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 beings require water.

              2. CheeryO*

                Really hope you aren’t serious about the vandalism part! Talk about unnecessary escalation. If you’re willing to get a new job and torch the bridge, sure, yell at the boss, but wrecking their property is a bit much.

                1. fposte*

                  Yeah, I don’t see any animals being helped by the keying of the car–that would be about personal satisfaction, not animals.

                2. Lissa*

                  Everyone loves their online revenge fantasies, and it’s definitely good for internet points especially if it involves animals, but really even yelling at the boss is not actually going to accomplish anything other than making you feel better. If the boss is a big jerk then he won’t care anyway. I mean yeah sometimes people make the calculus that yelling at someone so they can feel better is worth it, but I’ve seen people trick themselves into believing that it’s somehow a moral good or will help the person they’re yelling at/”punishing” be better in the future.

              3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

                I agree with your feelings, but if you key someone’s car, puncture their tires, and put sugar in their gas tank, you are likely to end up with the police on your doorstep.

              4. gmg22*

                Keying the boss’s car and putting sugar in the gas tank isn’t going to protect the OP’s animals from future neglect. The simple task here is to let the boss know, as directly as is feasible given OP’s assumed desire to continue to be employed (cat and dog food costs money, folks!), that he was negligent — and then never let him anywhere near a pet-sitting assignment again.

            3. Tiara Wearing Princess*

              I agree. What good can come of having this discussion? A lot of harm, possibly.

              It didn’t work out, she’ll never ask boss to petsit (I know he offered; she never asked him)

              I’d be furious too but I don’t think I would risk my relationship or standing where my job was concerned over this. I just don’t see the upside.

        3. Amber T*

          Disagree. Boss *volunteered* to take on this responsibility, and if he thought he wouldn’t be able to handle it, he should have backed out, giving OP the opportunity to find someone else. He even demonstrated that he could do the challenging medical part (giving a dog who doesn’t know them a shot). Being able to tell the difference between a cat and a dog isn’t rocket science. I agree with Alison that flying off the handle isn’t the appropriate reaction (as tempting as it is), but something should absolutely be said.

          1. Snark*

            I agree, and the boss was negligent, but just from the instructions provided by way of example, it seems pretty clear to me that sitting multiple animals with multiple complex care requirements was above his pay grade, not just his capability level.

            1. Lissa*

              this thread has made me terrified of petsitting to be honest! “Do me a favour that might end up being way more complicated than you think, and if you screw it up I might vandalize your stuff or scream at you” no thanks.

                1. Lissa*

                  Sorry if I offended you, it’s just reading all the horror stories at once was enough to majorly set off my nervousness about messing something serious up! I am the sort of person who checks and rechecks things like 5 times when I agree to watch a plant, and the amount of anger people show to people who messed this up makes it hard for me not to envision making an error and ruining a friendship.

              1. Pibble*

                It’s making me understand why so many people I’ve pet sat for (as a non-professional, I might add) say they’re so happy they don’t have to worry their pets will be properly taken care of while I’ve got them! I’d KILL for pet owners who leave that sort of detailed instructions for feeding times and care. I’m honestly shocked by how many people are finding it totally unreasonable.

                I’m glad you’re realizing that caring for someone else’s pets isn’t for you, though! It’s definitely not something you want to take on and then feel overwhelmed by.

                1. Lissa*

                  It’s funny, because I do actually feed my friend’s cat on occasion, but he’s this middle aged lump of floof that doesn’t require anything special – even that can make me have nervous fantasies of him somehow getting out of the apartment, even though he hates the outdoors. I definitely could not care for anything with more detailed/involved instructions than that, though, I’d be freaking out the whole time my friends were gone.

                2. Nic*

                  Ditto. The handful of times I’ve left my cat at home with someone dropping by to feed/water/check in with her, my instructions were longer and more complicated than OP’s “hey, this little guy needs the special food, so I’ve labelled it with his name and please keep him in this one room to make sure he doesn’t eat anyone else’s food”. That seems so clear and unconfusing that even I could manage!

                  (I’d be less ok with injections, but then I’ve no experience with those…)

          2. Arctic*

            Pet owners can’t just leave their pets with anyone who volunteers. Especially if they have special needs.

            1. fposte*

              Yes, totally agree (and I think most people with pets and/or kids have experienced the offer of care from somebody you totally wouldn’t want caring for them). Maybe a sub-question here is how to say no to your boss when he volunteers for something like this, because that’s touchy in its own right. “Boss, I really appreciate the thought, but I’d like to keep work and personal life separate; I only have the arrangement with Jane because we’ve done it for a long time. So I’m set with other possibilities, but it means a lot to me to know you were willing to step in.”

              1. Zillah*

                Yeah, that’s a concern for me, too, and I’m surprised more people haven’t flagged it. We talk here a lot about how it’s important for bosses to be aware of power dynamics and to not put their employees in uncomfortable situations – even when it’s just friending someone on facebook. It’s awkward to say no to your boss, especially when you regularly say yes to your coworker. Obviously you generally should, but it’s a dynamic the boss should have been mindful of before volunteering for something he knew going in would be complicated. If you’re going to initiate blurring a boundary with someone who relies on you for a paycheck, you’d better be damned sure you can handle what they need.

              2. Jennifer*

                But when you have a child or animal in your care, their safety is more important than potential awkwardness. I hope no one would leave a beloved child or pet with someone they didn’t fully trust because it was too awkward to say no. In this example, she doesn’t mention being too nervous to turn him down, she just assumed he was up to the task since he offered to do it.

                I think that script might be a bit too wordy. I’d go with, “I appreciate the offer but we have it under control. Thanks so much.”

            2. Amber T*

              Agreed, but it sounds like he had demonstrated enough that OP could believe that he could handle it. I, an avid pet love and proud cat-mom, would not volunteer (or attempt to demonstrate) that I could give a pet a shot, because I have no experience with that and I’d be worried I wouldn’t do it correctly. At some point, Boss and Doggie met, where he demonstrated he could handle it. We have to trust OP at their word that they thoroughly believed boss could handle it.

              1. fposte*

                I believe that that’s what the OP thought, and the supervising of a test insulin injection, a very wise move, makes it clear this wasn’t a casual decision. But what I, and I think a few others, are saying is that that’s still a riskier decision than she realized. The ability to give a shot is one thing; the ability to commit to careful care of four animals in their own house for several days is another. That second one is where friend care becomes a risk.

        4. MsClaw*

          I could see using the script suggested, because it’s entirely possible that the situation is less dire than the OP is imagining (for example, if the dog peed all over the room, then he must have had water at some point). Like, maybe that last day the boss stopped by on the way into the office and one or more of the animals got out of their designated rooms and Boss needed to get to work for a meeting, so he just ushered the animals into the nearest rooms and figured OP would sort it out when she got home, etc. Maybe the cats looks alike to him. Maybe he mixed up pages from the instructions. Maybe he’ll apologize to her before she even has a chance to say anything. Regardless though, I would say going forward with this many animals with this many special needs, pro care is the way to go.

          1. Close Bracket*

            for example, if the dog peed all over the room, then he must have had water at some point

            At some point before he got locked in the room, that is. Metabolism continues to happen in the absence of liquid input, and kidneys continue to process the water that results from metabolism. Eventually, the kidneys will shut down, but not before the animal has peed all over the room. You really can’t use presence of pee as evidence that water was provided.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              In human beings excessive peeing can be part of a kidney problem. I assume there is a similar rule of thumb for animals.

      2. WellRed*

        I think she needs to say something, but I also agree, these pets needed too much care for a layperson you’ve never used before.

      3. Ex-pet sitter*

        It sounds like her boss volunteered for this job, so complaining like one would to a paid professional seems a bit much to me, too. The boss offered to do a favor and was presented with very detailed, specific directions that go beyond what is normally involved in pet-sitting. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t work out, but you do get what you pay for. Even asking the boss if they know what happened strikes me as passive-aggressive. I’d just move on and pay for professional care in future.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          When he saw the complicated instructions he should have backed out. He wanted the coworker to do something but the coworker already had a commitment to the OP, so Boss said “I’ll do it” just to get what he wanted and then Boss screwed up massively. Making sure living things have water is pretty much the most basic of basic things.

          1. Genny*

            It’s not clear he saw the complicated instructions beforehand. He and LW may have just walked through the insulin stuff, LW said she would leave instructions for everything else, and boss comes in after LW’s left to see that the instructions are more complicated than he thought. Still doesn’t excuse his negligence ( the instructions sound quite detailed), but he may not have been able to back out quite as easily as you think.

            1. Zillah*

              But even if he didn’t see the instructions, he knew that there were four pets and that one needed insulin shots; even without any further information, it should’ve been clear that this was going to be fairly complicated.

        2. Antilles*

          very detailed, specific directions that go beyond what is normally involved in pet-sitting.
          This is the thing that jumped out at me too. If someone asks me to pet sit, I’m expecting something along the lines of “stop by every day, fill up the food and water bowls, maybe play with them for a few minutes”. Asking someone to come by twice a day, manually feed specific food to each animals, insulin shots, etc…that’s way beyond what’s a reasonable thing to ask a random friend or co-worker.
          That doesn’t let the boss off the hook though – once OP started handing over multiple paragraphs of written instructions, he should have told OP that he didn’t think he could handle all that. But it’s still worth noting that with the level of instructions required, this is something that you can only have the most trusted and detailed person do.

          1. Psyche*

            I agree. The level of care these pets needed sounds far beyond what most people would assume when volunteering to pet sit. Doesn’t let the boss off the hook, but if it was handed over last minute, I can see how he could reasonably have gotten in over his head.

    4. softcastle mccormick*

      Agreed, unfortunately. I like Alison’s advice, though–bring it up as a concerned, “Was everything okay? I noticed the dog was in the bedroom, did something happen?” Rather than an accusation or explosion. Not everyone understands what a commitment it is to take care of another’s pet.

    5. Log Lady*

      I completely agree. This situation is so unfortunate, and I feel for the OP and believe they have a right to be upset. However, special needs animals really can’t be left with an untrained person. My Rottweiler is recent back leg amputee, so now whenever we’re gone for trips, etc. I know I have to secure professional care rather than a regular dog-sitter. Better safe than sorry.

    6. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I disagree.

      My previous cat was hypothyroid. Her treatment was simple: a little squeeze of topical gel on the inside of her ear twice a day. I hired a petsitter from a service, explained and demonstrated to her the proper administration, and she performed the job completely competently during my vacation. The first couple days, she sent me pictures of the gel applied to the ear so I could confirm she’d done it correctly.

      Also, this is an incredibly cruel statement. The OP is not responsible for someone having agreed to take on a responsibility, and then failing to communicate with them when a difficulty arose. There is really no excuse for that!

      1. MommyMD*

        One cat is much different than multiple animals, one needing insulin, on multiple different foods, in different rooms, etc. It is too much. Thank goodness the insulin was properly given. Dosing insulin is tricky. It is always verified by two people where I work. An overdose is easily accidentally given.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          I’m diabetic and take two insulins every day, and would not take on petsitting a diabetic animal. My own doses are easy: I attach a disposable needle, dial the dose, administer it. If I had to draw insulin with a syringe and dose a struggling animal, I’d be scared I’d be doing it wrong.

          1. OwnedbyAnEquine*

            I think that most insulin is administered IM as opposed to IV. I give shots occasionally to my horse and it is IM. There is no way I would be comfortable doing an IV shot on a squirming animal. I won’t even do IV on my own horse unless it was an emergency. I just don’t do it enough to hit a vein everytime. I think that asking someone that does not administer shots to an animal to do it in a case like OP’s is a tall order. I know OP did not specifically ask. Depending on the type of needle and shot, you can inject air into the animal and if in the vein, possibly kill them.

            1. Perse's Mom*

              I think it would have to be IM outside of a clinic environment; unless the diabetic animal is so calm as to be almost comatose, you’d need a second person to help administer it every single time.

            2. Marzipan*

              I had assumed it would be subcutaneous. Which I consider not difficult to do on oneself (four rounds of IVF ftw), and yet I would hesitate to deliver shots to a dog, especially one I don’t know well.

        2. Creed Bratton*

          Except what was missed in this case was the basics like telling a dog from a cat or knowing that living creatures need access to water. That shouldn’t need expert care.

          1. Wander*

            Right? I’m baffled by this thread. The only complex thing the Boss needed to do was administer the shot, and that’s the only thing he did RIGHT. The rest of it was literally just demonstrating basic reading comprehension. “It’s your fault for expecting your boss to be able to read the handmade labels on your pets’ food” is just ridiculous.

        3. Perse's Mom*

          Sure, insulin is tricky, which is why the OP verified their boss could handle that part.

          The rest of it? Like… make sure they have water? Put the CAT in this room and feed them the food with their name on it? That’s… a teenager could handle that. Anyone who can read should be able to handle that.

          I’ve done similar for friends with special needs pets – dry food, wet food, different kinds, different amounts, one with medications, one without, twice a day. It’s not that hard! If he couldn’t handle that, it was on the boss to bow out, not agree anyway and then muck it up to that degree.

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            Exactly! He got the hard part right! But yet he can’t tell the difference between a cat and a dog??

            The fact that he proved he could handle the insulin shots would have probably left the LW feeling confident he could handle the other more basic needs (like water ffs!) If he hadn’t been competent with the shots I don’t imagine she would’ve proceeded to allow him to pet sit. I feel the level of blame being slung at the LW is really unnecessary and unhelpful.

      2. pancakes*

        Completely agree.

        I have a cat now, but grew up with & had only ever had dogs before her. My first experience caring for a cat was pet-sitting for a good friend whose cat needed medication daily. We practiced before my friend left, à la the boss in this scenario practicing giving the dog his shot, and things went fine because I showed up daily & did the things I’d promised to do.

    7. Amber Rose*

      That’s a bit extreme. It sounds like LW has never had trouble with the coworker who usually looks after the animals. If it’s just a matter of food and stuff anyone could do it, it’s just a matter of finding someone responsible enough to care about doing it right.

      1. MommyMD*

        It’s also a matter of administering medication that if off just a bit can cause extreme consequences. I’m glad animals are ok. We love our fur babies.

        1. motherofdragons*

          I vote that we trust the OP’s inclination that the boss could be trusted with these tasks. She knew he had pets, and understood insulin, and monitored him while he gave the big dog a shot. Administering insulin is, as you said, a pretty important and detailed task; so it makes sense that the OP gathered that if boss could handle that, he could also handle simple “This cat gets this food, and this animal goes in this room” kind of instructions. Clearly, *in hindsight,* that was a mistake, and one I’m sure the OP needs no finger-wagging from the commentariat about.

          You clearly love animals and feel for these pets, as I think we all do! I wonder if that is driving what’s coming across as a lack of understanding or empathy for this OP. She also loves her pets, and thought she was doing right by them. Have we not all been there with someone we loved? (Like the time my mom caved and handed me over to my coughing aunt who demanded cuddles, and I caught scarlet fever as a 3-year-old?) Someone caused her babies harm; I absolutely support her in using Alison’s script/approach above in approaching her boss about it. At the very least, he needs to know that his pet-sitting skills suck and he should not attempt to take care of others’ animals ever again!

    8. MuseumChick*

      This…just comes off as a but victim blaming to me. Based on what the OP writes the instructions were clear, detailed, and the most difficult part (giving the dog insulin) the boss demonstrated he could do.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Right? I mean ok Cat A gets this foos, Cat B gets that food. Oh and they need WATER…how complicated is that?

        1. Aliteral5headeddragon*

          Yeah. It would never occur to me that different pets getting different food would be weird or complicated. My cats each eat a different diet and I put a photo of the appropriate cat on the corresponding pet food bag and room to make the routine easier for a sitter. It’s never been a problem.

          1. Zillah*

            Ditto, especially for a pet owner – if you have multiple pets, they’ve likely had to get different food at certain point, even if it’s just puppy food vs. adult dog food or cat food vs. dog food. IME, it’s also pretty common to separate pets when they eat; it’s an extra step, sure, but it’s not that out of the ordinary.

        2. Perse's Mom*

          It’s not! Like, unless the pets are identical so the sitter can’t tell which one’s George who needs Special Kibble and which one’s Fred who needs Special Wet Food, it’s not that challenging. This guy literally couldn’t tell the difference between a cat and a dog but somehow OP is at fault?

        3. TL -*

          Uh, there are four different animals, two different medications, twice a day administrations, and at least 3, potentially 4, different foods.

          Plus litter box, separations, and water. That’s actually a lot. And I don’t know about your animals, but I have been told by multiple people that my cat is not her normal angelic self when I’m gone for periods of times (and she is super easy – food, litter box scooped, and water check) so that level of difficulty goes go up – for instance, she’ll knock all of the water out of her cup to play with.

          I’m not saying the boss was in the right, but good lord. This was not a simple task by any means, and that’s from somebody who grew up on a ranch and whose morning routine often involved feeding and medical care of multiple species of animals.

          1. Janie*

            Where are you getting two different medications and twice a day administrations, because that’s not in the letter.

            1. TL -*

              Sorry; I was meaning twice a day feeding (which I may have assumed, because I’ve always fed animals twice a day unless they graze) and the wet/dry hypo food combo translated to meds for me.

    9. LilyP*

      If the care was too much for the boss to handle as a lay person it was still on him as a decent human being to read the instructions, see that it was more than he could handle, and NOT COMMIT to doing it in the first place. Or at very least, get in touch with the OP as soon as he realized it was too much for him to handle so she could make other plans. He clearly was not “overwhelmed” by this, he just didn’t remember/didn’t care.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        Okay, even if the care was beyond the boss, what on earth prevented them from reaching out to the OP and saying ‘hey, this is really specific and I’m not sure I can handle it, what do you want me to do from here?”

      2. Genny*

        I think the same boss/employee relationship that’s making it tricky for LW to confront the boss may have made him reluctant to call an employee on vacation because that’s not something bosses should do unless it’s an emergency. However, in this case, he wouldn’t be calling as her boss, he’d be calling as the guy who’s pet sitting for her. It’s hard for both sides to navigate relationships that cross the personal/professional divide.

        1. pancakes*

          It is hard, yes — that’s not a reason to not make the call & pretend everything’s fine, though.

      3. smoke tree*

        I think the boss definitely screwed up, but it also sounds like these pet-sitting requirements would have been difficult for many people. Obviously the LW won’t be asking him to pet-sit again, so it’s not really in her best interest to dwell on why he did so badly. But it may be worth considering whether she would be safer to go with a professional next time to make sure nothing like this happens again.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Nor is making sure that the animal you’ve closed in the designated room is a cat, and not a dog. Not even just the wrong cat – he put the dog in there! Did he like…not look at the animal and think “hey that doesn’t look like a cat”?

