#1059: The reluctant pet-sitter (An ‘Art of No’ Post)

Dear Captain,

This seems like a very minor thing to be asking for help with, I know. But I feel like even if there’s no solution to my “problem”, getting the input of a bunch of neutral parties (particularly neutral parties with solid understandings of boundaries) would make me feel better, and if you feel like this letter is a waste of time you can just delete it, no harm done.

I do not own pets, for a number of reasons. I feel like it shouldn’t matter, but in case it does, in no particular order those reasons are: 1) My husband is deathly allergic to cats/dogs. 2) My husband very explicitly does not want pets even if he wasn’t allergic. 3) I have had pets in the past and found that no amount of wanting to be a good pet owner changes the fact that I am not a good pet owner (I am not patient, consistent, or stable enough). 4) I am an extremely high strung (or anxious) person, and being in a constant state of panic (did pet just eat something they shouldn’t have!? Is pet sick!? What if their collar slips off while I’m walking them!? If I go to a dog park, what if pet runs away and I can’t catch them!?!) would be awful for both me and the pet. 5) I’ve now lived for a couple of years with no pets, and oh my goodness, I have learned to love not having fur everywhere so much.

I have 2 adult sisters, who have 2 dogs each. They are very much the “this dog is my baby” sort of people. They consistently ask me to care for their dogs while they go on vacation (which happens several times a year each). Years ago, I almost always acquiesced. When I moved in with my husband, however, I mostly stopped agreeing to pet-sit. I cannot bring the dogs to my place because my husband is allergic, so pet-sitting always requires driving 30 minutes across town, several times a day, or straight up living at their house for however many days they’re gone. In addition, these dogs are not well trained. The dogs are extremely food aggressive, they get into fights, they beg, they jump on people, they destroy furniture, etc. etc. etc. Hiring a professional would be too expensive, they say, although I also feel like part of the problem may be that a professional would not accept caring for aggressive dogs.

I have made it clear that I do not want to pet-sit. But they keep asking, piling on the guilt any time I say no. I am, at this point, known for being a terrible, selfish sister because I won’t take care of their dogs. I do not work, so they point out that they’re willing to pay me, and I have plenty of free time, so there’s no reason I can’t pet sit for them. I have turned them down several times this year, but yesterday my sister came over to “catch up and chat”. Turns out, that was just an excuse to ask me in person to pet sit for 4 days while she and my other sister went to Vegas together for a holiday vacation. She knew I wouldn’t be able to say no in person, and she was right. Now I am pet sitting next week. I guess I have a few questions for you and your commenters: Am I in the wrong for turning them down just because I do not want to pet-sit, when they’ve offered to pay me and I do have the free time ? Obviously I and my husband are pretty biased and think I shouldn’t have to regularly take on responsibilities because someone else has pets, but it seems like every pet owner we know disagrees and thinks we are just selfish, lazy people. (As a side note, I have no problems helping them with non-pet related things; I regularly edit resumes and help with landscaping projects and help decorate for parties, so it’s not like I’m refusing to ever lend a hand with anything.) Are there any scripts you could recommend for saying ‘no’ to favors for family, especially when saying no means potentially ruining major plans for them? And finally, is this just a thing I need to get over and stop being annoyed at (people are always going to ask for favors you don’t want to do, and you’re always going to be considered the bad guy if you turn them down, too bad, so sad, stop complaining)?

Thank you so much for your time,
Not a Willing Pet Sitter

Hi Not A Willing Pet Sitter:

Here is your script: “I know I said I would pet-sit yesterday, but I’ve changed my mind. You’ll have to find someone else to look after the dogs.” Call your sister today and tell her.

Them: “But it’s such short notice! You said you would!”

You: “Yep, I did, but you asked me already knowing that I don’t want to pet sit for you, ever. I’m telling you now that I won’t do it, so you need to hire someone or make other plans. I’m not having this conversation again.”

Them: “But!!! x 1000 (Also “we’re a faaaaaaamily”)” “But you’re ruining our trip!”

Your follow-up script is “I said no. Why are you still trying to negotiate with me when it’s clear that I don’t want to do it?

Then…don’t pet-sit. You are not the only solution they have and they can shove their guilt trips into the center of the sun.

There are professional pet sitters. There are kennels. Some people board their dogs at the vet. There is an entire industry of “doggie day care” establishments. There are bored college students who really like dogs and would love a little cash and a free place to crash for a few days over the holidays (I used to be this college student). There’s literally an app for that. One dog-loving sister could take the other sister’s dogs in, and vice versa. They could ask their friends. Hiring a professional would be “too expensive,” they say, but they could budget “pet sitting” as a necessary vacation cost. No money for pet sitting? No money for travel, then!

This is only your problem because they insist on making it your problem. The only way their guilt trips will keep working on you is if you let them keep working on you. The way to take your power back  here is is to let them be mad at you if they’re going to be mad about it, and then keep right on not pet-sitting, literally forever. Let yourself get angry with them for continually putting you in this shitty position. If they insult you in order to manipulate you, let them: “Yep, I’m selfish. Yep, I could do it if I wanted to. Yep, I’m a bad mean cruel horrible sister. Still not pet-sitting though, so, let’s change the subject.”  

Enforcing boundaries with family means communicating “I can live with your displeasure but I can’t continue to endure your poor treatment of me.



340 thoughts on “#1059: The reluctant pet-sitter (An ‘Art of No’ Post)

  1. I adore dogs and happily petsit for people, and I wholly support you not doing this. Not everyone is cut out to own pets, or to petsit. Your sister can find someone who actually wants to spend time with her dogs instead of feeling pressured and resentful, and you can have a happy week not filled with stress.

    1. Yes! A thousand times this. I super love animals. I volunteer at an animal shelter, I beg my friends to please let me be the one who takes care of their pets when they leave, and get super disappointed if they get someone else to do it, I’m half-tempted to get you to send me your sister’s address so I can fly over and take care of their dogs for you.

      Still on your side on this! I hate people who think that you *owe* them favours. They know your feelings about pets, and are just trying to make you feel bad about things for their own gain. They are the ones being selfish here, not you. They are the ones that took on the responsibility to own dogs, and it would be awesome of you to take care of them, but should not be required. And frankly, why would they even want their dogs being taken care of someone who doesn’t want to do it? Why would they even want you to do something you aren’t comfortable with doing? They shouldn’t want their sister to be unhappy, and you’ve made it clear that you would be if you did this. I agree with Captain that you should even take back your agreement for this time, too.

      1. I also have a pile of friends who are safe, responsible people with less than perfect housing situations (far from work, far from campus, many loud roommates, dorm closes for holidays, etc.) who regularly petsit for cheap because it’s like an air b’n’b with a dog in it for them. Not that I’m saying that anyone should underpay petsitters, but – there are options! and they take less persistence to find, imo, than constantly dogging LW about it, pun intended.

        1. Pet sitting as a college student was my favorite thing ever. Professors paid me to go to their houses, usually left me $20 extra to order pizza, got access to free cable, AND I GOT TO PLAY WITH CATS/DOGS??? As an animal lover that missed my pets terribly, this was incredible. I would have done it for free.

          As an adult with cats (and hopeful future dog owner), and lover of pets, you are absolutely in your right to say “nope.” I have friends who are not pet people for their own reasons. I wouldn’t ask them to pet sit because the answer would either be no, or it would put them in a really awkward place where maybe they would feel like would have to say yes and they really don’t want to? Anytime I ask someone to watch my cats when I’m gone, I make it clear that the answer can be no, that it’s okay, and if they can’t or don’t want to, I’m happy to make other arrangements. Because that’s what being a responsible pet owner is. When you take on a pet, there are going to be costs involved, like food and grooming and vet and some sort of boarding if you choose to go away.

    2. I love cats, and I love watching my cousin’s cats (which I’m doing this week!), and I REALLY love coming home to a fur- and responsibility-free home after I’m done feeding and playing with them. Basically, it’s an arrangement that works out for everyone!

      But LW, I am seconding Light37 in reassuring you that it is okay not to dogsit and to explicitly want not to dogsit (I have watched dogs before. I was…not good at it) or catsit or hamstersit or goldfishsit or anyoneelsesit. Your sisters are massively uncool for a) continuing to pressure you after you’ve already made your wishes clear and b) assuming that just because you’re not working, you’re not doing anything, or at least not anything so important it can’t be dropped so you can drive across town to take care of the dogs they *already know you don’t want to take care of!* And while they’re off having fun together in Vegas, no less!

      There are people out there who love dogs and are good at taking care of them – lots of these people, if the number of dog-walkers in my own neighborhood is anything to go by! Some of them will be happy to take the money your sisters are offering you (…seriously, if they’re trying to bribe you, why are they not taking their wallets to one of the services the Captain mentioned?) and give those dogs love and attention, and those folks will do it happily. It will be a much better arrangement for all.

      1. Seriously!

        As a matter of fact, unless I’m paying a professional, I try to only ask other cat-owning friends to catsit. Why? Because a) I know they love cats and are comfortable caring for them, and b) it means they can feel free to ask me to catsit for them in trade. I know they’re inconveniencing themselves to do me a favor! I feel much less guilty about it if I can reciprocate in kind. Otherwise, I have to figure out other ways to show my appreciation for the big favor they’re doing me, be it cash or taking them out to dinner or doing some other kind of favor for them, or whatever works with our particular friendship.

        But I would never take it for granted, and I would DEFINITELY never try to guilt-trip someone who lived across town and hated the job to do it. That would be a jerk move! Not to mention that it’s not the best way to get my cat good care, if the person visiting her resents being there and doesn’t enjoy spending time with her. That would go double for dogs if i had any, given how much more time and energy one needs to devote to caring for them. Your sisters are being unfair to you, unfair to their dogs, and are way overdue for knocking it off.

        1. I completely agree with these statements. My family has four cats and we foster homeless cats and kittens but whenever we are making holiday plans we always think about our pets first. Luckily, our dear friend lives nearby and she loves our cats so much that if we have not met for a week or so, she calls and asks if she can come to greet our cats – and luckily, she is not the only one. We are lucky in having many voluntary pet sitters.

          I do love dogs, too, but… Whenever I have been a dogsitter, the dog has just seemed uncomfortable. I have tried to do everything I can but still I feel like a poor dogsitter. Once, I have also been a rabbit sitter.

          Dear LW, I agree with everyone here: not wanteing to be a pet sitter is completely ok and it does not make you a bad person. You know your boundaries and that is great. Just like The Captain pointed out, there are so many other options for your sisters; why on earth do they have to bug you?

          Follow the firm and good scripts The Captain gave you. Enforce your boundaries. Take care of yourself. ❤

      2. Same! My thoughts exactly. I love my fur babies, and I wouldn’t want to make somebody watch them if they did not want to. Nobody has fun with that. I have plenty of willing friends/family who live relatively close to me and would be cool with it, and if they were not available, I’d look at other options.

    3. Their pets, their responsibility. Taking care of an animal means that you have to plan for the possibility (or likelihood) that other people won’t be able to do any care work for you.

    4. I want to note something really basic: Your sisters don’t own your time just because they see a free spot on your calendar. That is an incredible amount of entitlement.

      Even before all the great reasons you have for not wanting to petsit – the simple reason that you don’t want to is enough.

      You are the boss of your life and calendar and you decided to spend your time without pets. So when your sisters decided to get dogs, they had the option to talk to you whether you’d be available to dogsit x times per year for y days. If they failed to do that or you agreed once upon a time and have now changed your mind, it is their responsibility as a dog owner to make this work. Just because you’re the (probably) cheapest and most practical option for them and they think they can manipulate you into it, doesn’t mean you have to do it.

  2. One of the best things I ever did for myself was to force myself to accept two things: one, I cannot and *should* not attempt to control other’s narratives; two: other’s narratives don’t have the power to hurt me as long as I enforce boundaries surrounding their behavior.

    Someone’s narrative of their life inherently belongs to them. Right now, your sisters’ narratives are that you are Mean and Selfish and the Bad Sister because you refuse to dog-sit. And as difficult as it is for you, your job right now is to find a way to be okay with that. I understand COMPLETELY why it feels bad that this is their narrative, and I understand COMPLETELY why their narrative is frustrating and hurtful to you. Oh my goodness, trust me, I have tortured myself endlessly with those same feelings. But they are adults, intelligent adults, and they get to have their own narrative.

    But their narratives are not yours. And just like they get to have their own, YOU get to have YOUR own. And your narrative is that they are unreasonable, selfish, and frankly being jerks about this whole thing.

    Those two narratives are not mutually exclusive. They exist simultaneously. Nothing needs to be done about them; they simply are.

    Once you stop feelings like their narrative is your problem, it becomes SO MUCH EASIER to deal with behavior. Because, as the Captain says, behavior is the easy part. Just, don’t do that thing you don’t want to do. And if they are behaving poorly towards you because of that, then they no longer get the privilege of your company.

    1. Oh lordy that is such a strong sentiment and something I also really needed to hear. Thank you Laura. I might print this comment out and stick it in my planner.

    2. I agree with Belle. This is brilliant and I am going to try very hard to internalize it. Thanks, Laura!

    3. Great and helpful comment, Laura. I wish I’d had that insight when my DIL portrayed me as a Very Unsupportive Grandma because I didn’t acquiesce to all her wishes re: 10 days of caring for grandchildren while she and my son vacationed. What I suggested as a compromise, “win-win” care plan just. wasn’t. good. enough. The “2 narratives that simply are” concept is something I’ll apply in future conversations. Thanks!

    4. The other plus – they have already decided that the LW is Mean and Selfish for not sitting their dogs all the time. So if you’re already living with their judgement and displeasure, why not do the thing you actually want?

    5. I’ve told myself a similar sentiment before–that I will be the villain in some people’s stories and that I have to learn to be OK with it. But I really like how your comment emphasizes making yourself a narrative, too. You gotta have at least some strength and confidence in your own truth.

    6. I love this response. Yes to all of this. In the early days of my sister’s separation from her toxic husband, when she was super-upset about his family thinking badly of her, I had to keep repeating some version of “They get to feel that way if they want to,” and “they get to have their own stories about what happened.” It’s ultimately so liberating to realize that – you can build a whole life around trying to control everyone’s narrative about you, and to know that 1) you can’t, and 2) you don’t have to because they can’t hurt you, is a world-changing paradigm shift.

    7. This comment really speaks to me so hard. I just wish I knew what to do when others’ narratives cause real life problems for me. Like, I’m in a poly relationship where my metamours clearly have a narrative about me being the Villain Other Woman who Steals Too Much of [Partner]’s Time and Is Untrustworthy, and I have a narrative about Being Totally Nice and Reasonable and Just Wanting to Be Friends With Them Instead But Being Hated and Excluded and Subjected to Rudeness By Them For No Reason Because They Are Jerks.

      Like, I can’t fix their narrative (OR CAN I, my brain always says), but I can’t insulate myself from the consequences of it while still staying with Partner. Ughhhhhh

      1. Without knowing more it sounds like you have to make peace at least with not getting to be friends with them for now. The best things you can do are probably be clear and transparent at each point of communication and also investigate where they got that vibe from. Engage the common lover on your behalf. Does your lover find you trustworthy? Can your lover go to bat for you a little and tell them they can have their feelings but they don’t get to be active jerks to you because your lover cares about you too?
        Then that’s about it. Be polite and clear around them. Don’t try and pursue friendship. Ask your lover to not pass along the bad things they say about you to you. Don’t tolerate them being jerks to you directly.

      2. Do you have good boundaries around that with your partner? I was on a situation where my meta and I didn’t get along, and he routinely violated my repeated boundary around not wanting to hear about it. It did literally no good, and made me upset, and he and his triangulation were a lot of the reason for the mutual dislike in the first place.

        I’m sorry, it’s a hard situation, but it can be managed if you can have proper boundaries around it (and mint was unmanageable without those).

      3. Yeah, that sounds more like a Poly Partner problem rather than a metamour problem. If s/he isn’t making clear that s/he makes their own choices and you aren’t running off with a big comical bag of Time like some sorta Hamburglar but for minutes, then s/he needs to step up. How are you hearing about all this metamour hate anyways? If they’re excluding you, is your partner just spending all your time together blabbing about how much his/her other partners hate you?

        1. Thanks for the response (and for the AMAZING Hamburglar image). I’m finding out about it from Partner and from Mutual Friends (and figuring it out from things like glares at parties we both attend, etc. – it’s not a secret. I find it hard to set boundaries around hearing about it because it’s hard not to want all the information I can get – otherwise it’s a black box of Scary Stuff That Might Blow Up and Impact My Relationship By Surprise. I do think partner has tried to advocate for me, I just don’t think it’s very effective. There’s a scarcity issue of him having too many partners and not enough time. I’m just the most recent addition, so I’m the most popular target.

          Happy to hear more thoughts if you’ve got em.

  3. Arrrgghhh, OP, the “you don’t work so you have plenty of time” argument is one of my biggest peeves. Always remember: even if you do have enough free time, the fact that you don’t work doesn’t mean that you have less right to *decide how you spend your own time.* The right to decide what you do and don’t do is a fundamental part of being a person, and not having a job does not exclude you from this very basic right.

    1. And, if offers of pay are to be made and negotiated, the Letter Writer can/should charge prevailing market price for caring for aggressive dogs. “We’ll pay you…less” isn’t a good argument on the sister’s side of things.

      1. Oh, I agree. Asking someone to dog-sit when that person can’t bring the dogs to their house (which the OP cannot, even if she wants to, and also she doesn’t want to) is a *huge* favor. I mean, huuuuuuuge. Dogs are a labor-intensive kind of pet. Your sisters know this, OP, in their hearts. That’s why they don’t want to pay a professional to do it – paying someone to do everything that dogs require isn’t cheap because even well-behaved dogs require lots of care.

        1. Yes indeed. Fiance and I dog sit for a few sets of friends on occasion. We drive back and forth to their houses to feed the dogs, walk the dogs (sometimes more often than the owners do), play with the dogs, spend hours at their houses just giving the dogs attention. Sometimes he stays overnight at their houses to care for the dogs more easily. Once this involved waking up in the middle of the night to let outdoor dogs in because it was storming and one of them was freaking out (turns out he’s known to be afraid of storms). We’ve given a dog her prescription medication. We’ve cleaned up messes from dogs that were potty training. I lost a pair of shoes to a dog with a chewing problem. He had to go retrieve a dog from a neighbor after it had gotten loose. We brushed a dog who pretty much never got brushed and really should have been.

          And, with one exception, this has largely been without pay. We’re tired. We’re about to throw in the towel and say, “Listen friends, we care about your dogs. But not enough to keep doing this for free.” It’s a lot. And we even like dogs! But it just gets wearing.

          LW, even if you liked dogs, I would totally understand why you wouldn’t want to dog-sit. There is absolutely no reason why you have to, even for pay.

          1. We have a wonderful pet-sitter, who comes and stays at our house while we are gone, sometimes for more than a month (we have both cats and dogs, and while the dogs can travel with us, the cats cannot). We pay her according to the basic California wage laws above the table and accept that the cost is part of not being at home. And it works for both of us, which is the key, AFAIC.

      2. I really side-eyed the “offered to pay” phrasing, because LW has nowhere said that they ARE paying her, only that they raised the possibility as an integral part of the guilt trip. I rather suspect they are NOT paying her and she would also be the Terrible Sister if she took them up on the “offer.”

        But yeah–she absolutely deserves the going rate for that much trouble, and they can shut up with their “offers,” real or fake, if it’s anything less.

        Asking for the going rate can be also a great way of saying no, if the rate is high enough that an “OK we’ll pay you that much” would seem acceptable to the asker. I used to clean houses in college, and one woman I cleaned for–I had been hired BY HER MOM which should’ve been a red flag–made me sort through boxes and boxes of mixed possessions and trash, including old food, which used to be the mess in her older kid’s room and apparently they just threw it in a bunch of boxes when they moved. Then one day her younger kid peed the bed and I was the one to discover it and wash everything, she hadn’t even noticed, it just made a great symbolic last straw. When HER MOM called me again the next semester, I told her how much my rate had gone up (for her daughter only but I didn’t mention that.) She didn’t hire me back, which was my preferred solution. The money would’ve been OK too though.

      3. My daughter has babysat for my niece (her cousin). My sister pays her peanuts. My niece is not well behaved and is difficult to watch. My daughter raised her rates for her services. The last time my sister wanted my daughter to sit for her she was told that the rate per hour was changed and was more in line with what professional sitters charge (daughter actually did go through training so this was not an unreasonable charge.) My sister said “let me get back to you” and found alternative care.
        LW – raise your rates to be more in line with those who perform this service for a living and you may be surprised at how appealing a licensed, trained kennel will suddenly appeal to them. If they do take you up on your offer and you decide to pet sit, draw up a contract so they know what they’re paying for and what your expectations are.

      4. Agreed. We dogsit for one dog. He’s old and loves people and sleeps a lot and comes over to our house to stay. He’s about the most low-maintenance dog out there. The only drawback is he is other dog aggressive so a kennel would be a bad situation for him. The thing is, his owner pays us really well every time. One time he got sick and we had to take him to the vet and she paid us like $100 extra (over the vet fees which she called in with a credit card) just for the time and energy of taking him there and letting him out every 2 hours to be sick.

        She knows his care while staying with us is so much higher quality than any kennel because he likes it with us, there are no other dogs, he can relax and not get anxious, we love to give him treats, he feels at home. SO she pays us well and always gives advanced notice by at least 2 weeks. The one time she asked for something less than a week out she was really apologetic for the short notice and very understanding if we said no and already had a kennel lined up if she needed to go that route.

        You deserve top dollar for the work you do,not reduced rate. But more importantly you deserve to not do it if you don’t want to and all the money in the world is not worth being at the beck and call of your selfish entitled family.

    2. Charge them. Charge them, charge them, charge them -and for at least the going rate. You’re putting in a ridiculous amount of time and labor -physical and emotional. It’s causing you stress problems, and taking you away from your home and supportive partner, costing you in gas if you’re spending at least TWO FRIGGIN’ HOURS on the road every day… Even if you WANTED to do all of that as a *favor*, etiquette would demand some sort of repayment or attempt to make the job as easy for you as possible -stocking the fridge with your favorite foods before you left; making sure the dogs were properly trained; hiring a neighbor to handle some of the letting the dogs out/walking/feeding… And as you’ve said, you put in the effort and time in other places too. They say their dogs are their babies? Then they can grow up and act like it -responsible parents don’t just foist the kids off on an unwilling relative to go gallivanting off on their own and expect them to handle all the behavior problems.

  4. Department of Reaping What You Sew – Untrained Dogs Are Hard To Find Care For. Aggressive dogs get banned from doggie day care, from the groomers, and possibly even the vet clinic. It’s not the LW’s fault that her sisters have opted to have hooligan aggressive dogs, and she might want to ask her sisters why insisting SHE care for their dogs is more important to them than getting training for the dogs. Push back is hard to do (I’m super conflict and confrontation averse) but maybe it’s time to enforce that the dogs are the problem of the dogs owners, not the non-dog-owning sister.

    1. Yeah, maybe this year’s vacation fund could go towards dog training costs…and then the dog will be more amenable to non-LW dog-care options.

      1. Hells bells, THIS!
        “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
        If you’re going to have a pet, part of the responsibility is making sure said pets don’t cause harm to other people and animals. This means taking time to train them so that they’re not a bloody menace.

  5. I’m a dog lover who is ecstatic about getting doggies next year. I’ve been waiting my entire adult life to have a yard so I could have two large, likely-overwhelming dogs.

    Your sisters are totally wrong and you are well within your rights to say no, just exactly as the Captain has said.

    We know there are kennels. We know there are pet-sitting services. We know that paying money to take care of our babies is our responsibility. (And on that note, if your sisters loved their babies that much, they’d be willing to fork out whatever it costs to get them placed with the best dog sitters, not foist them off on someone who doesn’t love dogs.)

