Karen Eckert learned from a very young age to appreciate and respect all living creatures. After years in the corporate world, Karen decided to follow her passion for animals and became a Professional Pet Sitter. She is responsible for caring for the animals while their owners are away from home and this is something she takes very seriously. She’s also educating herself on state legislation to better help those without a voice. You can find her at vendor events across the state of Wisconsin, supporting local animal organizations and thanking them for their hard work and dedication.
Welcome to the professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where a goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Now, on with our show, Karen Eckert is an advocate for animals from a very young age. Her grandma instilled in her how to treat and care for animals with the utmost respect. Since then, her passion has always been for the care and protection of all animals and continues to this day, Karen decided to become a professional pet sitter where she travels to clients homes to care for their animals while they’re away from home. Hey, Karen, welcome to the program. Thank you. Thank you for having me. So give us a little bit of background on backstory on you. How did you come into all of this? Well, um, I guess as a little girl, my grandma I would always go over to her house. She only lived a couple houses away from Oh, my parents. I grew up with German shepherds and birds. She just had taught me the how to always have the, you know, protect all the animals and care for them. And and, uh, it’s carried me, you know, into my adulthood. And now I’m a professional pet sitter, and I I take care of people’s animals in their homes, and I absolutely love it. It’s the best job in the world. So now your grandmother don’t you just love and respect for animals? I mean, did you want to be a vet? I mean, how did that manifest itself? You know, when you’re little, you know, you want to be so many things, you know? And I didn’t really quite no, but just watching her and how she was with Shep. That was the German shepherd I grew up with. Every dollar they had was shipped. His name was Chef, Um, but just her her compassion and just how she would talk to them and, you know, treat them and we go for walks and they’d go with us wherever we went. And just learning that from a young age and seeing how happy that made her was something that always stayed in my mind. And, you know, we we fed squirrel by hand. We any animals that came in the yard? Anything, you know, we’re just told, you know, they’re all creatures, you know, of gods. And we, you know, should respect them and be kind to them. That’s how it all started. Nice. That’s a really nice story. So now when did you decide? Like, how old were you when you decided you wanted to do this professionally? I went through some bumps along the way. But I’ve always watched other people’s animals when they went on vacation or something like that. I always hands down. I’ll take him. I’ll take him, You know, whatever you want me to do. And, of course, professional Pet City sometimes doesn’t pay a lot. So I did other jobs along the way to get here. So, um, both 10 years ago, kind of done with dealing with the corporate world, whatever you wanna call it. And I decided that I was going to do professional pet sitting full time, and I had no clue how it was really going to go. But it was word of mouth I never advertised and one by one, I was referred to this. You know, it’s another you know to ever of whatever couples or whoever was needing someone toe house it and pets that they’re animals. And it turned into almost a full time gig now. So I’m constantly traveling the state wherever I’m needed a CZ long as my schedule. That allows me, um and I take care of people’s animals in their home, whether it be, um, taps, dogs, rabbits. I’ve had birds, all door animals, horses, whatever. I’ve, uh, not only became a professional pet sitter, but I’m a certified professional pet sitter, which is Ah, there’s an exam you can take for CPR and everything. So I I did everything to make sure that I had all the tools I needed to care for the animals Appropriately. Yeah, that’s really cool. I mean, you’ve gotten the chance to be a pet sitter. Try all sorts of animals. That sounds yes, absolutely. I love them all, So you must have some really great stories about some of the things that have happened while your pet sitting this I said one day I’m gonna write a book because people just wouldn’t believe half the stuff that goes on. You know, it’s just things that you would never believe. I’ll just give it a For instance, I I have a couple that they had three German shepherds at the time and six can’ts there. One dog, her name’s psyche, absolutely beautiful German shepherd. And she would, religiously, she would jump over their fans. I mean, she could jump that defense so high, I couldn’t believe it. While the course the time I was there, she jumped the fence and she ripped her whole nail off. And so there we were, blood all over, going to the emergency, you know, and stuff. And but, you know, the people are so kind because they knew she did this anyways. But they were so thankful that I was there. I knew what to do, you know, from educating myself and taking the classes and things like that. And you know, so now I mean, it’s like I’m there all the time, watching their animals, and, yeah, there’s there’s many, many stories I could go into. But that’s just one of them that you know, you have to be on it. You have to be there you have to be on it. You’re you’re in someone’s home. They trust