    10. Boredatwork*

      I agree with MommyMD. This is alot for anyone to take on, and alot to ask of a co-worker. I’d probably replace Allison’s very serious concerned voice, to a gentle confused voice.

      OP will eventually talk to boss, she needs to say “thank you”, and then hopefully boss will give her an opening to ask “how did it go”. Boss will respond with either a “GREAT!” or a whole story, shame over it going badly, ect.

      If boss says any variation of “great”, you just walk away. There is no value in torching this bridge/making things awkward. You learned a lesson, the damage is done, ect.

      Hire a professional, board your pets, insist only trusted co-worker go. If boss volunteers again, you can just say, oh we’ve got a back up person already, thanks anyway.

      *** I think boss is horrible, irresponsible and deserving of a true dressing down*** The damage is done, OP just needs to work on moving forward with the least amount of awkward.

      1. Jadelyn*

        “OP will eventually talk to boss, she needs to say “thank you””

        I’m sorry, but…thank you for what, exactly? For neglecting her animals and endangering their health, not to mention causing actual property damage to her home? I don’t care how good someone’s initial intentions were, that’s not something I’d expect anyone to express gratitude for.

    11. Krisattimes*

      Agree 100%. We board our dog at the vet’s office when we travel and it’s worth every penny. He’s safe, cared for with people who love animals and send us updates.

    12. Marzipan*

      I was also thinking something along these lines. Your pets sound as though they need quite complicated care, and not everyone can deal with that.

      That’s not to excuse your boss – it does sound as though he did a crap job, here. But I agree with the idea that in future, you (and your pets) might be better served by finding a professional service who can take care of them, whether in your home or in a boarding setting.

    13. Smithy*

      I’m in agreement with this. While the boss clearly missed the boat on some basics, as volunteer pet sitters – there’s often a lot of trust from the volunteer that we can do the job right.

      I have never owned a cat, but during high school would cat sit for my neighbors elderly incontinent cat. I started this at 14, they told me the instructions, and I did them to the best of my ability. There wasn’t any medication (more just cleaning up messes/replacing pee pads), but had there been I would have trusted the owners that a 14 year old could reasonably do the job.

      I got rehired throughout high school, so in retrospect I will assume I met their expectations. But initially I did trust them that I could do what was asked. So while the OP’s coworker clearly can meet the demands, it is insightful for all involved to learn that the boss but perhaps not many other non-professionals are truly up to the task either.

    14. Grapey*

      Or with a reputable in-home pet sitter. (e.g. insured/bonded, not Fergus next door that has a side hustle).

      In my area (northeast USA) most professional dog walking services I’ve seen have in-home pet care as well. The company we go with is like family to us. We adopt mainly geriatric kitties that depend on medicine to live, but we also love to go on vacations so bringing our old creaky cats to the vet so often would just stress them out.

      Good sitters will have their own website, advertise that they administer medicine, and also advertise that they are insured and bonded.

      1. Bostonian*

        Yeah, I agree that in-home pet sitters make more sense than boarding.

        In many cases, boarding would really stress out the animal and could expose them to additional health/safety issues.

    15. Spouse of a vet (so I'm definitely biased)*

      I agree – Alison may know more, but from this wording I’m not completely sure OP was paying the co-worker or boss. Four pets, at least two with medical needs requires a pet sitting professional at minimum. The boss was wrong not to realize he wasn’t up to the task and nothing excuses leaving animals with no water (however I can see someone without a complicated pet thinking they all could drink from just one dish and only refilling that one, for example) but the OP is ultimately responsible for the health of their pets and should know the pet budget is higher for the next vacation.

    16. AJK*

      The only time I boarded one of my kitties was when I had to go out of town during ongoing health issues. I boarded her with my vet, so they knew exactly what she needed and when. When she was healthy she was fine to be alone with someone I trusted stopping in to make sure her food bowl was full and her litter box wasn’t, but once she had special needs, no. I didn’t trust anyone but myself and my vet to give her the proper care.

      They gave her the prime kitty condo with the best view of the birdhouse outside, so I think she had a good time. Plus she got a break from our (then new) puppy, who had been pestering her with offers of friendship.
      I’ve always boarded my dog. Sometimes it’s the most expensive part of the trip, but its worth the peace of mind.

    17. Jennifer*

      I was thinking the same but I didn’t want to appear unsympathetic to the OP. I understand why they are upset. I feel for them. I know parents hate when their children are compared to pets but I think this is kind of a similar example. Most people would not leave a special needs child with a sitter that did not have the expertise to care for them. This kind of thing happens when corners are cut. I feel terrible for these animals and hope they will recover.

    18. sofar*

      Agreed. Whenever I’m asked to pet sit for a friend, if instructions are anything more strenuous than, “Let the dog out in the yard a few times a day and put a scoop of food from the bag in the pantry in his bowl,” or “Make sure the cat has food and water and tidy up the litter box,” I always refuse to pet sit. In fact, these days, I’m more likely to refuse all dog-sitting requests (because I can’t always guarantee I can zip home during lunch to let the dog out, and 8+ hours with no break for the dog isn’t ok with me). Medicines: no. Shots: No. “My elderly cat has problems and if you see these symptoms, take her to vet…”: HELL no. Board your animal at a vet’s office.

      I’m shocked at how many pet owners are just hoping to save money and are willing to give laypeople the benefit of the doubt in administering complicated or specific care. You got the pet. Boarding your pet during vacations and business trips is an expense you should budget for.

      1. Jennifer*

        Amen. Anything more than the basics I’m not doing it. It’s too much to put on a layperson. Unless I know the person extremely well, I probably wouldn’t accept a basic petsitting job these days either. Still love the animals but their parents are a different story.

        1. Respect*

          Okay well then dont offer and imply you can do it. The boss offered and said he could handle it and then didnt even give them water. People here project way too much.

      2. Zillah*

        It’s not necessarily that it’s an expense you haven’t budgeted for – it’s that there are risks and potential disruptions for everything. Boarding isn’t risk-free, either, and a lot of pets find that experience stressful as well. I’m honestly a little taken aback by the implication that pet owners who trust people they know to care for their pets are just doing it because they’re cheap or don’t really care about their pets.

        1. Jennifer*

          I don’t think anyone is saying that. Many of us trust friends or family members to care for pets that are low maintenance. What I’m saying is that it’s too high risk to leave pets with special needs with a layperson. Many people who pet sit just expect to let dogs out to pee, clean the litter boxes, re-fill food and water bowls and leave. Granted, the boss didn’t even do that, so he does bear a good share of the blame, but I don’t think he bears ALL of it.

        2. sofar*

          Didn’t mean to imply people were cheap. And it’s a good point that many animals are better off at home than in a boarding facility.

          I’ve just had quite a few requests to pet sit people’s animals over the years, as I volunteer at an animal rescue and am seen as “good with animals” (and seen desperate pleas on Facebook asking for free/very cheap pet sitting), and, when I or others suggest, “You know, your pet’s care instructions are a bit much for me and I can’t confidently take care of your pet. Maybe board them or hire a professional (vet tech or otherwise) sitter?” Or, “I can’t reliably let your dog out during lunch. Maybe I could dog-sit, but you hire a walker to come by half way through the day to get your dog a break?” And the response is always, “But it’s so expensive, and I’m gone for two weeks and I can’t afford that!”

          Literally dealing with a request like this from a family friend right now.

    19. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      You know, it’s not exactly easy to explain to your boss that you doubt their competence. In anything.

      Boss volunteered, and I guarantee that if LW had said “it’s actually really complicated to take care of my pets” boss would have sworn it would be fine, because Coworker could handle it.

      You’d really tell your boss “your subordinate did fine, but I’m going to turn you down for the same job” when Boss is probably going to be insulted? Let’s not pretend it’s that simple.

      1. Jennifer*

        True, but you can say something like, “It’s okay, I’ve got it handled. Thanks so much for the offer.” For something this important, you’d have to.

    20. Hobbert*

      Or do what I did- trade pet sitting with my friend who’s a flight nurse :) I’m just an EMT so I’m pretty sure I got the better end of our deal but I knew for sure my diabetic cat was well cared for!

    21. EddieSherbert*

      I tend to agree, but I also think this guy couldn’t handle a “normal” pet if he didn’t even let the dog outside to pee or give any animals water…

      That being said, I use a pet-sitting agency because I worry about this kind of thing happening!

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

      Exactly what I was thinking when I read “diabetic”.

    23. Delphine*

      He managed the major medical part just fine…it was the basic needs like food and water that he couldn’t take care of, so I don’t agree with this framing as a way to put the blame back on OP.

    24. Beth*

      I don’t think this is actually helpful to OP. It’s true that in general, it’s better to go to a pro than a random layperson for that stuff–but there are people who can do it well, whether because they’ve had training or because they had to deal with it for their own pet or whatever. It sounds like their coworker is their petsitter of choice, and actually does know how to handle their pets’ medical needs. This situation only happened because their coworker was sent out of town at the last minute, and the boss told OP they could handle it. And it actually sounds like the boss actually handled that part fine! OP says the insulin shots look like the only thing that might have been done right.

      It was everything else that went wrong–not leaving water for the animals (which is actually not related to medical needs at all, that’s just basics), giving the wrong food to the wrong animal (which, feeding is once again a basic thing–it has some medical impact here since it’s a medical diet, but it’s not something your average layperson couldn’t handle), leaving the animals with no bathroom access, etc. Basically, everything that went wrong is things that I successfully did for my neighbors when I was 12. The problem here isn’t that OP entrusted a layperson with overly advanced medical care; it’s that their boss chose to neglect the fundamentals of the commitment they made.

    25. Pibble*

      Say what? OP clearly states that the complex medical needs (giving a dog an insulin shot) were taken care of correctly! The boss screwed up by not being able to tell the difference between a cat and a dog and not realizing that living beings need water.

      OP clearly states that they gave detailed written instructions and checked to be sure the boss could handle the complex medical needs. They didn’t think to check that the boss knew that a small dog wasn’t a black cat and that water bowls shouldn’t be left empty because any remotely competent adult should have that down cold.

      OP has no blame here for assuming that the boss who volunteered, clearly knowing what was needed (note they had the boss come over and give the dog a shot to see how it went), would be able to perform Living Being Care 101.

      Also, coworker is clearly able to care for the animals. I have no idea where you’re getting “too much for a lay person to deal with, no matter the circumstance” – it’s CLEARLY not too much for the coworker to handle. I could handle it easily after being shown how to do the shots. Too much for some people, sure. But again, it’s not the medical needs that the boss couldn’t handle! There’s no need to admonish OP for not boarding the animals at great expense and stress at a vet clinic when they had a perfectly good petsitter, and had no reason to assume boss wouldn’t be a fine substitute.

    26. cncx*

      I had a diabetic cat, and i agree. my regular catsitter fired herself rather than both give him shots and be responsible for metering out the insulin and all that. she was right and i’m grateful she made a big fuss about not doing it any more. every vacation after his diagnosis he was boarded at the vet’s.

  9. J.E.*

    I keep getting the feeling that something may have come up suddenly that kept the boss from going to take care of the pets. If the boss has shown to be otherwise capable in other things and isn’t the scatterbrained type I’d get the feeling that he wasn’t the one who had been in the house, which is a whole other concern. Those instructions seem very clear cut to me

    1. Pibble*

      I would think that, too, except the insulin shots were taken care of and it’s not likely someone other than the boss did that! I’m so perplexed how the really complicated bit got done and the simple stuff was such a fail.

  10. KittiesLuvYou*

    Lesson learned. This is why you hire a professional pet sitter to watch pets when you go away, especially with so many special needs animals. Right now I travel 60% of the time for my job and have an elderly dog and two cats. For my peace of mind and safety of my pets I wouldn’t think of tasking a friend or coworker with watching them. It can be alot more work than they expect. It’s not throwing food into a bowl and giving a couple pats on the head and you’re out. As for your boss, I probably wouldn’t say anything, because what result are you expecting? But would not let coworker or boss around my pets again.

      1. Zona the Great*

        And a compulsory apology that is dripping in sincerity and awareness of what a grave mistake he made.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Right. That’s what gets me about what’s missing here. The OP has certainly learned not to do this in the future, but she’s absolutely entitled to an apology.

      2. KittiesLuvYou*

        OP provided highly detailed vet tech level of instructions and expected inexperienced people to follow them. I don’t think that was realistic.

        1. JJ*

          That’s ridiculous. People are capable of following instructions, even detailed ones. You don’t need a special degree or title to follow those instructions. Maybe you couldn’t do it, but the untrained coworker could and had done it. It’s not a leap to think someone else you know, and who volunteered, could also do it. What she asked was not rocket science.

          1. Parenthetically*

            This whole situation sucks massively, and Boss owes OP a HUGE apology here, but a person who can reliably take care of three special-needs animals is either a pro or a one-in-a-million friend. I don’t like some of the victim-blamey/”well next time…” language in this thread, but I also don’t like the “What? There were directions! Like it’s hard to follow directions? Puh-lease!” stuff going on. What OP asked her boss to do was way too complicated to ask someone to do as a favor.

            1. Yorick*

              The coworker/friend has been doing this a long time, and if they’re personal friends he may have gradually gotten to know each animal before ever doing it. So it’s not surprising that he can follow instructions that the boss might not.

              And animals can’t tell us what happened so we don’t actually know. Maybe he did give them water each time but his last visit was early enough that they were out of water before OP got home. That’s why I think it’s important to ask calmly. You can still convey that this is serious without blowing up at the boss and ruining the relationship.

              1. Parenthetically*

                I mean what she asked him to do as far as the specific care for the animals. From what I can gather from the letter, it seems like Boss volunteered for “petsitting + insulin injections” and ended up with a truly baroque set of care instructions.

            2. Book Person*

              I agree that I’d hire a pet sitting service if I had a dog that needed injections, but the boss was fine with the injections! The things he got wrong were the incredibly uncomplicated things: the “cats and dogs are different animals” part and the “animals need water” part aren’t pro- or one-in-a-million-friend-level tasks. I’d feel more charitable toward the boss about just a kibble mix-up or if he had problems administering insulin–those things are too much to ask your average volunteer pet sitter. It’s genuinely weird to me that he was good with injections, but just…ignored (?) those other basic things? (Question marks because I just genuinely cannot get my head around it).

        2. Wander*

          “Highly detailed vet tech level of instructions?” The instructions (other than the shot, which again, the Boss actually got RIGHT) were literally just “put THIS PET in a room and feed them from the bag and can labelled with THEIR name, TWICE a day.” That’s not complex. That’s… literally what any pet would require. That’s what MY pets would require (different foods and everything!) and they’re not even special needs. The fact that the food was a special medical formula doesn’t suddenly make feeding a cat twice a day rocket science. He didn’t even give them WATER and you’re blaming the OP?

          1. Mother of Cats*

            Yes! This is what I was thinking. All this talk of “special needs pets” is baffling – with the exception of the dog that required insulin, their needs would have been taken care of by feeding them their food. The consequences of feeding them the wrong food might have been more serious because of their health conditions, but . . . it shouldn’t take a vet tech to match each pet with its food. I have three cats, one of which needs a special diet to prevent potentially life-threatening urinary tract blockages. But I think most people should be able to handle instructions like, “feed the grey and white one the food in big cans with green labels, and feed the black one and the stripey one the food in little cans with blue labels.”

          2. Tiny Soprano*

            Pets requiring water is hardly a special need.

            I’m really disappointed with how many people are jumping on the LW for this. The complex parts were handled so it’s not about the pets being special needs. All animals need water. He didn’t give them any. It’s as simple as that.

        3. Nic*

          Really? “The black cat needs a different food, I’ve labelled it with his name to be clear – also please make sure he stays in this one room to make sure he doesn’t get other food” is highly detailed vet tech level of instructions?!

          My catsitting instructions involve a description of the danger signs of my cat gearing up for a nasty temper tantrum and what to do about it (stay still, distract, or leave her to calm down, but do not ignore and try to carry on petting her!), where to find the cat enzyme spray (in the event of cat barf) and the nappy sacks (for dirty litter), and what to do if she accidentally gets out of the house (turn the cat-flap lock nail polish side down, so she can get in but not out again). Because those are the instructions you leave when pets are staying home and someone’s visiting them: here’s where to find the supplies you’ll need, here’s how/where you dispose of the waste, here’s how much they eat (and when they’re used to eating), and here’s any complicating medical/personality factors you need to know about.

          It’s up to the prospective sitter to work out how to adapt that information to their own timetable, and if they want to chance giving one double-sized meal instead of two, and when exactly in the day they’re making that visit/those visits – and it’s also up to the sitter to use their words and tap out if they realise that the responsibility, the time commitment or the skill level is too much for them.

          LW’s instructions do not sound all that complicated, with the sole exception of the injection, which Boss proved he could do to OP’s satisfaaction – and was the one thing he did manage to do properly.

    1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      I don’t understand why people are saying this was too complicated? He could do the medicinal parts, he couldn’t tell the difference between a cat and a dog and didn’t give them water. Those are pretty basic tasks most children could handle.

      1. a1*

        Right? It’s not like the only thing wrong was the dog was improperly medicated. There was no water. A dog was locked in a room with a litter box and no food. The cat was out roaming free and given the wrong food. Even with the sick cat, there was nothing hard to do – no shots or gels or anything – just special food, labeled as food for that cat. THIS IS NOT HARD.

        1. Perse's Mom*

          My god, it’s really not and I’m concerned that so many people here are confounded by the idea of giving different pets different foods in different rooms as though it takes some kind of medical degree to do that.

          1. Wander*

            I know! I’m losing my mind a little. My pets aren’t even special needs, and I put them in different rooms to feed them and give them different foods. That is literally Pet Care 101. You shouldn’t need a vet tech to make sure your petsitter remembers to give your pets WATER and let them out to pee!

      2. Tiny Soprano*

        Yeah I don’t see how it takes a Vet Sci degree to tell the difference between a cat and a dog and to make sure they both have water. IF it was just the food he messed up, fine. But I can’t believe how many people think it’s unreasonable to expect a ‘layperson’ to know to give water to animals.

    2. Ms Cappuccino*

      I agree she should hire a professional but the boss has really messed up and needs to know that.

  11. Sabina*

    This is horrible and I’m so sorry and hope all your pets recover. This type of scenario is why I pay top dollar and reserve space months in advance at a boarding facility I trust. But I know that is no guarantee that I won’t have to improvise at the last minute in emergencies. Fortunately I know a few people who I could probably trust to step in, but none of them are family or people I work with. I couldn’t bear to continue being around someone who had been so negligent with my animals.

    1. Yvette*

      If cost is a concern the LW could board the special needs animals and get the usual pet sitter for the rest.

  12. Justme, The OG*

    I have two cats and a dog and also petsit for a friend whose cat is on a specific diet and this is awful! So glad they’re okay!