    You are not being terrible and selfish. They are. They’re the ones who waited until the last minute to find care for their dogs, and if that means their plans are ruined, maybe next time they’ll start trying to find that care earlier. Their emergency is not your emergency.

    Also, and this is one of my pet peeves, you are not required to work for your family because they perceive you as having free time and needing money. You are an adult human being, in charge of your life and what you do with it. You are not a child and they aren’t your parents. They can take their opinions about your free time and need for money and shoot those opinions into the sun.

    1. “Their emergency is not your emergency.”
      Indeed. Another good saying is “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”

    2. Also, and this is one of my pet peeves, you are not required to work for your family because they perceive you as having free time and needing money.
      Oh man, so much this. My mother used to insist that if I was visiting my parents, I should help with various chores and yard/house work that had nothing to do with my presence. (I’ll cook, wash dishes, do laundry and go grocery shopping – you know, things where the workload is affected by my being in the house. I’m also willing to do minor things that don’t take a lot of time. I will not, however, weed the garden or clean the garage.)
      I finally put my foot down and said that I had enough stuff of my own to do at home, and I did not want to spend my free time doing labour for someone else. My mother lost her mind and yelled that when she was in her twenties, she’d come home to the farm on her vacations and do chores way more intensive than repotting some plants! I pointed out that if it was stuff that absolutely had to be done every day, Gran and Grampa found a way to get it done without her, and if it wasn’t vital stuff, it was nice of her to help but once she stopped living there, she didn’t actually have to. (Also, my parents a) don’t live on farm – it’s not like their livelihood will go under if they don’t get the harvest in and b) are rather wealthier than my grandparents were, and can well afford to hire somebody to do their gardening.)

      1. Is your mother also my mother? I used to get asked to chop firewood (In a skirt and dress shoes! Because coming to dinner isn’t usually done in lumberwear), stack firewood, etc. etc. and oooh, your new boyfriend is with you, well he can help too!!!! …. until I finally put my foot down.

        There is resistance against the foot, but I’m more often than not free of wood chips and splinters.

      2. I’ve had the reputation of terrible grandchild for years because I don’t do that kind of stuff for my grandparents. This is despite not living near them, having no car and no funds to get public transport to them, and occasionally working multiple jobs so my free time was spent cleaning my own home or sleeping. And yet nothing gets said about the relatives who also don’t do it, but who live nearby with cars… (Also, there was never a specific request to put time aside to do it; others would decide to do it and then get angry that I wasn’t there to help.)

      3. OH oH oh me too! From the time I was a child. Mom decided Saturdays had more time for more chores and if a friend stayed over then we got double the chores! For some reason I did not keep many friends.

        Also she did tell me she thinks people bond while working together so she thought it was a great idea! I didn’t realize my mom wasn’t the only one!

        1. Yeah, even if someone was my best friend in the world, if I was expected to help them vacuum and dust at their house too whenever I was over, I’d quickly let that part of our friendship drop. 😛

    3. “They can take their opinions about your free time and need for money and shoot those opinions into the sun.”

      I have a rule about people wanting me to do stuff. It boils down to my labour is not free, unless I’m labouring for me, and if you’re paying me for my expertise, you don’t get to have opinions about how I do it that contradict my expertise. So I’ll do my mum’s accounts, but she’s paying me my mates-rates price or better, and she doesn’t get to have opinions about how much excess paper I throw out. I don’t do my dad’s tech support unless he’s willing to do it my way, which means I very rarely do his tech support (found him a friend who does this for a living who complains good-naturedly that the money is not worth it, but who my parents pay market rates to).

      I will add that I take payment in things like reciprocal favours and puppy snuggles, as well as cash 😛 But if I’m not being offered non-cash incentives to the value of the labour being solicited, then cash is required.

  6. Yep. My in-laws ask us to dog-/house-sit at least once a year, for more than a week, and it involves moving to their house and giving their dog eyedrops multiple times a day. They don’t pay us, they don’t stock the fridge, and they think they’re doing us a favour because their house has A/C and ours doesn’t. Buuuuuuttttt nope.

    So LW: I feel your pain. And you can definitely just say, “Nope, I’ve sat on my last dog, you’ll have to ask someone else from here on out.”

    (I should take my own advice…)

    1. Maybe you could prepare a fee sheet for your in-laws. Find a local professional dog-sitter and ask them what they would charge for something like that (spoiler alert: it won’t be cheap). Have your spouse them what the going rate is for similar services, and let them know that since they are family you are willing to do it for [insert what you think is a reasonable value here]. If they balk at you, hand them a list of phone numbers for local in-home pet sitters.
      Of course it’s easy for me to say this because they’re not my in-laws. They are asking a lot from someone who is a member of their own family.

      1. And a fully-stocked fridge.

        Heck, when my mom dogsits for my sister’s friends’ elderly dogs (long story), she at least gets a bottle of good wine and some exceptional chocolates out of it!

        1. I used to dogsit for my BFF’s in-laws when they went on vacation, and they not only stocked the fridge, but they made leftovers and muffins and all sorts of things specifically for me. And told me to have a party with friends over, because their house was huge and they had a pool and movie theater setup in the basement…AND they paid me.

          1. Sister’s friend has been known to bake just for my mom, but the last couple of times it’s been bought because her littlest child hasn’t been well. (He’s doing better now, but the dogs are o-l-d.)

      2. When my sister leaves town, a friend of hers dog-sits. Sister provides the much-nicer place with a large TV, gaming system, stocked fridge and bar, and pay comparable with a doggie day-care. She also prepares a thoughtful gift basket of something like goodies, or luxury bath items, or a gas card and travel guide and nice travel mug, etc. to leave at her house. Her dog doesn’t like doggie day care, so sister makes sure the sitter is HAPPY.

  7. I just want to reemphasize here that irresponsibility on their part doesn’t mean you have to be responsible for them. They are grown-ass adults and they know by now what pet care entails. They have a LOT of options here. They are free to choose any of those options, and it is their responsibility to find a solution. This is not your problem, and not adopting it as your problem doesn’t make you a bad person.

    You are allowed to say no for any reason, including “I just don’t want to,” and the only appropriate response from them is “Oh, okay, I’ll look elsewhere.”

  8. Just to lend a pet owners perspective. I have a cat, and I would under no circumstances expect that cat to be anyone else’s problem. When I go away and partner, family or friends look after her they are doing me a tremendous favour and I really appreciate it. If someone can’t or won’t look after my cat, then that’s my problem. It is nobody’s responsibility to take care of my pet but mine.

    Also I dog walk as a side hustle and have dog sat for owners occasionally and none of them would dream of guilting me into sitting if I couldn’t or didn’t want to. My point here is that you seem to just have some fairly uncool pet owners around you. You don’t owe anyone the very real physical and emotional labour of looking after (difficult and misbehaving) dogs just so they can go off on a jolly. Professional pet-sitting can be very expensive, but as the Captain said, being a pet owner means that your pets welfare is something you take into consideration when planning and budgeting holidays.

    Also, in the nicest way, leaving pets with someone who absolutely doesn’t want to be looking after them is a fairly poor move. You know as well as I that pets get stressed when people are stressed around or about them. I would want to leave mine with someone who would be happy and enthusiastic and make feel happy and cared for, not just keep her alive for me. So their wanting you to look after their dogs is poor treatment of you AND their pets.

    Essentially I just wanted to give you an extra voice vindicating you. Screw them, you are more than free to refuse. Also have you considered getting a real or imaginary project or hobby that means you absolutely don’t have time to do impromptu dog sitting in the future?

    1. “leaving pets with someone who absolutely doesn’t want to be looking after them is a fairly poor move”

      This plus 1000. It isn’t safe for the pets!

      Fellow pet owner here. My dogs & cats are my problem. Not my friends’ problem, not my neighbors’ problem, not my family’s problem.

      When you adopt a pet, you make a financial commitment to supporting that pet. That includes getting them proper training, vet care, and finding appropriate accommodations if you want to leave town. All of this can cost money. You don’t get to pawn it off on neighbors, friends, or relatives. Period.

      1. Longtime pet owner here. I would never leave my animals in the care of anyone who is not enthusiastic about caring for them.

        Sometimes when we go on holiday, my partner’s parents, who love animals, in particular, offer to take them — and that works spectacularly for us, for the animals, and for them. They’re not always available, but if they are we wait for them to offer. My parents don’t care for pets. On one occasion they offered to pet sit, but they haven’t offered since and we don’t ask.

        If we don’t have an enthusiastic friend or family member to care for our pets, we engage in the many (MANY!) services available to care or board animals. We plan it as part of the holiday budget. If we don’t have to use the money for boarding, then great — we can have a little extra bonus fun on our holiday.

        To me that’s the only sane way to ensure a good holiday for me, for the animals, and for the person taking care of the animals.

    2. YES. This is what I came here to say — asking someone to dogsit who is, as you’ve described yourself, a nervous pet carer is not good for the dog.

      You don’t have to say this to your sisters, and indeed I think you shouldn’t (because as the Captain so wisely says, people like this will take justification as an excuse to negotiate). But you can say it to yourself as you say No, to remind yourself that there are many many reasons why saying No is the right thing to do.

  9. I am a massive cat and dog lover, and I still think this situation is ridiculous and that your sisters are being awful. You just… don’t have to pet sit. Hold firm, and, eventually, your sisters will find an alternative if they ever want to travel again. I feel bad for their dogs, but I also *hate* being around aggressive, poorly trained dogs – and none of this is the dogs’ fault, but, still, none of this is your fault or your problem. Feel free to “nope” your sisters into infinity. You are freeeeee!

    1. I’d like to add another pet owner’s voice to this, which is, I think OP is very reasonable and not at all a bad person for refusing to take on the dogs. OP said all the pet owners they knew thought they were terrible. Let’s hope OP is reading these comments from pet owners supporting their decision not to dog-sit.

  10. OMG, I have had to talk to my sister many times about her expectations that my brother (who is really allergic to cats) take care of her pets when she and hubby are away! She’ll say, “Well, [brother] can take care of them – it’s not difficult/a problem!” Between my mother and I, we finally got through to her that brother doesn’t want to, and isn’t interested in, taking care of her pets. Plus – he’s allergic! She’s still acts oblivious though.

    Worst part is, brother is really good at saying no to other people – but for some reason has a hard time saying no to sister. Sister tends to bulldoze over any objections and doesn’t really listen to him. LW, you have no reason to feel guilty that you don’t want to pet sit. If anything, your sisters should feel awful about continually harassing you to take care of their dogs, when you have told them multiple times you don’t want to do it. And that should be the end of the matter.

    Anyway, I hope you take the Captain’s advice and you get more comfortable telling your boundary-violating sisters to find another person to do dog-sitting duties.

  11. A tagline I like is “Reasons are for reasonable people.” Do not introduce any of your reasons. They are great reasons but if you use them your sister will come up with dismissals for each and every one.
    You don’t even have to say “I’ve changed my mind.” You can say “I won’t be able to. Sorry.” “Buttt whyyyyyy????” “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to.” Broken record until the end of time.
    I will also add: it is 100% OKAY to not like dogs and other pets. Absolutely, completely okay.

    1. +1. I’m from a culture of pretty indirect communicators, and I often feel like I need to modify the Captain’s hard-no approach in my local social context – but this is a situation made for hard no, regardless of context. It sounds like Other People have decided that it’s their job to wheedle LW into petsitting. The most I’d add even for my Indirect Communicator squad is “I really hate petsitting and I’m just not going to do it anymore. I’m warning you in advance so that you can make other plans. It won’t work for me to do it that week, or any future weeks.” And then no. And then no. And then no.

      The problem that a hard no does introduce, LW, is that once you issue it you have to be willing to stick to your guns. There will be an extinction burst of guilt, sorrow, wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth. But this is not an actual crisis. No one is suffering. People want to go to Vegas without paying a dogsitter the going rate. They will be fine. But if you give in somewhere halfway through the extinction burst, my experience is that that will become the new set point for how hard they’re willing to push to get you to do the thing you don’t want to do.

      1. Also, LW, someone in AA gave me the gift of the following phrase: “What other people think about me is none of my business.” What your siblings say to your face: your business. You can certainly tell them to cut it the heck out. What they “secretly think” (remember you can’t read minds, so this will always be guessing) or talk about when you’re not there or say to each other on Facebook messenger or write an epic poem about for their “One time my sibling wouldn’t petsit while I went on a fun vacation and I had to pay a neighbor kid instead” opus – not your business. You don’t have to care about it. You’re free. This goes quadruple for speculation about what they might be thinking or feeling.

        Sometimes it’s easier for me to try to guess myself into other peoples’ shoes than it is to stay in my own shoes, but stay in your own shoes, where you hate petsitting and they have lots of warning in advance to find alternatives.

      2. Right – and I think this is what is happening right now. OP said no. Their solution was to *go over to their house and badger them* to make them do it anyway. Even though they knew the OP didn’t want to.

        Giving in this time is saying, “That is how you get me to do it. You come over to my house and badger me, and then I will.” So it’s probably wise to call and cancel doing it, even if doing it just this once wouldn’t be “that bad,” just so that they fully understand NO MEANS NO, not “come over to my house and beg.”

  12. OMG, I have had to talk to my sister many times about her expectations that my brother (who is really allergic to cats) take care of her pets when she and hubby are away! She’ll say, “Well, [brother] can take care of them – it’s not difficult/a problem!” Between my mother and I, we finally got through to her that brother doesn’t want to, and isn’t interested in, taking care of her pets. Plus – he’s allergic! She’s still acts oblivious though.

    Worst part is, brother is really good at saying no to other people – but for some reason has a hard time saying no to sister. Sister tends to bulldoze over any objections and doesn’t really listen to him. LW, you have no reason to feel guilty that you don’t want to pet sit. If anything, your sisters should feel awful about continually harassing you to take care of their dogs, when you have told them multiple times you don’t want to do it. And that should be the end of the matter.

    Anyway, I hope you take the Captain’s advice and you get more comfortable telling your boundary-violating sisters to find another person to do dog-sitting duties.

  13. I love animals. My spouse loves animals. Neither of us have any animal allergies. We have both petsat for friends and family, up to and including one of us staying at their place for the duration of their holiday. We are happy to do so, and we are patient and not stressed out by difficult animals.

    And what your sisters are doing is unreasonable. You are well within your right to never petsit for them. Even if your husband had no allergies. Even if they had well-trained, well-behaved dogs. Even if you didn’t find caring for animals a stressful and negative experience. You would still be within your right to refuse.

    I guarantee, if your sisters needed to, they could find another petsitter. They do not *need* for you to be the one who takes care of their animals.

  14. As a “my cats are my babies” person who occasionally asks my brother-in-law to cat-sit, I would never think of pressuring him into it if he said no. Pet-sitting is work, and you don’t owe your time or work to anyone. You don’t need any good reason other than, “I don’t want to.” We pay my brother-in-law pretty well in food and money when he takes care of our cats, and even so, he still has the right to say no with or without a reason, and we need to respect that. Your siblings are being ridiculous. Follow the Captain’s script, it will be really difficult and you will probably feel a lot of guilt at first, but over time, you will love your new-found freedom to say no!

  15. Yep, I agree with the Captain here. Pets are a responsibility. I myself choose to not go places because I don’t want to ‘inflict’ my dogs on others… and I’d just miss and worry about them. I just have 3 little yappy ones, but it can be a lot on someone who isn’t used to them. I have the opposite problem, of not wanting to go on trips and having to say no. Its not fair to you that they won’t respect your boundaries.

  16. “Enforcing boundaries with family means communicating “I can live with your displeasure but I can’t continue to endure your poor treatment of me.”

    Words to live by, especially at this time of year!

  17. OK, I just have to note how deeply fucked up it is that your sister manipulated you into doing something she KNOWS you don’t want to do. It’s fucked up on several levels.

    First, she KNOWS you don’t want to do it and decided she’d corner you into doing it. That’s just shitty to you.

    Second, she KNOWS you don’t want to watch over her dogs yet she cornered you into being caregiver for them. That’s just shitty to her dogs.

    Third, if it’s so expensive for her to get a goddamn kennel or pet sitter, then she shouldn’t go on vacation. (Admittedly, I have zero sympathy for this because I haven’t been on a vacation trip in almost TWELVE GODDAMN YEARS. If I can live without a trip to Vegas because of my financial situation, so can your sister. And if she can afford a kennel but is too cheap to pay for one, I have even LESS sympathy for her.)

    You’re not selfish for setting boundaries. Your sisters are selfish AF for expecting you to do something you have stated repeatedly you are uncomfortable doing. And to be honest, if you loved dogs but just didn’t like THOSE dogs, or if you’d rather binge watch Netflix all week, that’s your business. No should be enough.

    1. Second, third, fourth this. GIGANTIC side-eye to your sister asking you in person to exempt her from a boundary you already set because she knows you’d have a hard time saying no in person. This is terrible.

      Every vacation budget Violet Husband and I set includes a line item for pet care. We don’t take a vacation unless we can afford accommodations for both us and our pets.

      1. Yep, factored into the vacation costs. My dog won’t EAT if he’s home alone (someone has to be in the room with him. He’s weird), so unless someone can live in our house for a week to petsit, he goes to the kennel and the costs are part of the travel budget.

    2. I love it when you weigh in, Sheelzebub. You cut right to the heart of things.

      LW: you didn’t agree freely. It was coerced. Your sister knew exactly what she was doing when she did it and it is manipulative and shitty and awful. You can call her back and say “Sorry, turns out I can’t do it” with no guilt. The pups won’t care whether they’re with you or in a kennel.

      1. You really do, Sheelzebub. You have no idea how many bad relationships I have instigated people into leaving by telling then the Sheelzebub Principle. Dozens.

        This summer I told it to my sister who is in a bad marriage. I then told my older sister who we all thought was in a good marriage about that conversation. The next day my older sister called me and told me she thought about what I said to younger-sister and now SHE was leaving her husband over it! She’s apparently been unhappy a long time, pretending otherwise, and decided she couldn’t be that unhappy any longer with no prospects of anything changing.

        Anyway, derail. But though you should know that.

        1. I also introduced my sister to the Sheezelbub Principle. Divorce will be finalized Wednesday! (Thank god.)

        2. I was gonna snark about how I’m getting to be known on these here Internets as a romance killer but I’m kinda known offline for the same thing, so. . . ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          1. Anyone want to filk “She’s a Man-Eater” for our beloved Sheelzebub.

            “Whoa, here she comes,
            Watch out, dude,
            She’ll catch you out.
            Whoa, here she comes
            She’s a bull-shit caller…”

          2. I want to introduce my dad to the Sheelzebub principle in a somewhat different context. He and my mom are (as far as I can tell, anyway) happily married for 50+ years, but Mom has a chronic illness, and Dad is primary caregiver. So I want to introduce him to the basic principle as a thought experiment and assessment tool about the caregiving situation as a whole: “if everything – Mom’s ability to take care of herself, the outside help you get – stays exactly as it is, how long can you carry on in this situation? How long can you comfortably carry on in it?”

            From there, he can think about what areas of the situation are difficult, and what kind of solutions might be possible. For the advanced level, he can think about what kinds of changes in her health he might expect, and what solutions or additional resources might be useful under those circumstances.

    3. +100 everything. My blood just boiled when I read about LW’s sister coming over to ask LW *in person* because she knew LW would have a hard time saying no. (It also made me thankful to be an only child, haha!)

      Pets are their owners’ responsibility. My cats are my kids, and they are MY responsibility – mine all mine. Anyone who gets a pet needs to factor in time and training and paying for things like petsitting BEFORE they adopt. And people who adopt high-maintenance dogs, or fail to train their dogs, need to factor in “my dogs are hard to handle and it might cost more and/or I will need to work extra hard to find people willing to babysit them.”

      No is enough. Boundaries are not selfish.

    4. It cracks me up that the sisters planned a vacation together — which means neither can dog sit for the other — and didn’t invite LW — presumably so they could “guilt” her into dogsitting. This is like in chess when your opponent takes your Queen but, by doing so, exposes himself to checkmate. In other words, it’s a very stupid move.

      It leaves the sisters open to being aggressively guilted by LW! “Why didn’t you invite me, too? Don’t you love me? Is your favorite? Or is it ? Does she hate me? You know I don’t work so I could’ve easily come along… I guess you just don’t want to spend time with me…” This could go on forever! And it would be sweet, sweet, sweet delicious revenge.

      1. Yeah, I didn’t quite get this attempted jedi mind trick either. Maybe it speaks to the relative closeness of the triangle of sisters, but if my two sisters approached me to say “hey, pls dog sit while we go to Vegas?” even if I WANTED to, the pettiness in me for not being included in this trip would mean instant nope.

      2. I have a hunch this is part of a long-running pattern: the two sisters ganging up on the LW. That’s going to make it hard for the LW to break free of this, because it’s been going on for quite a while and she’s used to not liking it but putting up with it.

        However, once she does break the grip of this toxic pattern, I think she’s going to find her life to be much less fraught with drama, unreasonable requests, boundary violations and other toxic nonsense.

        Sometimes the harder it is to break out of a prison, the sweeter the fresh air smells once you’re out in the open, free at last. I hope the LW can find the strength she’ll need to shut this garbage down. I think it’ll be a real game-changer for her, and not just on this particular issue.

  18. FWIW: I am a pet owner – I have two cats I adore and they are my babies AND I do not in any way think you are a horrible selfish person for not wanting to pet sit and saying no even though you have time and they offer to pay you. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to force someone who didn’t want to care for my pets. I have a friend who is a wonderful person and a great cat mom, but when I had rabbits, I wouldn’t have asked her to pet sit them, because she wasn’t comfortable with that. It would have made both her and my bunnies unhappy. As the Captain has pointed out, your sisters have plenty of other options to have their dogs cared for. You absolutely have the right to say no just because you don’t want to do it and you do not have to justify it (I am also the type of person who feels horribly guilty for saying no to something I don’t have a “good” excuse for not doing).

  19. Hi there,
    As a professional dog trainer, I applaud your self awareness around animals and wish everyone had the same.
    As for your guilt, if the dogs are babies to your sisters, then it is better for them to be watched by someone who is enthusiastic about doing it. You are actually making a healthy choice for yourself and those dogs. So please reconsuder your feelings of guilt.
    I do not remember if links to helpful sites are allowed so I will just share this; there are multiple websites that actually have insured pet sitters. in addition these sites often let you search for people who accept last minute appointments.
    You did not get a say in them getting an animal, so you should not have any responsibility for it.
    Good luck 🙂

  20. Ugh I feel for you LW, but in a different kind of way.

    I love, LOVE pets, specifically cats. For a few years, I lived across the hall from my best friend. Her two cats were litter mates to my two cats (separate litters, two years apart). We’d let the cats run back and forth between the apartments and play.

    My friend got promoted and started traveling. A lot. A. LOT. Like, every other/every third week a lot. So the pet sitting requests were nonstop. It was difficult to say No – she literally lived four feet away – and pet sitting costs are pricey here! I felt horrible saying No, but after I while I had to say, “Listen, Friend, I love you/your cats/my cats/etc but I can’t cat sit every trip, and you need to not ask me every trip. I can’t do it and it’s asking too much.”

    She was cool with it, although it was a little difficult initially. But she spread her ‘asks’ to two other neighbors, and two pet sitting services.

    You just have to say No. It’s not personal, it’s just a No to a favor you aren’t willing and/or able to fulfill. You can do it!

  21. Somewhat similar, but I own a largish truck and often get asked to haul things around for people and help them move. If someone asks me nicely, and respects my answer, then I will help them. If they badger me, try to guilt me, tell me we’re faaaamily, tell me I’m “off anyway so why not” (like when I take my annual 2 weeks off at Christmas – THAT IS MY TIME), or “voluntold” me, then NOPE. It doesn’t matter if I’m not working that day, or if it’s close, or if they are family, or what – if someone is not respectful of my time and boundaries when demanding use of my truck (and they always want me to do all the driving and never offer to pay for gas), then they don’t get my truck, or my help. End of story. When someone is pushy with me in this way, they are saying to me “I only value you for what you can do for me”, and that hurts me and makes me not want to help them.

