Pet Care – My PassionConversations — By Neha K Kulkarni on January 25, 2012 at 12:00 AM
After her stint in the corporate world, it was one of her pet’s illness that gave her the idea of opening up a pet care centre. The Punekar in conversation with Shalaka Mundada, owner PetSitters.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I am MBA Graduate from TAPMI Manipal. I worked previously in a bank, dabbled in the field of IT where I was the HR and Administrative head for about 6 years. Finally, I had enough and I quit. After starting PetSitters, I went ahead to get some formal training in pets. I did a course with Shirin Merchant, Mumbai on “Kennel Management and Handling Stress in Kenneled Dogs”. The 2nd course was with the internationally acclaimed John Rogerson on “Dog Behaviour and Obedience Training”, wherein it’s a 21 days residential course and they have students coming from all over the world.
2. How did you take up pet care?
As a kid, I was not allowed a pet but the love for them has always been there. So we had to do with a “galli” pet. For me, taking injured pups and kittens to the clinic was a norm. Even while I was working as an HR and Administration head, I always knew I would eventually work with pets. Soon after I quit my job, one of my pets fell ill and my rounds to the vet increased drastically. During one such visit, I asked the vet whether I could volunteer at his clinic and help him out with administration and basic medicinal care. He agreed and the next one and a half years changed my life. PetSitters was born exactly a year and a half from then.
3. Once you had decided to get into pet care, how did you go about working towards it?
Spending most of my day with pets, I learnt a lot about pet handling. I still remember it was on Diwali evening when we had a lot of pets who were brought to us from kennels where they were put as the owners were away on vacations. There were sick pets and also those who had lost more than half their weight. Soon we observed that these pets were badly taken care of once they returned from kennels. When the owners were asked, why do you keep your pets in such places, their only answer was we don’t have another option. That’s when the idea struck. My husband, Atul and our family did not need much convincing as they are all pet lovers. The next thing was finding a place, but that wasn’t a problem either. My parents already had a farmhouse in Hinjewadi where they were planning to move permanently. My father loved the idea of starting pet care centre. There on we started with checking out kennel designs, getting the paper work ready, meeting vets and sharing ideas with them. The planning phase was fun. Finally with all our efforts PetSitters was born.
4. What are the facilities that are offered at PetSitters?
Started with just 6 kennels, PetSitters today is a 32 kennel facility with primary focus on boarding and day care. We do short stays and long duration stays as well. The maximum stay that we have had till date is of 16 months. Situated over sprawling 4 acres of property, we have an in-house swimming pool, a hill to go for daily walks for all those and over 10,000 sq feet of enclosed play areas and separate enclosures for puppies. Other service provided are city pick up and drop, swimming- monthly and hourly bookings, socialization camps, health related swimming sessions, pet behaviour counseling, pet parties and program on pet handling for children between 8-15years.
Our staff is trained to administer medication and provide the basic care for pets. Today, along with my father – Satish Hulyalkar and a team of handlers, we manage the pets’ schedules, settling in issues and daily operations.
5. You have dogs coming from different environment. Have you faced any problems in terms of the dogs adjusting to a new place?
Till date, we haven’t had the need to send back any pet on the basis of the pet not settling down. When we have an enquiry for boarding, we insist on a visit by the owners and then pet. The first pet interaction, gives us an idea on the pet’s personality. After the first meeting, we take a call on whether we need to do a trial stay or not. A trial stay is a step by step plan to get the pet comfortable in a new area with new people and also with other pets around. The pet could be stressed because of various factors like new place, new people, and previous bad experience just to name a few. By doing a trial stay, we try to make the pet comfortable. This goes a long way in building a bond with the pets. Further, turning PetSitters into their second home.
6. Being so passionate about dogs, what do you feel about the increasing number of stray dogs in the city and the way there are left out there to survive? Do you have anything in mind for them?
The problem is rather sitting on all our heads. The recent reports on dog bites are rather alarming. As a pet lover, I have adopted three stray puppies who now stay at my place. PetSitters has planned a sterilization camp for the surrounding areas as a part of population control.
7. Do you support any animal rights NGO?
I work closely with Blue Cross Pune and their adoption camps. Quiet recently, we did a pet handling and kennel management course for the Blue Cross volunteers. I act as a Counselor on the team for any family who is adopting or has adopted a pet from Blue Cross and if they have problems with regards to training the pet or in connection with behavioral problems like aggressions, leash pulling etc.
8. What are your future plans for PetSitters?
Grow BIG!! I want PetSitters to be a Pet Play ground. A dog park is definitely on the cards coupled with activities for pets and owners, kids and all. A premium cat boarding is the immediate focus as most cat owners have no place to keep their feline friends anywhere and they come and complain that all of us just work for dogs.
To know more visit PetSitters at http://www.petsitters.co.in/