  13. J.E.*

    OP, was anything else in the house out of place or anything missing? I’d be worried that if the boss did farm out the job then some stranger was in the house.

  14. bubba g*

    This is exactly why we use a professional boarding service that is very highly rated. They’ve cared for our pets for more than 30 years, and we use them for boarding, training, daycare, grooming, etc. You can call at anytime and check on the pet, they take meticulous notes on medications and feedings, and make notes at each meal, playtime, etc.
    Part of the cost of travel is including the pet-sitting, boarding services needed for our dog (and to be fair, dogs need more exercise, attention than most cats) in our budget. I have 100% peace of mind when I leave it to professionals.
    I am so sorry that the OP got stuck in this situation after thinking her original, reliable pet-sitter would be used, then it was turned over to the boss. I would be livid if someone put my Darby in danger through negligence OR malice.

  15. Not All*

    As a pet owner who let a coworker pet sit awhile back so they could also be closer to the office and it Did Not Go Well, I’m going to disagree with Allison. My advice is to say nothing and just vow to never, ever do it again. If they bring it up, a flat-toned “it didn’t seem to work out as well as I had hoped so I’ll be sticking with my regular/professional pet sitter going forward. What are your thoughts on ?”

    I sympathize…I really do. It is all I can do to not absolutely rage at the person who stayed at my house. They have animals, but also managed to almost kill one of mine who doesn’t even have special health needs as well as crossing MAJOR boundaries with me (like, deciding to rearrange entire sections of my house!!! in a week! who does that?!) But it wouldn’t do anything productive. I’ve quietly warned a couple coworkers I’m friends with about this individual’s lack of judgement when I thought it was important for them to have a heads up, and that’s it. But blowing up the work relationship as well as the personal one wouldn’t benefit anyone.

    I’m so sorry about your pets! I was super lucky and was able to find a vet tech off of Rover to be my regular pet sitter and I will absolutely be sticking with her going forward!

    1. neverjaunty*

      …didn’t they already kind of blow up the work relationship and friendship through their actions? It’s just that you’re not telling them that’s the case.

      1. Not All*

        Right now it is perfectly civil & cordial so everything is functioning well on the work front. Bringing it up would make SERIOUS drama in the office. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from it. It wouldn’t take care of my pet’s health condition that developed as result of something they did. It wouldn’t have put my house back the way it was arranged. It wouldn’t take care of the damaged carpet.

        It WOULD divide the office, make every conversation uncomfortable for quite awhile, cause a lot of defensiveness, etc. And that’s with a coworker rather than a boss.

        What, exactly, is the positive outcome of bringing it up? Clearly it’s not to change a future behavior because presumably OP & myself have both learned our lessons about who we have watch our pets. There isn’t going to be financial reparation. It’s not going to turn back the clock for our animals.

        1. motherofdragons*

          I think there’s value in standing up for yourself and the ones you care about who have been harmed. No one is saying you made the wrong choice; it sounds like you made the exact right choice for yourself, knowing the culture of your office as well as you do. The OP has chosen to approach this with her boss, and is asking for help in how to do that; that tells me that she’s made up her mind that this is the right thing for her to do for herself and her animals.

        2. motherofdragons*

          You had some great advice for OP in there that I forgot to mention above – definitely a quiet word to her coworkers that Boss is NOT to be trusted with their animals.

        3. Smithy*

          I have a friend who has a long standing pet sitting relationship with a very high up the ladder coworker. He’s never paid her and it’s been presented as “you get to be close to the city!”

          I’ve always noted that the chance for the scene to end up badly is just out there. Obviously a long term positive dynamic with one unfortunate incident isn’t the same as a one time disaster – but this guy is so senior that having a bad personal dynamic could just be so unfortunate.

        4. Perse's Mom*

          I could put on the civil work-face (at least until I found a new job/transferred to a different boss), but this would absolutely destroy a work relationship for me.

        5. neverjaunty*

          I’m not opining on what you “should” do or telling you that staying quiet is wrong. I’m just observing that this isn’t a situation where your saying something would blow up the relationship; she already did that, it’s just that only one of you knows it. (And any friendship that would be ruined by telling the other person they hurt you badly is not really a friendship to begin with.)

      2. blackcat*

        Frankly, I probably couldn’t work for a boss who did this, so I’d job search. And probably still not say anything…

    2. CheeryO*

      Agreed. I just can’t picture the conversation going the way OP would want it to go, especially if her emotions are still heightened, and it’s probably not worth risking the awkwardness (best-case) or bridge torching (worst-case). Let yourself feel the righteous indignation in private, chalk it up to a major lesson learned, and move on.

    3. EddieSherbert*

      I think if not saying something is an option for OP, it’s a good direction. Some people *really* need to get that kind of thing out in the open though before they can move on. Honestly, I’d HAVE to say SOMETHING if this happened to me (..and I did when it happened to me! It just wasn’t my boss that did it). But OP should definitely be aware the boss might not apologize or really care that they messed up if they choose to say something.

    4. WakeRed*

      Honestly this sounds lovely, but if I were OP, I would not be able to contain my curiosity, and I wouldn’t want it to come up in casual conversation when I’m not expecting it – because then I would be incandescent and it would be obvious to everyone.

  16. Roscoe*

    So first, let me say I’m a pet lover, but not owner. So take that as you will.

    But i agree with Alison, this is why letting someone at work, especially a boss, do something like this is just a bad idea. You can’t be as upset toward him as you (rightfully) would like. I like her wording too, just asking exactly what happened and saying a few things.

    My bigger question though is do you think you can still work for him after this. Because if you think your anger will start seeping out in meetings where you don’t like what he said, or when he evaluates your performance and you want to say how he almost killed your pets, you may need to leave. Its such a personal thing that I think it would be hard to continue working for this person. But maybe you are able to compartmentalize this

    1. cat socks*

      I had the same thought about feeling resentment. If it was me, I absolutely would have difficulty interacting with this person on a daily basis.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        A very good point and I appreciate that others thought of it too – especially if OP talks to him and he just… doesn’t care… it might be really hard to work with him for quite awhile.

        1. Bostonian*

          Right. A key part of the ability to mend this relationship will be Boss’s reaction to this conversation.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, if I were OP I’d have a slim chance that I might not yell at the boss.
      The harder part for me would be the daily contact with this person and trying to bring back some shred of respect.
      I think I would have to keep my distance at first and limit conversations to only necessary talk about work. I can do plenty of unnecessary talk about work so this limit would probably be noticed eventually. But I would have to drop the side conversations in fear of saying something that would probably be noticed right away.

      The thing that sticks with me is this person failed to provide food and water to living beings who were totally dependent on them. This is way more than I ever want to know about someone who I have daily contact with. It’s just too much information. I rather know just about anything else, as this is such a failure.

      OP, if you have an immediate supervisor maybe you can sort of use her as a go-between for you and the boss. This might give you some space so you can keep working.
      Perhaps you can put regular work stuff in email so you can avoid having a conversation if you feel that you might say something way out of line.
      Perhaps you can put in for some vacation time or personal time just to allow a cooling off period.
      I would consider for myself finding a trusted cohort to confide in or ask advice and support, if I had such a person. What you want is someone who is wise and rock solid. Someone who feels like a calming force.

  17. Audrey Puffins*

    As someone who regularly pet-sits for friends, this really boils my swede. If there’s some reason why you can’t take full responsibility for looking after a pet, then you don’t take the gig (for instance I won’t look after dogs even though they are my forever favourite because I work full-time and they require a sitter to be far more present than cats or guinea pigs or fish do), and if you do take the gig, you follow any special instructions to the LETTER. I agree that you should make the boss aware there will be financial implications if Bishop requires a vet visit because of his negligence, and ideally he’d offer to pay for carpet cleaning as well, though I appreciate the power imbalance could make that an incredibly tricky conversation that you may prefer to bypass.

    Hope everyone’s okay and you only get responsible pet-sitters from now on!

  18. LaDeeDa*

    *HUGS* This is so awful, I nearly cried reading your letter.
    I am not sure I could have the conversation calmly, especially at the office. I think I would need to have the conversation over phone after hours. Good luck, and please update us!

    1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I’m horrified that so many comments that can be boiled down to “you have my sympathy, but you should have known better.”

      Why on earth should LW have been expected to know better? She had a coworker perform this task previously just fine. Someone else volunteered who she had no reason to assume was any less responsible than the coworker. She had no reason to assume they wouldn’t be intelligent enough to follow instructions. She had no reason to assume that they would be so selfish/sociopathic as to half-ass the care of living creatures.

      Someone else volunteered who it wouldn’t exactly have been easy to turn down without insulting their competence, which could easily have ramifications on an important professional relationship.

      Sure, plenty of people would have been fine saying “you know, the more I think about it, I want to go with a petsitting agency.” But I wouldn’t ascribe any irresponsibility whatsoever who someone who didn’t.

      Okay, rant over.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Yes, exactly! I agree with this.

        I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector and my husband’s in academia. Having a coworker, even someone a level or two above or below you, house sit/petsit/babysit is pretty common, and it usually works out fine, so shaming the person for having this kind of relationship with someone at work is rude. The previous relationship with the coworker had been working out, why should the LW have assumed it would sour with the boss?

        A lot of people are of limited means and simply can’t pay for professional care, so they rely on casual friend-network people to patch them through. The LW never specified what industry they’re in. It’s entirely possible LW is in a low paid role as is the coworker and boss, which is why they were helping each other out in the first place. Should LW have gotten rid of their pets as they became older and developed health issues, simply because their trusted coworker might not be able to petsit one day? No sensible person would make that argument.

        Finally, let’s swap in a child. If someone made reasonable, sensible arrangements for their child to be cared for, and instead they were neglected and abused, would you blame the parent for not being able to see into the future? “Oh well you shouldn’t have sent your kid to public school knowing the teacher might molest them.” Do you not see how nuts this is?

        1. Jennifer*

          If someone left a special needs child with a caregiver that did not have the expertise to care for them, I’d feel the same way. I actually used that as an example above.

          1. Zillah*

            But the boss demonstrated the ability to give the special needs dog the appropriate medication, and being careful about food it not rocket science.

          2. motherofdragons*

            If the special needs child was left with a caregiver with no expertise, and the result was that the child’s specific disability or condition was aggravated or it was otherwise related to that special need, I’d definitely be with you on the “WTF were you thinking?” train. But applying that example scenario to this one (VERY roughly), it’s like the parents came home and their child’s seizure medication had been carefully and properly administered, but the child was dehydrated and hadn’t had their clothes changed for 3 days. It does not take expertise in special needs to know that children and pets need food, water, and not to be sitting in their own pee.

          3. Kevlar*

            Yes, but that’s assuming that it’s a known variable that the caregiver isn’t capable. Boss demonstrated ability to provide a shot (which, correct me if I’m wrong, is basically a form of care) under OP supervision and volunteered himself. The example you used is comparable to if the boss tried to administer the shot, fumbled, but still offered to pet sit and the OP said yes. That’s not what happened. He demonstrated competency at arguably the most challenging aspect of OP’s pet sitting tasks which isn’t going to deter the average person from turning him down. (Especially turning down your own boss. People write in all the time how to have basic conversations with their boss because it’s not easy to do.)

            Also, it’s growing tiresome hearing how “complicated” these instructions are. First, aren’t instructions how people learn to do anything in the first place? They are everywhere and for everything, and I thought being able to follow instruction is a basic ability necessary for both school and work. (Not to mention that even the bags of food were labelled…) Second, boss is an adult and capable of communication. Family emergency? Tell the OP. Confused? Tell the OP. Overwhelmed? Tell the OP. There were numerous points where anything could have been communicated and it was not done.

            Should OP have gone with professional services? Sure. However, if a coworker was doing this with no problems for however long then what reason would she have to believe otherwise based on her experience?

            Lastly, in regards to the “favor” aspect I’ve seen in a couple comments, favors IMO are when someone honors a request you make of them. It does not apply if you volunteer yourself because you are making a conscious decision at no one else’s prompting. OP did not ask the boss originally, and the boss volunteered. As an adult, that’s on him to understand what situation he’s putting himself into and ask questions about what’s involved prior to committing.

            1. Jennifer*

              I agree that he should have should have said no. And no, there’s no excuse for not giving access to food or water.

              We’ll all just have to agree to differ on the rest. I just see it differently. The instructions weren’t necessarily complicated but more than a lot of people would want to commit to for a casual petsitting job.

          4. Nic*

            This is a bad example, and I really think it’s unhelpful that you keep simplifying it this way. Boss had the expertise – he was successful in giving the dog their shots. It was not the specialist skills that he failed on.

            He failed on the basic care stuff – food, water, and the ability to tell one individual pet from a whole other (very common) species. That’s not an expertise problem; that’s an attention and care deficit.

  19. Goya de la Mancha*

    Your poor babies! Feeling even more thankful that I’m able to leave mine with family if I have to go somewhere, and know that they will be treated like family.

    I have no advice, because I don’t know how I would be able to handle this if it were a co-worker let alone a boss!

  20. TGIF*

    I don’t think it’s impossible to rely on coworkers for taking care of animals but I think it takes a great deal of trust and understanding. My mother’s boss hired me as a pet/house-sitter for her cat for several summers when I was in college. The cat didn’t have any important medicine but that cat was like her baby, and she wanted excellent care for him.
    I proved myself with a few long weekends that she then had me stay a full month. She loved having me there, said she never had to worry about him or the house while I was there. When I graduated college and moved away, no longer close enough to cat-sit, she went through several sitters because she didn’t think they took as good care with her cat as I did.
    There is no excuse for your boss ignoring such easy instructions, or for not contacting you if there was any question about the instructions. You’re right to be upset and frustrated, but I don’t think you can say much to your boss other than ‘We won’t be asking you to watch our pets again’.

  21. 99 lead balloons*

    Oh man, this was hard to read as another pet parent. What should OP do about any potential vet bill and/or cleaning bill they might have as a result of the boss’s negligence? If all 4 end up needing vet care or meds, that would stack up pretty quickly.

    I’m really sorry, OP, hopefully all of your fur babies are doing ok!

    1. motherofdragons*

      I think if that comes up, OP would need to carefully consider the consequences. If she is willing to go nuclear, and possibly (hopefully) already has another job lined up, I would be in favor of requesting reparations from the boss and also giving my two weeks notice at the same time. Because I just don’t see a way that you could go there and stay comfortably in your job (or want to!).

    2. Colette*

      The boss screwed up, agreed. But I don’t think the OP can ask for money from someone who was doing her a favour, even when that person didn’t do a good job.

        1. Colette*

          It’s also not a favour to ask someone to go out of their way multiple times a day to save you some money.

          1. Beth*

            OP didn’t ask! The boss offered, and offered for their own benefit (so OP’s coworker would be freed from prior commitments to go on a work trip). You can say that OP should have turned their boss down, but it’s unfair to pretend that this is a favor that OP asked for or that the boss agreed to do solely out of the goodness of their own heart.

            1. Colette*

              The boss could have sent the OP’s coworker on a work trip without worrying about the OP’s pets, though, and the OP agreed to the favour. The boss did a bad job – no one is saying she didn’t – but that’s a sign that the OP shouldn’t ask her to do it again (or agree to let her do it if she volunteers). It doesn’t mean the OP should ask her for money, especially since it doesn’t seem like this has cost her anything financial.

              1. Beth*

                At the very minimum, the animal pee will be a fairly hefty cleaning fee that would have been unnecessary if the animals had had access to appropriate places to pee. Cat pee in particular is hard to get out, especially in large quantities; I wouldn’t be shocked if carpet needed to be replaced. It sounds like OP is also not sure yet whether there will be medical costs as a result of the maltreatment.

                If there are no financial costs, then yes, OP can’t really demand money. But there’s solid grounds here to think that the boss’ ‘favor’ was not just negligent on an abusive level, but also something that’s likely to cost OP some cash. It’s up to OP whether to actually ask their boss to cover any part of that, but I think it’s at least an option.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        You can absolutely ask a person to pay for damages that occurred while they were doing you a favor. If my arms were full and someone offered to do me the favor of taking a large breakable item from the load and carry it for me, but they dropped it and broke it, should the question of who’s paying for a replacement be entirely off the table just because the person was doing me a favor?

        1. Colette*

          Yes? It would be nice if the person offered, but yeah, people sometimes drop things, and they should not be expected to pay because they were trying to do something nice. If I hand my camera to someone to take a picture for me and they drop it, they don’t have to buy me a new camera; if a friend comes over to help me move a TV and it falls, that’s my problem; if I borrow a tent from a friend and rip it, I need to replace it. The recipient of a favour is responsible for the costs.

          (If the person doing the favour causes deliberate harm, that’s a different story, but we have no reason to believe that’s the case here.)

        2. motherofdragons*

          I agree with you on principle, but don’t think the example is great. Dropping and breaking something is an accident. Neglecting a living being is not.

  22. The Doctor*

    Whenever we travel, we kennel our cat at a local animal hospital affiliated with our veterinarian. They have all of his records and know exactly what he needs.

  23. Person from the Resume*

    LW, I think you should just let it go. If it wasn’t your boss, you could express your displeasure to get your valid feelings of anger out, but it is your boss and you have to keep being his employee. It goes without saying he will never be asked to care for your pets again and expressing your anger can harm your working relationship with him.

    It seems like your co-worker is a trusted pet sitter so asking him wasn’t an error in judgment. (It could have been the first time, but it sounds like these streams have been crossed before with no issues.) I can’t tell if trusted co-worker was sent out of town after you were already out of town. Or maybe just after he’d made the commitment. If he tried to tell your boss he couldn’t go because of his commitment to pet sitting your pets and then boss volunteered to pet sit in his place so that your co-worker could get the training. Whatever if you were already out of ton, co-worker should have said he was unable to travel that week. If you weren’t out of town, it would have been wiser to find an alternate than rely on your boss to care for creatures you love. Just take it as a lesson learned since all pets survived the awful experience.

    1. LilyP*

      I dunno. I would definitely have the conversation because depending on his response I might not want to work for him anymore. If he doesn’t have some sort of extenuating circumstances and just slacked off or skipped it, it really calls into question his basic ability to follow through on commitments and take responsibility for his actions, not to mention whether he cares about his staff at all. I would have a hard time trusting or respecting him after this.

    2. LGC*

      I really disagree with all of this.

      First, it seems like you’re advocating the LW drop the subject…which they shouldn’t! The boss’s actions caused actual property damage! And that’s not even the worst part – the pets were neglected in a way that could have killed them.

      And on top of that, it looks like you’re assuming the LW’s only options are that and getting angry. I agree getting mad doesn’t work, but this is something where the LW can address the problem in a way that’s not directed at the boss as a person.