    I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this – I also have a lot of anxiety and a hard time saying no to things, especially overbearing sisters, but what helps me is to give a firm “no” and no other details, and stick to that. Their dogs won’t die. They won’t go hungry. I’ve scraped together last minute pet sitting for my hooligans, and it all turned out fine. There are plenty of people and services out there willing to take this on, and you don’t have to be one of them.

  22. I have a dog who can’t be put into kennels for various health/temperament reasons and can only be watched in our home. That definitely makes it harder to find a sitter for him if I have to travel, and nevertheless I consider it my responsibility and mine alone to find a *willing* friend or stranger to take care of him. I plan way ahead for any travel to make proper arrangements, and I budget for pet sitting as part of the cost of travel. Sometimes I pay a stranger through a dogsitting business, and sometimes I ask a friend or a friend’s college-aged kid. I would never dream of asking someone who was lukewarm on dogs to take care of him, and certainly not someone who explicitly said they weren’t interested.

    All of the pet owners I know approach this the same way. It’s your sister who is out of line here, not you. Being a pet owner comes with responsibilities and this is one of them. If she can’t handle it, she’s not well suited to have dogs.

    If your sister doesn’t have any friends who could help out, and if the amount she was offering to pay you is insufficient to hire someone else, she can connect with other local pet owners and set up agreements to trade dog sitting whenever the other goes out of town. Such arrangements are fairly common.

    Honestly to me it sounds like your sister doesn’t want to do the work of arranging for another option. Asking you is easy and she just wants you to do it because she values her own convenience over your preferences. It’s very common for inconsiderate people to view preferences they don’t understand/agree with as invalid and not worthy of consideration.

    I agree with the Captain. Say no and be firm. “I don’t like pet sitting and asking me is not an option anymore. I’m sure you can find another solution.”

    If she pushes back, you can remind her of the other ways you do help. “I’m happy to help with other things like landscaping, but pet sitting is not something I am interested in doing under any circumstances. I help you out plenty, and I don’t think it’s fair to pressure me or guilt trip me when I set a boundary. If that makes you angry, I’ll be disappointed but it won’t change my mind.

    1. I love every part of this except the very last part, re: push back. I worry that stating those things will feel like (for Sister(s)) an open to negotiation: “Well, I’d prefer if you’d take care of my dog(s) instead of landscaping help!”

      My advice would be to stick to your guns in the event of Sisters’ inevitable pushback: “This is not open to discussion; I will not be taking care of your dogs again, period. If you need a pet sitter, you can use a kennel/vet boarding/professional pet sitters/Craigslist/Google to find one. But I will not be their caretaker again, and it’s weird that you keep pushing/guilt-tripping me when I’ve already told you no.”

    2. Even saying “I don’t like pet sitting” is TMI. “I’m not available to pet sit,” is all that’s necessary. If quizzed as to why, repeat verbatum, per “broken record” technique referenced above.

    3. “she values her own convenience over your preferences.”

      Dear LW,
      This line need to be written in bright crayon and placed near your phone.
      Stare directly at it when you call to tell her that you can’t come after all.
      Bonus if the line emboldens you to tell her that you don’t appreciate being bullied in your own home.

  23. So your sisters are guilting you into taking care of four dogs in two different locations for more than half a week so they can take a vacation together.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, LW, but am I picking up on a pattern of your siblings excluding you from things *and* expecting you do take over their responsibilities when they do so? ‘Cause that’s a common dynamic among multiple siblings and it’s pretty shitty.

    1. Just where my mind was going too! How come the LW doesn’t get invited on these sister trips??!!!

      1. Hey just a gentle pushback on this: it’s okay if her sisters are super close to each other! It’s not okay that they expect LW to be their unpaid dogsitter and run errands, though.

        1. It’s definitely okay, but it does make the pushiness *extra* rude. “Obviously Myrtle and I are closer to each other than to you, but you’re FAAAAAAAAAAAAAMILY you have to do what we say!”

        2. Oh, surely it is okay if they are close. I’m not talking about siblings being close though, but rather a type of bullying where one sibling is routinely excluded and scapegoated, that is often started by parents then carried on by other siblings. That can be disguised as closeness, but isn’t such so much as ganging up on and excluding. Some red flags for me are that LW’s sisters ignore LW’s stated needs and boundaries in favor of their wants, that LW believes they perceive her as terrible and selfish, and that one sister baited LW with the pretense of catching up just to get something she wanted out of LW. That’s a bait and switch. Also that they vacation together several times a year but LW doesn’t seem to be part of all that togetherness aside from being designated errand runner/person to make feel bad for having boundaries/fun ruiner.

          That’s a somewhat different dynamic, if I’m reading it correctly, than two siblings being closer to each other than they are to the third.

    2. My mum’s sisters exclude my mum from various things and it super sucks. It’s even affected mine and my brother’s relationships with our cousins in the long run. The thing that helped was my mum working to build a wider circle of friends, she gets on great with some neighbours and one of her sisters in law and has a few long-time friends. She still tries with her sisters but she worked to have a circle of people around her.

  24. In addition to all the good advice and reassurance that’s already been given, it sounds like you might need to brace yourself for saying “no” to last-minute, guilt-laden requests from these friends of yours who do not hear “life-threatening allergies” and immediately rule you out as appropriate petsitters. (Or let them know you’ll be offering their contact information to your sisters, since they’re so deeply concerned for the welfare of these animals and seem to have no problem volunteering your time for you.)

    1. I wondered if the friends reactions were coming from a place of disbelief. not so much “LW should be at sister’s beck & call” as “well…obviously they can’t have done *that*. I’m sure sister is a reasonable human being, so the LW must be exaggerating to justify herself for saying she’d help & backing out at the last minute. that’s mean.”

      because a lot of people like to believe other people are reasonable, and sometimes will defend nonsense to preserve that belief.

    2. Yes. Also I have so much side-eye for anyone who just overlooks “life-threatening allergies” as an inconvenient obstacle to navigate around vs a really really good reason to avoid asking people in a household who have allergies. Like even if the dogs don’t stay with you and you go to them you’re still bringing home some dander and pet hair on your clothes which naturally might stir up symptoms. All of that is just awful.

  25. Another pet owner – we have two dogs – who thinks you are in now way required to pet-sit for your sisters or anyone else. Even if your hubs didn’t have a terrible allergy, even without the other reasons you mentioned, you would still not be obligated to help out. I would NEVER assume someone else was responsible for the car of my pups.

    Also, your sisters planned a trip without you, and seem to take you for granted. A lot. They may not be nice people.

  26. In addition to what everyone else has said, LW, I’ll point out that even driving to your sisters’ house will not necessarily save your husband from an allergic response. The dogs WILL jump up on you and get their hair/dander all over your clothing. You will then transport a certain amount of that material back to your own home. Unless you’re willing to gear up in a disposable hazmat suit, you can’t avoid this.

    I don’t currently share life with any animals. If I did have some beloved critter-companions, I can’t imagine wanting them to be “sat” by somebody who really really didn’t want to. Neither sitter nor animals could be happy with that. Your sisters are abusing your conscientiousness.

    1. Assuming LW ends up even wanting to visit her sisters after this mess, I’ve managed this/seen it managed by keeping a set of “critter clothes” and showering and changing either right before leaving the crittered house or the second I get to the pet-hair-free one, whichever is most doable. Critter clothes go in a big ziploc bag or similar.

  27. I am All About The Dogs. My dogs are my children, my reason for being. I read dog food labels for fun. I could have made a down payment on a house with what I have spent on vet bills. I’m not kidding when I say “love me, love my dogs.” I have broken up with guys because they said problematic things about dogs. A quarter of my budget for any trip is: Animal Care While I’m Gone.
    Keep that in mind when I say:

    You are *not* selfish in not wanting to sit their dogs.
    To the contrary, I would go so far as to say they are being selfish, cheap-ass, not-good dog owners when they try to coerce a reluctant non-dog person to take care of their dogs. No one who genuinely cares about their animals will try to foist them off on someone who doesn’t want to do it and is not qualified.
    The fact that you don’t want to do it means you are by definition Not Qualified.

    ESPECIALLY if the dogs are aggressive. They have managed their dogs poorly to allow them to be like this, and they’re compounding their mistake by asking you to deal with it. Your sisters are being irresponsible and foolish trying to go on the cheap with this.

    If they want to paint you the Mean & Selfish Sister because they can’t be bothered to do right by their dogs, LET THEM.
    Better that than you disrupt your life and put up with unpleasant, potentially dangerous animals because they’re too cheap to do the right thing. It’s not even like you will earn their gratitude by doing it: they are being presumptuous and entitled and think you owe it to them.
    Fuck that noise. You and the dogs deserve better.

    Call/email your sister and tell her you cannot do it.
    “you said you would!” “Because you put me in a bad situation where I felt like I couldn’t and now that I don’t feel pressured, I realize I cannot do it.”

    If they’re in a bad spot because you won’t do it, that’s their problem. The sad thing is, dogs are who will ultimate suffer with crappy owners, but you are not obligated to save your sisters’ dogs from their crappy owners.

    1. This is so well put, BigDogLittleCat.

      “Because you put me in a situation where I felt like I couldn’t say no and now that I don’t feel pressured, I am telling you what I would have told you to begin with: I am not available to do this.”

      (Not available means just that – you are not available. It doesn’t mean “physically unable to dog sit despite jumping through hoops to try to make it work”. It also means “I have other plans” and “I don’t feel like it” and also “my husband is allergic and you know I don’t want to and how dare you still have the nerve to try to coerce me into it by tricking me into a situation where you knew it would be harder for me to say no”

  28. I petsit occasionally for a friend’s dog, and it’s a lot of work even though I love the dog and he can stay at my house for convenience’s sake. You’re totally within your rights not to want to do it, for any reason, and it’s your sisters’ responsibility to find another source of pet care.

    (Tbh, I’d rather have my own pets boarded even though I know people who would petsit for me. One of the big lessons I’ve learned in 45+ years of life is that it’s almost always easier and less fraught just to pay a professional to render services for you, whether it’s childcare or petsitting or home repairs, instead of relying on friends and family members.)

    1. “Sometimes the cheapest way to pay is with money”, as we say.

      I feel the same about movers. Rather pay pros than have family all up in my furniture, and furniture isn’t a living being.

      1. For real. I haven’t moved in nine or ten years, but the next time I do, it’s going to be professional movers all the way!

        1. The last time I moved, I sprained my freaking ankle when I tripped carrying stuff into the new place. Luckily I had nice new (strong) neighbors who basically carried everything up to the second floor for me, but ffs I too will be paying professionals the next time I move.

      2. Two or three moves ago, my mom helped me pack for a move. She had ALL THE FEELZ YO about some things she had given me that were obviously still unused/unread (think “still in the shrinkwrap”) so I decided then and there that the only people who would help me move after that were strangers, and I would pay them. It has worked out nicely.

      3. The last time I moved (six years ago! May there be no more moves!) I used the pros. Hooray for pros! It was worth every penny.

        I agree with “sometimes the cheapest way to pay is with money” absolutely. Professionals are professionals for a reason.

      4. And on the other end, no guilt over saying no if you’re never asked. I still have feelings about my MILs response to us having to back out last minute (she lived two hours away, our only vehicle broke down literally about an hour before we planned to leave, and we couldn’t afford to fix it properly for a week. She had the nerve to bring it up years later as a way we weren’t there for her too. Sorry we decided to have the brakes go out on our truck?)

  29. Years ago, I lived a plane ride away from friends and family and found myself unexpectedly single with a large dog who couldn’t be on planes with me and needed specialized care. It was rough, but it was the cost of having a dog to pay for boarding, etc. I did a lot of research and found spots with loyalty programs and other bulk discounts I could take advantage of to make it affordable; I used referrals from friends for good pet sitters. I never, ever suggested to someone who seemed the slightest bit recalcitrant that they should fix this for me, even though my situation was truly a surprise.

    The reason for this is not because I was a hero. It’s because I loved my dog.

    If your relatives have dogs that they leave often and who require specialized care, they are not doing the right thing *for the dogs* by leaving them with someone who doesn’t want to/isn’t equipped to care for them. Even if that person is super together and accommodating and kind, like you, you wouldn’t leave your kids with someone who really didn’t even like kids and was a little bereft at their specific behavior issues, right? Of course not. You’d find them the specialized care they needed. If their dogs are really “like their babies” or “just like family,” their current solution treats neither their family or their dog well.

    Feel zero guilt, give an unqualified no, and enjoy your time not dog-sitting when you don’t want to.

  30. I don’t want to make assumptions about the sisters’ circumstances but if they travel for leisure several times a year but they can’t afford to hire a professional pet-sitter then maybe…they actually can’t afford to travel all that much? Their pets are their responsibility and if they want to go away regularly then this is just one of the many expenses that come with pet ownership. It’s not on you LW.

    1. If they can’t afford trainers for the dog’s behaviour problems, or a sitter for their vacations, then they also can’t really afford dogs.

      1. My friend has a cat that I was just strong-armed into sitting for about a week, despite the fact my place is very much not pet friendly. The poor thing was stuck in my spare room the whole time, confused and distressed… and IN HEAT because my friend is too cheap to get her fixed. She’s had her for six years. She owns multiple pieces of Gucci. She is not broke.

        Why have a pet if you aren’t willing to properly care for it?

          1. I would actually do it, cheerfully. We used to have a feral colony in our backyard, and if I never have to see another quean with a uterine infection it will be too soon.

            Hell, I WILL PAYPAL YOU MONEY TOWARDS IT if you wanna catsit for her again.

        1. Others would be tempted to take the cat to a vet to be spayed. I’d be tempted to take the car to an intact tom:-)

          1. Except that would punish the cat and her kittens for her owner’s neglect. 😦 Because you know those poor kittens would wind up dumped on a kill shelter.

  31. another dog owner here, just adding to the vibe here: your sisters are the selfish ones. I’m glad you’re not going to Vegas with them! (though as I said above it smells fishy that you aren’t invited?!?) Wishing the best for you dear LW, this is all fraught. But boundary-setting gets easier with time.

  32. I was a professional house/pet sitter for several years. I always charged a lot more for dogs that were aggressive/difficult to handle/overall unpleasant. You would be amazed how many pet owners had a tantrum over it because they were trying to use me as a cheaper option than other services because I was young and in college. I always maintained a professional relationship and they were welcome to go elsewhere.

    Trying to use you as a cheaper option because they can push you around is mean. You have my support in pushing back! They know what they’re asking of you is unreasonable. The captain’s advice is spot on.

  33. I hope the overwhelming response of “you are not a bad person for not wanting to pet sit” is comforting to you, LW, because it’s true. You’re sisters are the ones that should feel guilty for continually putting you in this position knowing full well you don’t want to – but they’re going to keep doing it as long as you let them/give in. Start saying no. Practice in the mirror, out loud, practice with your husband, practice with anyone or no one. Call and tell them no now, and when they ask again in a few months, repeat that no, and keep repeating it.
    Saying no, drawing firm boundaries is like building a muscle, you have to practice, and then keep up practicing (or training, or insert appropriate metaphor here), but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

  34. Dear LW,

    You don’t even have to call your sister. You have my permission to email or text. Your script:

    I know I said I’d pet sit, but I can’t.
    Please don’t ask again, or in future. I won’t be able to.

    I like most animals. I’ve owned dogs and cats and snakes and mice and gerbils and rabbits and crayfish and turtles and fish and I don’t pet sit. Ever.
    Jedi hugs if you want them.

    1. I’m with you 100% on emailing or texting – preferably whichever method they use more frequently. (I can easily picture somebody who has no problem overrunning boundaries intentionally “not seeing” an email, until they’re on the way to the airport – at which it’s too late for them to do anything else.)

      I’d also recommend being unfortunately too busy to meet face to face, at least until they come back from their trip. They’ve already guilted you into saying yes against your better judgment once; given the chance, they’d do the same again.

        1. Well, but it would wind up being the dogs’ problem after that. 😦 Not the LW’s fault though.

  35. Our family recently adopted a dog. Before we started going through the adoption process, a friend of mine who fosters rescue dogs came over and gave our two dog-coveting sons a crash course in dog-interaction skills: things like “how to recognize from body posture the difference between a dog who is playful and a dog who is scared of you”. The dog is an adorable creature but she is also a person with a mind of her own, and taking care of her requires skills above and beyond an appreciation of her cuteness. If you find the dog’s behavior hard to manage, you SHOULDN’T be dog-sitting.

  36. I’d send both your sisters an email that makes clear that you won’t dogsit in this instance, plus that you are letting them know that you will NEVER dogsit their animals again, and that you’ll not respond to any further requests. Do you need someone else in your camp? cc your husband/parent/offspring. You could add to the email that you consider them mean and inconsiderate (basically using their own words right back at’em!) for persisting/insisting/wheedling/pressuring you in the face of all your past clear refusals. Meet them head-on!

  37. My brother works at a doggie daycare. They also offer pet-sitting. If your sisters are willing to pay you, then they really should be willing to hire someone who’s job it is to dog-sit. Someone who’s comfortable doing that.

  38. Woooow. They are your sisters and plan a Las Vegas trip WITHOUT you? So that you would have to deal with 4 agressive dogs in 2 different houses for a week?

    I would serve them a serving of “HELL no” seasoned with a pinch of “Fuck you.” Ic they have money for Vegas, they have money for a dog trainer.

    1. Preach!
      Exclusion + Commanding Labor is giving this whole thing a nasty Cinderella vibe outside of the general unreasonableness. UGH!

  39. No. NO. And HELL to the No!

    1) Guilting someone (anyone) into covering one’s own obligations is dirty pool.

    2) Doing the above to someone who would have to spend ~an hour in transit to do so is worse.

    3) Doing the above to someone while demanding hours of driving AND risk exposing a soup to an Allergen is beyond egregious.

    I am definitely an animal person (Horses, dogs, cats, goats, cows – there is more to the list. That said, I would probably decline a request with that much driving.

    Then there is the lousy ANIMAL manners issue: If one’s pets have bad manners, NO ONE should be expected to put up with them until that has been tended to. The owners need to enroll is Basic Obedience (regardless as to whether they do via a Breed Club, Local Parks Department, YMCA, whatever). That is an obligation of dog ownership and it is GROSSLY unfair to the dog(s) to fail it. If the owners are killed in a car wreck, it is a death sentence for the dog(s).

  40. Seconding many of the above – I’m another dog owner myself, and I’ve quite happily cat-sat many times for two different lots of neighbours (and dog-sat in the past), and I 100% agree that no-one should pet-sit if they’re not comfortable with it: it’s no good for you, and it’s no good for the pets. And your sister bulldozing you into it because she knew you wouldn’t be able to say no to her face? That’s manipulative and shitty behaviour. I would never ask someone to dog-sit for me unless I knew for a fact they would be absolutely fine with either doing it OR saying no to me if it didn’t suit for any reason.
    I’m sorry you’ve been landed with this situation by your sisters, and I wish you all the best with saying no to them!

  41. I don’t have any good scripts, but I do have a shedload of validation for you, LW. So much.

    I have always had cats, and now I have a dog. Current cat is high-medical-needs. Dog is a rescue, and while we largely won the lottery wrt “rescue problems”, he is still a LOT. He’s puppyish and hgh-drive and he’s still only half-trained to live happily and successfully with humans, and he’s bonded to me like glue.

    Book of Jubilation was here for a week in August and will bear me out on this point. Bogart is a lot.

    I do not want to force my animals on people who do not want my animals near them. My family and friends deserve better and so does my dog. I mean my dog isn’t QUITE my baby, but shit, I wouldn’t leave a baby with a reluctant, unskilled caregiver unless it was a dire emergency (like, “I have to go to the emergency room, I’m SO sorry, do your best, here are some phone numbers for backup” emergency) and the same with my animls.

    Even if I had no consideration for my family and friends, which I hope is not true, I wouldn’t do that to the animals. I had a possible pet-sitter back out on me this summer, at the last minute, after coming for a walk with me and the dog and seeing just how high-energy he is and bad at leashes he was then. I’ve had cat-sitters confront the messy reality of meds and a blood test for the diabetic cat, turn green, and tap out. This is fine. This is good. This is for the best. I was stressed to high heaven but I thanked them and meant it.

    My dog, btw, had only the less bad half of the problems you list: jumping and begging but no aggression to speak of and no food-guarding. STILL did not leave him with anyone who did not know him and his issues and who didn’t have experience with rescue dogs for several months, and we put him (and us) in training classes as quick as we could.

    So THANK YOU for putting your foot down. For your sake, your husband’s sake, for the dogs’ sakes, for everyone. It would be enough to be doing the right thing for you, but in fact you’re doing the right thing, period.

    I yearn to give your sisters advice but they’re not asking. You are. If, to improve YOUR case and reduce family stresses on you, you want to make the objective case on to pof the “because I said no” case, here it is: (if not, stop reading. I suffer from a hopelessly soft, bleedng heart that wants to Save All The Animals, so I can’t make myself NOT type this but THIS IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM, LW. It’s theirs.)

    1) Point out to them that in fact aggressive dogs NEED to be cared for by professionals, who are aware of the problem and have evaluated the dog. You’re not equipped and wouldn’t be equipped even if you were enthusiastic. Your sisters apparently aren’t either. (They may not BE aggressive. They may just be untrained. If you can’t tell which it is offhand, it doesn’t matter for most purposes.)

    2) A good kennel/day care can probably even do a bit of work on the issue, given four days. And no, they won’t hurt your sisters’ “babies”, at least the right place won’t.

    3) Ours is a whole 40 CDN for 24 hours, which includes training and some grooming services, even.

    4) Furthermore, if they think a professional is too expensive they haven’t priced their furniture. Or emergency surgery for a blockage. Or a lawsuit plus their dog’s traumatic execution, if someone gets badly bitten.

    IF, and only if, it feels like it would make YOUR life easier to hand your sisters an actual viable alternative when you lower the boom, here are some keywords to search for a local kennel with:

    “force-free” training
    accepts and works with “reactive” dogs who “resource guard”.
    “dogs have playtime alone OR in a compatible group as needed”
    “Certified trainers” (It’s your sisters’ jobs to check certified by whom, but it’s a good sign)
    “Behaviourist on call.”

    Please have a delightful, peaceful, dogless holiday season.

        1. “If you tell me to get off the couch, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon… and for the rest of your life.”

    1. Oh, wow, $40 is a great price. I have a rescue dog too, and I pay what works out to be $70USD/24 hours (for 3 30-minute visits for walks, 2 feedings, some play time/grooming and occasional overnights). A few years ago, everyone I interviewed in my area was in the $65-75 range for 24hr sitting; one may find kennels for slightly less, but still at least $50-60, for dogs with zero behavioral issues. Mine cannot be loose with strange dogs, so that’s out, and I haven’t seen any boarding kennels here that I like. Then, there’s an extra $15/per visit on holidays, so another $45 for christmas day and new year’s. And I tip.

      For my december trip, because I want my dog to be looked after properly, I booked and paid a deposit in October, after giving sitter a heads up in September, in case she was already busy. I do not believe she does training, except in the sense of good handling and keeping up an expectation of manners that the dog already has*. I TOTALLY AGREE that good professional dog training & sitting is ultimately cheaper and better for all involved than destruction of property or vet bills or aggression problems.

      *My dog is very good with people, house trained, no food issues, and has excellent leash manners — like, people don’t believe me when I say he can be dog aggressive, because he doesn’t pull or lunge or bark at other dogs, and is ok with dogs he knows. I prefer to use professionals for this reason; they believe me and follow my rules more than friends/family. While mine is generally good/mellow and a senior citizen now, he could still become a handful or develop undesirable habits with a nervous or green pet sitter (he did once when he was younger — nothing too terrible, but as a 1.5 year old, on the second day with someone not super dog experienced (a dog-loving friend offered to pet sit), he managed to chew several shoes and the garbage bin and climb a table to eat all their food (he had never done that with me, or since then, even with other professional sitters; he has also never stayed with that person again — I never asked and they never offered again, even though/because we were still friends).

