he sends me pictures of the cats every time he visits, so I know they’re all doing well. The cats are happy (our shy cat who hates almost everyone actually loves this petsitter), I have a worry-free trip, and I know that if there was ever an issue, I could talk to him about it without having it wreck a personal relationship.

          1. valentine*

            While OP knows their boss, who failed at attention to detail, who’s to say if he could corral a cat who wants to leave while another animal is trying to get in or barking, and whether he’s able to leash or walk the dogs properly? I don’t imagine petsitters do dress rehearsals.

            OP: In future, secure backup and secondary backup petsitters. Four animals is a lot and, while, on paper, the corralling and feeding seem doable, I can see where a body could be easily overwhelmed.

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          You just really don’t know what to trust these days. There was recently an incident on the news here where a guy hired a petsitter through one of those referral websites and the guy threw the dog off the roof. Another incident was on the news just today about a petgroomer that beat a dog, on camera. It’s like how do you even know the person is thoroughly vetted?
          I’d say stick to someone you know, but now I see here that’s not even full proof.

          1. pancakes*

            The answer is pretty simple: A friend, ideally a close friend. “Someone you know” is merely an acquaintance.

          2. Emily K*

            In my opinion the best option is a good friend who has the same kind of pet you do, so they will need instructions on how your specific pet should be cared for, but the general principles of caring for that type of pet will be second nature to them. In an ideal world, they would also live reasonably close to you.

            A good friend of mine with two beloved cats of her own comes by to care for mine when I have to travel. Since lives pretty close by, she usually stays and hangs out for a while to dote on them and play with them, and she sends me photo texts every day. I trust her completely with them because she’s as much a cat person as I am, and she knows my cats well.

        4. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

          Years and years back, my boyfriend and I did hire a pro pet sitter. A police officer who had her own side job doing this. We felt safe – of course. Left her with our Dauchsand and three cats. Came back after 10 days to find the …. person… had taken our dog home with her and left the cats to fend for themselves. One of them was outside when we got home. We came back just a bit early, and guess who rolled up shortly before we were due to arrive?? WITH Skippy the dog. Talk about mad!!!

        5. gmg22*

          To keep it as affordable as possible, I use a combo of paid-professional and free-friend cat-sitting. For my friends (most of whom are also cat owners, so they know what they’re doing), I ALWAYS send reminder texts or FB messages because I get it, life is crazy. My pro sitter is awesome and well worth the splurge, in part because she does the reminding — checking in with me the day before I leave to confirm, and then every day while I’m away with a “proof of life” text and cute photos of the kitties. I do put fairly detailed instructions tacked up on the kitchen wall, again because you never know. One of my friends has two cats, so they always split a can of food at every meal — and as a result, she didn’t seem to be aware that a half-full can should be stored in the refrigerator. (Yep, really.)

          For anything where I’m gone for more than a week — and by that I mean in the 8-9-day range or longer — the cats get to enjoy “grammy time” at my mom’s house. Transporting them isn’t the most fun (Mom lives a little over an hour’s drive from me), but it’s worth it to know someone is with them and I’m not having to coordinate large numbers of days of cat-sitting.

        6. I’m actually a squid*

          We’ve been fortunate with getting great sitters through referrals but it’s still nerve-wracking. Fortunately we have a nosy neighbor as well as a good friend two streets away and between those two safeguards and the high recommendations from a good friend I only worried most of our last trip about our three cats. I’m still getting a couple cameras before the next trip, though.

      4. Diamond*

        I did this too! I had a friend who left town now and then and would usually ask me to feed her bunny. One time I completely forgot I was supposed to care for the bunny that weekend. I had the horrified realisation on the Sunday, and sprinted over her there before my friend got home. Honestly one of the worst stomach-dropping moments of my life. Thank god the bunny was alive. It had straw in the cage so would have been able to eat that, but it was the water situation I was worried about. Poor bunny was so thirsty. My friend never found out and on subsequent occasions I always put bunny reminders in my phone to go off every day!

        I swear I really do love animals, but glitchy human brains + casual arrangements = important stuff forgotten.

    2. CRM*

      That is terrible! I used to pet-sit regularly as a side-hustle, and I would have nightmares that I accidentally got the dates wrong and the animals were neglected. Thankfully that never happened, but I would have been horrified and devastated if it had.

        1. irritable vowel*

          Both my husband and I have recurring dreams that we’ve forgotten we were supposed to be caring for our respective parents’ pets (this is not something I’ve ever done in real life because I moved far away from my hometown). So, it may just be a fairly common manifestation of anxiety/parental guilt/etc.

        2. LQ*

          I dog sit for my aunt and the dog comes to my house so it’s impossible to forget her stinky breath wake up call. But I Still have those nightmares!

      1. LMnoPeterson*

        We have a sweet but high-maintenance kitty who cannot sleep alone so we have a house (but really cat) sitter who stays at our place. Our guy can be gone 16 hours a day but needs to feed Oliver 2x and sleep at our place. While I schedule in advance, I always send a calendar event/reminder so we all have the dates marked on our calendar and no one forgets. It sounds like more people should do this ;-D

      2. catwoman2965*

        Me too! i guess it just shows that we really care about the animals in our charge :) I have three upcoming dogsitting jobs within the next two months. I’m already thinking ahead as two are brand new to me

      3. Pommette!*

        In my early teens, I used to pet-sit our neighbour’s cat while he went away on long (3-4 weeks at a time) trips. I was not a very responsible kid, and would sometimes miss a day, or even two. The cat was a grazer and there was always food and water left when I got there but I felt bad about it (as well I should!).

        To this day, I have the occasional nightmare where I realize that I forgot to feed Maxine, that it’s been weeks and that she’s probably dead. It’s a lot like the generic “I forgot to study for this exam and also why am I naked at school” nightmare, with an added dash of guilt. (Now that I am an adult and have cats of my own, I realize that I did a generally poor job of caring for that cat, and feel bad about it. I didn’t understand that cats need company and attention, not just food and water!)

        1. Artemesia*

          I have those dreams but it is a baby I have forgotten I need to feed; I raised two kids without forgetting to feed them and have cared for the grandkids without failing to feed them — seems like one of the archetypal dreams of anxiety like the naked at work or unprepared for class (both teachers and students have those).

      4. Pet sitter*

        I’ve had this nightmare too! I’ve never forgotten but I’ve had to talk myself into remembering that the gig was later in the week or the next month, and there wasn’t a poor dog or cat waiting for me.

      5. poodleoodle*

        I also used to petsit but generally the dogs were at my house which made it easier…you can’t forget a dog if he’s in your house!

        The times I went to the person’s house, generally a coworker or friend, I went to their house generally a day or two before they left for a memory refresher of what they needed me to do and where stuff was. There was definitely a time or two when I booked a job and there was no further communication until they showed up with their dog, so I can kinda see it happening where you forget after a month or so of agreeing with no followup. I ended up just putting everything on a calendar including if it was in home visits or the dog coming to my house.

    3. anonforthis*

      I had a coworker exactly like that. Loooooved animals, so so much. I can list you all the pets who died of old age or other natural causes in his care: .

      Yup, zero. As for animals that died from negligence or had to be given away, I know of two cats (acquired as kittens, naturally), one bird, and a lizard. He also had the audacity to complain about the cat who had died years later in his friend’s care because he supposedly would have taken better care of it. You know, the cat that his friend took as a favor when it turned out that his wife didn’t like the second kitten any better than the first she made him give away.

      Love without responsibility is often just abuse.

      1. Botanist*

        “love without responsibility is often just abuse.” That might be the most profound thing I read this week.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        I have a cousin-in-law like this. “Loves” all animals! Just temporarily. She’s gone through so many animals – thankfully, she gives them away before she manages to harm them too much, but good lord. How many cats do you have to take in from a shelter and give away a few months later because “you just don’t have time for it” or whatever other excuse before you come to the conclusion that maybe your life, your circumstance, etc just aren’t meant for cats/bearded dragons/dogs/birds/etc?