      Finally – I’m not sure what kind of environment you work in, but most people can’t turn down work assignments because they have to pet sit. (Or even for childcare.)

  24. Snark*

    I don’t want to be too hard on OP, but this kind of thing is exactly why one’s coworkers and bosses should not be taking care of your pets. It’s crossing the streams. Not to put it too cynically, but if you’re in a position in relation to your petsitter where small claims court or a very heated discussion is off the table if something goes wrong, that person should not be taking care of your pets.

    And, frankly, if you’ve got pets with serious health issues and incredibly specific feeding and care instructions, it strikes me as a bad idea to leave them in the care of anyone on the basis of “what’s the worst that could happen” and “he’s got diabetes too.” Yes, a professional petsitter is more expensive, but I’ve had friends and neighbors screw up just petsitting my healthy and docile younger dog.

    1. Jennifer*

      Any service provider that I use I want to be able to speak freely if I’m displeased with their service.

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      “Yes, a professional petsitter is more expensive, but I’ve had friends and neighbors screw up just petsitting my healthy and docile younger dog.”

      Yup! You’d be amazed at what other people who even have pets in their own homes consider as ‘adequate’ for a pet. I’ve met people who say they’ve had dogs their entire lives, but why would you take a dog to the vet other than to put them down, they say with confusion. Oh, just give the dog [people medicine here], it worked great for [cat maybe 15 years ago with minimal detail on what was actually wrong, and what actually occurred].

      When we went on vacation for about 2 weeks, with a lot of travel during which did not allow us to take our two parakeets, we boarded them. It was $250 for two tiny little feather babies that cost like $15 for me to purchase originally. People were agog that 1) we boarded parakeets, who does that 2) it costs how much?? 3) didn’t just leave them with coworker/friend/next door neighbor and/or 4) didn’t just leave them for 2 weeks. And this *vet clinic* I boarded them at still didn’t do 100% of the care I requested from them.

  25. Tathren*

    OP I’m so sorry that this happened to you and your pets!

    I used to let a coworker pet-sit for me and everything was fine, until one time I went away for the weekend and she forgot to stop by and feed my cats for three days. (Luckily I had left some dry food out for them before I left, so they didn’t completely starve while I was gone.) When I got back I knew something was wrong and it didn’t take me long to realize what had happened.

    I sent her a text basically using Alison’s script (“Hey, do you know what happened this weekend? I think the cats were going through the garbage can for food, and I’m not sure they got fed at all while I was gone?”) and she called me immediately, apologizing for letting the weekend “Get away from [her]”.

    My script at that point was: “[Name], I’m going to cut you off there. I’m furious that this happened and, since we still have to work together, I’m going to hang up now before this conversation gets too heated. I’ll see you at work this week if you want to discuss things later.”

    I knew a face-to-face conversation at work would force me to keep my cool and not scream at her like I wanted to, but I also put it on HER to initiate another conversation because at that point I had gotten confirmation of what happened and made sure she knew that I was Not Happy about it. Blowing up at her wasn’t going to change what happened but I wanted to leave the door open if she ever wanted to offer a sincere apology or give an explanation that was better than “Oops I forgot”. She never brought it up again, and our work relationship was definitely professionally chilly for a long while after that.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I can’t imagine dealing with a cohort who almost killed my beloved pet.

        I don’t think this is an easy answer question. What one person can do effectively may not be a good answer for the next person. It’s fine not to rant at someone. It’s also fine to explain to someone that they made a huge error and you will talk to them when you feel calmer. If you feel like you are going to rant with no positive outcome going for a long walk might be a better choice than talking.
        Because our pets are so close to our hearts the chances of emotions running high are pretty good.

  26. Rebekah*

    Oh no this is awful! I hope they recover quickly and that you are able to find ways to feel comfortable traveling again when you want to. I know I would feel so nervous leaving again, even if I took steps to make sure nothing like that happened. I can’t even imagine having to go back to work and see Boss, let alone act normally. I like Allison’s scripts but this is such a tough situation!

  27. Arctic*

    I’m sorry this happened. But I don’t really see the benefit of saying anything at all. What is he going to say that will make you feel better? And he is still your boss.
    Plus, those are some intense special needs issues. That’s a lot to expect someone to take on on the fly.

    1. Yvonne*

      He offered to do it, for one, it’s not like the OP approached him. and the only unusual special need was the insulin shot which he demonstrated he could handle. The rest was literally ” give this animal this food and that animal that food, and keep the black cat in the bedroom.” That only requires reading comprehension. If he couldn’t handle it, he shouldn’t have offered.

      I feel this situation would bring out the absolute worst in me. I wouldn’t be able to look at him without an unhealthy amount of fury. It would color absolutely everything. To the point I think I’d be looking for a new position in the company or elsewhere altogether.

      1. Arctic*

        You can’t just leave your animals with anyone who offers. Especially someone who offered quickly without giving much thought to what it entails. Especially someone you can’t confront too much if they mess up. I’m very sorry for what happened and the boss was wrong but the OP absolutely has to accept some responsibility. “Oh, well, you offered so my responsibility ends there” doesn’t work when you have living things that rely on you.
        And having to use different foods and keeping a cat contained (which can be very difficult they are quick and don’t love being handled if they do escape) is absolutely onerous for a casual pet sitting gig.

        1. Jennifer*

          I agree. The instructions seemed a bit complicated to me, especially since the animals were not familiar with Boss. Food can easily be mixed up. I think the responsibility is half and half.

          1. Xit*

            If telling a cat from a dog and reading labels on food is too complicated for you, you probably aren’t ready for a job.

              1. Ceiswyn*

                Wait; are you genuinely saying you can’t tell the difference between a cat and a dog, or read food labels?

        2. motherofdragons*

          I’m wondering, if the boss is the one who wrote in something like “My employees arranged for one to pet-sit for the other, but I had to send the sitter to a training, so I offered to sit for the pet owner in her place to help her out. My employee left specific instructions before going on vacation. During the three days she was gone, I did not follow them, and when she returned she confronted me and told me that her animals were suffering from dehydration and possible allergic reactions, and there is dog piss all over her spare bedroom. What should I do?” Would your response to the boss also be, “You were wrong, but really your employee needs to take responsibility for having used you in the first place?”

  28. irene adler*

    I have a diabetic dog.

    I won’t interview for job positions that require travel nor will I go out of town overnight.
    Not going to trust anyone to care for my dog.

    Folks give me grief for this. They tell me that there’s nothing to worry hiring someone to care for my dog.

    I won’t do it.

    Now I have evidence to back me up.

    OP, I am so, so sorry you came home to this. IF nothing else- no water???? That’s criminal.
    Don’t think I could control myself next time I met with this boss.

    1. Not All*

      That’s a little extreme. Until recently, I had a dog who needed injections every 12 hrs (not diabetes but still critical). I hired a sitter who was a vet tech with amazing references. She charges $60/day so work travel is definitely a financial loss for me but it is a reasonable balance of career needs and making sure he was well cared for (the other animals are all easy).

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Agreed. We board our dog at his daycare. While we’re very lucky that he doesn’t have any special needs, I would absolutely trust their staff to handle anything. First, they’re professionals, and second, they know and love him (and they don’t charge extra for administering meds). I can’t imagine not having some kind of back-up care in case of an emergency; when I lived in NYC, my phone’s emergency info even included the phone number of his daycare so that if anything happened to us during a walk, there was a chance someone would know what to do with my bud.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        My veterinarian has a boarding kennel attached (semi-independently; she owns the space and they rent from her, but it mostly caters to her patients, anyway). We also have a kennel that we’ve used for years that knows all the vets in the area and has always been great with our elderly pets’ weird medication schedules. There are good pet-carers out there.

    2. Snark*

      Yeah, that’s way extreme. A qualified vet tech would be just as capable of caring for your dog as you are.

    3. hbc*

      No, you have evidence that getting amateur volunteers can be hit or miss, even if they’ve been reliable before. Someone who is a professional pet sitter, will not be able to make rent if they blow people off, and has this built into their schedule will be as good or better than most pet owners, and definitely than the vast majority of people squeezing this in as a favor for a friend.

      1. LSC*

        Exactly. This is evidence to back up needing to hire a vetted professional, not never leaving your animal overnight. I understand if this is the best solution in your case because of the cost of hiring a good service, of an aversion in general to travel or for your own peace of mind in your specific situation. However, I have a pet and my takeaway from this has not been “don’t ever leave my dog in the care of someone else to travel”.

    4. Becky*

      I have a friend who is part of a dog rescue group and regularly has foster dogs in her care. She also has something like 4 dogs that are hers. One of them is blind and has seizures and requires a good amount of medication and care. There is only one person (someone else who is involved with the same rescue) that she will leave that dog with because she knows that person understands the dog’s needs and has the experience necessary to handle her.

      If your dog has special needs, find someone- not an amateur, not a friend (oh yeah I can help out)–who is properly qualified and who you can try out before giving greater trust to.

    5. pope suburban*

      I understand your fear, but I worry that you’re cutting yourself off from a lot without need. There are reputable services that will hire qualified, vetted people to care for your pets. Sometimes you can find them through the vet’s office, sometimes they’ll be on Yelp, and sometimes you can find a gem on a service like Rover. For example, the last time my husband and I traveled, we were able to search Rover and find a veterinary medicine student with a lot of high reviews. Our cat doesn’t have special needs, but it was very comforting knowing that she’d have someone who knows cat health checking in on her, since she’s almost 14 (She’s in good health, but older animals come with more/different concerns). If you can find someone who has proven that they are a capable custodian, with the relevant experience/training, then you’ll be leaving your dog in good hands. Frankly, I’m aware that a vet tech is going to be a *better* caregiver than I am at my base state, because they have specialized knowledge and skills that I don’t- which is why when it’s time for a wellness check or a shot, I take my cat to them.

      Obviously what you do is up to you, and if this works for you, keep on keeping on. There was just something about your comment that read as really anxious to me, and being an incredibly anxious person myself- especially when it comes to animals- I wanted to say something. No judgment here, no “you should,” just some other data for you in case it helps anything.

    6. Relly*

      To everyone saying this person is being too extreme, isn’t that her choice to make?

      When my cat needed subcutaneous fluids for two years, I decided that meant no being away from home for more than a single night at a time. (She could miss a day, and we have family out of state.) Was it hard? Yes, very. Could I possibly have found someone to take care of her? Maybe. Do I regret it? No. Not in the least. I made sacrifices willingly to do what I thought was best for my cat, because I would have never forgiven myself if something had happened, and because I didn’t want to be away from her for that long while she was sick and needing me.

      I honestly think that’s what Irene is saying — not “if I used a pet sitter, my dog would definitely die” but rather “screw everyone else, I’m not taking chances on something this important.” She decides her priorities, and if she’s fine with it, good for her.

      1. Blue_Thing*

        I’m with Irene here too, and in my case, the household is run on behalf of the animals. It’s a little easier (sadly) than it used to be; our elderly cats did mean that we couldn’t go out and be away from home overnight. That said, if I had a choice I’d still have the cats *and* the restrictions.

        I’m still a reptile keeper, and in all practicality, I don’t believe I could hire a pet sitter that could manage everyone in the house adequately – from the tiny tarantulas through the frogs and lizards all the way up to the big boa, and that’s even if we timed the feeding schedule to ensure that no snakes would require feeding *or* cage cleaning while we were gone and the only thing that needed to happen was feeding the lizards and the inverts and watering everyone. My partner and I haven’t been away from the house together for more than 48 hours at a stretch for over a decade, and that was a choice we made when we decided to have exotic pets instead of an office and spare bedroom.

        … By comparison, I have to admit that two dogs and two cats – even if one needs injections and the other needs to be kept separate so they’re not eating the wrong food, and making sure everyone has sufficient water – sounds positively simple, and it really shouldn’t have gone wrong.

        I’m sorry that the OP encountered such an awkward situation to begin with – I’d hate to be in the same position, and my immediate impulse of “here’s the vet bills and the carpet cleaning bill” is not the most diplomatic nor is it one guaranteed to ensure ongoing employment.

      2. Nic*

        I agree. Also, I’m pretty sure some of the commenters are engaged in both shaming the OP for being too trusting AND shaming irene adler for not being trusting enough. :(

        Apparently they have a magic formula for getting the magical “right” carer, because they’ve personally never had problems or failures of care, and therefore their way is the one that everyone should follow. Because no town is so small that there aren’t any professional pet sitters, right? And every vet office offers boarding services, and also has vet techs just waiting for the opportunity to hold down a second job on the side. It sounds idyllic.

        In other words, irene gets to set her own boundaries and risk levels, and care for her pet as she thinks is safest. Choosing to be her pet’s carer 24/7 and travel only where she can also take that pet is not extreme, it is her valid choice as a pet owner to decide not to leave anything to chance. Because I’m sorry, but vet techs and professionals are human just like the rest of us, and can also make mistakes and have weak spots in their professional skillset.

    7. Kittyfish 76*

      Late to the party here, but I agree. When my sweet cat became old and had to have insulin treatments, and ultimately had cancer, I would not travel (luckily don’t have to with my job). And I would not want to put that responsibility on anyone. I’ve given insulin to my cat, and dealt with tumors/cancer, but I would be hesitant to do so for someone else’s pet, even though I have experience.

  29. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Oh lord, OP, this is horrible, and I’m so sorry you had to come back to this.

    I think bringing it up with your boss as Alison outlined is a great idea. Hit a couple of the major issues (the no water is HUGE, especially because that has nothing to do with complicated or special needs — it’s literally the absolute most basic thing there is!!) and approach it very nonconfrontationally, because you do need to preserve some kind of working relationship with the boss.

  30. Anon for this*

    Side note – wow, nanny cams around the house sure seems to contradict all the “trust competent adults to do their jobs” advice that is regularly doled out on this site! Is it that much different from the letter the other day, from the office worker whose boss watched them on video call all day?

    1. LilyP*

      What? The nanny cam isn’t so she can sit and watch the house-sitter go about their business for hours at a time. It’s so she can occasionally check in and make sure things are in order. You know, like your boss might review your work at the end of the week. Totally different situation.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The cameras are so we can watch the cats, and I assure you that they don’t care.

      The fact that it also lets us know the sitter has come is a bonus – and yeah, as LilyP says, we’re not watching them the whole time they’re there. Sitter came, check, now let’s watch Olive roll around on her back for 20 minutes.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I also have a pet camera and I love it! It includes some extra stuff, like notifying when a person walks by and notifying me if the dog is barking (which is important because we’re in an apartment complex).

      2. Snark*

        I have a pet camera. I logged on one time just as she started sniffing the new thing. BOOM big black shiny nose all over my laptop screen.

    3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      The other thing about nanny cams is that it can actually help your pet sitter.

      My situation was outside the norm… but the last time my husband and I went on vacation we had 3 cats that were actively rehabbing from emergency surgery (long story!) and all were still receiving wound care and medicine. One cat had to go in the day we left to be restitched and was still in quarantine in the bathroom.

      A couple of days before we left I decided to buy a cheap video camera that I could set up in the bathroom to keep an eye on the one cat because he was still in the cone of shame and he had a tendency to get stuck while trying to houdini out of it. I set it up on my phone and my neighbors phone.

      My neighbor originally thought I was going way overboard, but he figured out real quick that he could check in on the cat at any time without having to come over.* When we got back he said that he felt better being able to keep a closer eye on him than he normally would have been able to.

      We’re leaving again in a few weeks for vacation and I’m going to ask if he wants us to set it up again. If he says no, then we won’t. But if he finds it useful we will (and he will again have access to the feed).

      *The second morning that we were gone we logged in to check on the furball and he had gotten one arm through the cone and the tie was caught on a drawer handle. It was long before our neighbor would have gone over to check on them so we called and he ran over to deal with the little bugger immediately.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes! We actually got them originally because one of the cats wasn’t coming out at all while the sitter was there and the sitter was concerned. We wanted to make sure we could see she was coming out to eat once the sitter had left (as opposed to being too traumatized to emerge at all, which she had actually done once when staying at my mom’s house). We got the cameras, found she was totally normal as soon as the sitter left, and then kept using the cameras because it’s great to be able to get the peace of mind of seeing with our own eyes that they’re sleeping/playing/eating/generally fine.

        1. Sharrbe*

          I can’t tell you how much cameras give me peace of mind when I go away. I would worry obsessively (What if my cats turn on the stove!? What if they get stuck behind the fridge?! What if they grow opposable thumbs and open the door?!) When I check in I can see that they spend their days mostly napping and not getting into anything. I love them.

    4. Undine*

      People put baby monitors in where they’re the only people in house and the baby’s room is right next door. The point is the cats are alone most of the time. More can go wrong with cats than just the pet sitter not showing up. She likely never sees the pet sitter on the cam. But it does underscore the fact that people feel really different about their pets than they do about work, and it’s not a good risk to get a coworker to pet sit.

    5. Val Zephyr*

      There’s a huge difference between keeping an eye on the strangers in your house when you’re not there and being constantly watched by your boss.

    6. Dragoning*


      This isn’t “I’m going to watch you the entire time you do your job to make sure you do it.”

      This is “I might check in occasionally to make sure there is food and water in the appropriate bowls, to prevent and irreparable tragedy.”

      This is more like a QA check.

    7. Grapey*

      If a spreadsheet doesn’t get filed in time, deadlines are missed, but if a cat doesn’t get meds, they could die. The stakes are a little bit different.

      1. Pet Sitter*


        There is also the risk of a break-in, burst pipe, or some other emergency at the house.

        It hasn’t happened to me, but I have heard of robberies happening while homeowners are away. Pet sitters have been accused of being involved because they knew the homeowners were out of town. If I were in that situation, I would be very glad that investigators could see security camera footage.

        As a personal example, I was caring for a family’s cat while the owners were out of town. There was a hurricane. The owners did not have cameras and so we did not know how their house fared. Luckily, I was able to visit very soon after that, the cats were fine, and the house wasn’t damaged at all.

        1. pope suburban*

          Yeah, we have an Arlo that we turn on when we’re out of town, but it’s not because of our pet sitter. It’s because we’re out of town, and thieves are known to watch for empty houses/apartments. We’d like to know that we’re not going to come back to a place that’s been burgled. I don’t think I ever watch any footage of the pet sitter activating the camera past the initial look to see what it is.

    8. Sharrbe*

      I let my petsitter know that I have cameras and that I use them to check in on the house and see what the cats are up to. I don’t use them to watch what the petsitter is doing. If she comes in, I’ll actually sign off. Having said that, life happens and if the petsitter suddenly had an accident and couldn’t let me know, the cameras could tell me they haven’t been fed for a while and that something is up. They are just great for peace of mind.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Agreed completely! Our dog walker is 100% aware there is a camera and where it is. Mine actually has a feature to notify me if a person is in the house, and I make a point of closing it when she’s around.

