Monday, July 14, 2008

Pet Sitting Horror Stories

A few months ago, I was referred for a petsitting job. During my first call with the client, a German woman whom shall be referred to as CK, I could immediately tell she was quite neurotic. Among other things, I had to repeatedly ask her the dates of her trip as she would ramble incessantly about some other topic every time I asked. We finally managed to arrange a meeting.

I met CK and her dogs for a hike and then headed back to her house where she explained every minute detail of the house as if I had never lived in one before. She also had three different kinds of dry dog food and each dog received a different amount which she actually weighed out to the gram on a small scale!

Despite these odd habits, I agreed to take the job. I thought all of the arrangements had been finalized, but the week before CK left, she started annoying me with numerous phone calls and demands.

Initially, CK told me she was leaving on a Saturday night and I didn't have to be there until late that day or even the next day. As a result, I offered to comp my daily rate for that one day. As her departure approached, however, she now demanded that I meet her before she left. I had already made plans to meet with friends that I didn't want to cancel. Furthermore, she lived far away (a 40 minute drive without traffic) so driving to meet her, then back to my friends, then back to her house was not an option.

CK also wanted to “explain” to me how her SUV worked (much like the house, I knew this would be another exercise in her explaining to me things I already knew), as well as give me a CD she created with all the German commands she used on her dogs.

The more demanding she became, the more I wanted out of the job. Enter James. James had just moved back to Los Angeles and needed some extra work. I told him everything I had endured so he knew what he was getting into, but he agreed to take over for me since she would be leaving soon and couldn't bother him too much in such a short time (or so we thought).

Needless to say, James took excellent care of the dogs. Unfortunately, he had to wait until she returned to be paid. That's when the following e-mail exchange took place:

(Please note, other than removing names and personal information, I left the e-mails as is, so there is no correcting of grammar or spelling):

On Jun 9, 2008, at 4:10 PM, CK wrote:

Hi James:

please, allow me to fwd to you my "payment arrangement" with Sam . . . . the assignment included to keep the house & yard clean, occupied & maintained in its original condition while also attending to the dogs' needs of feeding and walking them twice daily for an hour each.

Please note that your / Sam's "food", "beauty items" and "entertainment" were not complimentary . . . . based on the amount (and value) of "human food items" disappearance (about $250-300), the stains on the living room carpet (requiring professional cleaning - haven't gotten neither the bill nor the carpet back, yet), the ripped railing cable around the patio (requires professional re-installation) and the usage of other items (replacement value undetermined at this point), we have to come up with a new price /payment arrangement.

You can reach me tomorrow via phone at 818-***-**** between 3-5pm and after 8pm.

Kind regards, C-

---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: CK

Date: Apr 16, 2008 12:24 PM

Subject: Re: Dog - and House-Sitting

To: S-

Thank you for your reply, Sam.

We are looking forward to meeting you.

In the meantime, please confirm with me that you are available from 05/17/08 (about 7.00-7.30pm) to 05/27/08 (for the dogs' morning walk and giving them "breakfast").

Would you be willing to share some additional references I could contact before we meet upon your return? . . . . . I hope, you'll have a GREAT time!!!

Also, in order to avoid any confusion, please allow me confirm with you that the charge / your payment we discussed for these days/nights & doggy walking was $585 (considering the "late start" on 05/17/08, you expressed your willingness to waive the first night's charge) - please, let me know if that's correct.

Thank you very much in advance.

C- & the gang of "3"


On 6/9/08, James wrote:


This is the craziest thing I have ever heard!

1. I did help myself to some food items in the first few days before I went grocery shopping. Most of the items were going to expire etc., (milk, salad dressing, etc) but regardless, we're talking around $30. In the past with housesitting I have always been told to help myself, when it comes to food. Your estimate of $250-300 is nothing short of a complete fabrication. Here is a list of items I remember eating, one pack of ritz crackers, 4 starbucks drinks, pasta sauce, salad dressing and a few others.

2. By beauty items I can only imagine you mean the bar of soap and shampoo I used in the guest bath. WOW!

3. I wasn't aware of a ripped cable around the patio, but on many occasions after returning, the dogs had made a mess of the backyard, items from the garage were spread around the backyard, which I picked up each time it happened. Not to mention every two days picking up dog doo, cleaning and straightening up the garage area for the dogs.