        1. NewJobWendy*

          This is why I have nightmares about getting a dog. I don’t want a dog: my husband does. But I don’t think he really wants to deal with the reality of having a dog, because the way we live our life would have to drastically change. Thankfully we have two cats and so are at the pet limit for our apartment so I can kick the can down the road awhile, but I know once we get around to buying a house a dog is going to follow.

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          This ‘people who purport to love animals but then neglect them’ thing weirds me out. I mean, even my godfather – self-confessed animal apathetic – makes an excellent cat-sitter. He doesn’t *like* the cat, but he used to pop over once a day to feed him, scoop the poop and give him a perfunctory pat if my folks were away. Of course, now that the cat has a lot of medical issues he goes to a good cattery instead.

          tl;dr: It’s shameful that my godfather who doesn’t like animals makes a better pet-sitter than some “animal lovers.”

        3. Qosanchia*

          This is why I don’t own pets. I absolutely love being around non-human animals, and most of the friends’ pets I’ve known are fond of me, but I know I’m not responsible enough to care for something for more than a few days.

        4. tangerineRose*

          I love German Shepherd dogs, but I don’t have time or (sometimes) energy for them (many of them need a LOT of both), so I don’t have a dog.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            I hear you. I love dogs (although my personal taste runs to the tiny ones), but I know that I am too darned lazy to take a dog for regular walks, among other things. So I resist the temptation and stick to cats (which I fortunately also love).

      3. MJ*

        Had a coworker who “loved” all the animals, but had a trail of abandoned animals behind them when they moved on to the next cute one.

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      A friend of mine I asked to check on my cat did the same thing. Nothing for an entire week, and then only when I specifically asked her how the cat was doing did she admit that she hadn’t been, and had in fact forgotten my address (!!!!)

      That friend is never catsitting for me again, and even years later (and that cat no longer alive) I am still furious about it.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          She eventually did make it out to my place, but not until the hairballs had had a chance to sit around and stain the carpeting, and the litterbox got horrid enough that my cat stopped using it.

    5. AKchic*

      Like I tell a lot of people… “you love the *idea* of animals, but you don’t actually love the responsibility that comes with them”.

      They are what I call “Abstract Animal Lovers”. They love only the cute, positive sides of animals. The cute or silly videos, the cuddling, the fun that they, themselves, can have with said creatures; but once any actual work or responsibility (or, let’s face it, money) is required, then they are lackluster at best.

      1. It’s a Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s SuperAnon!*

        My parents are like this. They LOVE my dogs. They love to visit us, they love to have them visit, they love to buys treats and presents and shower them with affection. But they get their fix, and then they are set for a few weeks. And this is a perfectly fine arrangement for everyone! They’re able to dog sit in a pinch for a long weekend, but waking up early every morning to walk them does not mesh with their retirement schedule.

        1. MM*

          I’m like this. (Mqybe one day down the roads as I continue getting better at keeping my life organized, I could handle a cat, but for now I’m taking a cautious step with some nearly unkillable plants.) But the key is I KNOW this about myself and so limit myself to acting as a Cool Aunt for my friends’ pets, just as I will for their kids when they start having them.

        2. catwoman2965*

          This is me as well. I LOVE dogs and cats both. BUT while my apt complex allows pets, its not without a price. $500 non-refundable plus i think $40 a month EXTRA “pet rent” i already pay through the nose, so no. Plus i am just allergic enough to cats having one around 24/7 woudln’t be good, and a dog? well, i’m not home all that much. Gone 9+ hours a day for work, and i do not want the responsibility or cost of one. and its not fair to the dog to be alone all day.

          So as i dogsit for friends, pet all the dogs where my mom lives, and life is good.

        3. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          My mom loves her granddogs and grandcats. She also has made it clear that when their current cats saunter saucily off this mortal coil (which will be a long time, because she is a good pet owner) she will not be getting more of either. She knows she’s at the point where she won’t be as agile or limber, she doesn’t want to try to deal with animal issues on top of her and my dad’s health issues, and I think it is really the mark of a responsible person to know that they are not the home an animal needs right now.

      2. L. S. Cooper*

        I think that this concept applies to kids, too! Lots of people who love kids, but also…not really.

        1. BookishMiss*

          Yes, this. I love being on Team Aunt a million times more than I would even sort of like being part of Team Parent.

        2. Flower*

          Yeah I love kids, but I also like being able to give them back to their parents eventually (and it can be a while! I was a camp counselor for several summers). So until that changes I don’t really plan on having kids, and my partner is with me.

          Pets, on the other hand, I still debate on if I have enough time/space/etc for some of the types of pets I want, and for many have landed on “not right at this point in life but hopefully someday” and for others I’ve reached the “yeah I’m pretty sure I can responsibly care for that pet right now but not all the animals that fall into that category, so let’s pick one/a pair of that type to amuse each other.”

      3. SierraSkiing*

        Instagram is for those people. They can look at other people’s adorable puppies and kittens until their eyes bleed without ruining the health and happiness of an actual animal.

        1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          Or cat cafes! Last year for my birthday I paid $15 and sat in a room with 20 cats for an hour or so. All the cuddles and pets, none of the responsibility! Even going regularly would be cheaper than food/litter/vet bills.
          I’ve cat-sat and am good at it (but I lived in the apartment with the cats for the week, so no forgetting!), but I know that I’m not up to having that responsibility year-round. So I just visit my friends and cat cafes and am thinking of volunteering as a shelter dog-walker (unless someone invents a dog-cafe near me?), but those short-term things are soooo different than being wholly responsible for another living being.

          1. LunaLena*

            If you don’t have a cat cafe in your area, the local shelter would probably be thrilled to have you sit with their cats too! Cats love socializing and attention, and many shelters have rooms where cats are allowed to roam and play throughout the day. I was a volunteer dogwalker for one shelter years ago, and when I was done for the day I’d usually go over to the cat building and just sit there with the kitties for a few minutes before I went home.

            I also donate items to my local shelter now (usually brand-new toys and furniture that my cat has rejected, old towels and blankets, etc), and will often pop into the kitty rooms to play while I’m there.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I used to volunteer at a shelter doing the same thing. Definitely reach out to your local shelter and see what their volunteer program is like!

      4. I’m actually a squid*

        I feel that way about kids and dogs. Hence DH is snipped and we stick with cats (who I adore non-abstractly.)

    6. Former Help Desk Peon*

      My mom’s coworker pet sat our parakeet for a week. When we came back, it was a different bird. She was hoping we wouldn’t notice! She’d let our bird out of its cage to fly around her house, and someone opened the door. We never let non-bird people bird sit for us after that one.

      1. Jadelyn*


        Like the whole story is bad enough, but that instead of telling you, she got a new bird and just hoped you wouldn’t notice????? I am flabbergasted at that one.

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        That exact thing happened in one of James Herriot’s “All Creatures” books – only in his case, the bird needed a beak trim and died of fright or something in Herriot’s hand. The owner was a nearly blind elderly woman, so Herriot ran out to a pet shop and bought a replacement bird (budgie) hoping the old lady wouldn’t notice. She didn’t, but she *did* wonder why “Peter” was so much livelier and more talkative and attributed it to his beak trim.

    7. Wait I what*

      Thread makes me feel better about the time my friend thought I was catsitting and I had no idea that’s what was happening.

      I’ve watched her cat before, but not every time she’d travel. At the same time, I would occasionally do some freelance work from her house to get out of mine.

      Unless I blacked out the memory, what we did not discuss was that “Hey, I’m going out of town this weekend if you want to work from my place” is a request to watch her cat. It wasn’t until she texted me thanks for watching her cat that I realized there was this miscommunication. I’m thankful every day that it was just a weekend!

      1. eee*

        maybe i’m a bad cat mom, but when I had 2 healthy cats if I was going to be gone for the weekend I would just…leave them? With extra food and water and an extra catbox to use, but still. To me that’s the type of thing you CAN do with cats vs dogs! Sadly now one cat requires medicating every 12 hours so that is no longer an option for me.

        1. Wait I what*

          Oh that’s not a bad cat mom if they don’t get super anxious in your absence.

          This cat was on a wet food diet though :0

    8. Bowserkitty*

      I have a friend like this who was my 100% last resort after I came back and my baby’s water bowl was almost as dry as his food bowl. She seemed to love cats but when I was asked to watch hers one weekend (while she went off on some trip with her latest boyfriend of the year), I came into a nightmare setting. Her poor cat barely had any food left TOTAL and the litter box looked like it hadn’t been scooped for two months. (I later found out this was an accurate estimate.) I was so livid for this poor thing and tried to scoop the best I could and eventually stormed out. I called my mom and was half out the driveway when my mom persuaded me to stay and change the litterbox for the poor babe. (I just happened to have some fresh tubs in my trunk) I did it angrily but I felt so much better with peace of mind afterward, and gave the kitty lots of cuddles and even brought over my own groomer for the next time.

      I tried hard not to blow up at her (I blew up at other cat lady friends of mine instead, who were appalled) but I did eventually calm down and send her photos of the situation and HOW NOT TO CARE FOR A CAT and while she was mad at first, she realized she wasn’t doing her justice and the cat found a new home in the next few months.

      Long, sorry.

      It was hard enough confronting a close friend about this. I cannot imagine confronting a coworker or especially your boss, who you have to see almost everyday. At least with friends you can boundary cross and repair. Workplace, not so much.

  3. MuseumChick*

    UGH!!! I’m so pissed on your behave. It sounds like your boss probably just skimmed the instructions instead of actually reading them.

    I have no advice for how to processed except that, in a perfect world, any vet bills that result from this your boss should pay for.

    1. Dragoning*

      I agree. This would be much more of a mess if one of the pets died because of this, or if they require medical care. Because then you have to explain that you really do need the boss to pay (financially).

      I cannot even imagine what would have happened if he accidentally killed one of the pets outright. Dear lord.

          1. valentine*

            Presumably the cat was in the room to begin with, so it’s not even that boss forgot until the last minute and grabbed an to put in the room.

        1. Aphrodite*

          Yes. Alison, I almost never disagree with your advice but in this case I would blow all hell and screw the consequences. The boss would get screamed at. No one–absolutely no one!–would ever abuse my cats and get away with a polite inquiry. There is no career, no company, no references that would ever get above the safe care of my cats. I understand your answer but I disagree vehemently and loudly.

          1. live your truth*

            I mean, you can do whatever you want, but you have to understand that there will 100% be work related consequences from screaming at your boss, even if it just ruins your relationship.

            1. Wherehouse Politics*

              I’m confident anyone taking this route knows exactly what the consequences are. I’d totally burn it ( it meaning career/job) all down to verbally flame my boss had he harmed them.

              1. it's-a-me*

                I like the comment above that mentioned the staff member who referred to their coworker as ‘that bitch who killed my dog’ in every conversation after the fact. That would be my response, If you don’t care about the job you still don’t want to go out screaming because then you look like the crazy one. You want to go for the slow burn, and make sure that the person is remembered by their coworkers for years as ‘that bitch who killed someone’s pet’.

                1. it's-a-me*

                  valentine: Because my situation is that it wouldn’t hurt me, not really. And I sure as hell hope it hurts the person responsible for hurting my animals.

          2. Live and Learn*

            I disagree with Alison on this one too, but in a completely different way.
            The boss did a favor for the poster. Yes, he completely sucked at it, and I would never ask him again, but ultimately, it was a favor.
            The pets are the owners’ responsibility. We hope for the best when we leave our pets in other people’s hands, but ultimately, we’re taking a chance.
            Live and learn. The boss is not an option for future trips. But if you like your job, forget this ever happened, don’t mention it, and get on with life. There’s no point in finding out what happened, or insinuating that they did something bad. That will only cause negative feelings, resulting in a strained relationship.

              1. Live and Learn*

                I’m not blaming the victim. I’m being realistic. This is their BOSS! The boss screwed up and the poster will never choose them to pet sit again. O.k. What’s the point of going in and pointing out that the Boss sucks? To get fired? To prove a point? There is nothing positive that can come out of confronting the boss .

                1. Totally Minnie*

                  It’s not about proving a point or telling the boss he sucks. OP is seriously and rightfully upset about this. Whatever level of friendliness may have existed between OP and the boss before is not going to be there anymore. Telling the boss about the ramifications of the mistakes that happened while he was pet-sitting means that when OP decides to keep things entirely professional from here on out, boss knows why.

                2. valentine*

                  His reaction and explanation may mitigate the harm he’s done to OP.

                  If the horse-murdering boss had run out and said, “Your vet called at x:00 because your horse is gravely ill. I completely forgot to tell you. I’m so sorry. Let me know if you need me to rush you over,” she would have felt better, perhaps loads better, than she did with the lie that he waited for her to get back to his building. “My brain is a sieve,” being more relatable and not needlessly cruel, does less damage than “I, someone whose work involves horses, couldn’t be arsed to walk outside to notify you of a surgery-or-death emergency with your beloved horse.”

            1. Kate R*

              “The pets are the owners’ responsibility. We hope for the best when we leave our pets in other people’s hands, but ultimately, we’re taking a chance.”

              The owner *was* responsible by making arrangements for the pets while she went out of town, particularly when she was having a trusted friend with prior experience look after them. The boss took over that responsibility when he offered to look after the pets, and personally, if I was in the OP’s shoes, I would have felt awkward telling my boss, “I trust my friend/coworker to watch my pets, but not you.” Believing someone when they say they will do something is more than just “hoping for the best”. The boss made a commitment and then broke it by not following the instructions. I agree that it’s probably in the OP’s best interest not to start a huge conflict with her boss over this, but the boss proposed this plan B and then didn’t follow through. A favor done badly is no favor at all.

              1. Jadelyn*

                “A favor done badly is no favor at all.”

                Gods, I wish more people understood that. “But I was just trying to help, you can’t be upset with me!” Yeah I can, cause you might have meant well but you actually made my life harder.

              2. Pommette!*

                Exactly. Boss could have said no. The LW would have hired a pet-sitter, the pets would have been cared for appropriately, and there would be nothing to write about.

                When you can’t or won’t do something right, you shouldn’t commit to doing it. It’s awkward and might make you look bad, but ultimately the right thing to do. It’s not a fun lesson to learn, but it’s one you should learn by the time you have enough experience to be someone’s boss.

              3. Beth*

                Exactly! It’s one thing to question whether it’s worth throwing a massive fit over this–that could mess with OP’s career, and assuming OP is already planning on never allowing Boss to petsit again, won’t really accomplish anything useful.

                But blaming OP for not being responsible enough is going wayyyy too far. OP did do the responsible thing–they found a petsitter they (assumedly) trusted, left detailed written instructions, made sure in advance that their petsitter knew how to cover medical needs like shots, etc. It’s not their fault that their petsitter, who willingly committed to doing this stuff, decided to put their animals at risk instead. They’ve got every right to feel betrayed and furious–the only question is how it will be most useful to act on those feelings.

            2. designbot*

              No, the boss said he was going to do the LW a favor, and then neglected to actually do it. What that would warrant from me is a complete lack of trust that boss would ever do what they say they’ll do again. They’re now firmly in believe-it-when-I-see-it territory for everything from following up with a client to giving me a raise. This person’s word is garbage.

            3. Ellen N.*

              I agree with you. As these pets have a lot of particular needs, the letter writer should only trust a professional with their care. A vet tech would be a good choice.

              1. Totally Minnie*

                But the OP already had a pet-sitter who was capable of dealing with their pets’ needs. Boss only took over because he assigned the original pet-sitter to a business trip at the last minute. The boss OFFERED to take over and promised that he was up to the task. It’s not in any way OP’s fault that they believed their boss’s assurances.

                1. pancakes*

                  Good point, and it would’ve been very awkward and strange to not believe the boss in that scenario. “Listen, So-and-so won’t be able to pet-sit for you because I need him to go to such-and-such conference. I’ll look after the pets.”
                  “No, I don’t believe you, I’ll have to hire someone” — who would’ve responded that way? Absent some particular reason?