    9. CommanderBanana*

      Wow. It’s not a nanny cam, it’s part of our house’s security system so when we’re out and the alarm is tripped, we can see what caused it and if there’s someone in the house.

      My asshole former roommate caused two false alarms (that we have to pay for) because she would cover up the camera and then tripped the alarm because she “felt uncomfortable” with the cameras there, that we only look at if the alarm is actively going off but never actually told us she was doing this.

    10. Pet Sitter*

      Encountering cameras is very, very normal IME. They are about as common as home security systems, and I assume that people install them for the same reason.

  31. Tobias Funke*

    Everyone shaming OP for not looking into her crystal ball to know that her usual reliable person would be unable to complete the task is really out of bounds here.

    I don’t have any constructive advice because I work for myself and am essentially feral in an office setting, but I did want to extend sympathy. I would be seething. And it is a damn shame capitalism is so powerful that we are unable to be direct about something so important.

    1. TooTiredToThink*

      Yeah; especially since OP specifically states that the boss knows how to give injections AND gave one to the dog in front of them. That’s not just some random layperson… AND its a boss. OP knows how reliable of a person boss usually is.

    2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      I would agree with this. Coworkers don’t watch my pets, my mom usually does, and I have another friend as a backup. When THAT backup fell through one weekend (mom was traveling with me), I asked another friend who had watched my dog previously. He has no major medical needs like the OP (he’s on some medication now but it’s easy stuff, and not the end of the world if he misses it; and at the time he wasn’t on anything), but he’s very nervous around most people. Not aggressive, just very very nervous, but he’s a large dog. She had watched him before and he did well, but this time she decided to bring him around her boyfriend’s young children, whom he had never met, and left them only sort-of supervised in the backyard. He didn’t do much other than cower under a tree.

      I wasn’t happy about the situation, but in hindsight, it was not the best plan for me to ask her, and if I had it to do over I would have looked into an alternative option, but I can see how even the most responsible pet owners can make a miscalculation on a pet sitter in certain circumstances.

  32. Elizabeth Proctor*

    I’m surprised you would hire someone who isn’t a professional pet sitter to do anything more than come and feed your animals and take the dog for a walk once or twice a day. This seems like a lot of responsibility (special food, shots, very specific instructions) for someone who isn’t in that professional field.

    That being said, I think Allison’s advice is pretty spot-on. There’s no use in hammering your boss about what went wrong because presumably you’ll never trust this person to take care of your pets again. You just need to know what might have happened to the animals so you can explain it to the vet, etc.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, this. I won’t ask friends to cat-sit, not because my friends will be lazy (they won’t) but because my cats are weird and their feeding routine is a pain in the neck. It’s a lot easier to have them kenneled separately (they eat different foods, and one has a GI problem that occasionally flares up) so they can’t eat from each other’s bowls.

  33. Amber Rose*

    If anyone hurt my cat I would set them on fire with the force of my anger.

    No but seriously, I hesitate even to let my sister-in-law watch my cat again. Not because she did a bad job, but because after the last time she watched him he has developed hatred for her and hisses at her whenever she goes near him. She didn’t treat him badly, just brought too many dogs into his space, but I don’t want to stress him out.

    I also am not sure what talking to your boss would accomplish. Unless you’re looking for money for cleaning bills, maybe just not say anything and resolve to use someone not work related to pet sit next time so there’s no chance of your boss ending up at your place again.

  34. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    I’ll start by saying I’d be On Fire Mad(TM) and can absolutely understand and agree with your anger and hurt over this, that being said, here’s the advice that I’d follow.

    I don’t think you are really going to get anything from this conversation so if it were me I’d skip it. While I can understand and totally sympathize with the need to yell and scream at the incompetence of your boss in this matter. It’s really not going to solve anything.

    OT advice:
    If your coworker is trustworthy then talk to them (and explain what happened) and only use them in the future. Otherwise, look for alternatives and backups to your normal sitter. Again if coworker is trustworthy and you haven’t had problems with them, then use them. But also have a vet or boarding kennel on backup in case something happens that your coworker can’t fulfill their duties (such as the last min work trip or a sudden family emergency). You can also have a different pet sitter scheduled to come in every few days as a trust but verify set of eyes on your pets to make sure that undesirable conditions don’t last long.

    Our neighbors are our prime pet sitters when we are gone (and I can’t stress how much we trust them and how well they take care of our pets), but we occasionally board our dog at her doggy daycare, and we have a standing credit for one overnight (they also know we are good for any charges incurred if something were to happen). We also have our CC on file at the vet and authorized a charge for up to $500 for treatment or boarding. When we leave, regardless of our neighbors coming over for the cats, we leave a large pan of food, water jug that will last a week in the auto water dish, and all of the toilet seats up (hey… any port in a storm).

  35. 867-5309*

    After an awkward situation where someone on my team clearly didn’t love sitting my dogs – and didn’t know how to tell me – I started booking through DogVacay. I found several great sitters through the site. Also, as Alison mentions above, many vet techs like the extra money and pet sit on the side.

    I totally get the frustration – and anger – at the boss. However, in cases where the pets needs are significant – different foods, different instructions for each animal, etc. – I can also see how someone would just think, “hey, i’m helping out” and miss instructions. We love our animals and of course write detailed instructions, but others might not feel that same affinity.

    One thing on the water: I about had a conniption because my dogs’ water bowl was empty when I’d get home from work and they’d drink an entire bowl in seconds when I refilled it. Similar to what OP mentions. My dog walker insisted they were filling the water bowls. Turns out they were, but my dogs weren’t drinking before their late-afternoon walk and then still super thirsty when I’d get home. Without talking to the boss, we can’t know each circumstance and I’d hate to assume they just left the pets on their own the entire time, like some have suggested.

    1. Sharrbe*

      I agree that vet techs can be a great place to find a pet sitter. You know they’re familiar with animal health issues and the critical importance to following directions to the letter, you can get references from the vets themselves, and if you actually bring your pets to that practice, they’ll want to do an exceptional job for you because they don’t want any complaints to get back to their bosses. Seriously, just call the front office and ask if any techs do any petsitting on the side. I’m sure there will be several.

  36. Clambert*

    Contact That is a pet walking,sitting or taking care of animals online company . All workers are carefully screened and it’s a great company .

    1. Pet Sitter*

      Has Rover changed recently? I tried it out and it was very easy to join the platform. You just have to pass a background check and answer some basic questions about animal handling.

  37. hbc*

    I would think really hard about what Alison says about what result you want from your conversation with your boss. In my experience, people react very badly to being told they didn’t do a favor correctly, no matter how egregiously they screwed up said favor.

    If you think getting his thought process will help you get over your anger at him, then ask him what happened. If you think you can only continue to work with the guy if he admits error and proactively offers to pay for vet bills and cleaning, might as well give it a shot before starting the job hunt. But chances are, his answers will not make you think any better of him, and you’ll only accomplish making the relationship even more awkward.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      This. If he were going to be conscientious about it, he’d have done it already, either by not messing up or by calling you to say he didn’t understand the instructions, and then by apologizing and offering to pay for the mess. Nobody should need it explained to them that you can’t lock a small dog up indoors for hours. Sheesh.

    2. motherofdragons*

      I have a ton of empathy for OP, and am pretty annoyed at the lack thereof in some of these comments…but I agree with this advice entirely. Think hard, OP, before you make your decision. None of us are in your shoes to tell you the “right” thing to do, only you can decide what you can live with. I’ll be crossing my fingers that it all turns out well for you and your pets!

    3. The New Wanderer*

      I had asked a neighbor’s son, coordinated with his mom, to feed and water my cats while we were on a trip. They had a cat and two dogs so standard pet care was WELL within their understanding. Came back to similar circumstances, no water or food for obviously days, excrement everywhere because the litter boxes were overflowing, and one cat developed a lifelong stress grooming problem from the stress. They probably would have died if one of the toilet seats hadn’t been left up so they could access water.

      My husband was the one to go ask WTF happened because I couldn’t trust myself. To this day I don’t even know what they told him because it didn’t matter. Nothing they could have said would have fixed the situation or made me feel like it was in any way mitigated by their excuse. It didn’t completely ruin our relationship with them but it was a long time before I could speak to them at all and it was pretty obvious that we never trusted them again, not even to pick up our paper or mail.

  38. KillItWithFIRE*

    I would personally lay out the exact consequences of your Boss’s actions. The destruction, animal discomfort, medical issues and outcomes. If they don’t seem horrified and promptly grovel – find a new job. Anyone who would do that and not feel AWFUL is not someone you want in charge of you.

    1. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

      I like Alison’s script for this.

      I would also have the bill ready for the carpet cleaner rental or whatever costs were incurred (vet visit due to the allergic reaction, etc) and have that ready to hand to Boss . Being very matter of fact, I would say unfortunately because of what happened I uncurred these fees and that I’ll leave them with you. Then quietly leave the office to quietly continue my work.

      While I’d be furious, I do think there is a diplomatic way to handle this with boss without completely ruining the work relationship.

      But this boss needs to know he absolutely efffd up and how to at least fix part of it, by paying that bill.

      I’ve had this happen wwith a roomate (!!!) who was supposed to feed my bearded dragon when I was gone to college for 4 days of the week an hour away when I went back to school. I ended up moving beardie to a family members’ house and asked her to move out, as the rent was cheap because feeding/watering cats and lizard (and water snakes, didnt even have to lift the lid) were part of her lease. Otjerwise I would have charged her twice as much.

      She didnt apologize. I think she figured if it was forgetfullness and no intent to harm the animals that it was forgivable?

      She also didnt flinch when I gave her a notice to move out a few weeks later.

      Like parents that neglect kids, there is just a deficit to see that neglect is abuse. Im… amazed and saddened by people with this lack of insight.

    2. CheeryO*

      The issue is that someone who would neglect animals like that is obviously a jerk and/or moron (assuming nothing super strange happened), so nothing concrete is going to come from that conversation. And if you do take the nuclear option, you might be burning the bridge to the extent that you can’t use the boss as a reference, and that probably isn’t worth the satisfaction of laying it all out there.

  39. SteamedBuns*

    After losing a dog when I took her to a seemingly responsible private kennel 5 years ago…I gave up on anything less than concrete cages and bars.

    When I selected a “kennel” that was referred to me by a friend, I thought I was in great luck. The owner never took in more than 8 dogs at a time, she had a fenced in yard, even the kennels were decked out…not the concrete barred, bare places you see when you board with the vet…

    Within 12 hours of me dropping off my 8 month old Italian Greyhound…the kennel owner lost her. Three days later my pup’s body was found on the side of the road. The kennel owner “graciously” refunded me half of what I’d paid her.

    Turns out I couldn’t sue her because of some negligence form or something like that. Lawyer said it was no different than me asking a friend to watch my dog.

    So after that, I take no chances. I will spend the big bucks to put my current dog in the most prison-like, maximum security place I can find.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I am so, so sorry that this happened. My heart would be absolutely shattered. I hope if there was a way to let her other clients know about this you were able to do that.

      We have not boarded my dog and honestly I don’t think I could handle the stress. I did visit a boarding facility I liked, as each dog had its own “bedroom” with a door that closed and a little bed, plus an indoor play space, but the few times we went to take our dog to the play space, the only employees all seemed to be really young and no one seemed to be obviously in charge, and I’m not comfortable leaving my dog somewhere that doesn’t have actual adults on staff.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      I am so so sorry. That is beyond horrible. I don’t even know how I’d react to that, to be honest. That is totally fair to take extreme measures when planning for someone to watch your pets, especially after something so terrible.

    3. MatKnifeNinja*

      I hear you. My friend lost her Basenji because THE KENNEL didn’t know about the breed temperature, how fast they can bolt, and zero recall if they bolt. Dog scaled a 6 ft fence into the wood, and was shot by someone thinking it was a coyote.

      I have Italian greyhounds. People don’t appreciate fast they are and how high they can jump. My 15 year old will still straight line bolt when spooked. She will go to bars and slab prison when I go out of town this weekend. Even still, Brat figured out how to unlatch the slide bolt on the cages. Her cages gets a big ELOPEMENT PRECAUTIONS sign and zip ties on the cage door.

      Sorry about your IG. How heart breakimg.

  40. Lola*

    Total nightmare. I’ve had issues with paid pet sitters as well. Now I make sure they have experience with my type of animal (cat, so many dog sitters act amazed my cats aren’t like other cats) and I’m trying an agency registered with a pet sitters association. One sitter had too many clients so she didn’t see my cats until 8pm at night and couldn’t get into the apt. My landlord ended up feeding them the next day. Can’t imagine what would have happened if they were diabetic.

  41. Blue*

    I wonder if he saw the insulin as the critical thing and figured everything else was more preference than actual need? That wouldn’t make it ok – if you agree to watch someone else’s pets or children, you should follow their rules – but that’s pretty much the only thing that makes sense to me.

    1. fposte*

      I can’t imagine anybody with any experience with animals, let alone enough to give insulin shots to his own, thinking water is a preference and not a need, though. I think either this took more time than he expected and he didn’t work with a checklist and therefore rushed out, or he had somebody else on food and water and they were clueless.

      1. nonegiven*

        I didn’t get that boss had a diabetic pet. I got that diabetic boss had pets. Why else audition for the dog’s shot?

  42. Nobody Here by That Name*

    If you don’t feel comfortable having cameras set up at your home, another option is to ask the sitter to take pictures of your pets each day and send them to you. My dad does that for me when he takes care of my cats while I’m away. He came up with the idea on his own as a way to show me how my cats were doing, but it’s turned into quite the reassurance. Plus one time I was able to tell him one of the cats was taking advantage of him by making him believe she was allowed to sit on the dining room table :D

    1. OyHiOh*

      One of mine took advantage of a house full of visitors to try and convince the person helping in the kitchen that he was totally, absolutely, always allowed to jump onto the counter.

      1. Nobody Here by That Name*

        Well of course! How else is all that food going to get prepared without him there to lend a paw?

  43. Ceiswyn*

    As an added note, this can be a problem with anyone who comes into your house while you’re not there.

    When I sold a previous house, my estate agent insisted on having a set of keys so that they could do viewings without me present, which is admittedly standard. This was all fine until I went away for a long weekend, leaving my cats with plenty of water, food on a timer, etc; and the estate agent did a house viewing and SHUT ALL THE DOORS.

    I got home to find that my cats had been unable to access water for three days in the middle of summer, and rang up the agency to complain; the receptionist clearly didn’t understand why I was unhappy, and definitely didn’t pass on my complaint. If I hadn’t been bound by contract I would have fired them.

    As it was, I have blacklisted them, and told friends looking for agent advice that I have blacklisted this chain and why. The next time I had to sell a house, I looked specifically for basic consideration for animal welfare, and went with the agent whose wife worked at my local vet. It turned out that he was the sort of person who would fill an empty bowl with water while doing a viewing; I am happy that he got the relevant commission :)

  44. Beau's Mom*

    I am so sorry you experienced this but I do agree with Allison’s advice however I know how hard this is. Our pets are our babies.
    Last July, my beloved pug Beau left this world far too soon because of the absolute negligence and carelessness of my dog sitter. I had given strict instructions about not leaving him unattended in the yard at any times, and he was only with the sitter for 2 hours before he drowned in her pool. My world has been upside down since then and I haven’t recovered.
    I did not confront this person because I just couldn’t handle it emotionally.

    1. motherofdragons*

      I’m truly so sorry for your loss, and in such awful circumstances. My heart goes out to you.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      I am so, so sorry. My world revolves around my dog and I would be absolutely devastated. My dog can’t swim, and IMHO someone who dog sits and has a pool has a MAJOR responsibility to NEVER let a dog near the pool unattended, even for a second, even with a dog that can swim. You wouldn’t leave a toddler unattended near a pool, a dog is no different, and pugs are definitely dogs that cannot swim well.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        +100. I’m so sorry for the loss of your sweet pup. What happened to him is so incredibly unfair.

    3. Book Person*

      I am so, so sorry. Totally understandable to grieve your fur friend; I hope you can find some peace and recovery.

  45. Anonymeece*

    My brother had a small little dog, Sam, and while he was out one day, his roommate/colleague tied her up in the backyard during the summer. In Texas. With no water. By the time my brother got home, Sam had died from heat exhaustion.

    I really don’t know how he faced his colleague at work after that, but he did move out immediately.

    I don’t want to belabor Alison’s point, but it really is situations like yours and my brother’s why it’s good not to “cross the streams”. I’m glad your babies seem like they’re going to be okay, and I hope your boss is appropriately chastened when you have that conversation with him.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      That is horrible, and that person is horrible, and they absolutely should have known better.

  46. Sharrbe*

    I had a friend pet sit and instead of doing it himself, sent his kids in to do it while he waited. When I got back the litter box was literally a mud pit because no one scooped it, there was no water or dry food. Poor kittes drank for about 15 minute straight after I filled them. All they did was feed them them a little bit of wet food – which was probably the only think that kept them survivably hydrated. I was horrified. Now I pay a petsitter and have cameras set up so I can check in. Will never ever rely on a friend again.

  47. MCL*

    Noooo. We got back from our wedding weekend to find our ill, elderly kitty stumbling around. The pet service we hired to give him his pills twice daily had mixed up his morning and afternoon doses, so he hadn’t received his pills at the proper time which made him sick. The pills were in one of those really clearly labeled organizers, so it was a baffling screw-up. I was livid. I called the service, they were apologetic and refunded me. But I will never hire them again and tell people who are considering hiring them about the incident (they are a popular service in the area, we didn’t do as much research as we should have, obviously).

    I suggest going through a thoroughly vetted service in the future, though, or maybe find a veterinarian who can recommend a pet-sitter who has references. Since you have animals with special needs, it’s really important to get their care right and if a co-worker (or boss, in your case) screws up, it can be hard to deal with.

  48. Becky*

    This is just terrible. I hope there are no long term repercussions on your pets’ health.

    I am not a pet person, I don’t like dogs or cats (and am allergic to both). But I have in fact pet sat for a friend before (a few times)–She gave me a list of clear instructions and I followed them each morning and each evening. I refilled the food and water for the cat, the dog and also the chickens (and gathered their eggs). It isn’t hard to follow directions, it doesn’t even require being an animal lover–just a responsible adult. And if you can’t fulfill the responsibility you politely decline “I’m sorry, I can’t that week” or whatever.

    My roommate is much more of a pet person, but doesn’t have a car. So I brought her with me a few times in the evening so she could give love and attention to the dog, because even though I am not a dog lover I recognize that he needs some of that. (The cat is real standoffish and will protest being petted.)

  49. Amazon Show Great Help!*

    Obsessive cat-owner here! Our two cats don’t have any special needs, other than they absolutely *NEED* human attention. From what we can tell, they get very anxious when we’re away.

