Birds, turtles, guinea pigs, snakes. If someone keeps it as a pet, Cindy Hixson has probably looked after it.
“I’ve even done chickens before,” said Hixson, the owner and sole employee of Man’s Second Best Friend Pet Sitting Service.
As the name of her business suggests, Hixson’s forte is taking care of dogs. A lifelong pet owner herself, she started working for another pet-sitting service part time in 1997 and opened her own in 2003.
Hixson doesn’t board animals. “My old dog wouldn’t allow that and my landlord wouldn’t either,” she said.
As Hixson talked, her 14-year-old champagne-colored poodle, Baby Girl, paced quietly through her small apartment.
Hixson does whatever is needed for a pet, from feeding to walking to giving medication to, well, you guessed it.
“There invariably are messes,” she said.
A few clients have had her look in on their pets three times a day. While there are steady customers, many are people who are leaving town for business or vacation.
“It’s very transitional,” said Hixson, who said she also offers house-sitting services.
Hixson gets word out about her business through veterinarians’ offices. She's a member of the Wichita Independent Business Association and also occasionally trades leads with some of the other dozen or so pet-sitting services in the area.
“Most of the others are open to networking,” she said.
She’s bonded and insured through an organization called Pet Sitters International.
Hixson said the biggest advantage of a pet-sitting service is that it helps clients avoid boarding their pets.
“Boarding can be very stressful,” she said.
On the other hand, she often recommends pet day-care services to people with young or high-energy dogs.
Some days, Hixson spends 75 percent of her time in the car traveling between clients’ homes in Wichita, Derby, Andover and Bel Aire. Still, she wouldn’t trade her line of work.
“The bottom line is I’ve done other types of jobs but this beats them all,” she said. “This is how I’m going to finish out my working years.”