      I would never dream of asking anyone who isn’t enthusiastic about dogs AND pet sitting AND experienced with dogs with certain issues to pet sit. Even if it meant saving some $$. I budget his cost into any trips. My own sister pet sits other people’s dogs (and cats) occasionally, but if she couldn’t or didn’t want to pet sit my dog (because she likes to take them to dog parks and dog beaches, where they can be off-leash, which is nice, but doesn’t really work for my dog, and she prefers dogs that are about half the size of mine) I wouldn’t guilt her into doing it. Not that we live close enough for that to be an option anyway, but if she offered, I would gladly take her up on it, and pay for it!!

      I have been asked to cat-sit before, when I was dog-less and only working part-time (though the sitting was free), and had a hard time saying no when they clearly did not want to hear any soft nos (I agree with other people about not giving reasons or soft nos)…so I did it twice, but it got easier for me to say “No.” when I realized it was all for their benefit, and that pushy people are going to be pushy regardless of what I do/say, and it wasn’t on me to make their behavior less pushy, so I could just say no and ignore the rest of it — it was freeing to not expect them to act less demanding or in my interest (or even a truly mutual exchange) or like I had to be a better example for them or whatever. And I wasn’t going to break family/friend ties by doing this (because often they came back and were pushy again, either about pet sitting or something else), or if it did, it was already broken to begin with and not so bad not to have to deal with the pushy/guilt-tripping behavior.

      1. If you’re in Ottawa, It’s Keshet Kennels. Their Reactive Rover course is AWESOME according to my friend with the Rottweiler who now actually plays with other dogs, albeit still with very close supervision.

  42. “Are there any scripts you could recommend for saying ‘no’ to favors for family, especially when saying no means potentially ruining major plans for them?”

    1. The Shameless Siblings are the poster children for the saying “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” They’re ruining their own plans by neglecting to make any vacation pet-handling arrangements other than “let’s whinge extensively to Not A Willing Pet Sitter until they say ‘yes.’ ”

    2. I agree with bostoncandy: “You don’t even have to say ‘I’ve changed my mind.’ You can say ‘I won’t be able to. Sorry.’ ”

    Or, if you like, “I won’t be able to. Sorry. I’m letting you know so you can make other arrangements.”

    Then stop talking, unless it’s to say “Well, I’ll let you go now” or “Goodbye.” If you keep talking to Shameless Sibling (either one), they’ll crank up the whinge machine again, and they won’t stop until you’ve agreed to do what they want.

    I know it’s tough to say “no.” It’s hard for me, too. But you are being totally reasonable, according to a whole bunch of pet lovers (including me!), and it does get easier with practice.

  43. I have an awesome person who pet sits for me. Even so, I always phrase my pet sitting requests are, “Are you available for pet sitting dates 1,2 and 3 ?” Not “Are you around” nor “Hey are you doing anything” — I want her to be able to say, “Sorry, not available those days” instead of feeling guilty and having to do some dance about “Well, yes, but we’ll be busy so not sure we can really do it.”

  44. Be warned, NaWPS,

    If you say no, even mean it, I have no doubt that the sister will either leave their dogs anyways in hopes to guilt you into caring for them… or even drop them at your house and go off on their merry way. People are this cruel.

    If this occurs, I would tell them that you will call Animal Control/SPCA/No Kill Animal shelter to take the dogs.

    1. OK I sympathize but that could easily lead to the death of the dogs so I’m gonna say take them to their vets. Or any vet, if sisters haven’t even let LW know who the vet is in the past.

      The vets will either board them (in or out) and bill the sisters or call the SPCA and seize them as abandoned and place them in foster care.

      1. Yeah. I was trying to find options that could kill the dogs (especially since they are agressive).

          1. I figured. If they’re not aggressive, or not aggressive with humans, your solution is fine, but many shelters can’t work with aggressive dogs, and since they can’t place them without extensive behavioural remediation, well, sometimes even no-kills have to make crappy choices. The vet is more likely to have the ability to cope with the dogs until Sisters return.

            Vets often have to perpetrate Indignities on dogs; they tend not to be to fazed by a dog getting salty with them, and they have muzzles, gauntlets, and if necessary tranqs on hand.

          2. First – the dogs seem very typical for what I consider to be ‘ill-mannered’, rather than truly aggressive. Food aggression is not abnormal, and is easily dealt with by feeding separately. I truly don’t know if some of my fosters are food aggressive, because I just don’t set them up for that failure. It’s something that should be dealt with as puppies, by feeding them as a group, but dogs are often under-socialised at that age so they don’t learn. Still, easy to deal with by feeding separately. Jumping up, fighting between themselves… all sounds like it could be resolved with a good trainer. That said, anyone who was likely to go to a good trainer with this behaviour was probably going to address it when the dogs were younger. So, I think dogs with these behaviours would be fine if they went to a rescue (worst-case if the dog aggression is really bad, they go to homes without other dogs) – rescues often have to do some training before adopting out animals and these problems aren’t overly unusual (although if it were me I’d probably split up the dogs as training two dogs at the same time is a nightmare).

            In this case, I really don’t see the sisters abandoning the dogs as a realistic option. That said, for future hypothetical situations:

            No rescue, SPCA, etc will take an animal that is not signed off by the owner. One option might be to have them taken in by Animal Bylaw / Control, who typically hand them over to the SPCA who keeps them for a few days at least (although check with your city) and during that time (assuming the animals are tagged / chipped) the city would contact the sisters who would then panic and deal with it (presumably by coming home). This would require them to be picked up as ‘strays’, so the LW would have to pretend that they don’t know them – in all honesty this option is starting to seem even more unfeasible.

            No-kill shelters and rescues are usually overwhelmed during the holidays, and realistically ‘no kill’ often means that they only take in healthy and well-behaved animals (truly good rescues work toward ‘low kill’, where they acknowledge that not every animal deserves to be saved – some animals are truly too aggressive or sick, and it’s okay to take them out of their mental and/or physical pain).

            The sisters should have vets, and that may be a good option in a worst-case, given that they do know how to deal with unruly animals and the sisters are used to paying the vets lots of money for dog care (dogs are not cheap) so would just pay for the boarding service upon return. I have a setup with my vet where they have my financial info for emergencies when I am away, but even without that vets are usually ok to extend credit in emergencies with a regular customer, although they might not be able to help so close to the holidays, or might not be vets who do boarding.

            The reality – from what I see in the LW’s note and comments – is that the LW will either refuse this time or the next (I don’t think they should agree, but given the family dynamics I could understand doing it this last once). If the wording is done clearly, then this should not be an issue in future – practice the “No!” while standing up and walking away!

      2. Please don’t random drop them off at a vet clinic! Some do board pets, but they deserve to be paid for this the same as a boarding kennel (and might be full over the holidays), and if they don’t, they need the space and staff to take care of pets who are actually sick! The vet may have to decide between eating the cost of caring for them and having that extra, unplanned work for the staff, or calling animal control and reporting them abandoned. Don’t do to your local vet clinic what your sisters are trying to do to you!

  45. Ahhh, no, you don’t owe your siblings pet sitting! I am a [n ex-] vet nurse and owner of many dogs and cats, and this is *not* just because you’re not an animal person.

    Even if it wasn’t about animals, even if they weren’t ill behaved, you don’t owe anyone budget labour. Being an animal care professional is probably making me extra incensed here, as yes, professional care is expensive but that is for a reason (it’s hardly high paying but it adds up from the owner’s side).

    And your time is your own. If you have free time, it’s because you’ve optimised your life to have it. And good on you.

    I might add that my partner and I have not had a holiday together for over a decade because we have too many animals for that to be feasible (or we did.. we’re down to one dog now so it might be doable 😦 ), and we knew that’s what we were signing up for. We are a somewhat extreme case of course.

    Wishing you strength! You are 200% not the unreasonable one here.

    1. “I might add that my partner and I have not had a holiday together for over a decade because we have too many animals for that to be feasible (or we did.. we’re down to one dog now so it might be doable 😦 ), and we knew that’s what we were signing up for. ”

      Heh! You and your partner sound like a couple I know! “Dave” and “Hattie” live on a dirt road; it’s very rural, scenic and low-key. They have three or four cats (I think? I’ve honestly lost track), a neutered male goat, a rescue horse, guinea hens, chickens … and I know I’m leaving something out.

      The animal feed, infrastructure, veterinary house calls for the big critters, etc., etc., etc., add up to a major time, energy and $$$ commitment — and they went into it knowing that that was how it was going to be. I asked Hattie what they do when they go away, and she said, “I don’t go away. I don’t want to.” Dave travels once in a while for work; Hattie is honestly happier at home with the menagerie.

  46. LW, have you considered that your sisters are the “selfish” ones? They decided to go on a vacation together and instead of invite you along, they want you to watch their 4 (!) badly-behaved dogs.

    Captain’s scripts are good. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a job … that’s between you and your husband. It’s not like you are not working just to be available to support your extended family with any of their whims.

  47. I want to add in, I’m frequently the one asked to do pet-sitting for my father when he’s away for the weekend. He has cats that just need food put out twice a day and that’s it. No additional care needed. He still asks me well ahead of time if I’m free and able to care for them, and if I say no he finds someone else without making it my problem. That’s it, no drama.

    1. For years my cat was so easy to care for, in that I could leave him for a week with a couple clean litter boxes, several bowls of water and kibble, and at worst he’d be a bit desperate for love when I returned. I wasn’t neglectful, as there was always a local teen who happily dropped by daily for snuggles (I also paid him $5/day, yet he wanted to do it for free), but at least I knew that when I agreed to travel for work that my cat would be fine (there was always a chance, especially in summer, that the local teen would also be away).

      Now, my cat is diabetic and requires a couple needles daily. It has definitely changed my travel plans! This has also coincided with a change in work which has a lot less travel, so I don’t have to stress about it, but it has really made me appreciate how easy most cats are to care for. Even the ‘hardest’ ones, like mine, require someone to be there for 5 minutes twice a day – I’ve realised that I will likely be staying in this city until my cat dies, as I have family who live close and are willing to ‘stab’ him as needed, and I feel very lucky for that. If I do contemplate moving, it would only be for a job that is *very* well paid, so that I can afford expensive kennel fees! I feel like if I put this much thought into a cat, the OP’s sisters can put in more effort for their dogs…

      1. Same here — my older cat needs subcutaneous fluids daily (kidney disease, but she thankfully responded very well to treatment and are close to 3 years from her original diagnosis), so my daughter and I have decided that we won’t travel together for more than a weekend during Zuul’s lifetime.

        We have a vet-tech friend who does home pet-sitting as a side business, so we have the ability to get home care (both cats freak out and stop eating if boarded), but giving her fluids is a 2-person job, and after one attempt wound up getting a second friend clawed-up while trying to do the fluids, we decided that it was an unreasonable ask to make.

        1. It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only one who has this.

          I had a couple neat opportunities with work, which would have required moving away for a few months. Good pay, interesting work, awesome travel, but I told them “Ask me again in a few years”. I did try for a job that would have allowed me to bring the cat, but that was for a few years and he does well with moves (I have moved a lot – in fact I think about all the moves and travel that I did over the years, and my guilt over that keeps me from leaving him ‘alone’ again – I’m now his slave until the end of his days). At least these things happen when they are older, so statistically I know that it’s at most 5 more years of this, although it might be close to the 5 years as he’s aging quite well so far. In some ways it’s sad to think about him not being immortal, but it will also be less stressful when I won’t have to worry about him.

          Impressive that she’s doing so well after 3 years! Kidney disease can be hard. Best of luck to all of you with her continued good health.

  48. Everything that everyone has said on the people side of things is great, but I also want to point out that this isn’t good for the dogs, either. Why would anyone who cared about their pets’ well-being leave them with someone who wasn’t comfortable around them, didn’t know how to handle them, and didn’t want to look after them? This is the perfect recipe for abuse and neglect, no matter how well-intentioned the pet sitter is.

    I have some rescue animals who can be really aggressive. Do you know why they ended up in my care? The original owners didn’t know how to handle their aggressive tendencies and abused them. They then went on to another set of owners who, as far as I can tell, neglected them. Do you know who I leave them with when I go on vacation? People who are 100% comfortable managing their behavior and has a proven track record with similar animals. Do you know who I don’t leave them with? Anyone who looks even a little bit uncomfortable around them at all. It’s just one of those things you have to do if there is an animal in your care, y’all.

  49. Ooh. Several times I’ve had friends ask me to do a “favor” like this ‘cept it was babysitting their kids. Sometimes I said yes, but I noticed that each time I said no, they’d send each other a panicked look across the room. Clearly their Big Fun Plan was predicated on the assumption that I’d willingly watch their kids. Like they factored in me giving them free overnight babysitting just like they factor in the cost of airfare and hotel costs.

    That’s when I started saying no every time. And they finally quit asking. If LW’s sisters are making their own plans based on the assumption that she’ll say yes to dogsitting, the LW should feel no shame at all about saying no! And I agree with others. “Unemployed” is not the same thing as “I have nothing better to do so my time is yours.”

    1. I’m friends with a couple who are parents, and at the time of this story had a child aged about two years. They were coming into my city to see a concert and had childcare plans, but these fell through. The mother texted to me to ask…
      …if I’d like to go to the concert with her while her husband looked after the kid. It was nice to be reminded that many – hopefully most! – parents understand what responsibility dam well is. Calling other people selfish because they won’t make sacrifices for your fun and amusement is not it.

  50. Dearest Not a Willing Pet Sitter,
    As an animal-loving dog owner, I would like to add my voice to the chorus of “You Are Not a Selfish Person”. Anyone who tells you that it’s selfish not to pet-sit for your sisters is out of line. You have made it very clear to your sisters that this is not something you are willing to do, and they continue to try and manipulate you into saying “Yes” through guilt and other tactics, which is completely unacceptable. NO ONE SHOULD EVER HAVE TO DO SOMETHING THEY DON’T WANT TO DO. I mean, apart from things that are legally or morally required like “paying taxes”, “paying your bills”, “refraining from stabbing assholes”, etc. When we’re talking about totally voluntary things like “taking care of someone else’s responsibilities”, then you should never be considered selfish for not doing it when you simply don’t want to. Finding someone to care for their dogs is a major part of pet ownership.
    The only people who are behaving badly in this situation are your sisters. They should be ashamed for trying to pressure you into doing this (repeatedly) after you have told them that you do not want to do it (repeatedly). I mean, the fact that you don’t have a job outside of your home does not mean that you are obligated to accept payment from anyone for services which you do not wish to provide to them. This is a completely ridiculous argument.
    You have every right to tell them you changed your mind. If they continue to push back and lay on the guilt, I have a script which I have had to use in the past: “It is unreasonable and inappropriate for you to continue trying to pressure me into doing something that you know I do not want to do. I don’t understand why we are still talking about this. I need you to stop asking me.”
    This works in a surprisingly wide range of situations.
    If they continue to try and talk about it after you’ve said this, then you might try the Love and Logic approach: “Sister, I love you too much to argue about this. I have already said no. I need to go now; I hope you have a lovely trip.” Then end the conversation.

  51. I work with rescues and have my own pets. I take in all sorts of creatures at the last minute, voluntarily, and I know how much work it is. Your sisters’ behaviour is not nice at all.

    In my city there is a trainer who boards dogs for $45/day, and she takes in problem dogs. I realise that every community is different, so not all of them will have these trainers, however I think your sisters really need to start assuming that they will be paying at least $100/day for their dogs, as part of the budget. If they can afford to go on several trips per year then they most definitely can afford a paid service! Ideally they would have trips at different times, and exchange their petsitting (as I do with my sister), but I agree with others that it sounds like they go on trips together and without you, argh.

    Based on the fact that they asked you yesterday, with plans to go on the trip in a week, then they are either bad planners (did they just plan the trip without planning for the dogs?) or someone cancelled on them. Either way, their inability to plan is not your emergency. I think it’s very fair for you to refuse these requests.

    This also brings up a larger point for me, in that I ‘interview’ potential adopters for my foster animals. It’s informal, where the person/family meet the dog, to decide if they like them, and we both get to ask questions. I ask about their plans for vacations, and their overall support network, and I am now glad that I do this! Similarly, when my sister wanted to adopt a dog, and when I adopted mine and my cat, we all had discussions with family / friends about their enthusiasm for looking after the new animal. My sister can’t afford a pet-sitting service, however I have promised her that I will always be there (either physically or I will pay for it myself as I love her dogs), and we all spend a lot of time training our dogs which has resulted in unprompted offers (we have family members who aren’t keen on dogs, but they have mentioned their willingness to help out).

    I totally agree with all the suggestions that your sisters are using excuses to take advantage of you. Depending on your comfort level, I would research a couple nice places in your area, find out their costs, and then offer to pet-sit for your sisters for that amount +$10/day. When they complain, give them a brochure for the other places, and see if they get the hint! Although at this point in the year, there are no spaces available for pet-sitters so this reaaaaally sounds like bad planning on their part.

    1. My two cents, it is great to find other people who also take care of rescues. My family fosters rescue cats and the organization in which we volunteer has people specialized in interviewing the possible adopters – but other than that, the idea is basically the same. Volunteering in an orgainzation like this also seems to have the perk that there are lovely people there and people love to take care of each others’ pets as they consider the fur babies their friends, too. They always bring nice gifts to the pet sitter and they always arrange the pet sitting first even they book any trips. For them (and us) pet sitting is just a part of mutual loving friendship and people take care of each others’ pets roughly the equal amount of time.

      I still wonder the behaviour of the LW’s sisters. Do they ever do anything for the LW, like help with a renovation or gardening? Pet sitting aggressive dogs sounds like a terrible job. I wonder if the dogs are happy with your sisters; I know much more about cats, but I have understood that aggressive behaviour may be a symptom of illness or pain.

      No matter how much I love our cats (and I love them so much that sometimes it feels like my heart is breaking) I would never impose the care of our beloved fur babies to anyone even slightly reluctant. Both parts deserve better: the cats and the human.

      1. The aggression they display doesn’t sound at all like illness or pain – their behaviours are completely within my experience of “never trained properly”. Dogs become aggressive if they are not exposed to the right situations when they are puppies, and aren’t given boundaries. Sound about right for what we know of the sisters… ?

        These can actually be resolved fairly quickly with the right training, but again I don’t think this is within the sisters’ plans. Which is a shame for the dogs, because like young children they are much happier when there are clear expectations.

      2. Sorry, I should add that not all dogs who have no training, boundaries, and socialising are problematic, but that I have met some dogs with those problems and those are typically the reasons, and they can be addressed with – you guessed it – training, explicit boundaries, and exposing them to new situations once they have gained one’s trust.

    2. Oh hey can you weigh in on the discussion Lapis Lazuli and I are having up above about options if Sisters try leaving the dogs anyway? In that “not picking an option that leads to the death of any of these doubtless Very Good (if in need of remediation for whstntheir humans have done to them) Dogs?

      You’re clearly more likely than me to know the best plan for that.

      (BTW we have a diabetic cat and HE IS IN REMISSION. It can happen to even the most “brittle” diabetic cat, apparently — at one point he had neuropathy in both back legs and now he’s had normal blood sugar, meds-free, for nearly a year. I wish you and your cat the same good fortune.)

      1. I’d like to comment on this one, as another dog person who does animal rescue. So, that’s a really tough situation, because you don’t want to get the dogs killed, but you also might not be in a position to take financial responsibility for them. This gets into some worst-case scenario thinking, so it might not be comfortable for the LW to read unless the dogs actually have been dumped on her. I also want to reassure her that it probably won’t come to that, because the sisters do love their dogs and are hopefully smart enough not to risk their well-being so blatantly. (Plans and back-up plans are one of the tools I use to get my brain-weasels to pipe down, but for other people, that level of what-iffing can feel like paranoia.)

        If they try to drop them on you in person, that’s the best chance to refuse, and to be a total hard-ass. “I cannot and will not watch the dogs that I already told you I could not watch. If you choose to abandon them with me, you’re not leaving me any choice besides calling animal control and reporting that you dumped them on my property.” Yes, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, but if you can convince them that you’re as serious as a heart attack about *not* watching their dogs, hopefully that will scare them out of dumping them on you and getting on a plane. I realize this is easier said than done, so if you can have a supportive friend there to back you up, that might help.

        If they drop them at your house while you’re not there, or they text you after they’ve left that the dogs are at their houses and they expect you to watch them, but you still want to avoid calling animal control, then it gets harder. Even if you’re willing to pay for a pet-sitter (knowing your sisters aren’t likely to repay you), you might not find one on short notice, or who will accept the really dodgy arrangement of you as the middle-person for them going into two other people’s houses and caring for their pets. But it’s something you can look into. You might also try talking to their neighbors to see if they’d be willing to check on the dogs. Since the neighbors know the sisters and not you, it might be better to treat it like a misunderstanding. Somehow your sisters got confused and thought you were pet-sitting when you couldn’t, and you know it’s an imposition, but would they be able to check in on the dogs a couple times a day?

        You probably can’t take them to a kennel or vet’s office without providing a payment method. If you’re at that point, it would be a good time to remind yourself that your sisters abandoned those dogs, and that this is their problem. Then call the sisters and explain to them that, as you told them previously, you can’t watch their dogs. You’re at the kennel/vet, they need a credit card for boarding, and you expect your sisters to provide it if they want their dogs cared for. If they refuse, then you have a decision to make. Do you want to/can you afford to be on the hook financially for this? Remember that you do not owe it to your sisters to pay for boarding their dogs, and it may make it more likely for them to do this to you again. The plus side is that the dogs will be safe and you will not be pet-sitting. It’s up to you. If you do want to take financial responsibility (and you definitely don’t have to), the vet’s office or kennel might be willing to set up a payment plan if you explain the situation.

        Failing that, I’d contact the animal rescues in my area. If you can’t find them by googling or checking Facebook, some of your pet owning friends might know. Your local pet supply chain probably has rescues that come in for adoption days and might be able to give you their contact info, or at least a name to better direct your search efforts. Explain the situation to them, and ask if they can take the dogs for a few days. Don’t be surprised if they refuse or they don’t have space. Rescues are often packed to capacity, and, sadly, people do abandon dogs by asking for temporary “pet-sititng” and then never coming back. So they might not believe you that it’s a short term thing. They may also not be willing to take in a dog that isn’t actually being surrendered to them. If you do get a rescue to help, definitely thank them profusely and make a donation if you can. Then make sure the sisters know that’s where their dogs are, and where they can pick them up from. Give the rescue their details so they know who to expect.

        At this point, if you’ve exhausted any temporary rescue options, your last two choices are to leave the dogs at their house or to drop them at a no-kill shelter. Both of these options suck, so it’s a good time to remind yourself again that you are not the person who abandoned these dogs. I would explain to them that you’re still not able to pet-sit, and you’ve tried to help them make alternate arrangements, and it hasn’t worked. Let them know that you will not pet-sit, and tell them what you will do if they choose not to pony up for kenneling. If they refuse, I would also text and email them, for CYA purposes.

        If you leave them at their respective houses, make sure the dogs have access to plenty of food and water, and that they’re separated, since there’s food aggression. Even if they have crates, sticking them in one for four whole days seems pretty cruel (but remember, you’re not the one who abandoned the dogs, and there may not be another suitable place to close them up). A bathroom might be the safest place to close them up with food and water, especially if you can remove anything they might get into (cleaners, toilet paper, etc.). Yes, they’re going to pee and poop all over everything, and they may very well scratch up the doors or walls. Yes, your sisters will be furious and will probably want you to pay for damages. Too bad. That’s why you call them first and document in writing what you’re doing, so that if they want the dogs actually boarded, they have the opportunity to make that happen, with money.