    Similar to what Alison said, we found that getting an Amazon Show really helped. Fist of all, it’s super easy to drop in from our phones. Secondly, you can get lights that pair with Alexa so we can turn the lights on to see them. And not only can we see and hear them, but they can see and hear us as well, which seems to calm them (they come over, sniff the camera; and we confirm that they’re alive, the house didn’t burn down, etc.).

    For longer trips, we try to have someone stay overnight – someone we know personally and trust. Our current catsitter sends us so many pictures and videos of the boys (eating, playing, enjoying pets/lap time) that we don’t even need to drop in to check on them!

    1. MtnLaurel*

      Thanks for the recommendation. This is my worst nightmare, and I’m thinking of getting a camera so was looking for what people use. :-)

  50. Mk2*

    This is why you pay for professional animal sitters or a professional facility. I know it’s expensive but animals are expensive and it’s worth it. Also many of these companies are insured so if something happens they are liable and it’s easy to get repaid. I even had one that made me write down the most amount that they could charge (and I would need to pay back) if they needed to take my dog to the vet. My dog was on many different meds when she was old and to find someone who knew and cared to do it properly was so important to me.

    I had an issue once when I had my dog at an overnight daycare. I had them drop her back at our home because we were arriving when the facility was closed and they offered it an an additional charge. I told them and wrote down that she had to be helped out of the car she couldn’t jump because her knee was replaced and had other health issues. And what happened? The woman let her jump out of the car and then my dog started limping and yelled out. We took her to the vet and had to get her on meds and the dog care was liable for that and paid us back, but the dog was still hurt. I didn’t use them again and found a better fit with a dog walker who would stay at my home and loved animals. My dog passed away a couple years later but I was so happy we found someone who took such good care of her when we were away. It gets muddy when you use coworkers especially if you don’t pay them or if they are your manager or a subordinate. I think offices shouldn’t allow pet sitting for these reasons

  51. Person of Interest*

    It seems like one outcome you may want from this conversation is to have the boss give you flexibility to deal with any vet-related time off you may need to deal with your pets recovery. So after the initial “Do you know what happened?” it may be worth framing the rest of your conversation as: “My pets are having health issues related to being dehydrated and allergic reactions to eating the wrong food when we were away; I hope you can give me some flexibility on my schedule to get these take care of.” That allows you to make it clear how seriously the boss screwed up without going into a ton of accusatory details.

    1. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

      This. The owner has consequences from this and the least they can do is be flexible in the future.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      I like this suggestion too. It gets the point across AND gives the boss the opportunity to do something accommodating (“OF COURSE I can give you flexibility, take whatever time you need”).

  52. Noah*

    This is awful. With that many animals, especially some with special needs, you’re probably be better off hiring a professional pet sitter.

  53. cactus lady*

    OP I’m really sorry this happened and I hope that your pets are ok. Personally, I would consider finding a new job if this happened to me/my pets. I think the amount of trust I would lose in my boss (and probably resentment I don’t want to/can’t voice towards them) would interfere with my ability to work with that person. That’s just me, though.

    I also really advocate boarding special needs animals, or finding a professional sitter – I have done it and my kitties got way better care with less stress on them.

  54. Arya Snark*

    Had a former roommate scheduled to feed my cats once. She was a good friend at the time and we had bonded over our mutual love for cats when I lived with her and her two cats so I thought she would be great.
    Came home early from a long weekend of skiing to find that my cats had only been fed one out of 4-5 days based on the number of cans left. Oh, but the little something we left her for her trouble was gone (up in smoke, I presume).
    We were no longer friends from that day on – I can’t imagine what I’d do if that was someone I had to work with, let alone my boss.

  55. NotTheSameAaron*

    Absolutely terrible. I’ve had things happen to pets when I asked someone else to feed them. I went away on a trip and asked a family member to feed my dog. When I came home, I called to thank them and found out that they had forgotten all about him. Luckily I had put out a giant bag of food, so he was able to claw open the bag. I later saw him catching and eating small birds, so I guess he learned that while I was away as well. Right now I have an outdoor cat who can hunt for himself. He disappears somewhere in the winter and shows up in the spring.

  56. CommanderBanana*


    And the fact that your boss OFFERED to do this and fucked it up so royally? Wow. I’d be so rage-blind that I think I would get another job because every time I interacted with him I’d just remember how he put my pet’s life at risk and would have a very hard time being professional.

  57. Cowgirlinhiding*

    So what if this isn’t the bosses fault? What if co-worker mixed everything up and didn’t give boss all the information needed to take care of the animals? What if something else happened? Try to calm down and look at all the angles before talking to the boss. Personally I just figure that no one will take care of my animals the way I do, even with a list of specific instructions.
    I would use this a learning experience and not trust friend or boss to watch my animals again. If you feel like you need to find out what happened, I would just tell them thanks for helping out, and if there was something crazy, they will tell you about it.

    1. Shark Whisperer*

      She said she watch the boss give her dog insulin the first time, so I assume that she gave her boss all the instructions in person. The co-worker wasn’t responsible for passing along instructions.

    2. AnotherKate*

      “I just figure that no one will take care of my animals the way I do, even with a list of specific instructions.”

      Um, you expect that a fellow living creature understands that other living creatures NEED WATER though, right? This comment is off-base.

      1. Dr. Octagon*

        This is one the LWs where I can’t wait for an update. Did LW’s boss deliberately forget things? Did a huge work emergency pop up that caused boss to forget? Did a huge personal emergency emerge in boss’s life that caused he/she to forget? I NEED TO KNOW THESE ANSWERS.

        1. Original Poster*

          The boss said he did all the feedings and insulin shots, so there was no emergency, and he apologized for screwing up. The cat is better now and no issues have popped up with the other pets since we came back, other than them going nuts for water when we returned.

  58. Aurion*

    A friend of mine had asked me to cat-sit for her over a weekend while she was away at a wedding and her regular fallbacks were unavailable. Her cat was seven years old, needed pills 1-2 times a day but was otherwise healthy, and very sweet.

    I like animals but I do not have pets, and I told my friend I could stop by twice a day for 30 minutes – 1 hour but I wouldn’t stay at her place (my schedule at the time was pretty packed, and even if I didn’t have commitments to get to I wanted to go home to my own bed and not her pull-out couch). But I told my friend that ahead of time, and offered to stop by after work (multiple times, if needed) so she could train me on the procedures (rather than just relying on a list of her instructions).

    Eventually she found someone else to cat-sit (someone who could stay overnight, I think), and honestly, I think we were both relieved. I think she knew I would’ve taken it seriously, but I totally understand why she wouldn’t want to rely on just that.

    This boss is utterly abhorrent. Even untrained, unexperienced laypeople know water is a need.

    1. AnotherKate*

      Thank you. I don’t consider myself a particularly “intense” animal-lover (I eat meat, wear leather, dislike most clothing for animals, etc.) but the extent to which people seem willing to bend over backwards to make this not the boss’s fault because “no one will care for your pet with the same care you will” makes me sick to my stomach–a boss is a human adult of whom we can expect certain things. A pet is an innocent animal that relies utterly on human care to survive. When the humans involved fail to provide this care, they are to blame, and their error is morally compounded by the fact that the creature they harmed is innocent and helpless (largely speaking–of course most animals will do everything they can to escape/use their instincts, but the environment we place our pets in basically ensures they need us to live; they aren’t wild animals).

      1. Aurion*

        At minimum, if the boss had looked at the instructions and found them overwhelming (four special needs animals at once can be a daunting task), he should’ve communicated that to the OP immediately. OP wouldn’t have been happy at the prospect of scrambling for a pet-sitter last minute, but it would’ve been a lot better than the sickly pets she came home to.

        I mean, the boss didn’t give the pets water. He’s not even pretending to try, here.

        1. E*

          This. A reasonable person would have communicated immediately if there were any issues with the instructions. Doesn’t matter if you taking care of someone’s kids, pets, or home while they’re gone. You have a question, you ask. Because by accepting the job, you took on the responsibilities.

      2. Colette*

        The boss was wrong not to follow the instructions the OP left, and to not make sure there was enough water.

        And, at the same time, the OP was wrong to think that the level of care these animals required was a reasonable thing to ask of someone fitting in a favour for you around her normal life.

        Pet-sitting is an imposition. That’s OK, as a society we sometimes have to impose on others and be imposed upon. Some people don’t mind; many more people do mind but will do it because they value the relationship. But no matter how happy people are to do it, they are never going to be as invested in the outcome as the pet owner. And they continue to have their regular responsibilities, which sometimes will conflict with this temporary responsibility.

        But pet-sitting for four animals with very specific needs is a bigger imposition. The boss shouldn’t have offered to do it, and the OP shouldn’t have accepted. They require a level of care that the average concerned bystander is just not going to be prepared to deal with.

        1. Penny*

          I agree with this. For such complicated instructions for these pets, I’m surprised OP doesn’t have multiple sitters. I have one low-maintenance dog; when I’m heading out of town, I have two friends that I can usually count on to dog-sit. If they both fall through, there’s a trusted local kennel where I could take her. So I have three different options of trusted people/organizations to watch my dog. Most people I know who have pets have at least two or three people they could call on to pet-sit/kennel.

          Given that the OP said the boss administered an injection in from of them, this wasn’t a sudden and last minute change; they knew in advance and accepted their boss as a replacement. I’m surprised the OP doesn’t have anyone else other than their original co-worker to call on to watch their animals. That doesn’t forgive that the boss should have contacted the OP if they were confused about the instructions but I do think the OP should have several options for pet-care.

      3. Pet Sitter*

        I do think it’s mainly the boss’s fault for being so irresponsible that the pets did not even have fresh water. He shouldn’t have agreed to take care of pets if he was so seriously not up to it.

        However, taking care of special needs pets takes some skill. Having an acquaintance give your pets medicine is like having your friend who likes to draw work for you as a graphic designer. It might work out, but you’re taking a risk that could be avoided by a professional.

    2. gmg22*

      Right? There are special needs and there are basic needs. I pet-sat frequently for a friend whose dog I loved dearly, but had to turn her down once because pup had a torn ligament and was awaiting surgery, and in the meantime they were having to carry her up and down their front stairs. Doggo weighed about 60 pounds, and I didn’t want to risk hurting her further or, quite frankly, hurting myself. My friend understood, and for that trip they kenneled the dog. This situation is something else — the boss couldn’t even handle basic instructions like “the cat goes in the room with the litter box.” C’mon.

  59. MatKnifeNinja*

    I have geriatric/high maintenance pets. Flight cages of finches, canaries and two parrotlets. Plus a 15 year old spoiled dog

    You say nothing and eat it, because this is your boss. Next time board your dogs or have a professional pet sitter come over. Nonded and insured.

    Yeah, it can get pricey, but so are vet bills and emotional destress.

    Not everyone who says they love animals is on the same wave length as you. At least with a professional, they are insured and you can request money for the vet office visits. My “pet lover” friend wouldn’t part with money for anything more than a dog license and rabid shot for his dog. He wants to watch my animals when I go out of town. Nope. Not that observant, too scattered brain, and you can by another pet if one goes paws/claws up.

    Sorry about your pets. My one friend owns a pet store, and I pay him to come over and take of my animals when I’m gone.

  60. Oaktree*

    I’m seeing a lot of victim blaming in these comments- this is why you should hire a pro, this is why you should never let someone from work pet-sit, this is why you need someone who has medical experience, this is why it’s your fault…

    Honestly, no. I pet-sat a diabetic cat that needed insulin once a day and B12 shots every other day, and had strict feeding times. Did I own cats? No. Had I ever administered injections to anyone? No. Did I carefully learn to give the shots to the cat so he wouldn’t die, and feed him every single day at 7 am and 7 pm? Yes, because I’m not a callous monster or an idiot. The insulin injector was just a pen; the cat barely registered it. The B12 was harder because it required an actual syringe (and the cat DID NOT enjoy it; I did the injection while he was eating but once I wasn’t fast enough and he squirmed so I got bright red B12 fluid all over him and he was pink for a couple days after that. (I re-injected properly.) But that was the worst that happened!

    This was a bit complicated, and I agree it would have been better for OP to hire someone with pet-sitting experience because they have more than one special needs animal. But it’s really not too much to ask that the sitter give your pets water, and blaming the OP for all of this is really beyond acceptable.

    1. Pistachio*

      Thank you for saying all that. I was in a similar situation – no cats of my own, no experience giving medicine to cats, yet still managed to give my friend’s cat daily insulin injections while pet-sitting. You don’t have to be a professional pet sitter to do a good job, you just need to be a caring, conscientious person who follows instructions. It’s called being a responsible adult. Boggles my mind how few of them seem to exist.

    2. Micklak*

      Oaktree you sound a lot more dependable than most people. I would like to hire you to give my cat his pills. I suck at it. He bit me so hard once when I was giving him a pill that I thought I was going to pass out.

    3. Leta*

      The victims are the pets not the LW. They suffered. And the boss is definitely at fault but the LW is too.

      1. Respect*

        Not understanding how the LW is at fault. Boss demonstrated he could do the difficult task and the rest is basic. Who knew he would totally neglect them? Stop.

        1. Leta*

          She didn’t know anything about what he was like with pets, at all. And the rest of that is not basic.

          1. Respect*

            Giving them food isnt basic? Giving them water isnt basic? Telling a cat and dog apart isnt basic? Really?

          2. Original Poster*

            I’ve seen him with the pets he has, as he brings them to work occasionally. And the only non-basic thing he had to do was the insulin shot. Yes, they might have different foods, but when their names are written on their food bag and the instructions include names and physical descriptions, it’s not that difficult.

    4. motherofdragons*

      Yes. Thank you. There is a strong undercurrent of “You’re not a good [enough] pet owner, not like *I* am” in some of these comments and it sucks. The fact that her decision to trust her boss turned out to be mistaken in hindsight does NOT absolve him of being so hideously neglectful.

    5. Zillah*

      Yeah, the victim blaming and the focus on “this is what you should have done” rather than “this is how you should address your situation now” is really bothering me. It’s not like the OP was outrageously negligent; she did her due diligence, and now she has a really awkward situation that she could use advice on, not fifty people saying “well this is why you should have hired a professional” comments.

      1. Leta*

        And she absolutely did not do her due dilligance. She saw him do a shot. She had no idea if he could handle four pets with wildly different needs.

        1. Zillah*

          Reminder of Alison’s commenting guidelines:

          Be kind to letter-writers and fellow commenters, which especially means being constructive if you’re criticizing. If you want a steady supply of interesting letters to read here, people need to be willing to write in and expose themselves to public critique. Treating them kindly makes that far more likely to happen.

          A subset of that rule: Give letter-writers and fellow commenters the benefit of the doubt. Don’t jump to a negative interpretation of someone’s comment or situation; instead, assume good faith on the part of others, including people whose opinions differ from your own.

        2. Original Poster*

          Incorrect Leta. I saw him do a shot. I also showed him how to do the routine and where everything was and had him watch us do everything. My written instructions included physical descriptions of each pet as well as their names and I wrote their names on their bags of food. And I would hardly consider different foods as “wildly different needs.” The only need other than food and water is the insulin shot for the big dog, which is the one thing he did properly.

          Also, he has several pets of his own (he has brought them to work before), which also lead me to believe him when he said he could handle the volume. And I explained the issues with the cat and dog before accepting his offer and he was confident he could handle it.

          But thanks for jumping to conclusions based on the limited information you gleaned from that post.

    6. Pibble*

      100% agree. I’m also shocked at comments that the OP shouldn’t use the perfectly reliable coworker in the future because boss sucked. I’m pretty sure OP is smart enough to realize they need a new backup now, but there’s no reason not to use their excellent previous pet sitter!

    7. Marni*

      Plus the strange assumption that “professionals” are necessarily better than conscientious friends. My special-needs dog could not have been sent to a kennel or a vet boarding facility in his later years; he needed to be in his home. The friends w Plus the strange assumption that “professionals“ are necessarily better than conscientious friends. My special-needs dog could not have been sent to a kennel or a vet boarding facility in his later years; he needed to be in his home. The friends who looked after him when I was away loved him and took his care seriously. The fact that you’re paying someone a fee doesn’t make them inherently reliable. There are a couple of stories here today about terrible animal neglect by paid pet boarding facilities or sitters. The OP did do diligence, she did not hand her house keys to a random person on the street corner. If a paid pet sitter had neglected the animals the way that’s described here, would the whole comment string be “that’s why you can’t trust paid services and you should never leave your pets with anyone except a friend a relative”?

  61. Kat*

    Is it just me or does anyone else think the boss purposely asked the coworker to go on a training knowing they had other commitments and only offered so they could get their way?
    Maybe I’m reading into it too much but it just seems odd to me that a boss would offer to step in to take over one of their employee’s commitments just to send them to a training (which didn’t sound so urgent that it couldn’t wait a week).
    And it seems the boss’s only qualifications is that they themselves are diabetic and while administering injections to pets is important, there’s a whole lot more that goes into their care that I feel like the boss wasn’t up to the task and they were quite careless about things once they realized they were in over their head.
    Again, I could be reading into it too much but I feel like this boss is a grade A glassbowl who knowingly took on something he couldn’t handle 100% just to get the coworker to a training.

    1. Anon Lawyer*

      Trainings are usually held at specific time. I wouldn’t let a pet sitting commitment torpedo an employee going to one either.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Really? I think it’s a pretty solid reason, especially for four animals that need special care.

        The employee made a commitment for four other living creatures, and the Boss didn’t commit him to the training until afterwards. I think that’s a reasonable thing to say that you can’t attend a training for, or some other arrangement needs to be made – an arrangement that WORKS, not Boss half-assedly “offering” to take care of the pets.

        1. Colette*

          Based on that logic, the OP could never be expected to go out of town for work because the animals were there first.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            That’s not at all what I said. I wasn’t referring to the OP, I was referring to the employee sent for training, and saying that some other arrangement for pet care that DOESN’T involve animals being harmed by irresponsible care needs to be made. Maybe that meant the OP couldn’t go on their trip, maybe it meant that Boss could have helped them find professional pet care or any other number of arrangements.

        2. Leta*

          It is completely unreasonable to expect a co-worker to hurt his career and miss a training because the LW would prefer not to pay a professional for the level of care her pets actually need.

          1. Original Poster*

            I have nothing against hiring a professional, but the options in the tiny town I live in are quite limited. The only vet in this town I live in doesn’t offer boarding and none of the vet techs do pet boarding in their spare time. I know because I asked prior to my boss making the offer. There is only one kennel in this town and after the issues that arose when my friend took her dog there, I am terrified of the thought of bringing them there. And since this is the type of place where everyone knows everyone else, if there was a licensed pet sitter around here in addition to the kennel, I am sure I would have heard about it.