4. The soiled carpet was a present I woke up to one morning. I'm not sure who the guilty party was, but the dogs went out each night before bed. I cleaned the mess twice and shampooed once. But the main point is I didn't soil the rug, one of the dogs did. Your rational to charge me for getting the carpet cleaned seems unexplainable.

5. The usage of other items, I can't even think what this would be. But at this point I have to say I'm curious to know.

At this point, I don't care! I'm not going to let someone nickel and dime me after I took care of three large dogs for 10 days, including feeding (measured everyday), several walks, sleeping in a small bed with them, cleaning up and treating them great. Beyond the dog care, I laundered the bedding in the guest room and various other items, cleaned the kitchen thoroughly, dusted and vacuumed.

I don't wish to talk to you regarding any of this, you've listed your complaints and conjectures and I've listed the facts. Nothing will be solved by talking, I will not be able to explain it more clearly than above.

If you wish to deduct $50 bucks of so for food items, I won't take notice, but if you plan to jerk me around regarding the rest, I will have no choice but to list a formal complaint. At this point I'm demanding the payment be sent and received at the address provided by this Friday, June 13th. I'm not in the financial position to wait any longer without creating undue hardship.



On Jun 10, 2008, at 4:33 PM, CK wrote:

Hi James:

I am NOT talking about items that were already opened & / or in the fridge, but rather "my back stock".

Let me just refresh your memory as to WHAT you consumed and did NOT replace . . . {{with a $$}} and we'll go from there as far as deducting your service is concerned --- I did mention to you that I expect my "human / frozen food storage" to be "untouched" or "replenished" if used . . .

T-bone steaks (1 pack - $35) . . . maybe even 2 packs???

New York steak (1 pack - $35)

Salmon - $10

Tortellini (going with the sauce) - $5

Lean Cuisine Dinners 6 (8???) packs -- $24-$30

Ice cream (Breyer) - $7

Kashi cookies - $5

Sunflower Seeds - $5

Star Bucks $8 + tx

Vitamin C (dietary supplement) - $15

Laury's marinade - $8

That's about $150 - $185 in food.


shampoo (special salon shampoo) - $8 + tx

2 aroma [gift] candles burned - $20

2 extra hours my cleaning lady had to stay --$24

Professional carpet cleaning - $100+ . . . . you were supposed to walk the dogs and attend to their other basic needs, such as food, water and potty-time (hence, if you get up at 11am (!!!!) it is NOT surprising that a BIG dog goes to the bathroom if they can't get you to open the door earlier . . . . I told you, the dogs are on a 7-8am "rise & shine" schedule!! that was your responsibility!!!

Handman to fix railing cable (looks as if someone stepped on the cables, e.g.while tying shoe laces???) - $50

The "bill" is now at $350 (do I still have char coal and gas in the BBQ???) . . . . costs that were NOT included in our original arrangement (I explicitedly pointed out the faulty shut-off valve in the guest bath room . . . . it was on the tape, too . . . . yet, when I got the water bill which covered YOUR period of staying here, the water-usage was twice as high as normal . . . . I hadn't even calculated THAT in) AND ACTUALLY were supposed to be avoided -- that's why I showed you the house and explained the dogs' needs in detail.

Anyway, under consideration of the above AND the fact that you did spent time with the dogs (although my neighbors reported that they rarely saw you taking 'em for a walk . . . . which was supported by a HUGE weight gain in all 3 of them), I am willing to give you "some money" . . . . just not what you were asking for.

As a sign of my appreciation that the dogs were in "one piece" when I returned, I am offering you $300 as final payment (instead of $585 as agreed / arranged with Sam, whose assignment you took over).

Let me know if that's OK with you.

I guess, we both learned out of this . . . .

Kind regards, C-

On 6/10/08, James wrote:

Again I'm amazed and saddened by the lengths you have went to concoct this scenario of events.

The majority of items you have listed below are a complete fabrication. NO steaks, salmon, vitamin C, lean cuisine were consumed and as for the rest, are you really that concerned about a half of carton of ice cream and some cookies (I guess the answer is yes). By the way, you never said you expected the human/ frozen food to be untouched or unblemished. I would have taken notice of such an odd statement.