        If you get partway through this list and decide, no, I can’t do this, you do still get to call animal control when someone has abandoned their dogs. Yes, it sucks, but you are not the one who abandoned them. Doing anything other than calling animal control and letting them deal with it is a kindness to the dogs and to your irresponsible sisters. If you do find yourself with four dogs dumped on you, please don’t take this giant list of things you *could* do as any sort of obligation.

  52. Add me to the chorus of: Your sisters are being super unreasonable.

    Coming up in January, my family has an incredibly complicated petsitting situation, because my mother and sister are going on a trip together (This is a trip I am happy to be excluded from and my father won’t complain about time alone with his furry grandchildren). We have, among us, three cats (sister), two dogs (Mom & Dad), and one elderly guinea pig (me). As this is a weekend trip, the petsitting has broken down as follows:

    I will be watching Mom and Dad’s dogs, while Dad goes to sit upon the cats, and I will load the gpig up in his small cage and he will stay with the dogs and I.

    This is happening because I am both willing and able. Otherwise, Mom & Dad’s dogs would be going to spend a weekend at the doggie hotel in PetSmart.

    If I didn’t adore the hell out of both dogs, I wouldn’t have said yes. Because the people at PetSmart do know them, and love them despite the nutter butter’s not-so-much-issues-as-a-subscription, and it would be better for the dogs as well as me to have less stress in their/my lives. Because the dogs do know you’re not comfortable around them, which may explain some of their aggressiveness, too. :/


    You are right to say No. You deserve to have a peaceful weekend while your sisters are gone, and the dogs deserve a caregiver who actually wants to spend time with them.

  53. Oh one more thing. Even if it were selfish to refuse to travel an hour to pet sit for four (!!) badly behaved dogs (and it’s not selfish) so what?

    Being selfish is not so terrible. “Selfish” is the word people use when they mean “doesn’t do what I want.”

    1. “Selfish” is the word people use when they mean “doesn’t do what I want.”

      So, so true!

  54. LW, I love dogs and would dogsit for free just to have some slobbery dog kisses and cuddles. I also 100% think that saying no to your sisters is the right thing FOR YOU and you should have no qualms about saying no to caring for their dogs. You are not terrible and selfish for not wanting to take care of their dogs. You don’t want to take care of dogs, so you chose not to have dogs, and your sisters deciding to become dog owners should in no way have an impact on your life.

    I think this is just one of those situations where you have to decide that your need to not be their de facto dog sitter is worth the ‘consequences’ (them being mad at you and calling you selfish). The thing is, they already know you don’t want to dogsit and they’re already calling you selfish, so it’s not like it’s going to be that much worse if you don’t actually dogsit for them, right?

    If I owned a dog, I personally wouldn’t want to leave them with someone I knew wasn’t happy about petsitting them, for a lot of reasons, and I’m giving your sisters major side-eye over that as well.

    The issue of a professional being “too expensive” is a problem that is up to your sisters to solve. If hiring a professional is too expensive, maybe they can’t take the vacation, or they take a shorter or cheaper vacation. That is a trade-off that is the pet-owner’s responsibility. If their dogs are too aggressive to be boarded, again, the onus is on them to solve that problem, not you, the person who is NOT responsible for a dog.

    You not agreeing to petsit isn’t ruining major plans. As the Captain pointed out, there are a myriad of options re: the petsitting that do not involve asking someone who doesn’t want to petsit to petsit.

    It sounds like your sisters have a record of disregarding your no, which unfortunately they will continue to do until you say no and stick to it. People who ask you to do favors you don’t want to do and KNOW that you don’t want to do are already violating social contract, so don’t feel bad about saying no!

  55. I’m one of “those” pet owners. My cat is my baby, now and always. Speaking from there…you are NOT selfish or bad for not wanting to pet sit! It’s not your duty to take care of someone else’s dogs. Your sisters are wrong and behaving badly, you are not.

    Don’t pet sit for them again. It’s their job to figure things out, not yours to be forced into that position.

  56. Oh man I know this story. It only gets better if you’re okay with being “the mean one”, but the thing is, you either choose to be “the mean one” or “the one everybody calls because they know you can’t say no” and I REALLY like all the free time that comes as a benefit of being “the mean one”. Plus of course 30 seconds of stopping to think about it says “wait, my SISTERS want to use ME as CHEAP pet sitting so THEY can go on a vacation, but I’M the selfish one if I say no to a so-called REQUEST??” So yeah, say no. Say it and learn to enjoy saying it. You don’t even have to be mean about it, just put up a solid wall of “ooh sorry, not going to be able to do that.” Eventually they’ll be retrained into understanding that pushing against your boundaries is a waste of their time and effort and then it’s easier to say “no” because you only have to say it once for them to hear it and believe it.

  57. LW, my blood is boiling on your behalf – and I’m an animal lover! The “but faaaamily,” the “you are unemployed so you can be at my beck and call,” and “I want pet care on the cheap so I can go have funnnn!” add up to a toxic stew of entitlement on the part of your siblings. Boo. Hiss.

    I have cats, one of whom needs daily medication and a special diet. Guess what? When I adopted my cats, they became MY responsibility. They are my fur children and the buck stops with me as far as their welfare is concerned. If I can’t afford a vacation after hiring a *professional* pet sitter to give them the best care when I am gone, that means I *cannot really afford a vacation* – tough noogies! If you have pets, and they are “your babies,” that is the price you pay.

    Part of responsible adulting, IMO, is realizing that decisions involve consequences, and there are tradeoffs for most decisions. A high-powered job that pays well means less leisure/free time. Owning pets means arranging for backup care, which costs money. Choosing to adopt an aggressive dog, or not train one properly or deal with aggression issues, means that potential backup caregivers will nope away or want more money in compensation. Choices = consequences, and there is no free lunch.

    And the sister who showed up in person ostensibly to “catch up” but in reality to give you the hard sell – grr. Just grr. That is a low-down dirty trick for her to do. You can tell her “No, I will not pet sit for you, I’ve changed my mind” *without a shred of guilt*. It’s fine for you to say no. And worst case scenario if one or both sisters dump the dogs on your doorstep or just abandon them in their own houses – animal abandonment is a crime in many places, and you can take them to their vet (or some vet) and explain the situation.

    Good luck!

  58. Of course you shouldn’t dog sit if you don’t want to.

    Why don’t your sisters simply stagger their holidays so Sister A can dog sit for Sister B and then Sister B can dog sit for Sister A, leaving the OP completely out of it?

      1. Again.

        (LW said they take vacations several times a year, leaving LW to dogsit. I’m assuming all the vacations are together since the sisters aren’t sitting on each other’s dogs and expect LW to do so every time)

  59. Oh, and I don’t think you’re lazy and selfish. I hire people to take care of my two cats when I go on vacation. I have sat for other people’s pets and it was a major undertaking. Never again.

  60. LW, I suggest that when you inform your sisters that you will no longer be pet-sitting for them, you also return any keys for their homes that you have been given.

    This prevents them from going away and calling you from their destination, to further play on your guilt.

    You are not being selfish. They are. Keep saying No. Good luck!

  61. Just a fellow dog disliker here, with family members who are obsessed with dogs. It’s hard! Don’t let them try to use the excuse the dogs welfare depends on you. That’s not true. A dogs welfare is the responsibility solely of the owner!!! People who dislike dogs are made to feel like the face of evil. I’ve heard “Even Hitler liked dogs.” Brutal! I don’t like dogs and would never buy a dog. That’s surely, a good thing, cause so many dog owners seem so happy to dump that at the first inconvenience! Hang in there with all the firm “no” in the world.

    1. I feel you. I don’t dislike the concept of dogs, have met a few I don’t mind, and there is one I actually like.
      Keep in mind that I’m 45, so I’ve met several dogs.
      The looks you get, though, when you don’t fawn all over their spitty smelly dogs. Ugh.
      In my case, I *really* don’t know why anyone is surprised. I have 5 cats, ffs. It should say everything.

      (Yes, I know my house smells like cat-box!)

      -Apropos of nothing, I would consider getting a Vizsla. An older one. They’re fine with cats, hardly shed, don’t smell too bad when they’re wet, and fantastic when trained.

      Regardless of all that! Do these sisters of the LW not have neighbours who can drop in daily to feed the dogs? Or friends/family/inlaws who are more dog friendly?
      Why ask the person half an hour away, who lives with someone *allergic*, and has already made it clear that she doesn’t want to do it?

      They seem very rude.

  62. For people dealing with “I won’t take no for an answer” types, take a lesson from tv judges: they state their decision, bang their gavel and get up and LEAVE. Why? Because they’re done. Once you say no and you mean it, the conversation needs to end. Staying on the phone or continuing to stand there INVITES push back. Say “No” and “If there’s nothing else, I need to go.” Then go. Consider practicing ahead of time (maybe with a supportive person). I’ve said no, then realized as long as I stood there, the push back was never going to stop no matter how many times I said no. So I spun on my heels and walked away. I felt such relief! Please try this.

    1. “Turn and leave” isn’t bad advice, just not always applicable.

      The problem ( one of the problems) is that Pushy Sister came to talk to LW face to face, so apparently they were at LW’s place. PS did this on purpose to be difficult. LW is not a TV judge* and does not have a bailiff to keep order or judge’s chambers to retire to.

      ( * I’m guessing.)

  63. I love cats, like they are one of my favorite things in the world, and I adore my cat more than I can describe even if she is currently driving me crazy.

    You are absolutely in the right here and you don’t need any reason to not want to pet sit other than “I don’t want to.” I don’t petsit for my friends, though I also understand this means I don’t ask them to take care of my cat when I’m out of town either. It doesn’t matter if you are getting paid or not, if you have the free time or not, you don’t want to, and that’s enough. And any pet owner that disagrees is being ridiculous and has an ulterior motive or something.

    I also think it would be fine to do a “this is the last time” kind of thing if you’re feeling just too much guilt and anxiety about dealing with this on this particular occasion, but you will have to declare when the last time is (even if it’s already past) and stick with it. Even in person. “I’m sorry, I just can’t.” “But why?” “I just can’t.” “But…” “No.”

    They are in the wrong here. Fully and completely.

  64. I agree. Tell them now that you can’t do this, now or ever again. And DO NOT let them “force team” you on the issue. Meaning, don’t let them make their lack of pet care (which is their exclusive problem) into your shared problem together. Them: “But what will we do with Bitey McFoodAggressive?” You: “I don’t know. Find a service. I can’t watch the dog.” Them: “But you have to help us figure this out, since you’re bailing at the last minute.” You: “No, I don’t. Good luck.” + HANG UP THE PHONE. Don’t let them rope you into solving a problem that is most definitely NOT YOUR PROBLEM.

    Good luck. Be strong. And do not feel guilty about not wanting to do this.

  65. There’s a very good medical reason for you to refuse: unless you change your clothes every time you enter their houses, and then change back to pet-free clothes when you leave, there’s a (small) chance you’ll carry enough dander/fur back to your own house to become problematic for your husband.

    A casual occasional visit to a sister is one thing, because fur and dander break down, but concentrated visits, 2-3 times a day, for days, can really build up. I recently found a cat hair on a piece of clothing, from a friend’s cat that had died a year before.

    Aggressive laundry and lint-rolling can help, but this is not an acceptable risk for someone who has dangerous allergies. When dealing with allergies and anaphalaxis, a small chance is too much.

    1. A million times this. A hospital visit for anaphylaxis costs upwards of $3,000, and pet dander is readily carried in your hair and shoes even if you change your clothes. Pet sitters are cheap by comparison.

  66. Professional pet sitters abound and the cost is not prohibitive. I always factor the pet sitter in with the total cost of my vacation. Why would I want someone watching my pets who doesn’t want to be doing it?

    You are 100% in the right. It is YOUR time, YOUR life, YOUR decision. I also find it hard to say ‘no’ when directly confronted and understand how you feel.

    Please fell 0 guilt about your good decision!

  67. The best response I’ve found for people who try to manipulate you by calling you names is the shrug (in-person) or to say “k” (in-text). What they want is your guilt, what they get is your indifference, and it doesn’t require you to put a lot of emotional effort into framing your response. It also feels less like an agreement with anyone else’s assessment and more like just an acknowledgement that they said something. “You’re selfish and mean!” “K. I’m not baby sitting.”

  68. I was a bored student who used to LOVE getting away from my crazy family and care for other people’s pets. I did it for nearly a decade. I loved it. I was loyal, hard-working, trust-worthy, and on more than one occasion, learned some valuable life-lessons when I had to deal with emergency situations (hey, it happens, some pets are jerks and make a point of punish their care-taker for leaving them behind with a stranger). Captain’s advice is spot on (This is only your problem because they insist on making it your problem), and it really isn’t all that expensive to find a professional to ensure you have someone checking on your fur-baby (and bonus if they stay over – bonus house sitter).

    I pet-sat for nearly 15 years, and often did not charge family… even if it required those long drives as you mentioned. Some would leave money for my gas, some would leave food, some wouldn’t… I just took it as it came. it was really just a place for me to love up someone else’s pet, and have a safe harbour to study. I graduated years ago, got a “real” job, and yet… especially around the holidays… get the but-we’re-faaammmily-requests to pet-sit, even though I have LONG since retired. The ONE point that truly resonated with me in your letter was “they point out that they’re willing to pay me.” If they are willing to pay you, then they can spend the time/energy to find a pet-sitter in their budget, and someone who may even spend time working on these bad behaviours. My bestie is a professional dog-walker/sitter, and she doesn’t shy away from tough dogs. She actually implements her own training to ensure everyone is safe and happy on their walks. You can always teach an old dog new tricks, and you can teach your sisters to not expect you to take care of their fur-babies. It takes time, as we all know dear Captain-Community, to establish proper boundaries. The whining, guilt trips, and seemingly exasperating expectations of the family-unit do indeed tear at the heart-strings, but after five years of saying “no, thanks, have you tried PawShake.com or GoFetch.ca?”, they have mostly backed off, and just don’t ask me anymore, although I do get the occasional “what, you don’t love my pet?” at various family functions… to which I’ve learned to just ignore and/or roll my eyes and walk away.

    The other part of your letter, same sentence: “there’s no reason I can’t pet sit for them.” That, to me, is an example of projection. There is no reason (that they are willing to see)… but just not wanting to do it IS a valid reason; NOT wanting to disrupt your marriage, your routine, or even your day IS a valid reason. They just aren’t hearing you… or respecting you, at all. I am truly sorry you are dealing with this situation. I’ve been there, and I commend you reaching out for some scripts! Seeing you in person to manipulate you is emotional blackmail/coercion/manipulation… and it’s absolutely disrespectful behaviour…The scrip that I keep repeating in my family/friend group is: “No thanks, have you tried finding a pet-sitter with PawShake.com or GoFetch.ca?” and if they push, I sum up with “there are a lot of options online, apps, and support in your community for dog-sitting. They are professional, insured, and specify their price right on their site/profile.” and when/if they keep pushing I say “while you were talking, I found X number of apps… all within your area” and then just remove yourself from the conversation. One of the best pieces of Captain’s advice has been to say “no” with no explanation, and not give anyone a chance to challenge me.

    You are NOT ruining their plans, THEY are ruining your plans by dismissing your needs! They aren’t mad at YOU, you are actually mad at THEM! Stay strong, you can do this! You have a whole community of support here I see!

  69. Hi, LW!
    You do not need to justify your non-pet-sitting to anyone. Allergies, time, cost, difficult dogs- it doesn’t matter.
    “I don’t want to.” Is a perfectly good reason to not pet sit. Not wanting to pet sit doesn’t make you selfish, an animal hater or a unhelpful sister. It just means you don’t want to pet sit, and that’s perfectly fine.
    I’ll pet sit/walk the wicked and hairy hounds for my sister if I can. I know I’m probably her first choice, but she’s an adult living in a city; I’m certainly not her only choice for dog care. And, even if I were- that would be her problem to solve, not my burden to assume.

  70. “but it seems like every pet owner we know disagrees and thinks we are just selfish, lazy people.”

    They’re wrong! I have dogs. Having pets means rearranging your life around them a bit; that’s just how it is. You don’t get to rearrange other people’s lives because it’s more convenient. It’s not an emergency and they have plenty of options for pet care that have already been enumerated. (And… this is orthogonal but if their dogs are aggressive and destructive enough to make that more of a problem, they could hire a professional trainer to help them with that, too? It’s not just A Problem That Will Exist Forever Oh Well :). It may take some expense, effort, and patience, but they’re not really doing their dogs any favors by letting them get into fights and destroy shit.)

    And I mean yeah people will always ask for favors you don’t want to do, but if they repeatedly ask for the same favor that they already know you don’t want to do because you’ve already told them no-and-no-for-all-future-instances-too, and then try to manipulate you into doing it anyway, they’re being assholes.

  71. “Waaah your help is the only thing that can solve this problem” usually translates to “I haven’t put much effort into solving this problem” or less often “I’m really bad at solving problems”.

    There’s something I like to keep in mind when a person says that imposing upon me is their only option: “If I dropped dead tomorrow, this person would surely figure out *some* way to solve this issue without my help. So, they can just go ahead and figure that way out and do it even though I’m still around.”

    That other way might be less convenient or more expensive for them, but it almost certainly exists. There are very few problems with just one solution, and fewer still where the solution requires the assistance of one specific person to work.

    If the OP was recruited by NASA and sent to Mars next week presumably the sisters would still figure out some way to have their dogs cared for while they go to Vegas. They’re likely not as hard up for assistance as they are making it seem.

  72. LW, I am one of those “love my dog like a child” people and I am 1000% with you. You should not have to pet-sit if you don’t want to, and you are not a mean or selfish person for having a boundary around this. You are A Person, with thoughts and feelings that matter, and I hope you stand up for those thoughts and feelings.

    Also, and I know you know this, but just because you don’t work doesn’t mean you don’t have Things Going On. Everyone assumes that just because a corporation isn’t cutting you a paycheck to go into an office that you’re just sitting around twiddling your thumbs all day and I think we both know that’s BS.

    None of this is anything new to you or to this comment section, I just wanted to add another voice into the chorus of support.

  73. “And finally, is this just a thing I need to get over and stop being annoyed at (people are always going to ask for favors you don’t want to do, and you’re always going to be considered the bad guy if you turn them down, too bad, so sad, stop complaining)?”

    Yes, this is a thing people will do. They will ask you to do things you don’t want to do.

    They will have feelings about it if you turn them down.

    They may be so shitty about things as to CHOOSE TO (it IS a choice) allow their feelings to manifest themselves as letting you know they think you’re a bad guy.

    But your conclusion is not one I’d agree with. These things will happen and so too bad, so sad, THEY are the ones need to stop complaining. Actually, they don’t need to stop complaining. They can get over it, or not, as they choose. The thing that’s different is that YOU don’t have to do anything about their feelings. Even if they have very strong feelings about it.

    You are allowed to have your own life, your own choices, your own space. You are allowed to do things that others don’t want you to do. You are allowed NOT to do things that others want you to do – even if they want that very badly, AND (this is so important) even if you don’t have a ‘good enough’ reason for not doing it: good enough, of course, being defined how THEY define it.

    They. Don’t. Have. To. Agree. With. You.
    They don’t. They really don’t. They can very strongly disagree with you and so what? What are they going to do about it? If they corner you and badger you, you are ALLOWED to say no. You have a responsibility to yourself to say no if you want to say no.

    Please take a step back and breathe, gather your strength and your Team You and re-engage with them. It really, really doesn’t matter if they don’t like it; your health is at stake.

  74. Another script for you: “Sister, I can’t pet sit for you now or ever. Please don’t ask me again.”

    And a follow-up script “Sister, I told you not to ask me to pet sit again. My answer hasn’t changed.”

  75. LW, however you decide to tell your sister No, do it quickly, to defuse the OMG you can’t cancel on us last minute like this!!!! If they asked you only yesterday and you cancel today or tomorrow and it’s suddenly “last minute” – that’s still on them for waiting until last minute to arrange for care for their dogs. And more so for trying to strong arm someone they know didn’t want to do it. After all the trouble they went through getting you to agree in the first place, they have no business being surprised if you back out.

  76. “Hiring a professional would be “too expensive,” they say, but they could budget “pet sitting” as a necessary vacation cost. No money for pet sitting? No money for travel, then!”

    They claim it’s “too expensive”, but they can afford to travel multiple times a year? This just reeks of entitlement to your time and energy.

    You’re not the jerk here, your sisters are being assholes. Asking someone to pet sit is a favour, always. Just assuming that you will do it and making it your fault if that affects their plans is super shitty. If they want to be responsible pet owners they need to plan and/or pay for these things themselves, or accept that they can’t go away.

    [I mean, *maybe* it would have been reasonable to be surprised the first time you said no, if you’d always seemed happy to do it in the past and they’d gotten used to relying on you. BUT, the minute that you said no more, is the time when they should have started making other plans, not pressuring you to continue doing something you’ve clearly stated you don’t want to. That’s asshole territory.]

    I think you’re very responsible to decide that a pet is too much for you and wouldn’t be fair to the animal. It’s how I feel about dogs. I love them but I know that I would not have the energy or commitment to walk them every day, and play with them all the time and keep them happy. So I don’t have one. 🙂

    1. They apparently have money for Vegas but not enough for pet sitting but they will pay the OP?

      Mixed messages indeed

  77. Your sisters are being totally unreasonable. If they make plans that can be “ruined” just by you not doing something that they KNOW you don’t want to do, those aren’t very good plans!

    Arranging for your pets to be cared for is part of the cost of going on vacation if you’re a pet owner. We used to have two cats who were difficult to care for. (One was a total sweetie but had complex medical needs; the other was anxious to the point of aggression around strangers.) If we wanted to go on vacation but couldn’t afford the care or find anyone to do it, we would have to change our plans. That’s just how it is when you take on the responsibility of owning creatures that rely on you to live.

  78. Dearest LW,
    I have been in your shoes with the pet-sitting before.
    I got really burnt out on it, and finally had to tell ALL the folks I’d pet-sat for (including family) that I wasn’t going to be doing it anymore.

    I spent a week after that with the “regulars” who were used to getting me to pet-sit on short notice for sometimes not well trained animals trying to persuade, guilt-trip, pressure, or otherwise talk me into pet-sitting again. I held on, and while they still sometimes hint that they need a pet-sitter (presumably to test that boundary?), the pressure eased off a lot eventually. I got good at saying “i’ve stopped doing that”, or “i don’t do that anymore” whenever it came up in conversation.

    So, take heart; i’m living proof that you can outlast pushy former pet-sitting clients trying weirdly hard to get you to reverse your decision.

  79. I love my pets. I’d never expect a family member (or anyone) to watch them if they don’t want to do it. I hire a pet sitter – an actual person who gets paid actual money to do a job they actually like. Weird, huh?

  80. There are a couple approaches you can take when you’ve set a boundary and someone is repeatedly trying to violate it. Each of them have pros and cons.

    1) Keep giving reasons and excuses for your boundary. Pros: Reasonable people will now understand your logic, and see you as reasonable. Cons: Unreasonable people commonly see these as hurdles to be overcome, not legit reasons to respect your stated needs, and will try to argue you around to doing the thing anyways.

    2) Be a broken record. Keep stating your boundary, straight up just keep saying it, don’t bother explaining or justifying or anything. “No, I’m not petsitting,” over and over again, no matter how or when they ask. Pros: People stop asking eventually. Also, easy to script in advance, which can help keep a surprise boundary-pushing-question from knocking you off your guard. Cons: It’s boring and frustrating to do, and ‘eventually’ can be a surprisingly long time. It can also come off as dismissive.

    3) Escalate. If you throw a big enough fit about your boundary being pushed, EVERYONE will know this boundary and not to push it. Pros: Everyone knows. Everyone remembers forever. No one wants a repeat, so no one pushes the thing anymore. Cons: Everyone knows. Everyone remembers forever. People fear a repeat, and may wonder whether you’re likely to lash out over anything else, especially if they’re not aware of the background that pushed you to escalate things so far.