            But sure, go ahead and assume that this is all because I’m awful and am unwilling to pay a professional.

            And I did ask other people too in between finding out about the change and accepting the offer. No one else was available.

            1. Colette*

              It’s not that you’re awful, it’s that you’re not likely to get a good outcome by asking people who aren’t used to dealing with the level of care your pets need.

              Your town doesn’t have good options, ok, but are there larger towns with better options nearby, or on your way to your destination? What can you do to make sure your pets get the care they need while you’re gone, since you know this way doesn’t work?

              1. Original Poster*

                I suppose in the future, that if my regular caregiver (who is awesome) can’t do it, I could drive an hour and a half each way to the nearest town (which I will look into for the future after this experience). But apart from the insulin injections, which the boss did fine in front of me, the instructions boiled down to “Put (insert pet) in _ spot. Feed pet (insert food).” It shouldn’t have been that difficult for him.

          2. CommanderBanana*

            You’re making a lot of assumptions here. If I had committed to taking care of a friend’s pets and then was told I had to leave for training, I would first see if the training could be rescheduled, and then come up with an alternate arrangement.

    2. fposte*

      I suppose it’s possible, but he didn’t need to take over the petsitting to send the employee to a training; bosses send employees off to training all the time without regard to pet care or child care, and we have no indication that the training could have waited a week. I think boss is just a lunkhead.

    3. anon4this*

      Nah, I doubt the boss knew. IMO, it’s often only childless couples and lonely people that have this many high maintenance issues with animals (varied species, diabetes, emergency surgeries before vacations, specialty food for each, etc).
      Most people/families do not treat their animals (esp dogs) like they’re tiny people, and I assume the boss falls into this category.
      However, I did pet-sit for a large nuclear family that did not want to let their dog go, and despite numerous large tumors and the dog in chronic pain, they continued to humanize it (talking to it like the dog could understand or narrating the dog’s inner thoughts), and giving it 50 million medications so it could survive a few more months.

      1. Dankar*

        I suggest you familiarize yourself with the new generation of pet owners, then. Many, many people treat their pets as family members and absorb costs for specialized care, particular diets, etc., to the tune of $70 billion-with-a-B in the US alone.

        1. anon4this*

          Yes…childless couples and single Millennials are. It’s certainly an emerging market to make tons of $$ from people willingly to pay any amount to not lose the “family members” they own.
          And of course, the crazy cat lady or the single dude who owns a dog are tired cliches of past generations of pet owners.
          Some people’s entire sense of self-worth/purpose is wound up in the health of their animal. I pet sit for many families. I would know.

          1. Reed*

            anon4this – As a childless person may I respectfully suggest you rethink what you just said and why you think that was an appropriate way to talk about your fellow humans? That was one of the most hurtful and thoughtless generalisations I’ve ever read in this site. No wonder you went anon for it.

      2. gmg22*

        If what you’re saying is that you think it’d be normal for a family with kids to not bother to treat their pet’s diabetes, then somebody has their priorities screwed up here but it’s definitely not us sad single cat ladies …

      3. CommanderBanana*

        Wow. This is a vile comment and I think you should rethink whether you should continue pet-sitting. Treating another living thing that depends on you for survival like it is worth being taken care of is not “treating it like a tiny person.” It’s being a responsible caretaker.

    4. Asenath*

      It seems unlikely to me that the boss would deliberately schedule the session in that way. The training schedule wouldn’t have taken the pet-sitting into consideration, and from the email it sounds like the boss volunteered when he realized OP needed pet-sitting now. The level of incompetence he displayed was incredible (no water! the cat’s litterbox shut in a room with a dog!) that I don’t think the animals’ state of health excuses it. In fact, I wonder if he had some careless child fill in for him! Not that all children are careless.

      I’ve been lucky. I have a very old friend and cat-lover who cares for my cats when I’m away (and I did the same for her when her children were too young to be left at home). She actually did have one of her children help out, but that was a child who knew how to care for cats – except she was a bit of a sucker for the “I am a poor starving feline” act, and fed them rather more of the fancy and expensive food than I would have (I reserved it for treats). The cats were pleased, though.

  62. Stone Cold Bitch*

    Leaving animals without water for days is a crime where I live. I would report the boss to the proper authorities if it happened here. (You can lose the right to own animals if you are found guilty of neglect.)

    Your boss accepted responsibilty for your pets and didn’t walk the dog at all for days? Dogs need walks several times a day!

  63. Lissa*

    Oh, my god. I have a cat who I leave with friends when I visit my out-of-town best friend every couple months. The first time she was only five months old. I checked in DAILY with my catsitter that first time. Now I check in every few days, and my current preferred catsitter voluntarily sends me pictures of her nearly every day I’m gone. I cannot imagine how horrifying a discovery this must’ve been.

    I’m with Alison on cameras. With four animals, some of whom have specific requirements, the peace of mind would be invaluable.

  64. this way, that way*

    I’m so sorry this happened, I would have to look for a new job because while we have children my dogs are our babies that don’t talk back and what happened would not be ok. We had something similar happen a few years ago, no rx mess ups, but the dogs were clearly locked in a carpeted room not in their crates and not let out due to the amount the feces and urine in the room from dogs that had not had an accident in the house in 5 years, as well as one of 2 escaped and was not found until I got home. Since then we no longer use friends we pay a small fortune for them to be kenneled at a local kennel that has cameras we can look at from our vacation.

  65. AnotherKate*

    I would really and truly be looking for a new job after this. I need to be able to at least theoretically respect the person I report to, but this whole experience has just removed any plausible deniability that your boss isn’t a complete turd. I had a hard time reading this letter because imagining my little dog all alone with no water and nowhere to relieve himself is making me feel ill.

    I know most people aren’t in a position to quit on the spot (I’m certainly not), but I’d absolutely be looking for a new job ASAP (or at minimum, a transfer out from under this particular boss’s umbrella).

    This is simply unforgivable.

  66. Mrs. Fenris*

    I’m a veterinarian. I could tell you stories of incompetent pet sitters that would curl your hair. I grew up on a farm so I’ve been taking care of animals since childhood, so to me it’s not exactly rocket science to follow “feed this food to this one, give this medicine, and leave the door/gate shut with the dog/cows on right side of it,” but a lot of people just cannot do it, or don’t see why it’s important. Regarding the insulin, I’ve taught many pet owners and kennel attendants how to do it and it’s not that hard.

    I’m so sorry this happened! I would definitely bring it up in a “bewildered” way but not push it any further.

    (I’ve hired coworkers to petsit and it’s always worked great, but for obvious reasons-my coworkers are experienced vet techs and vet assistants!)

  67. Hiring Mgr*

    Obviously the boss messed up here, but I think the OP’s attitude beforehand was slightly cavalier. When OP asks “what’s the worst that could happen”… well, with all the pets including special needs and shots, quite alot could happen! OP, this has probably been said already, but consider a kennel sort of arrangement next time if possible

    1. Zillah*

      That’s a pretty uncharitable reading of the OP’s letter. They said,

      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.

      That’s not a cavalier dismissal of the OP’s pets’ well-being; it’s the OP saying, “he has experience with most complicated part of the care and showed he could carry it out without a problem, and he has pets so he’s aware of things like filling water bowls/feeding them/etc – how badly could someone in that position screw this up?”

      That’s not unreasonable.

      1. Pet Sitter*

        No, having diabetes doesn’t make you able to care for diabetes in a dog, or even in another person. That doesn’t make sense.

        I clean my own home; does that mean I have the same skill as professional organizers and cleaners? I like baking; should I be a pastry chef?

        1. Zillah*

          That’s not what I said. I said that characterizing the OP as cavalierly saying “what’s the worst that could happen” is taking that statement out of context.

          Your analogies are far, far more extreme than anything she said. She didn’t say “my boss has diabetes; that means he has the same skill as a vet” – more equivalent examples would be “I clean my own home, so I’ll help clean up after Thanksgiving dinner” or “I like baking, so I’ll make cookies for my friend’s get-together.” We’re not talking about the boss providing ongoing professional care for a diabetic dog; we’re talking about him administering a few insulin shots, and her feeling a little more comfortable about it because he’s used insulin before and demonstrated that he could administer it to the dog. That’s not outlandish, and since it’s the part that he apparently did do right, the OP wasn’t really off-base there.

          1. Pet Sitter*

            No offense, but I actually do this for a living, and it sounds like you don’t. When you compare pet sitting for special needs pets to helping clean up after Thanksgiving dinner, you dismiss the work that special needs pet sitters put into their jobs.

        2. Same.*

          A better comparison would be, I clean my own home, could I clean my friend’s home while they’re gone (presumably yes).

          1. Pet Sitter*

            Not exactly, unless cleaning your friend’s home requires first aid and CPR training, insurance, experience, and membership in a professional organization.

            1. Original Poster*

              The only need that didn’t boil down to “feed (insert pet’s name) (insert food and amount) at (insert spot)” was the insulin shot, which I saw him do correctly. It was the rest of the stuff, which shouldn’t hard been so hard, that he screwed up on.

  68. pagooey*

    Ohhhh, this is my nightmare (literally: I have occasional stress dreams where I “realize” I’ve left my pets behind in, say, the apartment I lived in in 2003). After years of trading pet duty with friends and neighbors, I finally started including a professional sitter in my vacation budget; the relief is worth it. I found a great local company that texts daily pictures from their visits; one even stuck the camera up into the box spring to demonstrate evidence of life for Shy Cat. Heh.

    I also once was taking care of a friend’s tropical fish when the tank pump failed. I got friend on the phone to walk me through triage, but oh god it was like a terrible episode of Fish ER for what seemed like hours. Not everyone made it, and I was miserable. :(

  69. Iden*

    I once had a pet die on my watch. The couple for whom I was petsitting feared it would happen — their dog was very, very old and had suffered bouts with cancer and other ailments. Because the couple would be gone for six weeks, I stayed at their house with their two dogs and my dog. The old dog came into the kitchen bleeding, and I understandably freaked out. It turns out a tumor had burst, and there was nothing the vets could do. The couple’s daughter was able to be with the dog during his final moments. I felt so, so bad. Their other dog died less than a month after they returned, probably due to heartbreak (he was deeply bonded with the other dog). I felt even worse — two dogs that I cared for died within a two month span. I hadn’t even been negligent. I cannot fathom treating these animals so carelessly, especially locking a dog (!!!!) in a bedroom. I can’t even begin to understand how that makes a lick of sense.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Yeah, I agree. Poor pup was obviously loved (not everyone can or will pay for cancer treatment for pets), but 6 weeks when you *know* he’s old and sick is ridiculous. That’s actually a case where I think the dog *should* have stayed with (close) friends or family, if they had to leave.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          We had a written agreement with our kennel that if our ancient dog died on their watch (she didn’t, but she very well could have just because of sheer age) they had all the instructions they needed to take care of it even if we were overseas and couldn’t be reached. And no hard feelings: This happens sometimes with very old pets.

        2. Iden*

          I definitely agree. Because they were out of the country for work, I’m a little bit more understanding of the situation, but it sucked all around. (Plus, their house kept flooding because my city had unprecedented amounts of rain that summer. It was just a ridiculously unpleasant time.)

    1. Pibble*

      Ugh, I once arrived at a friend’s house to discover that one of the rats I was sitting for had died between when their owner left and I arrived. I felt so bad even though there was nothing I could have done (but at least it was clear the she had died peacefully of old age).

      It’s my worst nightmare and all the dogs I sit for regularly are 10+ year old large breeds, so I always get a tiny bit anxious when I’m caring for them. (But I’ve been sitting for them since their owners got them nearly a decade ago and I’ve discussed with their owners what to do should their health suddenly go downhill while I’m caring for them, so I’m happy to do it as it’s much less stressful for them than kenneling would be.)

  70. blink14*

    Ooof, I have to say, there is some blame in this situation on the OP and their partner/family. Caring for one pet, with basic needs and no medication or special food is one thing. Caring for four pets, none with medical issues, is a big step up. Caring for four pets, each with it’s own feeding zone, at least one being shut off in a different room, different types of food and medication, including one who requires injections is a HUGE responsibility. Reading your instructions had me re-reading them, and I have a senior pet on daily medication and have had multiple pets at one time with some medical requirements.

    You should always, always have a backup pet sitter. Do not rely on anyone who says they like animals, are great with animals, etc, unless they have significant experience, especially dealing with diabetes or another medical situation that without medication can become dire.

    I currently have a senior cat who has required increasing specialized food and medications in the past year. The circle of people I 100% trust to follow out my very specific instructions includes my immediate family and 1-3 close friends with senior pets of their own. If I need to leave her with one of those people, I check in daily and follow up that medication has been given and if she’s eating her special food, etc.

    I would tell your boss what happened, calmly, and never, ever ask him to pet sit again. Look for another person outside of your office to act as a back up, and have them assist your co-worker the next time you’re gone, so they learn the ropes, or have them come over several days to watch you run through the routines.

    1. Original Poster*

      My coworker has never screwed up with them and has looked after the pets many times. The screw ups were all the boss.

      Thanks for the tips.

      1. blink14*

        Totally get that – and I think it’s great your can rely on your co-worker. However, considering he won’t always be available, you should look into an alternative person or a service to be a back up.

        Some people are just really bad at following directions, or don’t think every instruction left is vital I don’t think your boss meant to do anything bad, I think he probably felt overwhelmed with the situation and skipped what he thought was unnecessary.

  71. Micklak*

    There is nothing to be gained by saying something to your boss about this and a lot that you could lose. Never have him watch you pets again and maybe only rely on professional services from now on.

    If you have multiple pets with special needs it can be confusing for a new person to understand all of the intricacies.

  72. LittleMy*

    I’m so sorry this happened to you.

    This is repeating what other folks have said here, but having a professional pet sitter on board has meant real peace of mind for us. Pet sitting is her business and she treats it as such. She has a backup and plans if something disastrous happens to her while we’re away.

  73. Hi*

    I’m just so glad your babies are OK! Some people just don’t get pets and maybe he was confused but that’s no excuse. I’d be googling and researching or calling my own vet to ask questions if I didn’t know what to do with a pet’s medication or was at all unclear. Maybe he wasn’t “up to the task” but come on. There are resources if you’re confused and even if it puts him out he volunteered for it. I’m sorry your trusted colleague wasn’t able to do it the full time. The pets are OK which is number 1. I’m just so glad they’re OK!!

  74. Hyacinth Bucket (Pronounced Bouquet!)*

    Allison – do you tell your pet sitters that you have indoor cameras? I used to pet sit quite a bit and was always worried if I walked around the house in my PJs or if they would judge me for sitting on the couch all week.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      God yes! I’d feel creepy otherwise. (Also, these are sitters who just come in once or twice a day to feed the cats, not people staying in the house.)

    2. EddieSherbert*

      My dog walker is also totally aware of the camera and knows where it is! She is in our house for like 30 minutes top, and that’s really only if the weather is bad and the dog can’t go on a long walk.

    3. Cedrus Libani*

      I have a small webcam pointed at the cat feeder. I also put a big sign over it, on a sheet of colored paper, that says “CAT FOOD NANNY CAM”. This way, no one overlooks it and then feels spied on when they discover it later. It’s a camera pointed right at the food, so that’s clearly the purpose, but still.

  75. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    I agree. What good can come of having this discussion? A lot of harm, possibly.

    It didn’t work out, she’ll never ask boss to petsit (I know he offered; she never asked him)

    I’d be furious too but I don’t think I would risk my relationship or standing where my job was concerned over this. I just don’t see the upside.

    1. nonegiven*

      I think I’d try to warn anyone in the office that has pets, to never allow boss to sit for their pets.

  76. PrettyPetunia*

    Oof, I had a similar experience once but I agree with those who are saying don’t bring it up. I had a roommate who ENTHUSIASTICALLY volunteered to care for my kitties while I was away. He seemed responsible, I’d lived with him for a while, the cats knew and liked him, he’d already be there in the house anyway, and they had no special needs other than keeping their food separate (and for weight issues, not any serious medical reason), so it seemed perfect.

    I got home and the litter box was absolutely overflowing, both their water bowls were empty, boy cat’s food bag was completely empty (should have lasted for weeks more) and roommate hadn’t even let me know, so I had nothing to feed him when I got home, and girl cat’s food dish was swarmed with ants. I never said a word, just decided to NEVER, ever trust this person with them again.

    I am very much not a conflict avoidant person, but the fact that I WAS so disappointed is kind of the reason I didn’t say anything, if that makes sense? I couldn’t think of a single thing I would actually gain by bringing it up. I still had to live with the person, just like you’ll still have to with your boss. If he was a good friend, then it would be important for the relationship’s sake to let him know he messed up. But he wasn’t a good friend. I just decided to let the consequence be that my private opinion of him was permanently affected, and to learn from that by not trusting him with those kind of responsibilities again.

    1. blink14*

      One of my long time roommates has become very possessive of my cat (if I could afford to live alone, I would, trust me), and I’ve always gotten the sense she’ll do things I’ve specifically asked her not to – like allowing the cat out on our porch when I’m not there (it’s a higher floor, but I prefer to be the only one doing it so I’m control of the situation). And she is totally averse to cleaning out the litter box – taking the responsibility of caring for an animal means 100% responsibility, not only doing certain things and not others because you don’t want to.

  77. NewDogMom*

    OP, I’m so sorry for what happened to your pets, and I hope they’re all OK. And I definitely don’t blame you for what happened, or for your anger at the situation.

    But…it sounds like your animals have a lot of issues and specific restrictions, and I was a little overwhelmed just by your descriptions of them. I think it would benefit them to go to a kennel with staff who have expertise when you travel, or to be left in the care of an animal lover you really, really trust. I think some people without pets (not sure if that’s your boss’s situation) view them as “just animals”, and don’t really think it’s that big of a deal to mix up their food once in a while. Their special diets and medications might seem standard to you since you’re a pro at caring for them, but it sounds like a lot for a casual pet-sitter.

    1. viva*

      I agree. I have had many pets over the years (both dogs and cats) and I was overwhelmed reading this letter. Kennel/boarding should be the way to go in the future, if needed. They have the expertise, and at least there’s some level of professional accountability.

      1. CastIrony*

        When my family went on vacation, we took our dog to the animal shelter for boarding, and when my family got him back, all he needed was a bath because he had poop on him.

        But that’s okay, because everyone involved was happy with how things went.

    2. Pet Sitter*

      I wasn’t particularly overwhelmed because I’ve taken care of pets with those needs, but it’s a lot to ask of someone who isn’t familiar with pet care. And just because someone takes insulin himself doesn’t mean he’s going to be good at giving an injection to a dog, or that he’s going to know what to do if an emergency like hypoglycemia arises. There’s a reason that veterinary hospital employees, for example, are trained to administer medication and perform first aid and CPR.

