By Olga Ellinghaus
They often say a dog is a man’s best friend, referring to the supportive and loyal relationship between dog and owner, but also to the amount of time the two spend together. Especially for students, setting aside the necessary time to care for a pet can be problematic, which is why apps like Pawshake or Petbnb have been storming the hearts of AUC students.
Snakes, hamsters, cats, and dogs – over the last years residents of the AUC dorms have welcomed many different pets into their homes. Yet, not all animals were able to stay. Some students have had to give pets up, due to changing living situations or issues with time and responsibility. Not only is this sad for the student, it is also a stressful experience for an animal, to go through big changes such as new environments or owners. Pet sitting is an opportunity for students to connect with animals without the big commitment or future risks.
There are different service options for owners and sitters to choose from when using a pet sitting app. Sitters can walk dogs, take pets into their own homes for a day or overnight, visit pets and care for them in their owners’ houses, or even stay overnight at their houses. Sitters can set their own fares, varying on the service. Similar to Airbnb, the owner can then set specific dates for which they may require a service and then choose from a list of profiles. Fares on these websites vary from 10 to 50 euro, depending on what an owner may be looking for.
Students at AUC have different reasons for wanting to pet sit. A popular one is the remedy it offers to those who have a hard time being away from their best animal friends at home.
“It’s why you do it, because you miss that animal contact,” says Blanca González, a first-year student at AUC. Back home, she has two cats and a dog. For her, the feeling of home is strengthened by the presence of a pet.
Yet, like many other students, González realizes that the responsibility of permanently taking in a pet does not go hand in hand with a student’s schedule. This is why Pawshake attracted González and her roommate Eleanor Swanson, who are waiting for the right opportunity to welcome a furry friend into their home.
For students living in single rooms, pet sitting can also be a method to combat loneliness or mental health issues. According to Adel El-Sabagh, the DUWO caretaker at the AUC dorms, this is mainly why some students are allowed to keep pets. They are tolerated, as long as they are not too noisy and don’t bother neighbours.
Emilie Tesch, a second-year Social Science major living in a single-person apartment, started using Pawshake in September. So far, she has taken care of two dogs and two cats, the duration of this varying from walking a dog once to pet sitting for an entire week. Emilie has mainly welcomed pets into her own home, but she has also stayed over at someone else’s apartment to care for a dog. Until January, she is planning on taking in three more pets.
For Tesch, the greatest advantage of pet sitting has been the company. “It really helps with your mental health, just keeping you happy,” she says. “When I come home from a long day, I don’t necessarily want to talk to anyone, but then seeing someone who is so excited to see you and then having to go out or take care of them is just really nice.” Tesch, who offers her services at a comparably low fare, recently had a dog owner tell her to raise her price.
Another AUC student who used the app during the spring semester is Inés Oort Alonso, a second-year Science major. She sat five different dogs and cared for two cats, either at her own apartment or staying over at the owner’s place.
Alonso has stopped offering her services and deleted both Petbnb and Pawshake off her phone. This, she says, is mainly due to the time pet sitting consumes, but also because she has had some negative experiences. “Through Petbnb I had a big, huge, huge puppy and he literally destroyed my homework,” Alonso recalls. Although in general she enjoyed pet sitting, in comparison to her other job it didn’t pay well enough for the investment it required.
If you are not used to taking a dog on a leash while cycling, transportation by anything but foot becomes tricky. This is also something that bothered Alonso. AUC students are more or less tied to the Science Park area already, but when pet sitting, students have to spend more overall time at home, go home in between classes, and sacrifice free time they would spend, for example, visiting museums or going out with friends. Both Alonso and González realised the disruption pet sitting caused to their routines. González and her roommate have therefore decided to embark on the journey together and Alonso, for her part, has given her spare key to a friend, who is willing to spend some time with the pets staying at her place.
Using online pet service platforms definitely has its appeal to those who miss spending quality time with their pets, need an incentive to get some fresh air and exercise, or simply want some company on lonely days. However, it surely doesn’t pay enough for the time it consumes, or to be considered a source of stable income. The temporariness of the pet sitting service is a great advantage, but if you are not a lover of animals, it isn’t likely to be your thing.
Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was written, edited, and fact-checked by students of the journalism course. Some content may have been altered by The Herring’s editors for clarity and style.