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Kids come up with creative answer to pricey pet ownership

Two Kitsilano girls have started their own pet sitting business to find a loophole to their parents’ no pet rule. Jara…

By Hallae Khosravi , in Life , on March 7, 2014

Two Kitsilano girls have started their own pet sitting business to find a loophole to their parents’ no pet rule.

Jara and Zoe Werder, aged 9 and 6 respectively, came up with the idea to start an after-school dog sitting company, after mom, Vettina Diethelm, said ownership wasn’t an option.

“I thought [dog sitting] was a nice idea and let’s try it,” said Diethelm.

The girls' artwork is proudly displayed around the home, but mostly in the front room with the coloured-in window.
The girls’ artwork is proudly displayed around the home, but mostly in the front room with its brightly coloured-in window.

The idea wasn’t original however. Zoe had read an Arthur the Aardvark book in which the title character starts an animal sitting company to prove his responsibility to his parents. Zoe said the business is a way for the two sisters to have a pet experience, without the full responsibility.

“Zoe got really inspired by that book, so she really wanted to do [dog sitting] too,” said older sister Jara, “Zoe’s really hoping to have a dog one day.”

The girls drew up a sign to advertise their service, which they named Zoe and Jara’s Dog Sitting, and their mom agreed to include her cell phone number to help with scheduling. “’Cause she’s the best mom ever!” adds Zoe.

The sign that started it all, posted up outside the family home.
The sign that started it all, posted up outside the family home.

Combating Pet Costs

At a time when pet ownership has become more of a luxury due to its overall cost and commitment, a sitting service is a novel way for families to interact with animals. According to Statistics Canada, pet owners incurred annual costs of over $5,000 in 2009 and recent data gathered by Ipsos Canada indicate that of the Canadians who own pets, over two-thirds earn over $60,000 a year.

As for Jara and Zoe’s solution to petlessness, the girls wish their business would pick-up. To date the sisters’ only clients are a couple neighbours, but they’re eager for a more consistent and varied base of customers – mainly they’d like to meet new dogs.

Today entails meeting a new dog and a trip to the park to play and master leash use.
Today entails meeting a new dog and a trip to the park to play and master leash use.

“We walked our neighbours’ dog, but he never wanted to walk with us,” said Zoe.

“Because he’s about 77 in dog years,” added Jara.

While the girls still aren’t wild about cleaning up after a dog (a question which erupted in a series of “ew”), their mom agrees that dealing with the animals has brought out their sense of responsibility.

A responsibility that isn’t always fun. “If you would walk the dog even when it’s raining, for example, or when it’s cold,” explained Diethelm, “not just when it’s nice and sunny and warm, then okay.”

Dog sitting allows the girls to bond with animals, even without their own pet.
Dog sitting allows the girls to bond with animals, even without their own pet.

For now the family still does not have the time or resources to commit to a pet, but until then, their girls still get to engage in puppy love.

“As long as it’s just dogs, and not parrots and ant farms and snakes and all kind of animals,” said Diethelm.

See more of Jara and Zoe’s Dog Sitting Company (click to scroll through)