            4. Zillah*

              That will only cause negative feelings, resulting in a strained relationship.

              There are already negative feelings, and the relationship is already strained.

            5. Someone Else*

              Except the boss didn’t do the favor. The other coworker agreed to do the favor. The boss then messed up that favor by sending the other coworker away in the middle of the job, and thus assuming the job for the person trusted to do it (who’d done it before successfully). The boss caused the situation that resulted in the boss being there AND fucked up the instructions.

            6. pancakes*

              They did do something bad: they nearly killed several animals. That the pet-sitting was done as a favor / uncompensated is no excuse whatsoever, and if the relationship were to be strained by following Alison’s script, that’s fine. The boss isn’t at all entitled to have this very serious incident ignored.

          3. Jadelyn*

            I’d be looking for another job already, bc I know myself and I know I wouldn’t be able to be civil with my boss ever again after that.

          4. SierraSkiing*

            The thing is, yelling won’t actually make the pets healthier or safer. LW is already planning on never, ever letting the boss cat sit again, so what can she actually get by yelling? Emotional release and a fast track for unemployment? I can understand the temptation to yell, but Alison’s advice is prudent.

            1. BananaPants*

              I agree. Yelling at and/or “going after” one’s manager might feel satisfying but is likely to result in being terminated for cause, which means the LW won’t get unemployment benefits and will burn bridges on references. Those of us who actually need our jobs to pay the bills would likely just be silently pissed and resolve to never trust the boss on a personal favor again.

          5. High-maintenance-dog owner*

            I’d feel the same way internally, but find stable income is helpful in caring for my dogs, especially the one with chronic spine issues.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          My life revolves around my dog. If she were harmed in someone’s care, I would never, ever, ever forgive them.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I think that the serious and not freaking-out conversation has to happen … and then we can all hope that the boss’s jaw drops and the shame/guilt can kick in for boss to offer to pay for any expenses that would be appropriate.

      And if that normal good-human response doesn’t kick in, then a withering sigh and an updated resume can be implemented.

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Honestly, if there are any bills — cleaning or vet — I think the OP can, calmly, bring them up. “I’m not sure where the miscommunication occurred, since we labelled and left written instructions for everything, but XYZ happened to our pets. I want to let you know we took Bishop to the vet, since she has signs that she didn’t receive her special diet, and that cost $X amount. Also, since the cat was locked out of the room with her litter box, and the dog was locked in the room without pee pads, it cost $X amount to have carpets/floor cleaned,” and then just go quiet and wait…I don’t normally advocate any sort of passive aggressiveness, but just mentioning that there were damages might…inspire…the boss to take responsibility.

      God I hope you haven’t agreed to pay the boss any sort of pet sitting fee — ’cause that’s a straight NOPE. I’d be cold as hell to the boss while I looked for a new job.

  4. Foreign Octopus*

    This is my worst nightmare. I’ve only left my cat once and that was with my parents who fell head over heels for her and spoilt her rotten, so I was fortunate, but I still worried whilst I was away.

    I wish you could blow up at your boss, I really do, but I totally get why you can’t. The best thing to do is plan what you’re going to say to him in advance so you have time to practice it in a calm voice. If you go in with a plan, then you’re less likely to lose your temper.

    And in the future, it sounds like your co-worker is great at looking after your animals and this was a one-off with the boss but it might be useful to scout out pet sitting companies so, if it does happen again and boss offers (eugh), you can tell Bob that pet sitting company will take over.

    This sucks.

    1. That One Person*

      Even without all the health issues I feel like I’d be very stingy who I trusted to take care of my pets, and would definitely recommend having a backup pet sitter for such occasions. Heck there’s some nice priced folk who do a good job on some of those apps/websites and some who’ll denote if they can handle things like medications. It’s a very unfortunate lesson to learn that I really wish OP and her family didn’t have to go through, but definitely don’t trust those lovelies to just anyone.

      Gods knows I would have to take an extra day so I don’t explode at my boss if this were the case. “I’m sorry I cannot come into work today I really need to take care of some health issues first.” Fits for both fits of rage/emotional pain AND your pets’ health.

      1. Rainy*

        Just as an FYI…Don’t use the petsitting broker website that rhymes with Shag. The stories I’m hearing are appalling. Shag does no checking on their “vendors” and people’s pets have been killed either directly or through neglect by Shag vendors, and the owners have absolutely no recourse due to the terms.

          1. gmg22*

            The company in question was in the news this week, I think as the subject of a lawsuit by a family whose dog was killed due to alleged pet-sitter negligence (dog was hit by a car during a walk). The story I read suggested there were some troubling trends re how the company responds to these types of incidents.

        1. Anecdotal*

          I’ve used that app at least a dozen times and have never had an issue. As someone who applied to walk for them, I will agree that they don’t check on their vendors nor do they do any background checking, but I’ve never had an issue having my dog walked by one of them.

      2. Bubbleon*

        +1 to backup sitters. I’ve left my pup with a few sitters overnight while I’m at home so I could see how they might do for longer trips and we’ve found a family we absolutely love through a petsitting site. They’re so reasonably priced and love my dog so much that they’re my first choice now and I actually use friends/family as the backup so I don’t feel like I’m bothering them for help too often.

    2. cat socks*

      This is my worst nightmare too. I’m so sorry this happened to you, OP.

      Another backup option is to board at the vet. I know it can be expensive, but maybe check out some places in case you need a backup. I was lucky to find a cats only vet in my area.

      Unfortunately one of my cats did pass away when I was on vacation, but he had a bad heart. This was my first time using my new pet sitters, and they handled the situation in a very compassionate manner. I found them through my neighborhood Nextdoor site. I’m so thankful to have found trustworthy people to take care of my kitties.

      1. Sister Spooky*

        Our pup (since crossed the rainbow bridge) had a major medical crisis while we were in vacay (collapsed trachea). She was with our close friends who are dog fanatics and take absolutely impeccable care of their own three dogs. We knew for certain that it wasn’t their level of care that caused it, just poor timing, and that did bring some peace of mind. The pup did survive and lived another year.

      2. char*

        Yeah, boarding at the vet is a good idea for pets with specific medical needs.

        The one time wehad a pet with a medical condition and didn’t board at the vet, we regretted it. We were only away for three days, but apparently the neighbors lost the key after the first day, forgot that we told them another key was hidden outside, and never bothered to contact us about it. When we got home the water bowl was bone dry and the diabetic cat had been without his insulin for two days. Never again.

    3. Jadelyn*

      I hear you on the worrying no matter what. My mom and I take care of each other’s cats when we travel, and we always send each other pics daily to help keep the other from worrying, bc we’re both worriers by nature.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Oh, OP, I’m so sorry. This is insane, and I would be livid. It sounds like not only did boss screw up, he may have just not shown up for all of the 3 days. I agree with Alison that having a Very Concerned Conversation is the way to go, and if you can control your tone (I wouldn’t be able to), you may include a Very Stern Tone in Response. This is appalling, and all I can do is offer my empathy.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      The zero water thing makes me think he didn’t even bother. Well maybe one time in order to get the wrong pets in the wrong rooms.
      I see it thusly…
      1. Coworker was going to pet sit but Boss wanted him to do X.
      2. Boss said *he* would do it just so Coworker had no ‘prior commitment’ reason to not do what Boss wanted.
      3. Boss shrugged and figured “fuck it” and didn’t follow through.

      1. Rainy*

        Also probably Boss has no pets.

        I once had a friend from grad school petsit for my old cat while I was out of the country for 3 weeks, and while she quote-unquote loved cats, when I got home I don’t think his box had been scooped the whole time I was gone. She loved cats but she didn’t have any, and despite my emphatic statement that scooping the box was JUST AS IMPORTANT as food and water, I don’t think she believed me. I find that especially for cats, if people don’t have cats sometimes they just, like, don’t understand that emptying the pet is equally as important to filling the pet! :)

        1. ContentWrangler*

          The OP mentions that the boss has pets which makes this level of neglect even more baffling. But also, even if you’ve never owned a pet in your life, you have to be a special kind of obtuse to not give living creatures any water.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            To be fair, I have a sinking suspicion that the boss’s partner/spouse/kids takes care of the pets and then he just plays with them from time to time.

