So far, we've covered the human members of your family. But what about Fido, Fluffy, and Butch? They need care too—and there are lots of ways to share the responsibilities. Sharing pet care is a great way not only to help you meet your pet's needs, but also to enhance your pet's life—bringing them more love, more attention, and more long walks in the park. Busy pet owners often lament that they can't spend more time with their pet, playing or getting out for a good romp. And often, when people can't take care of their own pets temporarily, they look for a paid solution: hiring a dog walker, kenneling the animal, hiring someone to stop by the house and care for the pets at home, or paying someone to take the pets into their own home.
But it's also possible to make sharing arrangements that don't cost anything. The chores that pet owners need help with most often are dog walking (covered here), and care either for the day or for out-of-town trips (see Solution 8, below).
If you walk your dog regularly, you probably know many of your neighbors who also have dogs. You may not know their names, but you know where they live, what their dog's name is, and their dog walking schedule. If you have a dog who's friendly and relatively well-behaved, you could approach the neighbor and ask about sharing the dog walking chores, in one of a few ways.
Dog walk exchange. Perhaps your neighbor can take both dogs on the morning walk, while you walk them both in the evening. This is a nice even trade that doesn't require much setup or maintenance. You just need to be sure that you and the neighbor have similar ideas about how long the walk should be, leashing and controlling the dogs, and cleaning up after them. You could also take each other's dogs to the dog park or to another open space where the dogs are free to run. Chances are your dogs will think your dog walk exchange was an excellent idea.
Dog walk cooperative. If you have a number of neighbors or friends with dogs, you could get together and set up a community dog walking cooperative, similar to the community babysitting cooperative discussed above. Dog walking would be the currency earned and spent, with points assigned by time or per walk, perhaps with a minimum time also set for each walk.
You could use tickets, scrip, or a point system, just as described above. You'd have the same choices to make about how to keep track of what each participant has earned and spent, and about the parameters of your agreements. One additional issue is how participants get into each other's yards and houses—you would have to decide whether you were willing to share keys or combinations with your neighbors. If not, you'll have to come up with a way the dog walker of the day can get your dog.
Hire a shared dog walker. Before you picked up this book, you might have hired someone—perhaps a neighborhood teenager—to walk your dog while you're at work or otherwise busy. To turn this into a sharing arrangement, you could arrange to have the same person walk a number of dogs at once, then split the cost. Of course, you couldn't have too many animals in the group, and you'd have to make sure the person you hired could handle them. But this can be a great sharing solution for people who aren't home enough (or at the right times) to walk the dogs themselves.