There is, somewhere in the Payson area, one family with a menagerie that includes two goats, several peacocks and chickens, three dogs, and a variety of birds.
But here's what's really unusual: This family is forever taking trips. Weekend getaways, week-long vacations, day jaunts. And not for a minute while they're away from home do they worry about their pets.
That's Nicole McCorgary's job.
McCorgary is the owner of Payson Pet Sitting. Since 1997, she has spend spent her days caring for the dogs, cats, rabbits, goats, pigs, iguanas, and other furry, feathered and scaly critters of the Rim country.
Each day, she or one of her two similarly licensed, bonded and insured employees visit the business' daily, weekly and monthly clients. They might go to a home several times a day, once a day or a few times a week, depending on the needs of the pet or household at hand.
The benefits of such at-home care are legion, McCorgary said.
"The animals get to stay in their own homes, in their familiar surroundings," she said. "That keeps them less stressed over the fact that their owners are gone."
That's not to say there's no place for kennels and pet boarding.
"There are different circumstances for every animal," she said. "Some aren't going to be good at home; they might tear up the house or chew things up. Those animals might need to be in a more confined situation."
Other pets do better at home.
"Especially older pets ones that might be ill or require regular medications. They get to have their same diet, the things they're used to eating, they get to sleep in their own beds. They get walks and extra attention provided by us anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes a day, depending on the situation versus just sitting around in a cage."
Not only will McCorgary care for your pet during your long work days or a vacation, she'll also bring in your mail and newspapers, water your plants, adjust draperies and turn on lights in the evening to create an "at home" look, and follow any other instructions to keep your house and your pet safe.
"I've taken people's garbage cans out and brought them back in," McCorgary said. "They've asked me to feed the wild birds and squirrels in their yard. I do just about anything that anyone asked me to do, no matter how odd it may sound."
And if your pet happens to get sick while you're away, McCorgary will chaperone Fido or Fluffy to the veterinarian's office although she has seen that scenario unfold only once, when a hound in her care developed an abscessed tooth.
"First off, I require my clients to provide the name of their veterinarian," said McCorgary, a veterinarian technician who earned her degree 14 years ago. "The benefit of me being a vet tech is that I do know all of the vets in the area quite well, and they know who I am. I also require an emergency phone number for the owners, so I can call them if there is an injury or illness"
McCorgary, a member of both the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International, operated her first pet-sitting business for four years in the Washington, D.C. area before relocating to Arizona with her husband Tom.
The amount McCorgary charges for pet sitting varies, depending on how many animals a client has. But the base rate $10 per visit for one pet "gets you everything we've been talking about."
Up to and including a pet-free and worry-free trek out of town.
These local pet-sitting businesses are licensed, bonded and insured:
Payson Pet Sitting (928) 472-6210
Pet Sitting by Joanna (928) 468-7155
Powers Pet Care (928) 476-2667
Madonna Professional Pet Sitting (928) 468-0094
Things to know before you hire
The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters recommends that, before you hire a pet sitter, make sure:
The sitter is bonded and insured, with references.
The sitter has experience in caring for pets and is clearly mindful of their safety and well-being.
The sitter provides written literature describing services and stating fees.
The sitter visits the client's home before the first pet sitting assignment to meet the pets and get detailed information about their care.
The sitter shows a positive attitude during the initial meeting and seems comfortable and competent dealing with animals.
The sitter wants to learn as much as possible about the animals in his or her care.
The sitter provides a service contract which specifies services and fees.
The sitter is courteous, interested, well informed.
The sitter has a veterinarian on call for emergency services.
The sitter has a contingency plan for pet care in case of inclement weather or personal illness.
Source: National Association of Professional Pet Sitters