            My dad has never nearly killed any animals, thankfully but he does need reminders to do things that are second nature to those who are the regular caregivers. He also gets daily if not twice daily check-ins [not because he needs that much hand-holding, it’s more my mom’s hangup there but it makes her feel better because she stresses out about her pets naturally]. so he hasn’t had the chance to be left on his own truly and therefore the cats and dogs are safe from neglect.

        2. Octopus*

          I’m still so relieved whenever I hear people talk about how often cat litterboxes need to be tended to. I had a roommate with a cat and she only emptied the litterbox like, once a month maybe? With no scooping inbetween. I moved out.

          1. pancakes*

            Ugh, that poor cat. I’ll never understand why people who can’t be bothered to care for animals want to have them in the first place.

          2. Rainy*

            We’ve been able to get a little lazy now that our old cat has died and we’re down to 1 cat and 3 boxes (correct box equation is n+1 where n = number of cats OR 1 box per story of residence, whichever is greater, also remember the law of conservation of catboxes which is that catboxes can be created but never removed) but we still scoop very regularly. We just don’t have to scoop all boxes twice daily anymore (our old cat might as well have been wearing white gloves–he was extremely fastidious about his boxes).

      2. Arctic*

        It appears that the dog was getting his insulin. And someone was feeding them (the cat ate the wrong food so food was being put out.)

      3. Beth Jacobs*

        Exactly! Like mixing up the pets or not administering medication correctly could be gross incompetence, which while baffling, would be explained by the boss as unintentional. But there’s absolutely no way in hell that you can think you are caring for a pet correctly without giving them water.

    2. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I’d say it would be totally okay for LW to be distracted and openly upset at work. To state (not request) the need to go home early to check on the poor things. To be honest when asked why.

      “Bishop (the black cat?) had medical needs that weren’t taken care of, and he was in very poor shape when I returned. All of my animals were seriously dehydrated, because their water bowls weren’t filled. I’m really concerned about all of them and very stressed and I need to check on them frequently for their health and my peace of mind.”

      Use the passive voice–don’t explicitly accuse him. But state facts, make him feel as bad as possible, and don’t feel the need to be discreet about it with other coworkers.

      1. fposte*

        I think it’s fine for her not to sweep it under the rug, but I also don’t think “make him feel as bad as possible” is a useful goal. And I think unless there’s a development that means the animals still need vet care, the distraction at work needs to be short-lived, same as it would be if the manager hadn’t been the one pet-sitting.

        If the OP really can’t work with the manager effectively because of this–which I’d understand–then she has to explore active options of moving. But expressing it in her demeanor and hoping that makes a point would just make her into a sulky employee, which hurts her and not anybody else.

      2. Liana*

        That’s a bad idea. This sort of passive aggressive crap is unhelpful and unprofessional. Being clear, direct and upfront about the situation, as per Alison’s advice, can help to clarify the situation, identify what went wrong, and potentially provide opportunities for the boss to apologise and rectify the damages to the extent possible. Your advice merely turns the OP into a sulky poor employee who doesn’t know how to handle difficult situations.

        For your sake, I hope this is not indicative of how you handle problems!

    3. Beth*

      This is my thought too. How else do you explain the total lack of water? Or not noticing the peeing on the floor due to lack of any other options? I suspect he came once, put them in the rooms, put a bunch of food out, and figured they’d be fine for 3 days and OP was being a worry wart with her instructions. (I know a lot of people think cats at least are fine to leave alone for two or three days–which may be true for some but definitely isn’t for all–so I wouldn’t be surprised to find that OP’s boss didn’t really take their needs seriously.)

  6. Sloan Kittering*

    This sucks, OP. Coming out of this I think it’s clear that depending on coworkers / boss to pet-sit (or babysit, or house-sit! MAYBE a plant that you’re not super attached to) isn’t a good plan moving forward. When I ask a friend to do it, I have to give them a back-up friend to call – or preferably, the number of a petsitting service I’ve used before – if something goes wrong and they can’t do it, because I know that it’s not their number one priority in life.

    1. MommyMD*

      Good plan. I have a couple of family members who will take great care of my pets. I always pay them, though they insist otherwise. If they are not available, I will board them with a vet. I also always leave a credit card should something go wrong. I leave out many pans of water in case of some kind of emergency.

      1. Rainy*

        Yeah, I’m the same way. I leave my card number on file with the vet and notes with the vet’s number and address at home, and then notify the vet of the dates I’ll be gone, the name of the person watching the pet, and how to reach me.

    2. JayorNay*

      I was shocked to read someone would let *their boss* watch their beloved pets. OP, I really think you crossed a boundary there. I know hindsight is 20/20, but when you heard your coworker wasn’t going to be able to keep their commitment for the entire week, you should’ve asked a friend/ neighbord/ pet-sitting service to cover. I think this is a factor in how stern you can be with your boss about this.
      That said, I really hope your pets will be ok! Lots of pet snuggles in the coming days I’m sure.

      1. Zillah*

        I’m not sure it’s really fair to put the boundary crossing on the OP the way you are; it doesn’t seem like they asked their boss, it seems like their boss proactively offered to help and deserves a lot of that blame, not to be let off the hook.

    3. smoke tree*

      Yeah, I’ve pet-sat for coworkers before, and it’s not great from the opposite angle either. In some cases it went fine, but one of my coworkers had some super anxious cats that tore the house up and left messes everywhere due to separation anxiety, and I felt really bad for them (and for myself due to all the extra cleaning). Obviously it’s not the cats’ fault, but I don’t really want to have to do these things for a coworker, or awkwardly explain why I didn’t want to cat-sit again.

  7. Black Bellamy*

    I know it makes it hard financially, but really the best thing is to never rely on or engage with people at work in any personal matters where if things go south, you will feel bad or angry.

    Like if you’re depending on someone to bring you a bagel, and they forget, it’s no big thing. If someone is going to the dry cleaners, you can ask them to pick something up for you as well. If they don’t, doesn’t matter.

    But if you’re depending on coworkers in a situation where a pet might die, or some other serious consequence can result, it’s really better to engage someone outside of work for that.

    1. MommyMD*

      Engage someone with pet medical experience. It’s too much for most friends or coworkers. More expensive yes, but necessary.

      1. fposte*

        I agree with this. Even with a single pet, I wouldn’t rely on a friend for insulin delivery, and with multiple pets and special needs thrown in, the risk of error from somebody who’s overfaced is just too great.

        Not that this helps the OP now, but I think special needs petsitting = pro.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          As someone with a hyperthyroid, allergic to red meat and fish cat, thirded. We traded cat care with a friend for years, but now that all the cats are older and need medicine multiple times / day, they’re boarded.

        2. SarahDances*

          Concur. Especially with oral medication. What a lot of people don’t understand is that while your pet may be perfectly content to take their meds when given by *you*, they may turn into a biting, hissing, yowling demon when I attempt the same thing because I AM NOT THEIR PERSON. Bonus points if you have done nothing to establish a “This is when you get your meds and then nice things happen to you afterwards” routine.

        3. Parenthetically*

          Yes, agreed, unfortunately. I’m sure it’s a pretty penny, but if OP can squirrel away a little fund for situations like this, I think it’d be worth it for her peace of mind.

      2. MissGirl*

        Yes, with this much care required, I would pay someone with experience to do it. Use a professional not a friend.

      3. Hold My Cosmo*

        Agreed. Just going by the description in the letter, these pets are complicated and should be boarded at the vet. (And I say that as someone who gave their cat daily subcutaneous fluids for two years, so I’m no stranger to high-maintenance animals.)