    It sounds like you’ve been trying #1, and it’s not working. I suggest picking one of the other two. Neither is fun or particularly nice, but hey, if they wanted nice, they should have listened the first bunch of times you stated your boundary.

    1. Also, as to your specific boundary: as a pet owner who has to plan for petsitting when I travel, I hereby declare your desire to not be your sisters’ go-to petsitter to be valid and reasonable. I love it when I find a friend who’s willing to petsit, because my cat is more comfortable with known people than strangers, but this is a FAVOR that some people do for me, not something I get to demand or feel entitled to! It would be really weird and mean of me to get a petsitter who doesn’t want to be doing it. Both my friends and my pet deserve better than that. If I don’t have a friend who is able and willing, then it’s my job to hire a professional; if I can’t afford that, then I can’t afford to travel.

  81. As a cat person, the Captain’s advice is spot on as usual! I always budget the cost of my pet sitter into my vacation budget. I love my cats, they’re *mine* and my responsibility, so when my wonderful friend can’t petsit, I get a sitter. They have quite reasonable rates in my area (>$25 per visit).

    It certainly isn’t selfish to not want pets or want to take care of other people’s pets, and it’s totally okay to not like dogs! It is however, very selfish to expect other people to take care of your pets for you (when their not paid professionals).

    It might be hard to say no at first, but you’re doing great, and it will get easier! If it helps to make *you* feel better, maybe send a couple links to pet sitters in their area? I’m the “mean one*” in my family, and I’ve found it’s easier for me to say “no, I can’t” if I can follow it up with “but here’s info for…” I also found owning that “mean one” title, and make jokes about it all the time helps too. “Nope, sorry, can’t I’m the mean one remember?”

    *AKA the one that doesn’t always say yes.

  82. I am a doggie lover and do think of my dog as my fur-baby. And I find petsitting a pain in the ass. You have to go to someone else’s house and inevitably they have not bothered to train their damn dogs (seriously, training is part of dog ownership just like vet visits) and you are caught between asshole owners and blameless pets that you don’t want to mistreat. So it just all around sucks.

    So from this doggie-lover, you are a billion percent in the right. Your sisters are assholes on so many levels – failure to take no for an answer, feeling entitled to your time and effort, not training their dogs (seriously, it helps your dog know the rules and just like kids, a dog who knows the boundaries is a happier, more secure dog). And Captain’s scripts are right on. You’d have to be pretty damn mean to out-jerk your sisters.

  83. So, you petsit their dogs, edit their resumes, help landscape their homes, and help decorate for their parties. And they… go on vacations without you, coerce you into petsitting their dogs, and call you mean names.

    Excuse me, but in which universe are you the selfish one?

    Please, LW, if I may ask: how many hours a month do you put into helping them out, and how many hours a month do *they* save *you* by helping you out?

    1. This. I think it would be reasonable to opt out of ALL unpaid labor for your sisters at this point, not just the pet-sitting.

      1. Word! You don’t have to give your time and labour for free to people who are mean to you. Your time and labour are very valuable gifts and their recipients should a) appreciate them, and b) compensate you in some way that works for you, be it money, mutual help, homemade baked goods…

  84. I have lost so many nice dresses and a lot of sleep because I feel obligated to help my family to the point that Now I just turn up after work in my work attire just in case. But that’s on me because I have a guilt complex..
    I don’t have to do these things. But I do then anyway….

    You have done enough…..tally up all the times you have looked after their animals take note of them and mention it to them. Practice saying “I am sorry to hear that, good luck finding a pet sitter” if they push bring up Google(if you have it) or a phone book and offer to call some places for her.
    If she guilts you more:
    “sorry that won’t work for me this time” or
    “I have told you many times before I would rather not, this time I am actively saying I won’t. why are you being weird about this”

    the point is that family does not mean doing things you don’t want to! Even if you have done so before You don’t have to look after animals especially unpaid… And your sisters have no business forcing you into things. If it mattered so much they can arrange things themselves!
    Best of luck

    1. I would recommend against LW’s offering to research pet sitting. It’s not on her to do her sisters’ work and finding a qualified pet sitter is a lot of work. Moreover LW isn’t qualified to do the work: she doesn’t know what questions to ask of the sitter nor can she answer questions about the dogs. It’s the sister’s dogs, sister needs to make the decisions about what she wants for her dogs.
      Another reason to not volunteer to research sitters: if anything went wrong, you know sister would blame LW because LW chose the wrong sitter and if only she hadn’t been so selfish and done it herself!!!!

      1. I agree with not offering to find a replacement sitter. That will just cement in the sister’s mind that this is LW’s problem too and “why won’t she just help us if she has time to do this research.”

        LW, I think you are well within your rights to just say, “No.” and leave it at that. Reasons are for reasonable people (as the captain has said) and someone who pushes to get the answer they want against your stated wishes isn’t reasonable in my opinion.

        FWIW I have two dogs myself.

      2. Oh sorry I just meant ask them to bring out the phone or book and say Google it(look it up) then leave them to it(do laundry not something) No further interaction needed
        “Hey I just typed in “petsitters (local area) have at it.
        I didn’t mean do the leg work just putting it out there as an option when they corner you in your own house.
        Sorry it came across wrong

  85. I have a dog and I don’t think you’re being selfish at all. We rely quite heavily on friends and family to help out but we also made sure before we got a dog that we could afford alternative pet-sitting arrangements/were willing to holiday less if need be. The dogs are their responsibility, not yours, and it’s unfair of your sisters to expect you to take on that responsibility when you don’t want it.

  86. Holy wow. LW, you have no obligation to pet sit for these two (while they go on a vacation without you, their third sister, no less?! What kind of Cinderella-level fuckery even is this?!)

    Full confession – my doggo is my baby. I think he is the greatest being in the world. He is tiny and doesn’t bark and doesn’t bite and is mostly too small to destroy things and my friends and family invite him to their homes on the reg, and I STILL do not ask family or friends to pet sit him! He gets boarded at the vet, because I do not want to put on anyone else the exact anxiety about his care you are describing (the “what if he gets away/eats something bad/slips his leash/jumps off a high couch and breaks a leg/etc./etc.” feelings).

    You are being eminently reasonable here, and you should deploy the Captain’s scripts to the fullest. Let them be mad. Sisters unhappy is not the worst possible outcome here, don’t let their anger and guilt trips make you think otherwise. They have been putting themselves first at your expense for a pretty long time, it sounds like – you have nothing to feel guilty about for choosing to start putting yourself first, and this is an eminently reasonable boundary to start with.

  87. Something was said about “ruining their plans”, but their plans were pre-ruined when they got to you because they were half-assed, bass-ackward plans! You can’t ruin half-assed plans!

    1. This. When your “plans” are based on the idea that someone else will do something you know they won’t want to do and you will have to strong arm them into doing, your “plans” are crap.

  88. Aggressive dogs are no joke. Even it’s “only” food aggression, having anyone other than a professional (who is used to handling aggressive dogs) being a caretaker for these dogs is extremely irresponsible of the sister. Children should not be caring for these dogs. Someone who dislikes dogs in general and these dogs in particular should not be caring for these dogs.

    The “we couldn’t find anyone so I guess you’ll have to because we already left” stunt, if they pull it, would constitute animal cruelty in my book. They’d be betting their pets’ lives on OP’s ability to care for those dogs, and as others have said up-thread, I think surrendering the dogs to a shelter would be reasonable in the event they actually tried that. Though I would make sure the sisters know that’s on the table first.

    “Hi, sister. The other day you pressured me about dogsitting for your aggressive dogs while you are in Las Vegas on [dates]. I cannot care for these dogs. You will have to make other arrangements. If you abandon them with no one caring for them, I will surrender them to [specific shelter].”

    1. If the sisters drop off their four aggressive dogs on the OP’s doorstep, the OP may wish to call Animal Control to discuss options. I doubt they would be able to get four aggressive dogs to a shelter by themselves. Animal Control should be able to help there. If said dogs bite the OP, suing the sisters for the medical bills would be appropriate here.

    2. Aggressive dogs are no joke. Even it’s “only” food aggression, having anyone other than a professional (who is used to handling aggressive dogs) being a caretaker for these dogs is extremely irresponsible of the sister.

      This. This. THIS.
      Aggression brings this to a whole different level. It’s no longer a question of what LW is willing to do. It’s a question of what LW is *qualified* to do. Most people aren’t. A lot of experienced dog people aren’t. I’ve had 150+ lb dogs for 20+ years, and I don’t feel qualified.

  89. I will chime in as well and say I’m 100% on your side here, LW. Your sisters are the ones being selfish, mean sisters and you should call your sister, tell her you won’t do it, and then don’t do it ever again no matter what she says.

    I’m not a fan of dogs. I don’t hate them, but I’m not a fan. My grandmother’s German Shepherd tried to attack me twice when I was younger. I don’t like slobber. I don’t like the way dogs smell. If I’m in a friend’s home and they have a dog, I may pet them politely, but I honestly don’t enjoy it. This might be a bit of a derail but I hate when people say things or post memes to the tune of “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like dogs/doesn’t like MY dog.” I’m a trustworthy person! Friendly, even! But I don’t like dogs. It’s surprising how often people like me are made out to be some kind of monster.

  90. So a couple years ago I ended up having to go to the hospital and needed someone to watch my cat. My best friend came to the hospital and she hates cats. She asked if there was anything she could do for me and I said ‘yes. I need you to find someone who can watch Violet’.

    It never occurred to me to ask her to do it because she doesn’t like cats. I would never want her to feel obligated to take care of a living being that she does not want to care for. Period.

    And this wasn’t about a vacation- I was in the hospital and had no other options. So when she offered to help, I asked for help in finding someone to watch the cat.

    It is 100% reasonable and fair that you *never* under any circumstances, watch their pets. Ever. The fact that they need you to so they can go on vacation is ridiculous. You let them know you don’t want to, so one manipulated the situation by making an excuse to see you to ask you in person. You have *every* right to change your mind, but this isn’t even changing your mind-blowing they knew you didn’t want to and guilted you into it. Saying “actually no.” Is totally fair.

    You are not responsible for their choice to have dogs- they are. They need to do the work in finding a solution, not guilt you into it.

    Good luck!

    1. What Reclaimingkatie said.
      A few years ago when I had to leave work to drive directly to a hospital 2 hours away to deal with an emergency parental situation, I called my best friend and asked her to take my dog to the kennel. The kennel with whom I had a great relationship, and who I knew would take my dog even knowing there was no ending date for the dog’s stay. (Such as awesome kennel. My dog was there for a week, and let me tell you, I left a huge forking tip).

      That is a reasonable request to a friend or family member, who I knew would be happy to do it. I would never have asked that friend, or any other, to sit the dog during the no-end-date hospital visit.
      It is solely the pet owner’s responsibility to have plans to take care of a pet in an emergency, much less for a PLANNED vacation.

      On another note, I also had sisters (and a mom) who tried to control me using “you are so selfish.” It has taken years, and much therapy, to realize that in fact, of all of us in the family, I am the least selfish. Things that make you go “hmmmm.” (Well no. Not really.)

      “Selfish” is a control tactic. It’s a brutally effective one, and it’s very, very hard to fight against.

      I would definitely recommend a version of “Actually, no, I won’t pet sit. I find it very telling that you prioritize your vacations over my husband’s health. I have made it clear that I can’t be your pet sitter now, I won’t be your pet sitter in the future, my answer will never change, and I will not have this conversation again.”

      1. ““Selfish” is a control tactic. It’s a brutally effective one, and it’s very, very hard to fight against.”

        Oh wow. This. I need this embroidered on a pillow. I was “selfish” my entire childhood and boy does it work to make me feel terribly guilty every time.

  91. Cat lady who obsesses over her cats way too much here to chime in: I’m 1000% on LW’s side. You sisters can hire a professional. Budgeting for professional pet sitting/ boarding is part of the deal if you want to both own pets and be able to travel. (Doesn’t mean you always have to use a pro if you have actually willing family and/or friends, but you should be prepared to pay a professional or not plan that trip. No one owes you pet sitting!)

  92. find it funny that after you started saying no then you got an offer of being paid. which I sincerely doubt they’re gonna pay you what it’s worth. “well you said you’d pay me, so you could just instead hire a professional” “but they’d be more expensive” “wait you weren’t going to pay me a fair rate?”

  93. I’m probably the millionth person to chime in this way, but I’ll do so anyway. My husband and I had two large, not-very-well-behaved dogs. We also love to travel. Making travel plans always included making plans for dog care. No dog care? No travel. No one could “ruin” my travel plans by refusing to dog-sit because there literally were no travel plans until we had a dog-sitter in place. Also, travel budgets include dogsitting. If I couldn’t afford the cost of a kennel or sitter on top of plane fare, hotels, etc., then I couldn’t actually afford to travel.

    So add me to the list of people who loves dogs with all my heart and would jump at the chance to dog-sit for a friend, who also thinks your boundaries are completely reasonable. The only person responsible for my pets is me. The only people who owe anything to your sisters’ dogs are your sisters.

  94. Everyone here has given a ton of ammunition for you to use if/when you decide to cancel the petsitting but I just wanted to chime in to emphasize that if you establish this boundary, it might feel HORRIBLE for a while. From your letter, I get a sense that you don’t feel comfortable drawing boundaries and feel the need to make an air-tight case about why it could possibly be okay to not do something that someone else wants.

    I was raised to never, ever draw boundaries because no one in my life liked them. Even when I desperately wanted something different, their displeasure was a trump card. And when I finally started exercising some autonomy, they LET. ME. KNOW they did not like it. Withdrawing, mocking, silent treatment, walking around in a huff, communicating only through intermediaries, all that. And that felt so terrible that I would often just drop my boundaries or give in half way because, omg, this person is mad at me and it hurts me more than it hurts them!

    I knew that standing up for myself should give me a righteous sense of power that blasts away all their huffing but that took a long while to develop. Once you drop the bomb (it might feel like a bomb but its really just a simple line in the sand) that you don’t want to petsit, don’t be surprised if you feel anxious or jumpy or like you desperately need to offer something else to take the edge off of their displeasure. It will feel super counter-intutive, like, “They’re wrong and I’m right so why do I feel so self-conscious and scared when they seem to be full of righteous displeasure?” Turn off your cell phone, take a walk, run for the hills. Just holding firm through their displeasure might be a hard task. We’re all here to support you!

    1. Minhag, this is so well put in words! I was raised much like you, to always consider the needs of others before my own – and what you said about how much enforcing boundaries initially hurts is so true. I wish there were such a thing as a support circle for enforcing boundaries so that people would not have to feel terrible and alone because of thinking of their own well being; that there were people who would come and visit and keep company and ensure that enforcing the boundary is the right thing to do.

      May you always have strength to keep your boundaries!

      1. Thanks! The past few years have been a revelation that it’s okay for me to deny someone a thing, even if they really, really want it, even if they expect it, even if they had planned on getting it, simply because I don’t WANT to give it to them. It seems so obvious but for people like us, it’s so hard to escape the gravitational pull of someone else’s wants.

        I love your idea for a support group. I would like to start a business of kind-but-firm friendly people who sit with you for 72 hours after you draw a boundary. Imagine, you finally send that terrifying text, email, voicemail where you draw a boundary and a person shows up to support you. “Omg, they’re probably reading it right now and infuriated!” – That’s okay, it’s not your job to manage how they take this. “They’re going to blow up my phone/inbox with accusations and retaliation!” – Give me your devices and I will manage all of that for a few days. “But they are probably radiating displeasure at me right now!” – I will absorb those waves and not let them touch you.

    2. This is so helpful! and awesome! That’s the hardest part where you first do the hard thing and draw a boundary and then all the sad rush of “make them feel better take the edge off at any cost” overwhelms you.

  95. Delurking to say that what horrified me the most in this letter was how LW is not sure if *LW* is the one being unreasonable.

    I have a large, difficult dog. She is terrified of other dogs and is almost impossible to walk. I made the decision when she was mauled by another dog and developed these issues that I would not put her down unless she became aggressive to humans, but I did that *in the full knowledge* that her care was entirely my problem. Holidays? Are my problem, not my brother’s or my sister’s. And there are solutions even with a difficult dog.

    The only time, in my opinion, you should oblige this sort of demand is if it’s a genuine emergency – that’s the only point when someone can legitimately play the family card. “I was in a car crash and I know my dog is trapped inside my house. I’m going to be in the hospital overnight, could you please feed the dog and let him out?” is a reasonable request. “I’m abandoning my fur-baby and will hold you responsible if he starves or destroys my house!” is NOT.

  96. I am a dog mom and my dog is definitely my baby, and I just can’t fathom leaving her with anyone who wasn’t absolutely eager, willing, and competent to take care of her. That includes family. I’ve only gone on one vacation, one long weekend, and one quick trip in the 9.5 years I’ve had her, and those times she was watched by: my mom, my then-boyfriend, and my sister’s then-boyfriend, consecutively. All of whom are dog lovers, knew her well, and were experienced with owning and caring for pets.

    It’s just irresponsible of your sisters to leave their dogs with you, for the sake of the DOGS, not even considering your boundaries. (Those are important too, but just saying!)

    What everyone above is saying is correct: petsitting costs/not being able to go on trips are both huge factors in being a pet parent. I mean, would you drop your baby off with someone who doesn’t really want to take care of them? NOPE.

  97. Am I the only one thinking it’s weird she’s left at home while these two go off like the evil stepsisters leaving Cinderella to babysit? LW, pls say no. It’s hard to set and enforce boundaries but if these people love you they’ll get over it and live you still, if not better to know. I hate when people view me as a resource not a human with my own desires and needs. You can try: I hope for the day you come to view me as a human with my own needs rather than your own resource… So sorry.

  98. Pet owner, pet person, literally my personal and professional life is all about pets, and I also think you are in no way obligated to pet sit for anyone. It’s 100% fine to say you don’t like it, and won’t do it, and they can totally find other options because there is an entire industry that exists to fill this need.

  99. Also to add: a couple of times I have asked my friends who live close nearby to feed and check in on my kitty while I was away, but I acknowledged it as a favour, and brought them both presents back from my trip. Also, they have asked me to do the same on other occasions which I’m happy to do, so it feels more reciprocal. As everyone else has said, your sisters are just being selfish.

  100. LW here

    I just want to thank you all and the Captain so much. I have read every comment; I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate your support and advice. I am the black sheep of my family, the weird one, and when everyone you know sees things one way, it is super hard to believe that it’s okay that you see things in a different way. For all that this seems like a minor matter, suddenly feeling like I had validation from and the support of so many kind and empathetic strangers brought me to tears. I don’t know how every person I know ended up being the kind of pet owner who sees non-pet owners as lesser human beings, but knowing that there ARE pet owners and dog/cat-lovers out there who still agree with me and don’t hate me for not being willing/able to care for their fur-babies the way they do… It matters. It just means so much to me. I mean, obviously I was hoping for some support when I wrote the letter, but despite reading other letters on this site and the supportive comments on them, I somehow didn’t expect to receive similar support myself. Ugh, I’m babbling here, and probably shouldn’t be writing this immediately after getting done crying over the kind words of strangers, but oh well.

    I will do my best to call and cancel. Unfortunately I am very bad at saying no, at setting boundaries, as I imagine you all can tell from my letter. It took me years to be able to say ‘no’ over text or through email. So I appreciate all the suggestions for scripts, and above all the knowledge that my husband and I aren’t the sole people in this world who are rather miffed about this whole situation.

    And I’m sure you all and the Captain know it, but nonetheless I will reiterate that you are all making the world a better place here–being willing to listen to the problems of strangers and offer support and suggestions *matters*, and I can only imagine how many people like me you have had an impact on. So thank you, again. ❤

    1. Hang in there, LW. I know how hard it is to say “no” when most if not all of your childhood conditioned you not to. I’m not sure if this is practical, but, if you have a hard time saying no to your sisters in person, would it help if your husband was there to have your back? Maybe it’s not practical as the dander your sisters may have on their clothing might trigger his allergies, but the support might make that no just a bit easier. And, the more you’re able to say no and make it stick, the easier it will become eventually.

      1. Thank you. My poor husband is kind of in the same boat as me with his family. In my case, being unemployed means I should always be available, in his case, being the only one in his family who doesn’t constantly flake out when asked to be even a little bit responsible means he must always be the one to be responsible for everyone. We’re both quite shy/not good with people, and unfortunately have found that we have pretty different styles of trying to cope with that, so we tend to accidentally undermine each other when we should be presenting a united front. We’re trying to work on that, but in the meantime, we try to focus on letting one another deal with family however we feel we have to, and then always be available to listen to rants, validate frustration, offer suggestions or alternate viewpoints, and support one another in the ways we are both most competent at. I don’t if that’s necessarily the best approach, or the “right” thing to do, but it’s what’s working for us at the moment.

        1. To all the wonderful advice and support that everyone else has already posted, I just want to add – if you find yourself unable to make your “no” stick when you call back/text/email to cancel, please don’t be down on yourself about it. It’s going to be hard, because not only is it a skill you (and your husband!) are still working at developing, but because you are trying to exercise that skill in the face of direct opposition.

          No one expects, say, a newbie to a sport to suddenly be good at it from the get-go. That’s what practice and practice and practice is for. Same with this skill. Give yourself room to practice and develop it. Be gentle with yourself. Keep encouraging yourself. (Keep encouraging your husband. Rely on him to keep encouraging you.) Keep trying. You WILL get there.

    2. I feel you about learning how to say no and set boundaries. I think there have been tips in other letters/comments about how to practice saying no, or saying something like “I’ll think about it,” to stall the initial request/demand until you are able to give a definite no. Sometimes I’ve found that to work right then, and sometimes they keep being pushy, but it lets me feel less guilty/trapped in the moment. I was also brought up to be nice and agreeable, and those are hard habits to break.

      As other people have said earlier, if you don’t feel comfortable talking to them, I think a text/email would be fine. Also if you wanted to turn off your device or notifications or just not respond after the “nope” message. I had to do this with my mom, over many things, and the first few times I was The Worst (how could i be so disrespectful to my own mother, etc, etc)… but she got over it and now it’s not so bad. She will still boundary-push, but not as much as before and I am better at deflecting her; I’m not sure it will ever be super easy, but “I’ll think about it” has helped me, over stuff I feel unsure about or don’t have a ready reason for saying no (other than “I don’t want to”), but still can’t quite say, especially in face-to-face or phone conversations.

      It it helps at all, for your own piece of mind (not saying you need to look anything up! or make any phone calls on their behalf), there are PLENTY of other options your sisters could look into for finding a pet sitter. The vet clinic and dog food stores often have multiple flyers and business cards of people advertising their pet sitting/training services, my own was found through yelp, my friend found hers through rover.com, etc.

      1. Er, I mean, of course in this case “I’ll think about it” won’t work anymore, but it might help if your sisters come back to ask you to do stuff later on.

        Anyway, many many commiserations on drawing boundaries, particularly with pushy people who like to trample over them. It helps me to remind myself that a 5-minute unpleasant boundary-building conversation will be much more pleasant than 4 days of something I dislike/resent/fear.

        1. Thank you. That, and some of the other phrases people have suggested here, is definitely a thing I need to practice saying. And “a 5-minute unpleasant boundary-building conversation will be much more pleasant than 4 days of something I dislike/resent/fear” is an incredibly good way to think about it. I’m going to be repeating that to myself quite a lot, I think!

          1. All the good thoughts & luck to you! I hope it helps!!

            Also, re: “every pet owner we know disagrees and thinks we are just selfish, lazy people.”

            I got so much pushback like this from “well-meaning” relatives, when I drew boundaries with my mom… So now whenever they tell me that I should call her or visit her (more than I already do, which admittedly is not much, but we are still in low-key contact), I tell them “YOU do it.” Sometimes I say it kind of jokingly, sometimes I am super serious, depending on who is saying it and how pushy they are (or have been). I would totally use this same response towards other pet owners who think you should pet sit. If they feel like they can handle these dogs and such requests are not an imposition, then THEY can offer their services.