    3. Original Poster*

      The small town we live in only has one kennel and they were awful to my friend’s dog so the thought of leaving them there made me nervous. Our vet doesn’t do boarding and I even asked if any of the vet technicians do pet sitting in their spare time and none of them do. And I know of no licensed pet sitters in this town (this is one of those towns where everyone knows everyone, so if there was one I’m sure I would have heard about it).

      Plus the boss seemed confident that he could do it when I detailed their issues and showed him wverything with feeding and medication.

  78. Kisses*

    It doesn’t sound like she hired the boss- more like she was forced into accepting him as the caregiver. So sorry. I’m super thankful they are all ok for now.

  79. CastIrony*

    Part of me wants to make the boss pay for any medical expenses incurred because of his negligence. That’s either misfeasance (he made a mistake) or malfeasance (if he sent someone else to do it), but no matter what, I think the boss should pay for damages.

  80. CL*

    I’m confused on the timeline of everything. If OP saw boss give dog an insulin shot, did OP also spend time walking boss through the routines with the pets? I was reading this that the co-worker was sent out-of-town while OP was out of town, a last-minute change, but then OP states that they watched boss give an insulin shot to the dog. I realize this doesn’t answer OP’s question but this story isn’t adding up. Without a doubt, someone screwed up and this is awful. Allison’s script is very good and I hope you get answers, OP.
    I asked a fellow friend, who also has a dog, to watch my two dogs for a short vacation. I fully trusted her and she did take good care of the dogs – fed, watered, let out, etc. But I didn’t specify that I wanted her to spend a few minutes playing with them or taking them for a walk. She already did those with her big dog (my two dogs were the same breed) and I wrongly assumed she’d do a few extras for my two dogs. It was clear they were bored out of their minds when we returned. I wasn’t upset with her at all and instead, learned that even with fellow pet-friendly homes, I should be more specific or hire a professional.

    1. Delphine*

      It sounds like the coworker found out he’d be out of town for three days before the LW went on vacation but after the LW had already made pet-sitting plans with him. So the LW had a chance to walk coworker and boss through the care.

    2. Original Poster*

      I found out about the change a couple of days before I left. The boss came over the day before I left to go over the feeding and medication routine. We live in a very small town with only one kennel (which I have not heard good things about), only one vet, which does not provide boarding, and no licensed pet sitters that I have heard about, so my options were really limited.

  81. Introvert girl*

    I feel terribly for you. A part of me would like to lock your boss up without food and water for three days. But this advice is more realistic: I wouldn’t come into work in the morning, just phone in that you have to go to the vet. Get all necessary tests done. Then in the afternoon come into the office, go directly to your boss and tell him/her you need to talk to him/her. Be very polite, but very concerned. Say that you’re still waiting for the results of the blood tests to see what’s wrong with your cats. Ask him/her what went wrong and then present the bill for the vet. Don’t yell, don’t cry, just be as neutral as you can. I would also start looking for another job as the trust relationship has been broken completely.

  82. JustAnotherHRPro*

    OMG I couldn’t even read this one – the first sentence upset me too much.

    from one pet lover to another – i am so sorry and I hope everything is okay <3

  83. Delphine*

    What kind of human being forgets to give the animals he’s caring for water? LW, everyone has given you the advice I would offer, so all I can do is express my disgust and sympathy. I would never again be able to trust a person who agreed to care for my pets and then left them without any water.

  84. Pet Sitter*

    I am so, so sorry you and your pets went through this! It sounds like your pets have complex medical situations. I am unsure of the total number of animals, but you have one with hypothyroidism and one with diabetes. Each of those alone often requires a careful diet and medication on a strict schedule. It might not be possible to expect that from someone who has a full-time job and other obligations. In the future, please look into hiring a pet sitter or arranging for veterinary boarding.

    1. Wulfgar*

      As a full time pet sitter, I agree. I assume your boss didn’t do this with malicious intent, but it seems that he didn’t have time to take care of your pets properly.

      I would recommend contacting a licensed pet sitter who has the time to take care of your pets. This doesn’t have to be through an agency; there are a lot of individual pet sitters who do a great job. I’d ask your neighbors or friends at the dog park for recommendations.

      I leave notes for my clients with the date and time I was at the house. I also send at least one text a day when I’m doing a long sit. That way the client knows that I’ve been there and that the pets have been fed, medicated, etc.

      I’m really bad at confrontation, but I would tell my boss that he had hurt my animals. If he couldn’t get away from work, he should have contacted you so you could try to make other plans. I understand that it would be awkward, but lives were at stake.

    2. Original Poster*

      Thanks for your comment.

      I did look into vet boarding but the only vet in town doesn’t offer it. I asked about it once a long time ago and in between finding out that my regular sitter couldn’t do the whole trip and my boss offering to help, I called the vet to ask if that policy had changed and it hadn’t. They only board animals that just had surgery. I also asked if any of the vet technicians petsit in their spare time, but they do not. There is only one kennel in town and they were awful to my friend’s dog, so I didn’t want to use them.

      Plus, we live in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone else, so if there was a licensed pet sitter here, I’m confident that I would have heard something about it from someone.

      1. Pet Sitter*

        Damn, I am sorry to hear that. If there were a local pet sitter, the vet would have likely mentioned that to you, too. I hope that your pets are recovering well.

  85. Beth*

    OP, I’d be so mad in your shoes. It’s not even the complicated medical stuff that your boss fell down on–it’s basics like providing water, feeding them, and making sure they have access to somewhere to pee! That’s sheer negligence, completely beyond the pale.

    In terms of how to handle this…I think it depends a lot on you and on your boss (who you know better than any of us). How calm do you think you can be while discussing this? How do you think your boss will react to you bringing it up? What do you hope to get out of having that conversation? Do you think you’re likely to get it? How do you think you’ll react if your boss is dismissive or shrugs it off instead of responding appropriately? Regardless of whether you have a conversation about what happened, do you think you’ll be able to work productively with your boss going forward?

    If you think your boss will be horrified to realize things went so badly and will take responsibility and etc., maybe it’s worth having that conversation. (I like the script Alison gave for this.) If you think they won’t, but you can keep yourself restrained and calmly let them know that you won’t be trusting them to petsit again, maybe that’s worth saying. If you think you’re going to end up yelling because either you’re too upset to not, or they’re likely to respond in a way that would set anyone off, maybe skip it. And if you think there’s nothing they could do to make you feel ok around them anymore, maybe just skip the whole deal and go straight to job-hunting–that wouldn’t be a productive environment for you professionally.

    Also, please ignore all the commenters telling you what you should have done differently. What you did sounds perfectly responsible to me. You were clear on what was needed, you gave detailed instructions, you confirmed that your petsitter was able to give the needed injections properly. The only thing that you did ‘wrong’ here was agreeing to a petsitter that failed to even give your animals *water*–and I don’t know how you could possibly have predicted that.

    1. Pibble*

      Agreed on all points – I like your breakdown of what to consider when deciding what to say to the boss.

    2. Original Poster*

      Thank you.

      I did (somehow) manage to get through the conversation without even raising my voice. He seemed shocked that he messed up so badly but he apologized. I did pretty much what Allison said, especially the part about keeping it to the main issues and asking what happened.

      I do plan to start the job hunt again in a couple of weeks (life is a bit nuts right now but I am expecting it to calm down soon). I work in media and positions like mine are very hard to come by and usually require moving to a different city so I could be dealing with this boss for awhile. So I really appreciate the tips!

  86. Oh hell no*

    Personally, I would be job searching with a vengeance at this point. I could not work with someone who did this to my pets—it’s unforgivable. I would never be able to look at my boss with respect again.

  87. Delta Delta*

    I like Alison’s approach of asking the boss what happened. Although there’s definitely a desire to go in with guns blazing, it could very well be that something happened, preventing boss from going to the house as planned. I also think a bewildered conversation with the coworker who originally helped might shed some light on the situation. Maybe they have information about boss or about what happened.

    I don’t think I’d count on these folks for animal sitting in the future. I do think it’s worth it to gather as much information as possible, as it’s very possible there’s more that happened and there was no ill intent. At least I hope.

    1. Original Poster*

      Thanks for your comment. I spoke with said coworker who confirmed that the cat didn’t have the red mark on his face when he had them. He has looked after the pets several times without issues, so I believe him. I talked to the boss too, asked what happened and he said he was the only one who fed them during the days he was doing and he appologized for messing up. He did seem quite shocked that he got things so wrong, so I don’t think it was intentional.

  88. Clementine*

    This is horrible behavior on the part of the boss (if there was indeed a spectacular emergency that caused this negligence, then he would have told the OP by now). But I can’t see a way to get resolution while still maintaining job security. If job security is not a concern, then by all means confront the boss with his significant shortcomings and ask for payment for professional cleaning. Of course I would also suggest job hunting regardless, because the boss might have it in for the OP even if she never complains, because he will feel uncomfortable and guilty.

  89. The elephant in the room*

    This is one situation where I’m not able to read through the comments because animal cruelty is my number one “cannot handle,” and I’m afraid of what could be in the comments. So I apologize if this was brought up already.

    I think what Allison suggested is the best way to go about this, IF you talk to your boss to begin with.

    Now my question is..,what do you do if your boss offers to pet sit for other employees? Should you warn them? And how do you do it without sounding like a gossip?

  90. vegan kitty*

    As the mom of a constantly sick cat on several prescriptions and Rx food… I am so so sorry. The thing about the water nearly had me in tears.

  91. Not So NewReader*

    OP, I am so very sorry this happened to you.
    Honestly, I think he should have been checking in with you. The fact that he didn’t to me is just one more neglectful action or lack of action.
    My friend took care of my high energy dog twice. He was all about check-ins. I even set it up so he could call a neighbor if he needed a second set of hands with Mr. High Energy.
    I don’t see where the boss was checking in with you. Perhaps he did and you left it out because the letter was getting too long. If he knew he was having problems then he should have called you to find ideas on what to do.

    I don’t mean this is in the context of throwing gas on the fire. I mean it as I agree with your outrage over this.

    If you want to keep the job and keep working with the boss, I hope you find a way through this. I will say I do know first hand that there are paths through almost anything we can think of. However, it is usually up to the person having the experience to pick the path best for them. And it is usually the person having the experience that tends to see all the different paths to resolution that there are.

    Think about what you want out of this. Do you want him to apologize? Do you want him to help with the bills? Do you want him to admit he is a rotten person and will spend eternity in hell? The last one will NOT happen.
    Merchant of Venice and a pound of flesh. When we get to the point that we want the impossible then it’s time to move on.
    I had a boss who wanted me to get over my dying father and focus on work. In the end I landed on, “Some day he will be old and grey. Hopefully the bosses that his kids work for will not make the kids chose between him and their jobs, like he did with me and my father. But it would not surprise me if it did happen. Things come back around.” There was nothing this boss could do to get me down off the ceiling. I was looking for the modern equivalent of that pound of flesh. He could not do anything. I was done with the job.

    1. tangerineRose*

      The boss who wanted you to “get over” your dying father – his kids probably will be choosing their jobs even if their bosses are OK with them choosing him. Someone like that boss probably doesn’t treat his kids any better than he treats his employees.

    2. Original Poster*

      Hi there, and thanks for your comment. There was a minimal amount of checking in, just texts to say they were doing alright but no specifics and no questions about how to do things. He did at least appologize and seemed shocked when we talked about it. I am surprised I didn’t even raise my voice.

  92. Bowserkitty*

    I am so livid about this one.

    All I can say is please update us with your babies’ conditions soon.

  93. Original Poster*

    Thanks so much for your advice Allison!

    Just want to mention a couple of things here, as I am seeing a few comments stating that I should have hired a professional. My hubby and I live in a VERY small town. There is only one vet here and they do not offer boarding unless it is an animal recovering from surgery. I have asked in the past and prior to my boss’ offer, I asked them if that policy has changed and it hasn’t. I also asked if any of the vet technicians do pet sitting in their spare time and they do not. Our little town also has only one kennel and after the care my friend received from them when her dog stayed there, there is no way I would trust my pets to them. So my options were quite limited.

    Also, as soon as my boss offered, I reminded him of my dog’s diabetes and the issues with the older cat, and he seemed confident that he could do it.

    Also, it is really only those two who have what could be considered special needs. The only reason why all four pets are eating different food is because we had to change diets for the old cat and diabetic dog when they started having issues, and saw no reason to change the food for the other animals, as they like their food and are doing just fine.

    As for the chat with the boss, I kept it to the main issues and somehow didn’t even raise my voice. And I did do it in a “do you know what happened?” kind of way. Let’s just say he was genuinely clueless.

    1. TL -*

      So I grew up on a ranch and did all kinds of animal care, of my own horses, dogs, cats, cows, sheep, miscellaneous rescued birds and rodent pets, as well as animal sitting for multiple neighbors with multiple animals and volunteering at the local vet’s office. I have done incredibly complex animal care of nearly every flavor.

      I would still say your animals are a complex care case – there’s a lot that needs to be done and, yeah, you left specific instructions but it’s still complicated.

      I get it’s pretty easy for you to do, but it’s your daily routine and daily routines are easy for the person doing them. Your friend also has lots of practice doing this (and the animals probably know them way better than your boss.)

      It sucks your boss screwed up – they clearly meant no harm and didn’t realize they weren’t up for this task. But, yeah, in the future, your animals aren’t “one complicated medical thing and everything else easy”.
      Easy is my parents’ ranch dogs – you come over, check their water, fill up their food bowls (they both free feed on same food) and give them attention. Medium would be 2-3 different food types & measurements, plus water, attention, and litter box/walks. Anything over that is difficult. And adding on tasks makes the other tasks more difficult – cognitive load is absolutely something that comes into play here. We’ve all forgotten little, easy things because we got stressed, even though they’re not difficult to do.

      Your animals are complicated to take care of. People can take care of them well – I’ve done more complex pet sitting tasks than what you describe – but thinking of this as “an easy task that boss screwed up because he’s incompetent” is doing both of y’all a disservice.

      1. Original Poster*

        First of all, thank you for your constructive criticism (and not attacking me like a couple of other people did). You have given me some stuff to keep in mind for next time.

        And you’re right that he didn’t do it on purpose, which is literally what kept me sane and levelheaded when we talked about it.

        We’ve done some research and have found a kennel about an hour and a half away that is highly recommended (even saw lots of reviews in regards to special needs pets), so we will consider them if this kind of thing happens again.

  94. ... cats and dogs*

    This is beyond horrible but I am not clear that you should say anything. It’s your boss not your friend. What is the end goal of bringing it up? What good can come out of this conversation? (It also sounds like a vet would have better answers than the boss.)

  95. Yourethicsconfuseme*

    I’m school for a healthcare related field so everyone is generally helpful and responsible. I asked around to see if anyone would take care of my cats for a ten day trip, after having a very bad experience with a short trip and neighbors. Multiple people offered so I picked the first one, and paid them. They only had to stop by four days or so because I just fill up huge containers of food and water, so it was just a refill, pet, and scoop box sort of thing. I picked the WORST person, pretty much the only unreliable person in my whole class, which didn’t really come out until months later. But I got back to my cats starving, no food and water bowls bone dry. The house was a disaster. The person literally took my money and stopped once maybe twice the whole week. I was FURIOUS. she’s lucky she never showed her face around me.

  96. His Grace*

    OP, please accept my sympathies in this regard. This is beyond the pale. I think it’s time to start looking for a new position.

  97. Indie*

    In a weird way, a boss who you respect should be a great type of petsitter because (although it is tricky to tell them off in the worst case scenario) they are people you personally know to be responsible. It’s also someone who has to maintain a relationship with you!
    Someone whose main concern is the well being of their pets is going to prioritise ‘this should be great care for them’ over ‘this could be potentially awkward for me’.
    I think it is one of those horribly disappointing life lessons that couldn’t have been logicked or predicted beforehand: one that you can never really know, or trust anyone in all contexts, at all times – not even a professional (which is why the cameras are such a good idea) and two: that favours are expensive and pretty much end up costing more than money would have done. Why, I don’t know! Especially when someone OFFERED. I am sure the OP is hugely frustrated at this negligence and they have every right to be.

  98. Quickbeam*

    We learned early on that one of our dogs traveled poorly. We found an excellent kennel…that cost more than our vacation. However that’s what was necessary to meet his and our needs. I think pet sitting is quite a burden on friendship and colleagues.

  99. Martha*

    I once screwed up as a pet sitter. I promised a friend whose father was ill that if the family had to leave town for an emergency, I would watch their dog. Then, some months later, I agreed to watch my boss’s elderly cat. Of course the father died while I was watching the cat, and the houses were 90 mins apart. I reasoned that the cat could go without human companionship for the night while the dog needed to be let out regularly, so I spent nights at the dog’s house, then traveled to the cat’s house during the day to refill water dishes, check food, stroke fur, etc. Unfortunately, in all of the back and forth, I didn’t always remember to set out the cat’s daily treat food (in addition to dry food). My boss came back, counted up the daily treats that were left, and realized that I hadn’t kept up my end of the deal. She was angry, even after I explained, and I can see that it would have been better to fess up first. Fortunately, I was pet sitting just to be nice, not for pay, and I was kind of relieved when neither boss nor friend asked me to pet sit again.

    1. Martha*

      All of which is to say, yes, ask what happened because it is possible something happened that was out of boss’s control. (Which doesn’t excuse nearly killing the pets, but might mean you have a little less anger to repress.)

    1. Original Poster*

      So it’s my fault that he didn’t ask questions about things he wasn’t clear on? Wow.

      As for the professional comment, lack of money had nothing to do with it. We live in a tiny town that has limited resources. There is only one vet and one kennel here. The kennel was awful to my friend’s dog and the vet doesn’t do boarding except in circumstances where the pet just had surgery. I also asked if the vet techs here petsit in their spare time and none of them do. So it’s not as if I didn’t try to go that avenue. I suppose I could have tried driving an hour and a half each way to the kennel at the next closest town, but the boss demonstrated an ability to do the shot correctly, which was the only thing needed that didn’t fall under basic care like feeding their food and water.

  100. Allonge*

    One thing that I keep coming back to is that I would suggest to try and set up some kind of backup system for pet care, just in case coworker becomes not-available again on short notice. Sure, one by one the care intructions may not be super complicated (and boss definitely screwed up) but it is an imposition for anyone and it would be much better for everyone if there could be a plan B arranged in advance.

  101. Original Poster*

    After some research, we have found a keenel in a different town (about an hour and a half away) that we may consider if this type of thing happens again. Have heard a lot of good stuff about them, including regarding caring for pets with medical needs, so it seems like this could be a good backup. I am still keeping my eyes and ears open for something closer to home though.

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