      4. Beth Jacobs*

        I agree in principle, but as for this specific situation: it’s clear that this wasn’t just an issue of boss not knowing how to administer the medication. Providing water is Living Beings 101.

    2. softcastle mccormick*

      I tend to agree, especially when a pet has a medical condition or is more “difficult” to care for than the average animal. For example, I’m comfortable asking a coworker to drop in on my cat for a day or two, as he needs nothing more than fresh food and a clean litter box, but my puppy is a completely different story, and needs to be boarded or cared for by a professional.

      This is absolutely despicable, though, and really unfortunate as I can tell the LW truly trusted their boss. I hope their pets are okay :/

      1. Blue*

        I once agreed to pet sit for a couple of days for a coworker/friend who had two cats and two dogs, one with special needs. It stressed me out immensely because I was so worried about doing something wrong and messing up the one dog’s health, and I swore off pet-sitting after that. (Unfortunately, the person who pet-sat for the second half of coworker’s vacation did the kind of job that OP describes here, and I was extremely concerned my coworker would think that I was somehow at fault, as well. She didn’t, but after that, they started boarding at least the more difficult pets, which was really for the best.)

        1. londonedit*

          I cat-sat for a neighbour for a couple of years and it absolutely stressed me out. I grew up with cats, so in theory it should have been fine, but this cat was really old and had some medical issues that required treatment. It was my job to pop in a couple of times a day and feed him, clean the litter tray, and give him medication. This was OK for the times when she was going away for a weekend and I just had to pop by for a couple of days, but there were a few occasions where she was away for a week or more, and that was really stressful. I had to make sure I got up early enough to go and see the cat before work, and then again be available to go over there in the evening every day too, all the time worrying that the cat would die on my watch (even though my neighbour was very understanding about the possibility of that happening!) The worst time was when said neighbour was away for two weeks, and couldn’t get a live-in catsitter to come and look after the cat, so she decided to split the responsibility between me and another friend of hers, except the friend could only commit to doing one of the weekends and half of the following week. Well, it was a nightmare trying to keep track of when I was meant to be feeding the cat, and I swear at one point I must have got the dates wrong as I went in one morning and the cat had no water and seemed really hungry. He was fine (he died of natural causes when my neighbour was thankfully home) but I felt absolutely awful.

          All of that huge essay is to say that it’s a huge responsibility looking after someone else’s pets, especially if they have extra needs on top of ‘just pop in and make sure they’ve got enough food’. OP’s boss did a terrible job, and OP absolutely has the right to be totally furious about it, but even as a cat-lover I really did wish my neighbour hadn’t asked me to be responsible for her cat.

      2. Psyche*

        Yeah. Pets with special needs should be cared for by professionals. There is too much potential for something to go wrong. Boss should have said no when he found out how complicated it was.

    3. anon for this*

      Yeah. This may be harsh, but I actually think it’s not fair to ask someone to petsit for an animal that has a medical condition they would need to look out for or give them meds for. It’s a lot more to ask than just watching them for a few days.

        1. Jennifer*

          And the OP accepted. I think Boss bears a good share of the blame just for not giving the animals water and blocking at least one from getting food but Anon is correct that this is a lot to expect from someone that is not a professional.

          1. Jennifer*

            To be clear, caring for multiple animals with special needs is a lot to expect, not simply giving them food and water.

              1. valentine*

                Boss went so far as to demonstrate he could give the dog his insulin. It would’ve been especially hard to reject Boss after that.

          2. CommanderBanana*

            I certainly agree, and I would not be comfortable leaving my dog in anyone’s care that I didn’t know FOR SURE could take care of her as well as I could (which is like, literally cooking her food every night and constant snuggles. Yes, she is spoiled, yes, I am a total Dog Mom) and I definitely would not leave an animal that needed regular meds or injections with someone who did not have experience with that. Hell, my partner lives with me and we adopted the dog together and I still am persnickety about them single parenting while I’m gone and insist in daily updates and pictures.

            But the Boss still offered and had an obligation that they offered to take on and didn’t fulfill, and they suck, and this is definitely a lesson learned for LW. Four animals (if I got the count right) that need special diets, etc. is a big responsibility.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              We left the dog for ONE overnight with my mom in our house, and she stayed over and fed and walked the dog, and the dog still spent the entire time buried in our bed moping and refused to poop until I got home to walk her, because reasons. And when one of us is gone overnight, she’s really clingy with whoever is there, and this is not a dog that has separation anxiety – she just knows Her People and doesn’t want us to be separate from her for too long.

            2. anon for this*

              I’m wondering if the boss felt guilty because he made the decision for OP’s normal animal sitter coworker to go out of town, and felt like he had to step in and try to help.

              Or maybe he didn’t realize how much responsibility it was. From the letter it sounds like he knew he had to give the dog a shot, but was given all the other instructions day of, which if that is the case, that’s really not fair and he had no way to back out at that point.

              To be honest, if I said I’d petsit and then someone explained all the extra stuff I’d need to do, I’d feel really guilty backing out, especially if it was last minute.

              1. valentine*

                But safety is a great and, I think, less resistant, reason to back out at any time. Maybe you can hang with a three-year-old, but not a surprise three-month-old. They…can’t reasonably insist that you promised when they complicated the terms and set them beyond you. Think of it as a twisted ankle meaning you can’t take pets for walks, chase them down, or climbs stairs.

            3. Zillah*

              I agree with you. Going forward, sure, there are some things OP will probably do differently, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to give the boss anything resembling a free pass on this. He volunteered knowing there were four pets and that those pets had special needs; not living up to the responsibility absolutely makes him a jerk.

            4. motherofdragons*

              Also, as far as OP knows, only one of the animals is experiencing issues due to their special needs (the cat who was allowed to get into the other pet’s food)…but that happened because Boss didn’t follow the instruction to “Leave the cat shut into the other room,” not because he failed to follow a complex medical protocol. The rest of the animals had issues with the basics: dehydration and having to pee all over the floor while trapped. As far as we know, the boss’ failures were NOT around failing to follow special diets or failing to administer the correct medication. It was basic pet-sitting stuff.

    4. EddieSherbert*

      Agreed. We learned the hard way as well (someone totally forgot to let our poor dog out) to just go through an agency and pay for a legitimate pet sitter / walker / whatever.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      That’s what I thought, also. I think one or two small mistakes is to be expected, such as leaving the bathroom door open when it should be closed or similar smaller issue. But it seems that this guy did not even show up.

  8. MommyMD*

    A diabetic dog on insulin or a hypo thyroid cat needs to be boarded at a vet office. It’s too much for a lay person to deal with, no matter the circumstance. Your boss certainly messed up but you have some responsibility here too. I would go back to work, not complain, and know in the future that most lay people are not up to this task. You are used to it, but it’s a complex task to care for sick animals. Boarding is costly but worth it. I hope your babies all recover quickly.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I was thinking the same thing. If I had more than 1 pet that needed special care, I would never rely on anyone other than a professional to take care of them while I was away. That’s a lot of responsibility on someone who isn’t used to it.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You can also hire professional pet sitters with experience doing shots, pills, etc. Sometimes some of the techs at your vet’s office will do that on the side, or you can find a local pet sitting agency. I like using an agency because if for some reason the assigned person can’t show up, they have other trained people they will send.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        How does this work? Do you leave the agency the keys to your house, and are they trustworthy enough to do that?

        Honestly asking because this has been an issue for me. Among our pets are an old sick cat and a dog with … personality issues.

        1. Dragoning*

          Some agencies will take your keys, some will ask you to leave it somewhere the sitter can grab it (under a doormat or what have you) and they return it there or leave it inside. Or tell them the garage door code, etc, etc.

          Some agencies are more trustworthy than others, of course–definitely check reviews.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The agency that I use has you give them two copies of your key: one for the sitter to have, and one for them to keep in their office in case they need to send someone other than the original sitter (or, I assume, as a back-up in case the first set is misplaced; obviously they don’t want to lose your keys, but people are human and they want to be sure they can access your pets no matter what, which I think is good). Their sitters all have background checks, etc. and you meet your assigned sitter beforehand so you know who’s coming into your house. They’ll also text or email you a note each time they come, if you ask them to, with little updates on how the animals are doing.

