By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
It was just about a year ago that I was sitting in Sweetest Things Tea Room across from Jennifer Lord Hicks, owner of Home Sweet Home Pet Sitting, and it was a lunch that I would have been just as content to see last on till suppertime. Jennifer is a talented, intelligent, compassionate “pet person” who has developed a business that is a “pet parent’s” dream. Home Sweet Home Pet Sitting is now a year old, and is gearing up for a bountiful second year.
For those of you who are meeting Jennifer for the first time, you are in for a treat. She is originally from New Jersey, and got her undergrad degree in social work from Georgia State University. She went on to get her MSW from the University of Alabama, and has used her degree in a number of ways to give back to our community. She has been a local caseworker for DHR and has worked for Hospice. She faced the unusual challenge of working with inmates at the Limestone County Men’s Correctional Facility who were battling HIV/AIDS. She is also a breast cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in October of 2015, only a year after she married. Today she is cancer free. The great changes in her life led her to start Home Sweet Home Pet Sitting so she could be a stay-at-home mom for her 13-year-old stepson.
I am all about what I call transferable skills, the idea that something you learn in what is often an uncomfortable set of circumstances can be rolled over into a seemingly unrelated area of life with relish, and the result is something tangible that benefits everyone. That clearly is the case with the way that Jennifer has taken difficulty and transformed it into a delightful, very specific market niche. Not surprisingly, her experience with people facing end-of-life issues has given her a deep heart for elderly, sick, or frail pets. She has a “crotchety canine” in her own home, so every day she deals with the specific needs of geriatric pooches.
Jennifer’s experience with DHR and working with needy clients of all types shows up in her passion to volunteer at animal shelters. Specifically, Jennifer volunteers for the Madison Animal Rescue Foundation, as well as Pet Peace of Mind program, a service that cares for pets while their human family members are in hospice.
Jennifer actually began her business informally back in 2005, where she would care for the pets of friends and neighbors while they were away on vacation, visiting friends and family, or they simply needed extra help with their pets. “When pets are able to stay in their own home, they are much less stressed,” she said. She will feed, water and walk all the pets in the house, and will change kitty litter boxes. She will also water plants, dispense meds, and tend to human needs such as picking up the mail and sweeping the porch so it doesn’t appear that the homeowners are gone. Most importantly, Jennifer will spend at least 25-30 minutes each visit with the dog or cat so they have that crucial human contact.
With the advent of social media and cell phone cameras, one of Jennifer’s newest services is to send a quick video or set of pictures of her in-home visit to the “pet parent” while they are at work. This ends up being a boon to on-the-job production because the parent isn’t distracted by the inevitable “Oh-no-what-if/did-I-remember-to…” scenario that can cause undue stress. The pet is more relaxed too, having been socialized and experiencing affectionate interaction with a human that loves them. The “mid-day walk” feature is one of the mainstays of Jennifer’s business, and something for which her clients have expressed great gratitude.
Recently, Jennifer “increased her coasts” to include caring for rabbits, goats, and even a gecko. She is a vegetarian, so it was a personal challenge to feed the gecko the live worms that one purchases at the exotic pet store and keeps in the fridge until feeding time. “They don’t wriggle around when they are cold, and that makes it easier,” she said. She also practices the Native American custom of giving thanks for the circle of life; those who die so that others can live need to be acknowledged for their sacrifice.
If you are looking for someone to help you make your own life easier by doing in-home care for your pet, please give Jennifer Lord Hicks a call. She will design a “care package” that will fit well with you and your pet(s), and it will be “home sweet home” for everyone. To contact Jennifer Lord Hicks of Home Sweet Home Pet Sitting, you can call her at 256-651-8977, or email her at email@example.com
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner