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Side of Ranch

Palm Aire resident succumbs to animal instinct

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I always had admired the commitment of Secret Service agents, who would be willing to take a bullet for the president.

This week, though, I learned a whole new level of commitment.

I spent the morning with Palm Aire's Janet Sassin, who after a 32-year career as a hair colorist forged a new path by opening "Walk This Way Pet Services," a pet sitting and dog walking business.

Sassin was telling me about her preparation for the business, which included being certified for pet first aide/CPR. Certainly, a little chest thumping would be in order if somebody's dog flipped over and had four paws in the air.

This goes way farther.

Joking, I noted that at least she wouldn't need to give Fido mouth-to-mouth.

Sassin then told me how her training at the Canine and Feline CPT and Fire Aid class at The Cat Depot included practicing mouth-to-mouth on some stuffed animals. She asked me if I even had seen footage of a fireman giving a cat mouth-to-mouth after being rescued.

Well, no. Holy fur balls.

Lo and behold, my curiosity got the the best of me and I checked the internet for firemen reviving cats. Indeed, YouTube offers video on such practices. It was on the internet, so it has to be true.

"Hopefully, I never will have to do that," Sassin said as she took a golden retriever and a Westie for a stroll down a Lakewood Ranch street.

If she does, it's obvious she will be prepared. Six years after dedicating herself to help rescue animals, Sassin went through all the hoops before opening her business. Besides the first aid training, she is bonded, insured and licensed, along with other certifications that make her totally prepared to care for a pet.

As Cooper, the golden lab, checked out a fire hydrant, I watched Sassin do her thing and wondered how tough could it really be to walk and care for pets. After all, if this journalism gig goes bad, perhaps I could give her some competition.

Forging her way through the first months of her new business, Sassin fights that perception, that "I can get the 10-year-old next door to walk my dog for a few bucks."

That might be true, but certain difficulties and annoyances have caused pet lovers to seek professionals like Sassin to walk and care for their pets.

"I want people to understand this is not a hobby," she said.

Now I have two shelties and the toughest part of walking them has been getting them to do their business at the dog park, and not on my neighbors' lawns. Sure, I can execute the old inside-out pull with the plastic baggie, but my neighbors usually break out the Vulcan death stare whether I take away the little biscuits or not.

Is there more to do than that?

"You have to be alert the entire time," she said. "And I have an airhorn I carry."

Sassin uses the horn when or if a stray dog attacks. One blast usually enough to send any animal scurrying away.

One of her own dogs ... she has three including two Mastiffs ... is aggressive so she knows to look ahead and switch sides of the road if another dog is heading her direction.

Other factors come into play as well. "You need to know if dogs are acting different," she said. "And if the sidewalk is too hot for me, it's too hot for them."

Some other knowledge is handy as well. "An English bulldog pug really can't tolerate heat at all, so you can't walk them," she said. "Then you have more hyper dogs such as boxers or border collies, and they need more walks."

When it comes to pet sitting for those who go on vacations or business trips, she said the biggest complaint she hears about other sitters is that the sitters don't show up on time, or at all. Being punctual and dependable is part of being a pro. And she said she is available 24/7.

Sassin makes it clear she was a successful hair colorist who only had to work three days a week. "I just wanted to do this more," she said. "I would rather do this seven days a week for half the money. I would rather spend my day with pets than people."

She got the pet CPR training to prove it.

You can learn more about Sassin by calling Walk This Way Pet Services at 813-528-0880.




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