          I use two things as back-ups: the indoor cameras mentioned in the post (I warn the sitter about them ahead of time so they don’t think I’m creepily spying on them), and our alarm system’s online history report, which logs every time the door is opened and shut, so I can see exactly when they came and how long they stayed. There’s never been a problem, but I like having that confirmation that they were there today and that they stayed longer than three minutes.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            I used a similar agency the last time I traveled, and it was really great for my peace of mind. I don’t have the nanny cams (although those sound tempting!) but my sitter checked in and out each visit, sent pictures of my cat each day, checked off specific completed tasks — fed, watered, administered medication — and also provided freeform notes on my cat’s behavior.

            It wasn’t cheap (the bill came to about $400 for not quite two weeks) but the peace of mind was great.

          2. cat socks*

            We use Arlo for indoor cameras and our pet sitters are aware of them. I also use them to check in on the cats sometimes when I’m at work.

            With our security system, they are given their own PIN to unlock the front door.

          3. HannahC*

            I think the idea of the indoor camera is a good one. I’d just say to make sure you warn the sitter – not only so they don’t think you’re a creepy spy but also because there are legal ramifications depending on your state! Recording video alone is also different (legally speaking) from recording video with audio so I’d recommend making sure your familiar with what your state or country’s laws are around that and what steps you need to take to make sure you’re monitoring your pets in a legal way with regard to the sitters you’ve hired.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              We always warn them and explain we use them to watch the cats! (They’re at cat level anyway.) I think it would be creepy to discover cameras if you didn’t know they were there.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                Do you ever just randomly watch the kitty cams when you’re out and about somewhere that’s not out of town?

                1. Dorothy Zbornak*

                  I have a coworker who watches her kitty cam at work while her husband is home. She just likes seeing what the cat is up to (which is usually just sleeping).

                2. Emelle*

                  My security camera is set up to watch the front door, but I can see roughly half of my daughter’s fish tank. If it has been a rough day, I do open the app to watch Dr Fish swim around without a care in the world.

                3. Electric Sheep*

                  Emelle, I am completely charmed by Dr Fish’s name.

                  My city used to have a community tv channel which didn’t have 24 hour programming, and when they weren’t broadcasting shows overnight they would show ‘fish cam’, which was literally a camera pointed at a fish tank. It was actually pretty relaxing.

            2. CommanderBanana*

              We have one and I’m glad we do – the first few times the walker came in I watched them and once they didn’t put our pup’s harness on, they just attached her leash to her collar, which I’m not okay with.

          4. nonegiven*

            My son has the alarm that messages him when the pet sitter comes and goes. He can give them their own alarm code to use. The sitter always gives a report about the cats, which one came out to play, which one stayed under the bed watching, etc. Part of the routine is to lay eyes on each pet, even if they won’t come out. They wash the cat food dishes from the previous day and leave them in a drainer.
            If one was on meds, he’d board the cats, instead.

            He won’t use cameras, though. He’s paranoid about cameras because he knows how easy they are to hack.

            1. Mack*

              A lot of cameras sold for this kind of use are very easy to hack, but there’s another option! Set up a laptop with a built-in webcam and start a video call (Google Hangouts is free and is what I use) from that.

          5. ag47*

            We also use indoor pet cams (we have dogs) when we’re away. Mostly so if we come home to a mess we know which dog to blame :) But I’m also super paranoid when we travel, so I also like the confirmation that someone is looking after them. The cameras definitely give us real peace of mind when we travel.

            We leave the cameras on if it’s just a sitter popping by to walk them. If we’re away and have someone house sitting, we turn them off and rely on the alarm door open/door close record to know that someone made it to the house.

        3. Jam Today*

          Yup, I’ve worked with two pet sitting agencies — both bonded and insured — and I’ve just given them copies of my keys. They said it was up to me whether I wanted them to keep a copy of my key or have them return it each time, but I was traveling so frequently that it just made sense for them to have a copy on hand.

      2. Snark*

        My parents did the same thing when they had to travel and their elderly golden retriever wasn’t doing well.

      3. Damn it, Hardison!*

        My vet’s office has a list of people that they recommend for pet sitting, including doing pills, etc. That’s how I found my pet sitter, who takes excellent care of my geriatric cat – including daily report cards and daily texts/pics while I’m gone.

      4. Jenn*

        Yes, this is what I do with my beloved cat who has to take a daily pill. I’ve had multiple professional pet sitters who are members of Pet Sitters International, and I only hire people who have insurance. 100% worth the price for peace of mind.

      5. KillItWithFIRE*

        Keep in mind that these agencies do not operate everywhere, that there is not always someone who has medical expertise available. Also, financially, this is not a small thing to pay for if money is tight. I love my pets, and volunteer with rescues so I know a few people who can help with this kind of thing, but finding people to assist is not as easy as a lot of people commenting seem to think.

        1. fposte*

          I agree it’s not always easy or inexpensive. The problem is that friends aren’t a good solution to that, and if you decide to go with a friend, it’s important to understand both the degree of imposition and the greater risk you and your pets are taking; it’s a big ask that I’d save for emergencies. This was four pets, two with special needs, including a need for injections. When the OP says “Hey, what’s the worst that could happen?”, I have a big list. I don’t think most friends can be asked to handle that list.

          1. KillItWithFIRE*

            I have personally taken care of around 20 cats for over a week, the list includes a large male maincoon with diabetes (2x day insulin), an FLV positive female with a respiratory infection requiring treatment (humidifier time twice a day and meds), 3 rescue moms with kittens in two separate locations (tonnes of checking and inspecting and reporting), 2 older male brothers who tried to kill each other regularly, one of whom had 3 tumors and was taken as a palliative case – he needed regular monitoring, and the regular cats that the person actually owned (the momma’s and kittens were all fosters as were the medical cases). So yeah, I know what it takes to care for animals while an owner is away, thanks.

            So am I a good solution? Maybe you just need less sh**ty friends. And OP had a good friend taking care of the animals, the Boss is offered to take over in response to the friends issues with taking out of town training at the last minute. The Boss abused their position as a trusted person to get what they wanted, to offer something they did not intend to fulfill. The Boss is trash.

            1. Foreign Octopus*

              This is a weird flex, and an oddly defensive response to fposte’s comment.

              She wasn’t saying that you weren’t a good friend but commenting that most friends aren’t capable for sitting pets with special needs.

              If you have trusted friends, great. OP clearly trusted Bob to do the right thing and that’s great for OP. Not everyone has that and pet sitting is the way to go.

              Dial it back a bit. No one’s attacking you here.

            2. Zillah*

              I absolutely agree that the boss is awful and dropped the ball in a way that I’d find unforgivable. I also feel like this can vary widely based on the people involved; if my father was going away on vacation and I had the flexibility to go out to where he live, for example, I don’t think either of us would have any qualms about my ability to care for the dog we’ve had since I was a teenager and his new(ish) puppy. I largely know the routine, I know the first dog very well, I’ve spent time with the puppy, and I’ve dealt with multiple dog-related health crises for the first dog and for one of our dogs who passed away last year. The same is true of my brother.

              That’s obviously a fairly extreme example, but on the whole, I don’t have any reason to question a system that’s worked for the OP in the past. Sure, something could go wrong… but I think there’s always some risk of that no matter what you choose. Personally, my preference is to make small adjustments to things that have served me well rather than completely change them if there’s not a pressing reason to (e.g., someone becoming unavailable).

              That said, I don’t think fposte is attacking you or your ability to care for pets – she’s just saying that most friends are not equipped to take those responsibilities on, and that’s my experience as well. It’s not about friends being shitty, it’s about most people lacking the level of skill required to do some of things we’re talking about here. You sound like the exception, not the rule.

            3. MsM*

              You sound like a great friend to have for petsitting needs. Again, though, not everyone is that fortunate.