you. That’s a big deal. Um, 100% that you are in their home. Um, that’s me is priceless. I’ve always gotten the respect from the people because they knew I respected them and their animals and taking care of them 100% all the time. What I often hear from my clients is that this is like if it’s the first time I ever watched their animals or like, you know, what we knew when we met you that we would never have to worry that we could go on vacation. We wouldn’t have to worry that our animals were taken care of because we see how much you love them. I would go up to some of these houses, which is funny, and I go to the dogs first, being greeted by the dog’s not the people, and they’d say hi care. And they look down at me cause I was done with the dogs. I’m like, Well, you know, I have to. I have to stay ahead of the dogs first, you know, so they could see my passion is is and will always be, you know, further animals and whoever I’m watching, they know I give 100%. Yeah. No, I think it’s really cool. And one of things you mentioned, I wasn’t even aware, really, That there was a Pet Sitters International like an association and certification. Yep, I belonged to Pet Sitters International. It’s a wonderful group. They’re based in North Carolina. They’ve been around since 1994. Every week, they said, not a little e mail and so much information about animals and in any care you know, any care that you would need or any information Or, um, any new product that comes out anything to help the animals, they’re really on top of it, and they’re really great with their information. They’re really great with answering any question. You talk to a live person, and so they’ve always been a great group to belong to. And what makes it better, for if you really want to be a pet sitter to belong to a group like that and you could put that on your page or your website, and then people know that you are sincere and that you this is a big deal could you pay a lot of money to be in this group? Because they’re dirt. They’re saying you’re honest and you’re good and that’s a big deal. So you paid to be in this group, but they back you 100%. You can advertise on their page. People can contact you through their sight like they just put in a zip code and you are the pet sitter in that area. Your name will come up and then people will call you and they’ll be like, Oh, you were recommended on the Pet Sitter International page. That’s what I did. So people would I know that I was truthful and honest, and I was good and it was serious, and I also am bonded in insurance. I pay for that as well, just to protect myself and to protect, you know, the clients and their animals. If something were to happen, if something happened like they bid someone or whatever, I’m covered and you know the pet would be covered as well, because things do happen. I just want to make sure that everyone’s covered. Know that that makes total sense. Obviously, that’s your profession, and then your love for animals. You want to make sure that you’ve got all the right skills and training and like you said that you’re certified and bonded Insured. I mean, it sounds like there’s a lot that really goes into this there is and And this Sometimes people think, you know, pet sitting is not a profession, but it iss it truly is a profession. It is not just something you take lighthearted. This is something that you, you know, you have to schedule. This is, you know, my life what I do. So I have to have a schedule. I have to make sure I’m there. I can’t say no, I can’t, you know, scheduled a job and say, Oh, no, I can’t make it because these people are counting on you. These people are counting on you. They bought plane tickets are there, You know they have hotels or they’re going on a cruise or whatever. You can’t just not show up. There was a time when, uh, when I first started, I had two dogs at the time, and this is when I wasn’t sure what I was, you know, going to do if this was gonna work out or not, I wasn’t sure. And if I could make it financially, I wasn’t sure it was sad because I lost my one dog in February. She had heart disease and it was awful, and and I knew she wasn’t doing well. But, you know, I kept her as long as I could. And then I had another black lab. Cody. The next month he got bloat and he passed away to lose both home a month apart. I didn’t know if I could even go on anymore. To be honest, I was devastated. But the next day I had a pet sitting job that I committed to to watch 24 b shines at a rescue for a client of mine that was taken her whole family to Jamaica. And I couldn’t say no, even though I was so sad. I have to go. The thing that happened was going there. Those dogs, really, even though it was crying and I was sad, those dollars really helped me through it because I knew they needed me. They and they were like they were from puppy mills and stuff, so I know they helped me be okay, that that’s a thing you have to remember, though, with doing this, no matter what’s going on. Even in your life, this was a really This is a commitment you have to make sure you want to do. And one of them that thing is really cool about your Karen. Is that just doing this for your profession, which is obviously a lot of work it, But that’s not you. Don’t stop there, right you. You’ve really gone further now into animal rescue and you’re trying to dive morning understanding, legislation and stuff. So so tell us about some of these other things that you’re doing. I need to be their voice, and I know there’s a lot of people other. I meet people all the time and rescues who volunteer. They give their heart and soul to all these animals and do whatever