            Like, if they say “you have so much time to pet-sit” or “the dogs are not that bad” or whatever, I would just say, “I’m sure [sisters] would appreciate YOUR offer to pet-sit” or “then YOU pet-sit these dogs” or something like that. I’ve found that the more I answered with “then you do it,” the less they tell me I should communicate/hang out more with her. The broken-record thing really works, because it’s boring, unchanging and relatively easy for me to remember/put into practice! Easier than arguing or saying an outright “no” anyway. And maybe it makes them think about why they themselves wouldn’t want to pet-sit or have difficult conversations.

            Because it’s not like they want to talk to my mom either!! They know what she can be like. And if anyone has met these dogs, I’d bet they also would not be comfortable pet-sitting. They just want to pass on the…idk, responsibility, or judge other people for how they spend their time or are projecting their own feelings or whatnot. But I will say, it was/is very difficult, and I had to get to the point where I just did not care what other people thought, because that was easier than dealing with my mom and “well-meaning” people all the time. I don’t wish that feeling on anyone, and I really hope your sisters (and other pet-owners) take the re-setting of boundaries better than my mom.

    3. I really hope that you never have to petsit again, but if you do… If you want to give me your few biggest problem behaviours then I can try to give you simple solutions.

      The first one is – if they have food aggression then feed them separately. Like put each one in a different bedroom before opening up the food bin, and leave them in there for a while after they eat to let them calm down. Hopefully this would be easy to do, and make it easier for you.
      For jumping up, try to push back (with fists, a knee, or small foot tap to their body, depending on their size) while yelling “No!”. Yell loudly, as practice for the next time your sister asks!

      That said, I really hope you never do it again, because this seems like an offer that is only enabling your sisters, but I can also understand the pressure, and the fact that you might need one or two practice “No!”s before making it stick.

      1. Thank you! Since I’m really not super educated on dog training/care, and I’m not around them enough to have picked up things I should know organically, I do insist that they leave me a detailed explanation of what I need to do. Your suggestion of fully separating them into different rooms sounds much better than my sister’s instruction of placing the food bowls separately on opposite sides of the room.

        As for jumping, I love the suggestion of telling the dogs “No!” as practice for telling the sisters no! Sister A has a Great Dane and a German Shepherd, and Sister B has some kind of medium sized mutt and a Cane Corso. I’m okay pushing the shepherd and mutt down as much as I need to, but because it takes so much physical strength to stop the big dogs from doing whatever they have their mind set on I always worry I’m going to hurt them. (Perhaps a silly thing to say about such big pups, but heck, my constant paranoia towards the pup’s health and well being is one of the main reasons I don’t want to be responsible for them in the first place!)

        1. Oh fuck no- LW, you should NOT be sitting your sisters’ dogs. Those are two giant breeds and two potentially aggressive breeds, including a giant, potentially aggressive dog.
          No to the fucking NO. That is an Experienced Only breed.

          No one knows this stuff “organically.” The usual stuff “everyone knows” about dogs doesn’t apply to the giant guard breeds. Most giant guard-breed dogs aren’t dangerous, but if they are, you find out the hard way.
          I have owned English Mastiffs (150+ lbs) for 22+ years, and I wouldn’t sit an aggressive Cane Corso.

          LW, pleeeeeeeeze don’t do this. Text your sisters and then ignore/delete every message/email/phone call from them for the next two weeks.
          If your sisters call you from Vegas, ha ha! they left the dogs at home, you have to take care of them. NO YOU DON’T. You don’t have to do a damn thing. If the dogs die of starvation (doubtful) that’s your fucking sisters’s fucking fault for fucking abandoning their dogs.

          Ask yourself: what’s the worst your sisters can do to you? Call you mean and selfish. Oh noes.
          What’s the worst the dogs can do? Yeah, fuck that.

          1. Glad to see that I’m not the only one who reacted this way!

            And good catch on the language ‘organically’ – I know about training because I want to help problem dogs so I spent a lot of time doing research. I don’t know *anything* organically.

            Which makes me want to amend my comment about saying / yelling “No”. Some dogs can potentially get excited when people yell, and that could make things problematic if they are already inclined to be aggressive. Not a big risk if it’s two beagles, but these dogs are giant, and I’ve even heard trainers who specialise in aggression talk about Cane Corsos differently.

            Not that I want to cause you too much worry LW – keep in mind that dogs can survive with multiple big water dishes and without food for 4 days (dogs can’t self-regulate food intake), so if your sisters refuse to accept / acknowledge your cancellation then you can remind yourself that worst-case your sisters will have messy floors on their return. Their request isn’t worth your health – I will repeat what others have said and point out that they seem to guilt you and treat you badly no matter what you do, so it might be time to accept it as a reality and then do what you want to do.

            But if you do go through with it – I will support your decision, and can try to help.

          2. My rant response to LW’s list of the breeds seems to have disappeared in the filter but essentially it was the same as BigDogLittleCat (same What The Fuuuuck?!?!?!)

            Breeds shouldn’t matter, but it does when dogs are untrained or badly trained.

            I deal with rescue dogs and will take in almost anything, but not the giants. They need an experienced handler, and after being snapped at by a giant dog I decided that I wasn’t that person. This one didn’t keep going, and immediately went to our aggression specialist, but I’m happy to stick to anything not giant.

            Your sisters are clueless at best, if they expect this of you with these dogs.

          3. I have to agree on the Corso subject. They are amazing dogs, but they absolutely REQUIRE that the present humans are confident, calm and willing to take no guff. I have never met one that played dirty, bit I have also never met one that wouldn’t test a boundary.

            That said, it is beyond irresponsible to have either a giant or a molosser without training.

          4. Ok, I wasn’t sure where in this thread would be most appropriate to reply to, so I’m just gonna pick here, but I did read everyone’s comments re: breeds. Sorry for sort of dropping a bombshell like that–I was just mentioning breeds because I thought size was relevant to the jumping conversation. I didn’t realize Corsos (and Shepherds!) had such a reputation. I appreciate everyone pointing out the issues specific to a nervous/untrained person trying to take care of larger/potentially dangerous dogs. I have interacted with all of the dogs before, I am familiar with them and they with me so I wasn’t overly concerned with them being aggressive towards *me*; but I absolutely hear your concerns about dogs not being predictable and I’ll admit, wtf I was going to do if they decided to fight amongst themselves was a major worry of mine.

            I have sent an email to my sisters (I chickened out on the phone call) and am just waiting on a reply. But I will not be dog sitting, one way or another. I truly truly don’t think my sisters are so far gone that they’ll leave and then call and tell me now I have no choice but to help. But if something that horrible does happen, for both my safety and the pups, my husband has said he will pay whatever he needs to to get them to a kennel for the weekend, and I’ll have a money argument with my sisters at a later date once the dogs’ well being is not on the line.

            All of your comments have really helped–I know I need to work on having confidence in my own assessment of my wants/needs, but hearing other people’s concerns over all the various ways this situation sucks has done wonders for firming my resolve towards saying, “No. And please stop asking, because it will always be no.” Sometimes it just really helps to know that you’re not the only one thinking a situation is bullshit.

          5. @Not a Willing Pet Sitter: YAY! Good for you. And don’t give a second thought to delivering your message via email. It’s better than inviting somebody to an in-person hangout for the sole purpose of pressuring them to do something you know they don’t want to do.

        2. I don’t want to get into the weeds too much, but I have to say that those dog breeds are particularly problematic if they are badly trained – I can’t believe that they expect you to look after those types of dogs!! Not that your sisters’ behaviour is at all appropriate if they are Chihuahuas, but your sisters have strong breeds who need a lot of work with socialising and training so that they behave well, which your sisters obviously haven’t done and – I know it’s not all about the breeds, but those are big, typically stubborn dogs who should have someone with skill to care for them.

          I foster all sorts of dogs, and can take in just about anything, but we have people within our group who will specifically take the ‘giants’. They are a lot more work.

          Who am I kidding – it is *so much* about the breeds. Little dogs who display those behaviours are inappropriate, but it’s easier to ignore. I have a lab, because a lab loves everyone and even my friend who doesn’t like dogs enjoys her (don’t get me wrong, I totally understand people who don’t like dogs and when they visit I put her in my bedroom, but my friend discovered that she jumps into the air to catch veggies (especially lettuce) so – an odd friendship was then formed 🙂

          But back to my rant – Your sisters are asking you to look after dogs that are huge, and do need special care. I mentioned it elsewhere, but their behaviour isn’t so bad that they would be refused at a reasonable kennel (food aggression is a non-issue as dogs aren’t fed together, inter-dog aggression can be mitigated by exercising them individually, and everything else sounds like it can be addressed by an *experienced* pet-sitter or kennel staff).

          I’m essentially trying to make the point that they really are just being cheap, or mean, as they are being *completely* unreasonable in asking you to care for these particular dogs.

        3. Ha, I feel like it’s often easier to train an animal to have good boundaries than people (for instance, it was easy to train my dog not to jump on me, but 100x harder to train people to stop undermining me and rewarding him when he jumped on them), but I don’t think these particular dogs are good for someone nervous and/or inexperienced to practice on! (And certainly not alone, even if one wanted the experience of dog training. I do not think this is safest thing to do, even if you are able to separate them during feeding time. Instructions only go so far… they don’t make up for lack of training or anything-but-super-easy-and-forgiving/tolerant temperament.)

          I also don’t think animal training/handling comes organically to most people. Some people do have great natural instinct and ability to read & respond to an animal, but more often than not, it’s also a lot of (supervised/deliberate practice) time and effort to hone these talents and pick up new skills and continuously practice them to be effective trainers (hopefully without getting into more trouble or injury along the way). I say this as someone who has spent years and years training to be able to train horses (as an amateur/for a hobby), because it’s something I want and like to do; in comparison, I don’t feel like hanging around dogs (or even having 1 dog) is enough to make me capable of dealing with most problematic dog behaviors. I wouldn’t want to pet-sit these dogs either!

          1. I feel like it’s often easier to train an animal to have good boundaries than people
            Preach it.
            Fact is, it’s rarely about training the animal. It’s about training the people. I’ve taught 9 week old puppies to sit in 15 minutes, but I couldn’t get my neighbor to stop wrapping her 50 lb dog’s leash around her 50 lb child’s wrist – until the poor child got dragged on a Nantucket sleighride for half a block. Thank dogs it was on grass.

        4. Professional dog trainer here. Please do not follow this advice for the jumping! Do NOT physically touch, push or reprimand these dogs. These are big dogs from breeds that guard. They have some known history of aggression.

          They could seriously injure or kill you if you don’t know how to read their body language (and you don’t – this is expert territory here, not something people naturally know). They also could perceive your behavior as rough-housing style play and get even more jumpy, mouthy or amped up.

          Please say no to your sisters, because these are not dogs that you should be pet-stting at all.

        5. I was going to say something to excuse my posting here again, but fuck that – this is too important:

          it takes so much physical strength to stop the big dogs from doing whatever they have their mind set on I always worry I’m going to hurt them.

          LW, you cannot hurt these dogs, but more importantly, you cannot, CAN NOT, stop them from doing whatever they have their mind set on. The average dog is pound for pound stronger than a human and they have gravity on their side due to their much lower center of gravity. How many times have you seen a 45 lb dog drag an adult human down the street, via something wrapped around their neck and choking them?
          Dogs are very strong and very tolerant of pain and in any serious confrontation between a dog and a human, unless the human is a lot larger and/or specially trained, the human is going to come out the loser.
          Now, multiple that 45 lb dog three times, and you have an animal that’s like a horse in that the only way humans can “control” it is by convincing them to do what we say.

          That Corso probably weighs as almost much as you do and knows you’re not comfortable around it. Guard breeds are not “smart” the way poodles and border collies are; instead they are bred to be able to read humans and their emotions. That Corso will do what you want only as long as it feels like it, because it knows there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. It’s already food aggressive and gets in fights with its housemate. Do you really want to yell “No!” in that dog’s face?
          Sure, it’s *probably* not dangerous, but there’s only one way to find out and that’s the hard way.
          The dog doesn’t even have to go for you to hurt you. What if the dogs get in a fight while you’re there? Even if you aren’t physically injured, you don’t need to experience a dog fight.

          Am I trying to scare you? Yeah, I kind of am, if that’s what it takes. I am genuinely worried for you. Frankly, your sister is an asshole to even put you in this position.

        6. I recommend saying no to the sisters but clicker training the dogs (until you get enough practice with the no thing to make it stick). Faster results and easier to learn. Tons of resources online and at the library. Just google on clicker training dogs.

          1. No. LW shouldn’t do anything with the dogs. LW needs to just stay the hell away from these dogs.

            What the sisters should do about the dogs is a whole different issue, but clicker training via google is not the answer to an aggressive Cane Corso.

        7. LW, we all went ape about the Cane Corso, but the same arguments apply to the Great Dane and German Shepherd Dog.
          Those breeds aren’t as big a red flag as the Corso, but they are big powerful dogs who require experienced confident handling. An aggressive GSD is a dangerous dog. An untrained Dane is dangerous because they’re so big they can hurt you badly on accident.

          I say this because I don’t want you to get talked into sitting Sister A’s dogs “even if you can’t sit Sister B’s dogs, because Sister A’s are good dogs, unlike Sister B’s Cane Corso.”

          Of course, what really matters is that you don’t want to, but hopefully a lot of experienced dog people telling you that not only do you not *have* to sit the dogs, you should not sit the dogs, will help.

          1. Yep. I own a German Shepherd, she is my favorite dog/creature on the planet, she is calm and lovely and I cannot express how much I love her…but OMG, German Shepherds are NOT dogs for beginners or people who are uncomfortable around dogs. Especially poorly-trained, food-aggressive shepherds. Not only are they high-strung, they’re super smart and they can sense when someone is uncertain. One of the reasons I love the breed is how clever and strong they are and how they test boundaries and have strong opinions, but these things are the exact things that make them unsuitable for beginners or people who aren’t big on dogs in general. An untrained and aggressive German Shepherd dog can be a scary and dangerous thing.

          2. I’d also like to point out that if your sisters do ignore your email about not pet-sitting, and go on vacation without putting alternate care arrangements in place, it is still ****not your responsibility**** to look after the dogs. Do not pay for a kennel, do not feed them, do not go by the house, let your sisters own their responsibility for whatever happens while they are gone. If you take care of the dogs after saying you wouldn’t, all you are doing is making sure your sisters know they can make whatever mess they want, because you will clean it up. You have a lot of work to do to respect yourself here and you must focus on that. Don’t get derailed by everyone telling you how much they love their own pets or what kind of dog it is or whatever. All not the point. The point is you don’t think you should be your own priority, and you absolutely should be. Dogs be damned.

        8. @Not A Willing Pet Sitter,

          Great to hear that! Email is 100% excellent way to communicate and draw boundaries (it’s in writing! sisters can refer back to it!).

          If you do end up paying for the dogs (which is a very UN-selfish thing to do, and more thoughtful of the dogs’ well-being than your sisters’ plan), I think you could use it as leverage against any more pet-related demands from them. And if they do pay you back (hopefully promptly! and without argument! perhaps with a nice present/gesture thrown in for your trouble, but that seems doubtful), I would still hold it over them FOREVER, should they keep attempting to cross your boundaries. But I am petty like that sometimes.

    4. Consider two options aside from you calling:
      – Have your husband call.
      – Text, then (temporarily) block.

      I say this because sometimes it works.

  101. This isn’t a little thing. If your sisters can afford to take “multiple” trips per year, they can afford to take fewer trips but hire a professional to care for their dogs each time. There is a reason they don’t do this, and that reason is not “they are incapable of planning”. No, they plan to fob it off on you, every time. This has all sorts of advantages – for them. For one thing, they’re saving $$$ every year for the slot machines or whatever. But also, they get to exert their control over a patsy, which is always great fun. (For them, anyway.)

    You don’t need to tell them all this. From long experience, I’ve discovered that the best plan is not to engage with unreasonable people. If they’re still trying to argue with you after Captain Awkward’s suggested script, and won’t accept a change of subject, then leave. Hang up the phone or walk out of the restaurant and make it clear that the conversation is over. If they bring it up again, pick one script and never, ever vary it: “That won’t be possible.” “You know I’m not a pet sitter.” “Here is printout of all the kennels in a 50-mile radius of your house.” “No. It was nice seeing/talking to you. Call me next week!”

    It’s tempting to argue that you’re not a bad person, to defend your position. Don’t fall into this trap! When you discuss your choices with other people, you send the message that they’re up for discussion. And if they’re not, they’re not. So don’t do it.

    The downside is you might find your sisters are pissy with you for a very long time, and call each other back and forth to complain, and call all your relatives too. You don’t need to justify yourself to any of those people either.

  102. They want to pay LW, but they won’t pay for a professionell?! If they offer LW a fair pay that would make no difference for them to affort professionell dog sitters. So I guess they’re selfish and horrible sisters themselves.

  103. I’m surprised the “dog is my baby” sisters don’t pet-sit for each other so the “cousins” can play together.

    LW, you are not in the wrong. Dogs are a lot of work – they aren’t like cats where you can just refill the dishes and scoop out the litter – and even a well-trained dog may not respond to commands if you don’t use the right command/gesture.

  104. I have a dog and FOUR cats. I heartily endorse you NOT DOING THIS. You are not selfish or bad. You do not have to do this. Period.

    When my wife and I leave town together, we BOTH hire a sitter for the cats AND kennel the dog (like, if we knew someone we were comfortable having just stay here, that would be fine; we don’t, and the dog needs more company than the cats do). And if we can’t afford that, then we can’t afford to travel, and one or both of us stays home.

  105. I’m a new pet parent. (I hate when people call themselves that, but I’ve raised this kitten from an infant who was still on Kitten Milk Replacement, so she legitimately considers me her mother.) I just want to add myself to the voices saying we don’t consider you selfish for not wanting to look after someone else’s pets, even your sisters’. I’m going on vacation for over two weeks in January and need someone to look after my kitten while I’m gone. When my ex jokingly asked if he could have her, I asked if he’d be willing to watch her, and added that if he only wanted her for a week or didn’t want her at all that would be totally fine. I also checked whether he was willing to let her stay with him or if he’d prefer to just feed her and not have to share his space. I love my kitten a lot, but I would never consider a human selfish for having limits on how much they’re willing to interact with her. Heck, I asked my ex before my roommate because she’s already taken plenty of kitten responsibility and I didn’t want to ask any more of her!

    Don’t feel bad for not being willing to petsit. It’s totally within your reasonable, human, unselfish rights.

  106. I adore my dog, but after 2 and half years of training with her in classes, studying with an online training course, and hiring a private trainer to work with her, she still has her issues. She’s nervous/reactive around other dogs while out walking. She’s big, extremely strong, and bouncy. She gets overexcited and jumps up. She’s sweet and affectionate and I love her to bits, but I would never dream of hiring anybody to look after her
    who wasn’t qualified to deal with her behaviour, let alone trying to force somebody who has no interest in dogs to do it for free! It’s a huge ask, and then you add on all the driving and/or living at their house and it’s gigantic.

    The assumption that your time is theirs because you’re not in paid employment gets right up my nose, too. Not in paid employment is not the same as not doing anything all day.

    Your sisters are being huge jerks, to you, and to their dogs. All the best for dealing with this. Personally, I hate confrontation but you will honestly be doing the best thing for both yourself and the dogs by refusing. I hope your sisters will wake up and find someone suitable to take care of their pets while they swan off to Vegas.

  107. Hi LW – everyone is focusing on the animals, and not the fact that in your letter, you used your first paragraph to apologize for writing in, and your second paragraph to justify why you had to ask a question, before you asked the professional advice-giver a question.

    I think the animals are not the point. I am absolutely horrified that you think so little of yourself and your needs that you felt to had to so carefully tiptoe around the professional advice-giver’s potential needs instead. I think you have been very carefully taught that nothing you want is OK, and your opinions don’t matter. Please, please do whatever you need to do in order to understand in your bones that you are allowed your boundaries and you don’t have to apologize for needing and wanting things. I think following the Captain’s advice so that you don’t feel trapped into dog-sitting is a great first step.

    Good luck to you.

    1. Britta, I completely agree with you here and what you said in the subthread about the specific breeds of dogs.
      The real issue is that LW has been taught to think she doesn’t matter and that she has no right to refuse to do whatever Cinderella’s Stepsisters ask her to do.

      The breeds of dogs are irrelevant to LW’s right to say no because she has the right to say no if they were the sweetest dogs in the world, or if it was just watering plants or picking up the mail, or doing anything else Cinderella’s Stepsisters wanted.
      The breeds are relevant here only in that our comments may help LW avoid a potentially dangerous situation until she can say “No, I don’t want to” just because she doesn’t want to.

      If Cinderella’s Stepsisters go off and leave the dogs, LW absolutely should not try to get them in a kennel. There are many practical reasons she shouldn’t (like she might not be able to legally), but the reason that really matters is: she told her sisters she would not care for the dogs. If something bad happens to the dogs as a result (doubtful), that’s the sisters’ fault 100%.

  108. Here’s a way to think about it: Is there a price at which you would be willing to dogsit? Forget reality and dream a bit. If someone said, I’ll pay you a million dollars for 1 week of work, would that be enough? Two million? Or maybe only half a million. Doesn’t matter what the going rate is– though you should find out what professional in your area charge– What would make it worth it for you?

    The best solution is to just say no. The best is stop feeling guilty for saying no. I recommend When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith for the theory behind and scripts and practice on saying no.

    But if you don’t feel like you can say no right now, try saying that you’ve decided to take your sisters up on their offer to pay you and name your price. “You know I’ve said I don’t want to dogsit, but I’ve decided I could do it for $350,000.” This will be met with laughter at which point you add “Cash in advance.” That will be met with an explanation that the going rate is only $30/day. To which you reply: “I definitely understand if you’d rather pay that other person who’s willing to do it for that amount.”

  109. One more thing I just noticed. One sister expects you to dogsit while she and the other sister go off to Vegas together on a holiday vacation? Oh my dear God, no. How often do they invite you along on these vacations? How often does Sister One leave her dogs with Sister Two so she can treat you to something fun and out of town and just for the 2 of you. How often does Sister Two leave her dogs with Sister One for the same? I’m betting they never do. There is something deeply disturbing about this dynamic that goes well beyond who gets stuck with dogcare. What would happen if you said brightly “Hire someone else, and I’ll go with you!”?

    My point is that this dynamic is deeply fucked. Unfucking this starts with realizing all the ways they dump on you and saying no to all of it.

    1. I noticed that, too! “LW, we are going on holiday. You’re not invited, but do our drudge work while we’re gone, kthx.” Um, no.

      1. If your sisters were saying what they really meant, it would be: “We’ve gotten together and decided that you don’t matter. We matter. Your husband’s health doesn’t matter, and your relationship with your husband doesn’t matter. If you have to take time away from your husband to do something for us, that’s fine, because, as stated before, you and your concerns don’t matter. We’ve got you trained to feel great anxiety on our part not only doing something for us but worrying like crazy that you might do it wrong. Not only that, we’ve decided to label you as “highstrung,” and we’ve done such a good job of training you that you’ve accepted the label, internalized it, as true. We’re deeply invested in this dynamic. Why wouldn’t we be? We get the advantages; you get shit on. Works for us!”

        Walk away. Say no and walk away.

    2. Yes, this! Do your sisters do difficult and time-consuming favours for you? This all seems ike a one way street, and that’s just not right.

  110. My dog is my baby, and much like a human infant, I would not force him on unsuspecting and unwilling carers through guilt trips.

    Part of owning a dog means being responsible for that dog, which means finding proper care for it when you go on vacation. If you can’t find that (and, ‘forcing sister who already said no by ambushing her with an in-person guilt trip because then she’ll be bamboozled into saying yes’ is not proper care), then you don’t go. That’s part of what you signed on for when you got the dog.