            4. Colette*

              It’s not just about capability. Am I capable of doing all that stuff? I probably could be. Am I capable of doing all of that at a location away from my home and work while living up to my existing responsibilities? No, I’m not – and most people are probably in my boat. If it’s an emergency, I’ll do what I can – but “what I can” is not the same as what a dedicated pet owner would be willing to do.

              On the other hand, this kind of thing is a paid, trained pet sitter’s regular responsibility, which is one of the reasons it’s more likely to go well if the OP hires a professional.

      6. fposte*

        If you’re near a vet school it’s worth checking there too–there are often vet students who pet-sit.

        I’ve backstopped friends who use sitters for pets with special needs (checked in on them to make sure the sitter’s come and handled the occasional feeding if the sitter wouldn’t be able to start right away), and the people who come from the vet school and the vet clinics have been amazing. Super-reliable, super-invested, super-careful, and when a crisis has some up they’ve been invaluable. Much better for their animals than I would be, no matter how much I love them.

      7. NerdyKris*

        Agreed. My ex girlfriend used to do that. She’d swing by the house while on the way to and from the vets office.

      8. Bagpuss*

        One of the nurses at my cat’s vet used to do pet sitting on the side. It was great when my elderly cat developed thyroid problems which needed daily meds, as it meant that if I couldn’t take him with me, I could leave him at home, so he didn’t have the stress of going to a cattery, and I felt confident that she could manage his needs.
        As a bonus, it turned out that it was pretty much the same cost as boarding him would have been.

        Now, I have a young cat with no medical issues, and my neighbours feed him when I go away, and I look after their Guinea Pigs when they go away. Again, less stressful for him than going to a cattery would be.

      9. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

        Yup, the sitter that my parents use is a wonderful lady that is a retired vet-tech who worked at the clinic they take their epileptic dog to. She knew their dog before she retired, and this is her way of making a little extra money. All her clients are patients from that practice, and she’s is great at giving meds when needed.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think this is kind of mean, to be honest. This situation already happened– it’s not helpful to tell the OP that she was wrong and she shouldn’t complain. She absolutely should complain! Her boss did something counter to her instructions! While I am sure she will do things differently in the future, this is what has happened and she needs advice on how to handle this admittedly difficult situation.

      1. MommyMD*

        It’s unfortunate. But calling out Boss is counter productive. Animals with health issues need expert care. It happened once but does not have to happen again. Thank God her animals are ok.

        1. Asenath*

          But Boss didn’t do the basics. Maybe OP should have boarded the animals, but it wasn’t a case of Boss not giving the dog insulin. He didn’t give the animals water! And he shut a dog in the room with the cat’s litter box! These are not only things he agreed to, they are things that are very basic and don’t involve veterinary treatment. I agree with Alison that about the tone of the response, and that it should only focus on the main point. But this has to be addressed, if only to clear the air between them.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I’m not sure why you’re so ready to give the boss a pass on this. The OP left specific instructions, and if the boss found the instructions too difficult to follow, should have contacted the OP to ask follow-up questions, not just shrugged and made a hash of it.

          If it was too difficult for a lay person, which I question (is the OP a professional vet?), then the boss should have communicated that and asked for additional assistance.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Also, I’m not sure how making sure animals have water is a complicated task that requires a specialist.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                I do consider it important that the boss wasn’t doing OP a favor: the boss wanted the actual petsitter to go do something else, and decided to take on the petsitting to enable that.

                1. Arctic*

                  The boss was doing a favor. The boss can give his employee an assignment and ask the LW to make alternate plans, which she should have done rather than leave it to someone on the fly.

                2. fposte*

                  @Arctic–yes, I agree. I suspect that the OP was up against a time wall here and probably didn’t have many options, but a person’s boss is allowed to send employees out of town without being obligated to take on those employees’ personal tasks; the responsibility lies either with the pet owner or the person contracted to care for the pet. And I think the people suggesting the boss sent somebody else might be right–that this big commitment got passed along several times, each time being taken more lightly.

                  None of which gets the boss off the hook for not making sure the animals had water; that’s just ridiculous.

                3. Asenath*

                  I don’t think the boss was petsitting to enable the other employee to go on a training session. Bosses schedule training sessions all the time, and employees adjust their personal plans.

                4. Zillah*

                  I think the boss is entitled to send the pet sitter elsewhere without taking on their responsibilities, but I agree that the boss didn’t really do OP a favor, exactly – it doesn’t seem like there was any expectation that he do it from the OP or like it was such a last minute thing that OP had literally no other options.

          2. MommyMD*

            Is she going to call out her own Boss? The very most she can say is that there were some concerns. This is why you don’t mix business and your personal life especially for the big stuff. Yeah, Boss failed. It still is her Boss and her job depends on getting along with him. It was a last minute unfortunate choice by everyone involved. If it’s me, I take responsibility for it, let it go, and never ask anyone from the office again to pet sit again. If she wants to call out Boss, have at it. But it’s a real possibility that down the line her direct deposits will stop coming in. Hard lesson learned and thank goodness pets are ok.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              So your stance is that whatever your boss does, you should uncomplainingly suck it up because you might get fired if you don’t?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                That’s not my stance, but the letter writer also doesn’t say anything like “I’m willing to lose my job over this” and so I’m assuming she’s looking for a way to address this without things exploding over it. It goes back to my question in the post about what outcome she’s looking for here.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  No, I’m specifically addressing MommyMD’s comment that the OP should say nothing, and if she says anything, “it’s a real possibility that down the line her direct deposits will stop coming in.”

            2. Kit*

              I’m of the “burn it to the ground” camp when it comes to people messing up so badly. I’m involved in animal rescue so that may be part of the issue – I tend to try and make sure that animals are removed from the “care” of people like Boss.

              If someone takes on a responsibility then it is literally their responsibility. The Boss, while OP was out of town, offered to take on this responsibility, involving themselves in this situation. The Boss FAILED spectacularly, apparently only providing lip service and not intending to properly care for the animals they OFFERED to properly care for.

              So I’d be looking for a new job, and I’d probably key their car. And maybe puncture the tires. Possibly put sugar in the gas tank. Because I actually take care of the things that matter to me, and if someone I trusted, who offered to do the job, messed up like this I would burn that relationship to the ground. Someone like this Boss is a POS on their best day and shouldn’t be in charge of anyone, ever.

              OP, seriously rethink working for this person, actions like this speak to a carelessness and disrespect that probably doesn’t stop at other people’s pets and likely just extends to other people in general.

              1. Colette*

                None of us – including the OP – know what really happened. Did the boss end up in the hospital? Did she have to go out of town for a family emergency? Did she just decide it wasn’t important?

                You’re making a lot of assumptions about the boss’s motives and behavior (and threatening to do some serious vandalizing), which is both unfair to the boss and likely to make the OP’s life much worse. If the OP takes this advice, she’ll be both without a job and dealing with legal charges.

                1. Kit*

                  Eh, sure, why not. Boss had a family emergency, went over did a crap and dangerous job once and had to leave town. Or pawned it off on someone who was bad at it. Sure. Best case they had the worst news of their life, stumbled through a bad job of it and immediately went to the hospital. Unhuh. It’s a very specific situation, I’m going to go with it being more likely Boss is a jerk.

                2. Colette*

                  People do get sick, and they do have emergencies, and sometimes those things cause them to forget things, or to hand them off to people who aren’t able to properly do them.

                  I could totally see concentrating on feeding pet A food 1 and pet B food 2 and pet C food 3 (except food 3 isn’t there, so I have to track more down) and giving pet 4 a shot and forgetting to check the water dishes. It’s easy for the OP to remember it all because it is her routine, and she lives there. This is not the boss’s routine, and she doesn’t live there.

                  I don’t know what happened here – and neither does the OP, or you.

                3. Pibble*

                  Actually, we do know that some of those things didn’t happen. Because the dog got his insulin shots. So the boss was coming over daily and giving shots – there was no emergency that kept them away. They just…failed to discriminate between a cat and a dog, and failed to remember that living being