they can possibly do for them. I’ve been researching myself and trying to get ahold of some legislators and trying to, you know, and I’m not even sure, but there has to be something. Even if it’s a referendum, I’m not even quite sure, but there needs to be something off for the first thing is stealing other people’s animals. And if people don’t know him with Scotts and animals are considered property, there’s really not anything. There’s nothing. There’s no charters there, enough. Nothing happens to you if you steal someone’s ammo. I just have that happened to a client of mine and Mineral Point. Her dog was walking in the driveway. A guy just came and took the dog and it took weeks. But we got her back, but it was just something that you just e. I just can’t understand how people can do that and get away with it. And there’s no charges. I want to figure out how we can get on the floor in Madison and come up with some, you know, criminal charges of stealing, you know, out of someone’s yard or other driveway, or even if they’re walking, you know, or something. There’s got to be something that we can do. I just I need some people that that either know more about this or can help with this. That’s one thing I would like to do is get on the floor with that, there’s got to be some law or some referendum and something needs to happen to people. You just don’t go stealing other people’s animals. It’s it’s heartbreaking. I see it done a lot, and it’s I can’t even express the torture It puts on these people who truly love their dogs just like their their kids. Something needs to be done with that wellness. Natural pet food is for pets and their parents who believe, as we do, that good nutrition and healthy food are the building blocks of a long, happy life created by a nutritionist, veterinarians and animal lovers. Wellness recipes provided an ideal balance of nature’s finest ingredients. I won this. Recipes include lean meats, whole grains and fruits and veggies with no wheat, corn or soy, and no edit artificial flavors, colors or preservatives from head to tail. Wellness is nutrition with a purpose. You can learn more at wellness pet food dot com and follow them on Facebook and instagram at at Wellness Pet food. Interesting, I mean, because, like you said, I mean in pretty much every state. Still, animals were considered property. I mean, there are some early indications, as some states or passing laws that air defining them and sent him beings and things like that. There’s actually even been some interesting divorce cases where the laws allowed parents have visitation that allowed the judge to actually ordered visitation. So hopefully it’s changing but kind of cheer point mean when it’s really the theft of the value of the animal? Well, if you only paid, you know, $100 fee or something like that to a doctor animal, that’s really all that’s owed. Even if these people are caught and to your point, that’s not That’s definitely not severe enough. Well, no, you can’t. You mean if you go in, you steal someone’s car. You know, that’s just that’s a material thing. You’re and and there’s a law against that. But here, if you steal a domesticated pet, that is someone’s baby, I mean, literally. I mean, a lot of my client’s. Their dogs are their babies. They’re they’re kids. So I don’t see how that’s okay to just go and steal anything, let alone, you know, uh, a breathing animal and you just get away with it. There’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing. What happened to them? Nothing, you know, and maybe maybe there’s a fine. I’m not really quite sure on everything right now. but there’s a just has to be more done with that. There has to be more done with puppy mills. People need to understand. You know, buying a pet at a pet store is not good. If you would see the conditions those dogs come from, it’s horrible. Some of these guys, they don’t even know what grasses. They won’t ever step on the grass. So just go to the bathroom on a Ana Paula on a porch or on a deck because they don’t know what that is. That’s a horrible life. Or they’re in that life for 10 years until their unwanted by the breeder. And then then what? Then they’re no good. Then it’s like, Oh, anybody take him. This can’t happen anymore. It’s just it’s inhumane, you know, to do this and these puppy stores. I mean, I’ve done you no protests at some of them, and I can’t believe people still go in there and buy a puppy because they want a puppy. There are so many rescues. I I do vendor events as well, and I see all these rescues with all these wonderful animals. They’re all these humane societies that I have all these animals just waiting for a home. It’s like, Come on, people, you know, get out of this. You need to have some designer dog. This isn’t That’s not right. Yeah. I mean, it sounds like you’re involved in a lot of lot of different aspects, Karen. I mean, what what is an average week look like for you? Oh, my God. I don’t know. I’m so tired. Well, along with pets, inning and getting, you know, acclimated to every home a mat because every home is different. And and doing this, I try to research, you know, laws of other states and even our estate and trying to see if there’s something I could do different. I do a lot with the Wisconsin citizens against Puppy Mills. I work with them a lot. I see them at events. We talk about it if anybody wants to know. Out of the 72 counties in the state, Vernon County is by far the worst Tony in Wisconsin for puppy nose. Ah. So if anybody is in that area, the best thing you could do is check him out and maybe get a video or do something. Let’s see if we can do something about it. I