    I have a rescue dog who has such bad seperation anxiety that he can’t stay alone, like, at all. Until he can, I have found paid sitters and WILLING relatives who can watch him when I do my groceries or when I want to go to a party. If I can’t find those and I can’t bring him along (and again, nobody is OBLIGATED to accept my dog in their home/business/whatever, I always check beforehand)? I don’t go to the party. I order home delivery for groceries. I look for a new or extra paid sitter if the other one can’t (anymore).

    As for saying no/feeling guilt, I’ve found it helps to frame things with a very clear THEY THINK or THEY SAY in your mind. THEY SAY you’re selfish for not being their free doggy day care whenever they want you to, even though you already made it clear you wouldn’t. THEY THINK you should do something you can’t and do not want to do because they don’t want to pay for a service. What they say and think has nothing to do with reality, it’s just their (selfish, disgruntled) opinion, coloured by the fact that they’re perfectly willing to guilt-trip someone so they don’t have to take responsibility for their own pets and choices.

  111. Yes to all of this. You are not selfish for not agreeing to be at your sisters’ beck and call.

    Another thing I want to mention, only because you seem so guilty and torn up about this, LW: *Your sisters should not even WANT you to pet sit*. This isn’t a slight against you—it’s just common sense. I am VERY much a “my cats are my babies!” person, and as such, the *last person I would want sitting for them would be someone who doesn’t want to and who finds the entire idea burdensome and anxiety-inducing*. I only get people to cat sit who love my cats almost as much as my husband and I do. I would not want someone who finds them anxiety-inducing, whose partner dislikes them, and who finds them a cumbersome burden. Because I am a good pet parent, I ONLY ask people who actually want to spend time with them!

    You’re absolutely right that an anxious owner makes for an anxious pet. My cats are special needs already, particularly in the anxiety department. Their carers need to only be people who are comfortable looking after them and who do so with happy anticipation, not dread. I am seriously side-eyeing your sisters’ judgment. If they truly valued their pet, they wouldn’t want a sitter they had bullied into the task.

    You have absolutely nothing to apologise for.

  112. In addition to the excellent answer from the Captain, I also want to point out that a lot of pet owners travel with their pets. Around here car trips seems to be the most popular, but people also travel with pets on the train, in airplanes and on ferries. There are many lovely holiday choices for pet owners, especially the most popular pets such as dogs.

    It’s something very hypocritical in you sisters calling you selfish for not pet-sitting, when they don’t want to take care of the pets themselves.

    I hope you can take comfort in all the comments here and find a happy future without pet-sitting.

  113. I have a really old dog (about seventeen). He’s going blind, he’s mostly deaf, his joints are stiff, his limbs are weak, his bladder doesn’t work so well anymore and he pees on the floor a lot.

    As a result, my daughter and I don’t travel much. And when it’s unavoidable, I hire someone who will let him stay in their home; I make it clear that he’s old and pees on the floor and needs calm and quiet because he’s not up to much playing. I wouldn’t even consider asking a friend to do this–he’s a lot of work, and my friend’s time is too valuable to assume that they’re going to be happy scrubbing pee out of their carpets three times a day. That is work, and anyone who’s not me and is going to be doing that work should be paid for it.

    That your sisters are calling *you* selfish is pure projection.

    There are websites and apps that exist to hook pet owners up with pet sitters for such situations. That they consider themselves so entitled to your time and energy that it doesn’t even occur to them to try to find an alternative is just awful.

  114. I am a pet owner and personally I would not leave my animals in the care of someone who has explicitly stated they did not want to care for them. It seems really weird to me that someone would do that.
    There are many option for taking your pets with you, and for boarding or arranging for someone to pet sit. Sometimes having a pet is not convenient or inexpensive but it is part of being a caretaker for the animal, and your sisters shouldn’t be transferring that to you as it is not your responsibility.

    I second the captains recommendation to set a hard boundary around this, possibly put it in an email that you will not ever watch their pets make it know it is not for discussion and they should not make the request again and if they bring it up in conversation just keep changing the subject or leave/hang up its really difficult to do this at first but you’ll find it gets easier. You dont have to continue to be polite and considerate to someone who keeps crossing a clearly set boundary

  115. As the Person Who Is Around at Christmas, I used to be the universal cat sitter. Nobody pressured me into it; I used to happily volunteer. And then one Christmas, as people’s cats aged and needed medicine at regular intervals, I found that this was my Christmas week schedule:

    1. Wake up
    2. Medicate and feed my complicated pets
    3. Do a cycle around town, with a shortish radius from my home and yet still enough people that medicating and feeding everyone’s pets took about 2 hours.
    4. Come home, chill for a few hours
    5. Repeat steps 1-3
    6. Cry

    I snapped, and haven’t fed anyone else’s pets since that day. It was just too much. Now I hire the techs from my vet’s office when I need to travel; most of my friends are financially capable of doing the same thing. I would make an exception for those who aren’t, probably, but unsurprisingly, those are the most considerate friends who are least likely to ask friends to do things that are a pain.

    I didn’t explain, I didn’t justify. I just stopped saying yes, and put up with the snide comments I got.

    I am *so* happy about this.

    1. Oh dear that sounds awful! Glad you’re done with all that!
      I once happily treated and medicated my housemates cat in the twilight of her life. We lived together. She was sweet. I really liked her. It was only when he went out of town. But that’s it. I could not imagine traveling to and treating multiple ailing geriatric cats repeatedly and without pay.

    2. Complicated Pets are a different animal (ha ha) from Easy Pets. I used to have Easy Cats who just needed food, water, litter change and ear scratches. Those were the ones I asked friends to care for over a weekend, or a week at the very most. And I: thanked the friends lavishly, paid them, brought back souvenirs, and *respected a no.*

      Now I have two easy cats and two complicated ones (one who needs daily meds and a special diet; one who is a tamed feral and doesn’t warm up to other-than-me people easily). Next trip I take, it’s time to call in the pros. I wouldn’t ask friends to take on the job.

      You are perfectly (purrfectly?) justified in saying No.

  116. wow so your two sisters go on vacations together without you and want you to pet sit? that alone is pretty rude of them.

  117. “Am I in the wrong for turning them down just because I do not want to pet-sit, when they’ve offered to pay me[?]”

    It’s time for the magic of INTERPERSONAL CAPITALISM!

    If Bill Gates called you up and said, “Dear Not A Willing, I desperately need a cat sitter, how does a billion dollars for a week sound?” I bet you’d say yes, and do it joyfully, without feeling resentment. But when your sisters offer to pay you, you say no.

    From this, we can conclude that your sisters have not offered to pay you enough. Maybe you feel like, “objectively”, their offer is fair, and you’re being unreasonable for refusing it. But under market assumptions, the only fair price is the price that two people can agree upon. If they’re not offering you enough money to persuade you to agree, they’re not offering you enough money.

    There are a lot of problems with running a market-based society, but one thing it does well is find the person who is most willing to perform a task. Ask yourself: how much money would your sisters have to pay you, for you to feel not merely grudging acceptance but active pleasure in cat sitting? How much would they have to pay you for you to feel, “wow, I’m getting a really good deal here?”

    If that amount of money is more than dogsitters or kennels charge, then you are not the right person for this job! Whoever can do it more cheaply is more willing and more appropriate.

  118. They can’t afford to pay professional pet sitters but they offered you money to do it? Following up on what Erl said at 12:25 pm, this means — on the surface at least — that they think you aren’t as good as a professional. And that suggests another script: “Spot and Rover would get so much better care from a professional than I could give them.”

  119. So, basically, your sisters plan a fun holliday and instead of inviting you to join in, they exclude you and burden you with their uneducated dogs… I think I would use those exact words to describe situation to them and then wait to hear her excuses about how that is not excluding you. Also, when they offer to pay you, I would say “No thanks, but you could use that money to pay someone profesional” and after that just walk away since “problem is solved” (at least for you).

  120. just want to add another voice to chorus of pet owners in this comment section who are saying: FEEL NO GUILT!

    i got a dog 3 years ago, when i definitely couldn’t afford to have one. that was irresponsible of me, and i’ve hustled through various gigs so i could make sure my pup got all the treatment (and treats!) she needed to be happy and healthy. i have been blessed with friends who would watch her in exchange for beers, or out of the goodness of their hearts.

    now that i have more funds coming in, i’ve:

    1) taken out to dinner & bought a gift for anyone who has ever watched my dog for free, as a token of backpayment
    2) stopped asking folks to petsit for free. i ask them to name their price, and if i can’t meet that we either reach a deal, i find someone else, or i don’t go on my trip.

    it’s pretty much as simple as that. dogs are a big commitment, and i’m so sorry their lack of understanding re: what it means to own a pet has negatively impacted your life. i know it will be hard not to feel guilty, so after saying NO to them i’d recommend you put them on do not disturb on your phone and ignore them for the duration of the trip (especially if they end up not being able to go). family is hard, but an individual’s fully preventable shortcomings should not be the responsibility of the entire family unit to clean up after.

  121. “it seems like every pet owner we know disagrees and thinks we are just selfish, lazy people.”

    I’m sorry so many other pet owners have said this to you. I’m a pet owner (a bird, since I’m “deathly allergic to cats/dogs” and everything else with fur), but my partner is not. When we moved in together 10 years ago, I explicitly drew up some pet rules for the both of us, including that he would NEVER have to pet sit for me if he didn’t want to. We’ve been living together 10 years, 9 of those with the same bird, and I still don’t assume he will take care of my bird when I travel without him. He often offers to, but I also have a few pet sitters available to take care of her if he doesn’t want to do so, or if I can’t get in with the pet sitter and he doesn’t want to care for her then I just don’t travel.

    Your sisters are the ones being selfish and lazy. They’re selfishly trying to foist their pets off on you, and lazily not looking up other options.

  122. Hmm. I disagree with the advice about reneging on yesterday’s “yes.” Once you say “yes” I think you’ve made a commitment and it’s pretty crappy to turn around and say “oh, just kidding, I actually meant ‘no’!” the next day. People who do that DO have something to feel guilty about, unlike people who simply say “no” and stick to it.

    And I don’t think “She knew I wouldn’t be able to say no in person, and she was right” is a good excuse. If you don’t want to do something, then just say “no” in the first place. ALL of us have the ability to say “no” in person, and it’s not fair to blame someone else for the words that come out of your own mouth.

    1. The problem with this argument is that the Letter Writer initially said “no” over email/text and then was pressured to reverse that decision in person. Commitments made under manipulation or coercion aren’t real commitments, and if you coerce people after they say no to you, you risk that they’ll back out later. All the more reason for the sisters to hire professionals!

    2. Did you read LW’s comment about the dogs being a Cane Corso (!!!), German Shepherd and Great Dane… Even the medium sized mutt can be a serious problem if it’s also aggressive/over-active/under-trained or likely to set off one of the other dogs. Or even if it was only the mutt — they can still take advantage of a person’s inexperience and nervousness and cause a bad situation.

      “People who do that DO have something to feel guilty about, unlike people who simply say “no” and stick to it.”

      I envy/look up to people who can say NO right away, to people who are boundary pushers and guilt trippers (hello, mother and some relatives, employers, etc — funny enough, they have no problem saying no, but don’t like hearing it!), especially when there is an established pattern/relationship of them getting their way… Until one has enough and pushes back. But it’s difficult to do that when I feel guilty about saying yes, when I didn’t mean it, and feel guilty about saying no, when I do mean that (both answers are fraught, but yes makes only me feel bad, the no makes them feel bad and they often make me feel worse for saying it — sometimes I don’t want to deal with that or know how to, in the moment).

      And I think one is allowed to change one’s mind, especially when said askers keep pestering or bring it up in ways that are harder to refuse (like in person, when they know the LW is more vulnerable). It’s a lot easier to recognize the pattern in hindsight and a lot easier to know how to react when it happens to someone else. If they made it EASY/consequence-free to say no, then this would be less of an issue in the first place. Quite frankly, I think people who are boundary pushers and guilt trippers ought to feel guilty about doing that, but they don’t seem to realize how their methods breed resentment and anxiety… or they just don’t care, as long as they are not inconvenienced.

      It’s not always easy “simply” to say no when you’ve been brought up to be a people-pleaser. It’s a work in progress, at any rate. In this instance, however, these are not little, badly behaved dogs (though even those can be difficult to be around), this is not a really safe situation for the LW (or the dogs), regardless of how she feels about the sisters and drawing boundaries.

      1. Bloody hell! A badly-trained cane corso with food aggression issues? And a Great Dane and a German Shepherd? I adore big dogs, but bloody hell. The LW’s sisters aren’t just massive jerks, they’re massive idiots, too! LW, I hope you will say no and feel total peace in your decision.

    3. What’s crappy is, when told “no,” to lie about your intentions in order to walk into the other person’s home and pressure them into doing something you know they don’t want to do.

    4. But which words that come out of your own mouth?
      Look at it as a math problem.
      Someone says no 10x followed by one yes. You say above that the single yes has more weight than the 10 nos.
      According to the above logic wouldn’t it be the same if someone said yes 10x followed by one no?
      We’re really talking about which is the default when there have been some yeses and some nos. For sister, the default will always be what she wants. We’re just trying to turn it around a little to where the default is what LW wants when there’s a perceived ambiguity.

    5. Easy for you to say.
      It’s obvious that LW has been trained by her family to believe she’s *not allowed* to say no. Your saying this is a case of “oh, just kidding” really sucks.

      1. Exactly! This is not a case where she’s flaking out on a commitment she made willingly. This is a case where her no was ignored and she was badgered into saying yes, by someone who came to her house under false pretenses.

        Even in healthy relationships, it’s possible to say yes to a thing, realize you’ve overcommitted or double-booked yourself or have something else come up and need to back out of it. A “yes” isn’t an ironclad contract with no escape clause. In that case, when everybody’s acting in good faith, you might have a responsibility to try to mitigate the negative effects of changing your mind, but you aren’t automatically on the hook forever.

        In the case where someone pressured you for a yes they knew you didn’t want to give, one of the risks they took when they chose to do that is that you would change your mind once the initial pressure was off. Having people back out is a completely expected result of bullying people into things you know they don’t want to do.

        I also think “oh, just kidding” really trivializes the LW’s position. She wasn’t “kidding.” She was being bullied into something she didn’t want to do. The sister knew it, and that’s their problem.

    6. “Once you say “yes” I think you’ve made a commitment and it’s pretty crappy to turn around and say “oh, just kidding, I actually meant ‘no’!” the next day.”

      Consent that cannot be revoked is not true consent. Consent must be freely given and can be revoked at any time.

    7. Just pointing out that this is the same argument that you see all the time in PUA circles re: bullying consent out of unwilling partners and it’s super gross even nonsexual contexts too.

    8. If she and her sisters had a normal, healthy relationship then you might be right.

      But it’s pretty clear that they don’t. She said no, and her sisters disrespected that and badgered her into changing her answer. It’s clear that this is the sort of behavior they engage in very often. We do not ALL have the ability to “say no” in person. For whatever reason, the letter-writer has lost that ability when engaging with her sisters.

      She has the right to call back and say “No, sorry, when I said no the first time I meant it and I should have stuck to my guns. Please do not ask me again. It’s hard for me to say no to you, but I really cannot do this for you.”

      1. I mean, also, if the Letter Writer becomes “unreliable” and “goes back on her word” about dogsitting, it’s one more argument for never asking her to do it!

  123. As someone who has just been to visit a friend who was ‘pet sitting’ for their parent, I say stand your ground. My friend, for all their other personality traits, is not a Pet Person ™. They like a stroke of a furry animal, but the continued day to day maintenance/acknowledgement of their wellbeing is not part of friends psyche/habits. Within half a day of arriving I noticed the pets that friend was caring for had fleas and also one had a minor respiratory infection/cold. (Not an animal neglect/abuse situation, a routine cold and all cured in 48 hours) Friend agreed immediately but genuinely hadn’t noticed, we fixed the situation the next morning. BUT. As pet owners your sisters need to find volunteers/paid services that will focus on the needs/wants/requirements that caring for their dogs requires! Someone ambivalent at best to an animal is at the end of the day like leaving a kid with the irresponsible friend/relative who drinks beer with breakfast; it’s an ‘adult’ (responsible) presence but it’s not the same as a tailored level of care.

    1. That is my concern, too. I don’t think that the LW will care badly for any pet they agree to look after – but they’re likely to miss small signs of trouble because they’re simply not familiar enough with standard behaviour/signs of illness, and why – other than in an emergency, would you do that to your pet?

  124. If you have already been cast as the “selfish terrible sister” (rather than it being a perceived threat towards your ‘reputation’) then maybe you should just embrace that fact and tell them that sorry, they gotta find other accommodations for their dogs. What are they gonna do, tell you that you’re being terrible and selfish? If they’re already calling you that, what do you have to lose?

    Though, “… so there’s no reason I can’t pet sit for them.”

    You have the bestest reason in the world not to though, and it is *you don’t want to.* Taking care of dogs (or even *a* dog) is a fairly big responsibility, and it is perfectly 100% acceptable to *not* want to take on that responsibility in any capacity.

    I’d be very tempted myself to just straight out tell them that you will not dogsit their dogs (ever) because they are not trained well enough and are food aggressive. If your sisters then go “they are not!!!” then just immediately say “that’s great! Then you won’t have any problems paying someone else to take care of them, that’s so great for you guys” and leave the conversation.

    As for this:

    “but it seems like every pet owner we know disagrees and thinks we are just selfish, lazy people.”

    I’d also be *very* tempted tell these other pet owners “great! I’ll give my sisters your number then and tell them that you’re willing to petsit for them.” If they refuse to do that, does that make *them* selfish lazy people too?

    Or a less confrontational reply: “and that is exactly why I decline to dogsit.”

    1. I’d also be *very* tempted tell these other pet owners “great! I’ll give my sisters your number then and tell them that you’re willing to petsit for them.” If they refuse to do that, does that make *them* selfish lazy people too?

      I love this! LW, I hope the comments here show that the pet owners you’ve talked to seem to skew a *lot* more entitled than pet owners in general. If they had some sort of family emergency and no other options, I could understand wanting you to watch the dogs. (But not the pressure and the guilt trips.) This is a vacation that they planned and budgeted for. You didn’t promise them you’d petsit before they chose to make those plans and picked “assume LW will do it” as their solution for the dogs while they were on vacation. They totally had the option to budget for professional pet-sitting and plan a different or shorter trip, or find someone who actually likes dogs who would watch them for less than the market rate. They also had the option to get them better trained so that would be easier to accomplish. Instead, they just decided that you’d do it, and badgered you into it after you’d said no.

      Refusing these demands is 100% reasonable and not selfish at all.

  125. Another voice in the chorus of pet owners: you are not being selfish, LW, your sisters are the selfish ones. Like others reading and commenting here, I am appalled at how your sisters are treating both you and their dogs — as if you and the dogs exist for their convenience!

    When I travel, care of my pets gets factored into the costs. If someone I know enjoys being around my pets and would be willing to care for them, I ask them well in advance of my trip (at least a month before departure) if they are available for specific dates. I definitely do not assume that they will say “yes” and accept “no” graciously. And one “no” is enough! I never try to convince or guilt anyone, not even family, to care for my pets.

    In all other cases, I board with my vet, even if my pets do not currently have any health issues. Boarding is not my 1st choice or theirs (my pets), but it is the simplest option that gives me peace of mind that my pets are in good hands while I am gone. The boarding can sometimes be a substantial part of my travel expenses, but it comes with being a responsible pet owner.

    I can relate to having family members who believe that your spare time belongs to them to use as they see fit, but I’m surprised that the other pet owners you’ve talked to agree with your sisters. WTF? I’m guessing that these people’s pets have behavioral problems, too? Someone call Cesar Milan, stat!

  126. LW, many of the commenters tell you that you don’t have to do things you don’t want to do. Of course, that’s actually completely wrong – society continuously expects and requires us to do things that we don’t want to do, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this knowledge makes it difficult for you to refuse people favors.

    Nevertheless, what your sisters expect from you is completely selfish, and I spent some time trying to articulate what dos and don’ts mark selfishness.
    This is the explanation I come up with:

    Every human being, by the sheer fact of being alive, creates a necessity for work. Feeding, dressing, household chores, financial matters, and all kinds of other stuff that NEEDS to be done. On top of that, there are additional things and choices that make life for that specific person more enjoyable (vacations, pets…).
    Dealing with all of these is the responsibility – and the right! – of that specific person ALONE. No one else is required to do it, and also no one else has a right to do, or require the person to accept, these against the person’s will. The only exception is if the person can’t do these things for themselves, such as children (which are the parents responsibility as long as they are minors), or people with severe cognitive disabilities.
    Everybody else is entirely responsible for everything that only concerns there own lives.

    Your sisters have decided to have dogs, which means these dogs are their responsibility. You cannot be required to look after them, any more than YOU can tell THEM how to care for their dogs.

    Requiring other people to take over your responsibility is selfish (as in, your sisters are selfish). Refusing to take over other peoples responsibilities is NOT SELFISH (you are not selfish).

    The transactions that entail getting involved with each others responsibilities have a clear set of rules:

    – People cannot be forced to take over the responsibility. You can be guilted and insulted into doing it, but you cannot be forced.
    – The person expected to take over the responsibility can name the amount of money they want for doing it and isn’t obligated to accept less than that amount.
    – When help is given as a favor, there is usually an unspoken agreement that this help requires at the very least the acknowledgement that it is a FAVOR, and some gratitude for it. With people who aren’t strangers to each other, there is also the expectation that the other person will do other favors in return. Sure, it is considered polite to say that you don’t expect anything in return – but that isn’t the whole truth. Unless the favor is one you don’t actually want (remember: your life, your responsibility), the person REQUIRING favors and never returning any is considered rude and selfish, if not downright parasitic.
    Any healthy, fair relationship requires some amount of work to be done on BOTH sides. What that “fair” amount of work is is up to the people involved to decide, but the default amount is “my life and personal choices, my responsibility – your life and personal choices, your responsibility”. Anything else is a redistribution that both sides have to agree with.

    Families are tricky; but healthy, properly functioning families adhere to these rules in that help/favors are distributed fairly, with people who can afford to help more also expected to help more. Now, your family seemingly adheres to that by telling you that you should help them because you have the time – and they would be somewhat right if your sisters actually NEEDED the help, as in, are terribly ill/their house burned down/whatever, and no one else can look after the dogs. But that is not the situation. They don’t require the help – they want to have fun going on a vacation that you, being unemployed, probably can’t afford. With the distance, your allergic husband, the untrained/aggressive dogs and your dislike of the dogs, the favor even becomes more of a burden. Just for making their lives more FUN.

    Will they repay that favor? Will they give you the amount of gratitude you’d deserve? Will they give you an amount of money that reflects the huge favor you’d give them? Will they take on such a burden in return, so that YOU can have fun?

    I don’t think so.

  127. Further food for thought: you don’t actually have to see your sisters in person. I’m not saying don’t, because I’m sure there’s some positive things about seeing them, but the fact that one of them used the opportunity to be in the same room as you are to manipulate you is, well, not great. If you don’t feel like you can be a good advocate for yourself when you’re around someone, it is totally okay to take a break from them, even if they’re family.

  128. WTH???? Your husband is deathly allergic and they still want you to come home with pet dander on you? Because it is not possible to avoid getting animal fur on you when they are aggressive and jump on you, or even if you spend much time in the same house with them. Very simple response, even in person…. I cannot watch your animals. My husband’s health is more important.

  129. As a dog owner who my dogs are my babies, your sisters *infuriate* me.

    Stick to your guns. *YOU* aren’t the selfish one here, they are.

    Much as I love dogs, I refuse to keep taking in my cousin’s dogs. But hers is a different situation and she’s being selfish and unfair to the dogs. But still I was told similar things about being selfish and uncaring by family members. I now don’t communicate with that side of the family. But seriously. Stick to your guns LW. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.

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