Water usage??? If one shower a day, filling up the dog's water bowls and running the dish washer sends the water usage to double I'm amazed. As far as the leaking toilet, I was very mindful of this during my stay.

I burned one of the many candles for a couple hours. You can't be serious about all the rest. The extra housekeeping could be directly associated to the fact that they skipped a visit during the 10 day stay. And regardless, I tided up often and I wasn't being paid to clean although I did shampoo, dust and vacuum.

The dogs rarely going on walks??? We went on two walks everyday! Two days it rained and we only went on the evening hike (in the rain and mud i might add). This is perhaps the most audacious claim of all, since I spent so much time outside with the dogs.


This is the last email on the subject. I will only accept full payment minus $50 for food items. If I haven't received a check for $600 by this Friday, June 13th via mail or paypal, I will file a compliant in Small Claims Court.

Again the address is;


or via paypal at ****@***.com

I did you a huge service which consumed from rise to rest a full 5-6 hours of my day between the driving, the walks, measuring food, cleaning up, etc. Which works out to $11 an hour. I'm not going to be disrespected in this matter and have my compensation illegally withheld any longer.


On Jun 15, 2008, at 8:15 PM, CK wrote:

Dear James:

I can only imagine how angry you must feel that your financial expectations are not being met. It also sounds as if you are really furious because you spent so much time working during your time here and haven't received the appreciation that you expected. And then it seems that my complaints about the use of food and beauty items is very upsetting to you, too.

I regret that you didn't understand that we did not have an agreement permitting you to consume and use food & beauty products and other items in my home. I hear that you are very frustrated that I sent you a list of these items that are missing from my home and which were there when I left for Fiji.

I can only imagine how annoyed you must be that your need for privacy was not met here. because my neighbors aware that the dogs didn't go for their twice daily walks during your stay.

Please allow me to say that besides the consumed / used items (and the neighbors' reports), there have been some additional costs generated (such as the area rug cleaning / possible replacement and the damage to the railing) that happened "under your watch" and the prevention thereof was part of your assignment.

Under consideration of the above (and below), I am hoping that we are able to reach agreement as to the terms and amount for payment arrangements.

Please, let me know.

Kind regards, C-

On 6/16/08, James wrote:


I'm not angry about financial expectations. I'm angry about a series of falsehoods and inaccuracies, that are dragging out a clear cut case of breach of contract and delay of payment. If I knew I would be defending myself against false claims, I would have detailed every time and event. I have a duty to protect myself against false accusation, not matter how absurd or tedious.

If any damage was present on the railing it was directly related to the high winds during one of the nights, all three chairs were blown over (one leaning on the railing, which still has an exposed roll of the steel cord hanging off unfinished in the top right corner), as well as the astray and cigarette can being blown down the hill, carpets blown around the yard and several pieces of debris scattered. This is another instance where I went down the hill and around the yard cleaning up after something I did not case. The fact you're talking about replacing the railing is simply false, because the steel cords can simply be tightened by turning the mechanism on the right. Why do you continue to overstate things?

Enough about the beauty products, using a half bar of soap and five days worth of shampoo (yes I wash my hair every other day) isn't something worth bringing up. Am I to be charged for toilet paper, also? Or gas for the stove? You've already mentioned water usage. Was I to sleep in a tent in the yard?

As far as the neighbors are concerned I will gladly debate any discrepancies with them in court (which will be required if you plan to introduce their account of my times I left and returned). I have detailed information on most of the hikes and other times I left based on times phone calls were made, emails were sent and meetings were taken. If you plan to use someone's signed affidavit of the events, particularly anything proving the fact that I didn't walk the dogs, I will need to have their name/s in order to subpoena them.

I refuse to have any contract negated, no matter how small, by pieces of fiction and conjecture. Like I said in my last email, the amount due is $600 based on a $50 allowance for food, which is more than generous since the real amount of consumed food would be around twenty-five bucks.

I will be filing the necessary forms tomorrow, I would have processed them today, but I just returned to town. After speaking with a paralegal representative on Friday, the case will probably be heard around the end of July, however your evidence and witness list will need to be provided a few weeks before the date.



On Jun 17, 2008, at 11:36 AM, CK wrote:

Thank you for your reply, James.

I understand your frustration, which is all on my side as well. Our individual "facts" and "evidence" seem to be supporting our opposing points of view; except for one: there was no contract . . . . which I believe both of us deeply regret.

Please, check with SAM HAYES about my house- and dog-sitting arrangement with him, which was later assumed by you (I have a confirmation email from you); the agreed "charge" was $585 for the specified services, days and time.

I hope, you will think once more over "our differences" and the exchanged written information before filing with the SC court.

Please remember that before you mentioned "court", I wrote to you in an email that I was willing to give you some form of compensation -- just not the $600 you are requesting (which wasn't the agreed price to begin with).

Please, let me know how you decide.

Kind regards, C-

On 6/17/08, James wrote:


My only frustration is having to devote time to recovering money rightfully owed. I will NOT be providing written documentation before filing my claim. The written documentation is being prepared for SC court and they will furnish you the information once they decide. Legally a verbal contract and the implied contract based on your emails constitute as a contract. Enough evidence is available to prove a contract existed.

Sam has already been deposed regarding his conversations with you and provided signed declarations. Details include the agreed upon pay of of $65 a day ($585 is completely inaccurate since I never agreed to waive the first night, either verbally or in writing). The dogs went on a walk on the 10th day, were fed, given snacks, cleaned up after, the house was cleaned up and several little tasks were completed. Also, an interest tidbit of dialogue between Sam and you when you stated you were going the grocery and asked him if he required anything or had any requests for food. This statement has also by declared in writing by Sam. This demonstrates intent to provide or at least offer to provide foodstuffs for the house-sitter (which is quite normal in house-sitting).

I've already pulled receipts providing evidence of a total of $67.11 being spent a local grocers, and $35.62 on take out. I've accounted for my meals during my 10 day stay, I've received phone records and bank statements providing details of times in and out of the house. Also, during my stay I began a friendship with a lifeguard at Hansen Dam, who I talked with several times on the trail. I've been spending time with said lifeguard and they have agreed to sign a declaration of their time card and dates we talked on the trail.

Beyond the $650 owed, my claim will include verifiable financial hardships created by withholding of compensation, including several overdraft fees based on not receiving the funds, which directly correspond to your action of withholding. In addition, witness fees and damages. Also, I will be seeking pro rata compensation for the hike the day before you left as well as recovery of gas mileage. All filling fees will also be part of the claim. In addition, I spent roughly $12-15 on items for the dogs (carrots, cheese and broccoli) which will also be included. Whether or not these items will be awarded are unknown, but they do represent "actual" damages which is the only requirement for claims.

Regarding unreasonableness and state of mind, I think the presiding official will take into account actions prior to the stay and false claims after your return. A few include the two hikes before you left, more than two hours of combined calls before you departed, the three calls you made on the way to the airport and at the airport, satellite map, hand drawn map, audio CD, note about no open fires or parties, various emails, explanation of simple household appliances (microwave, stove, etc.), emails before leaving and your requirement to have three dogs and a 190 pound person sleep on a fold out bed. In addition, regarding your character I will introduce the scathing remarks regarding "Mexicans" at Hansen Dam, when you stated as we pulled in "all these Mexicans" "what are they doing" as you speed into the lot trying to go against traffic organized by a security official. This seems odd since you've immigrated to this country from across the atlantic, and these "Mexicans" have been living in this region for hundreds of years. All this combines to give picture of your behavior and possible instability. And finally being asked to delivery recorded conversations and hard-drives to neighbors (which I didn't do) that contained information that your ex would like to obtain while your gone, created an uneasy feeling the entire stay.

I don't want to continue this exercise, which is straining my time, but after explaining this situation to attorneys I temp for, they have agreed to prepare the information & documentation, but will not permitted to address the court.

I just want to be compensated what I'm owed, but you have on several occasions refused to pay (almost a month has passed), now we have to take time out of lives to prepare documentation, dispose and examine witnesses and appear in court. This is my last attempt at reason and I will now have to seek remedy under the law.

Regards, James

From: "C-

Date: June 18, 2008 10:51:01 AM PDT

To: James

Subject: Re: Dog - and House-Sitting / final payment arrangements

On 6/18/08, C- wrote:

I am mailing you a check for $600 via certified mail this afternoon.


James then sent me a complete forward of all the e-mails with this additional note:

check and mate!

U.S.A. 1 / Germany 0

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