don’t with the laws in the state, though I don’t know how much there is to do. That’s why this is like a vicious circle of there’s so many things to be done. But without a law or without some kind of referendum, we’re all gonna be stuck in this whirlwind of I want to do this. I want to help, but we have no one backing us. We need to get Wisconsin on board. Here was changing these laws absolutely agree. And then I think Puppy Mills Air Big Challenge. And there’s there are some laws that are popping up even at the state. At the city level, I should say municipal county levels where they’re preventing puppy mills from adopting out right from actually pet stores, I should say, from sourcing from puppy mills and requiring them to get him from rescues and shelters. So, yes, and there are some states that do that, which is what I was thinking for Wisconsin. Why not? That would be great if you would just What do you call it if if there if it’s an unregulated breeder, So if you have an unregulated breeder or unrated. Unregulated breeding facilities you know, and have them. And they would ban the sale of any of those animals and then encourage them to encourage these pop stars to build a relationship with humane societies and rescue groups. And then that way they can still, you know, adopt out these dogs without them being puppy mill dogs. And we You know, if you stop buying the puppy mill dogs, well, the puppy mills will be shut down because no one will be buying him anymore. And that’s you know it. It’s all about education, too. We all need to get more educated on this. That’s where it all starts. We need to be educated. Yeah, well, kudos to you, Karen. I mean, you’ve you’ve taken your daily passion rate for animals and care of animals, and now you’ve kind of turned that towards How do we prevent some of these really big challenges that I mean, these challenges. I think everybody’s where they’ve been going on for a long time, and it takes somebody like you. It takes somebody to just start asking the question. Why can’t we change this? What do we got to do to change this and you know, the legislative process is one that a lot of people have a hard time with, and it’s hard to understand and it’s hard to get the attention and all those other things. But kudos to you for taking the initiative and trying to get that ball rolling. And hopefully we can get other people to get on board with you. Like I said a night I do vendor. Even so, I see all these rescue group So I don’t mind paying my vendor fee because I know this all goals towards them for all the work they put into it for all their time and effort, t even get the animals they do have adapted and then they take on more, you know? And that’s a vicious circle, too, because that’s a lot of your heart and your time. You know you have losses, you know, and you you have animals that come from horrible conditions, and you and these women and men, they nurture him back, too, being, you know, you know, wonderful dogs and being, you know that they’re not sick anymore and they’re not abuse and they’re not beaten. And their kudos to haul these rescues. I mean, I look at them and I and I think sometimes I don’t know how you do it. I honestly don’t because they’re the backbone toe all these animals that are saved, they really are so people to want to get more involved. You know, go to these vendor events that they have but that that the rescues put on all over the state, there’s tons of them every weekend. You know, there’s tons of all your round that you can go on benefit or or volunteer go. You know, walk some dogs air. You know, do something, just do something. And every little bit, every little bit for these animals helps. No matter what you do young on, go and walk the dogs at the Humane Society. I did that for a couple of years. Also, when I was in between trying to figure out what I was doing, I couldn’t work inside because it broke my heart. But I did all the walking’s. I could to just do a little part, do something to make myself feel like Okay, I did a little bit today. I did something for them just to see the happiness, you know, from these dogs, you can see it in their eyes. You can see them smiling. You know, that tail wagging. They just love you. The cats too, You know, they all of them, they’re just Oh, my God. I mean, I’m just crazy passionate about the animals. So, um, I could go on and on. Yeah. You know, we can definitely feel your passion coming through Karen. And it’s really it’s really exciting to hear how you’ve made this now your life’s work. Really. I mean, a professional job and then helping with rescues and helping with some of the legislative aspects. I mean, this has all been great to talk to you about, Is is ready. They also intervention before wrap things up. Well, I also one more thing is if we could get an abuse registry here in Wisconsin for people who do harm animals, I think that that would be another wonderful thing to have and to try to protect and prevent further abuse. But again, that’s another. Another thing to try to Ah, get on the floor, see if that if we can get all this together and one, that would be great. No, I absolutely agree the animal abuse registries or something that is extremely helpful to law enforcement and sounds like something we need in Wisconsin as well. So well, thank you, Karen, for coming on and sharing your story. It was great to talk to you. Thank you so much for your time, Chris. I appreciate it. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member during the Air P A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer and don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.