Pet sitting service a friend to animals in need
By Sherry Wolkoff
Inside Cherry Hill
Is your cat home alone? Does your dog make you feel guilty every time you walk out the door? Who ya’ gonna’ call? P T’s Pet Sitting Service will not only feed Rover and play with Fluffy, but will bring in your mail and newspapers, poop-scoop your yard, water your plants.
Pt’s has grown from a small part-time operation that was started by business-woman Tracy Neal as a sideline in 1982 to a full time busting business that grosses six figures and has been featured on all the television news programs and major newspapers. Eleven fully bonded employees swell to eighteen in the summer months, and they service 3000 households in a territory that covers all areas within the borders of Medford to Pennsauken east to west and Tacony to Stratford north and south.
“We take care of your pet as if it were our own,” says Tracy who says she started the business when she couldn’t find anyone to take care of her collie when she wanted to spend a weekend at the shore with her friends. “So I stayed home and took care of everyone’s pets. It was then that I realized that there was a real need for this service.
Tracy and her co-owner husband Kevin, both Cherry Hill residents, left corporate executive jobs to start their business, and they have never looked back. Although their business imposes an unrelenting schedule that places massive demands on their time, requires tremendous organization skills, and tosses up the occasional catastrophe that can occur when you are responsible for the lives of so many pets in so many homes, the ebullient Tracy says she loves what she does. “Tail –wags, kisses and hugs are why I am in this business,” she explains.
The Neal’s consider themselves the consummate professionals in their field. They offer a free consultation with new clients, during which they discuss the pet’s likes and dislikes, medications, leash locations, veterinarian information, and other routines. They also gather essential information about your house, including security system, instructions, garage door openers, etc.
This is also the time when they meet the pet they will be caring for, a step they consider as important for the pet as it is to them. All information is documented on a form, which is maintained for each customer. The employee who first meets the pet and his “parents” is the same one who will be caring for the animal each visit. Each employee makes no more than 15 stops a day, and on a busy Fourth of July weekend, there may be as many as 400 runs to cover throughout the entire area.
It requires a tremendous deal of regimentation and organization to see to it that everyone gets to where they need to be on time. Tracy arises at 5:30 am to check messages, which advises her of changes or additions for that day. By 7 am, all employees have been contacted with their assignments. The territory is divided into seven districts, and there is a sophisticated system of keys and code names for each customer.
Still, despite their best efforts, there are occasionally times when things can go wrong. “Usually the problems are house and not pet related,” says Tracy. “One time Kevin couldn’t get into a house with the garage door opener because there had been a power outage. He had to climb over some thorny bushes to break a window to get in [with a vacationing customer’s permission], or else the animals would starve. Sometimes pipes freeze, and one time I took home two dogs with me so they wouldn’t freeze during a power loss.”
When the Neal’s are not out in their jeep pampering pets [as their answering machine informs callers ], they take care of their two sons, age 8 and 18 months] and their Burmese mountain dog named Percy. “It’s a difficult business but a rewarding one,” Tracy says. “Pets love us because we’re there to take care of them and they know it. They are so happy to see us when we come in that they practically fall all over themselves. I’d much rather do these than have someone in a corporate office screaming at me.” PT ‘s Pet Sitting Service can be reached at 856-667-8352.