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London's funkiest pet sitter

We met up with Winston from Secure Pet Sitter. We wanted to know about his house and pet sitting business.

Tell us a bit about the Secure Sitter

Started in 2016 when I lived in Chalcot Crescent, Primrose Hill (house filmed for Paddington Bear - the movie).

Neighbours in the area knew I was a private investigator and asked if I could keep an eye on their empty homes whilst they were away…. which then evolved to looking after their pets. They trusted me as they didn’t want friends, who only wanted a free accommodation to stay, nor nosy relatives who would just open drawers and look where the owner didn’t want them snooping around in. Really true. They wanted someone to replace themselves and look after their babies (pets) and my Security Industry Authority (SIA) qualification came as a bonus. I offer quite a flexible service which includes overnight sits, pet transporting to/from vets or pet hospital, overseas sits when client wants the pet to join them.

SecureSitter means the client can have someone keep their home secure and look after their pets at the same time. Deal with leaks, deliveries in their absence.

This means my regular clients will have booked me for pet sitting dates well into 2020.

HOME CARE & HANDY MAN - I am able to assist with some basic home care, such as putting up pictures, painting walls, filling in holes in walls, replacing and painting gates and fences, getting rid of limescale around taps. Clients generally stop their cleaner coming around when I house sit as I can't help myself but to do a better job hoovering, cleaning kitchens and bathrooms. As I am there, why not keep myself busy?

Obviously, some Handyman jobs will incur a cost and I do have contacts who can also assist. I have dealt with leaking ceilings, flooded kitchens and broken central heating boilers. I also oversee Trades people whom the client may have instructed as well as take in deliveries.

Your website describes you as ‘London’s funkiest pet sitter’ – why so?!

Wow! I now believe I am London’s Funkiest Pet Sitter as I give a grrrreat service, which my regular clients say is unmatched.

I treat their dogs and cats as if they were my own. I spoil them with boxes of multiple treats, which I make up. I buy the pets toys, bedding, drinking fountains, ball chasing tracks, radios to play when they are home alone, to name but a few. Communication is key for my clients. I take lots of photographs and whacky videos of their pets, which I forward onto the client by WhatsApp.

When I travel on Caribbean pet sits I bring back the best rum and coffee for my pet owners. No other pet sitter does this. The client also gets spoilt just as much as their pets. I had wanted to become a primary school teacher back in the last century….however, my path went into a different direction. So, now I simply transfer my whacky craziness from children onto the pets I look after and they seem to love it.

Client can call me on my UK, USA, or Canadian Toll Free whilst they are away, or prior to their arrival with their pet into the UK. I have an advertisement in the 'American in Britain' magazine found at the US Embassy in London.

Where are your favourite places to walk the dogs you look after?

As I cover N, NW and central London I generally cover, Primrose Hill, Regents Park, Lyttelton Paying Fields (Hampstead Garden Suburb), Highgate Wood, Hampstead Heath.

Any tips on improving a dog’s recall when you are out in the park?

I generally cheat with a bag of juicy treats. I give one at the start of the walk….and they know the treats are in my pocket. I only walk the one client’s dog(s), not multiple owners, so it is fairly easy. If the dog tries to be funny by testing my patience, I walk in the opposite direction and rattle the treat bag…they soon come running when they think I have lost interest in their mind games. I am currently walking two puppies, an 8-month-old Newfoundland and a 2-year-old Tibetan Mastiff. They are already huge. Both are from the Giant breed of dogs. Not likely to let the Mastiff off lead, ever. However, they know I am the Pack Leader I can walk both to the park at the same time and keep them in check. I seem to specialise in the big dog breed.

Why might someone choose a cat sitter instead of putting their cat in a cattery?

My client’s love their cats and want them kept in the surroundings they are accustomed to. I replace the owner with constant love and as much attention as the cat desires. This may not be possible in a cattery, which I am sure provide a good service. Most cats in their own home have freedom, which they will not in a cattery, to go off and do their own thing but know I am around for head rubbing, massages, and treats throughout the day, then to sink their claws into the sitter’s lap to make sure we do not escape whilst they watch TV soaps, or animal wildlife programmes.

Do you have any tips on how to bond with a cat who is especially timid or shy?

I always meet the client and their pet in advance of any sit. The pet may not even like me! When I arrive at the cat’s home, I show respect that I am now in their space. I will not put my hand out to them; rather let them come to me. Best to let the cat come to me, than I try to seek them out.

I will bring one of my worn sweaty t-shirts and leave it near their basket, or wherever the client thinks best. So, the owner can monitor the cat’s interaction with my t-shirt and tell me how their cat has reacted to it after I have gone. Most will snuggle on top…as if to say they now own me. So, when I arrive for the cat sitting there is no issue with hissing or running away. They will have gotten used to my beautiful sweaty scent and there is a seamless transition of my moving into their space and their owner leaving for their vacation.

Do you have any tips on the things you can do to help a dog have more fun and feel mentally stimulated whilst inside at home?

Chase them around tables and chairs. Play Frisbee. Give belly, neck and head massages. Roll around with them on the floor and giving them lots of hugs. I noted coconut oil rubbed on my balding head works. I sussed that’s why they seem to lick my face and balding head a lot! Basically, treat them like I would with a child. The hiding the ham bone trick works very well too. So, the dog uses its scent and hunting skills to seek and find.

There is a picture of you with a big Neapolitan Mastiff(?) on your website – tell us about that!

That is Morris, 4-year-old Neapolitan Mastiff (cross). We have no idea what his other mix is. Morris was bought as the family guard dog which is a very good one as well as great with their 4 children. His bark can be heard at a great distance. He is 55kg in weight and eats 1.5kg of fresh raw meat per day. Before I arrived, Morris got fat from just laying around all day with no stimulation, nor motivation.

The owners informed they never took him out for walks, as he was far too powerful. Another family member who was no longer in the UK had bought him. I got involved and over a 3 week period realised all Morris wanted was some attention. I gradually got him exercising by running up and down the stairs in the 5-storey house after me. Had Morris sniffing out ham bones I had hidden around in various rooms. Bought Morris a nuzzle which he hated at first, then progressed from short walks along Regent’s Park Road, to eventually into Primrose Hill. I interacted rough play with a basketball (he had busted) to strengthen his neck muscles and pulling power. I got him stimulated enough to pose for photographs and the regal one on my website is one.

Is there anything else you'd like to say?

TIP - If you hate the pongy smell of the pet food.

After emptying run the packet, or container, under tap with soapy water.

It was great to find out about Winston. You can find out more about Winston and Secure Sitters on his website.

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