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JoJo Goes to Charleston



By: Claudie Benjamin, Guest Writer

We always planned to locate a part-time dog sitter once we got settled in downtown Charleston, but we had to move that plan up in priority just a few hours after we moved into the Airbnb where we would live for the next few months, avoiding the cold, ice and snow in NYC.

The Airbnb was dog friendly, but the downstairs renters heard our dog JoJo barking and complained. The Airbnb host was chill, but we knew we would need to find a part-time sitter. The idea was to ensure we had a block of non-barking hours, twice a week, so we could get in our remote work time while someone cared for JoJo, then we could dedicate time to our dog, minimize barking, and explore this wonderful city!

The challenge then was to find a suitable match for dog sitting. Numero uno, I wanted the experience to be interesting and energizing for JoJo. He’s a strong, 2 year-old Bernedoodle (above right) who is friendly and loud. His naughtiness can go beyond adorable to problematic—like when he roams at night, finds silky things to chew, then swallows them. Just the previous month, a last minute poop saved us all from a complex and expensive intestinal surgery and a lengthy, uncomfortable recovery.

So, like for all spheres of endeavor, I turned to Google! Alas, there was no professional on-site doggy daycare with reliable supervision in downtown Charleston. As we had vowed ourselves minimum car dependency, what were our options? We looked to Rover, an app to meet local pet sitters.  Who would be a kind, loving sitter to provide an interesting and stimulating environment for JoJo?  Key requirements were interest and confidence in watching a large, very strong dog who is always ready to investigate and chew on new discoveries…

Browsing Rover in the Charleston area offered a range of loving dog sitters, and many had been around dogs and cats all their lives.  Though not opposed, I was not tempted by places offering non-stop music and doggy ice cream.  But the only one that looked really promising from the point of view of caring interest and warmth was Matt Jackson.  Matt’s picture on Rover showed him in profile, looking right into the face of a golden retriever.  Communication matters, and this image captured its importance.  What’s more, Matt described himself as a large, 6’5″ human with experience handing large dogs.

The meet & greet confirmed my impression that we could not only trust Matt with our big fluffy beast but that JoJo (right) would have an interesting, enriching experience and might even learn some much needed behavior tips. Matt is an artist and freelance writer with a PhD in Chemistry.  The home he shares with his husband is filled with bonsai trees, paintings, and a couple of pet pals they rescued: a huge white bulldog named Daisy and a cat named Toonces, who was named after the vintage SNL sketch of a driving cat who always managed to drive off a cliff.  JoJo had never met a cat, but it turns out that he doesn’t mind the feline much, except that the 66 lb JoJo and the 8 lb Toonces both vie for the same bed.  Similarly, Daisy and JoJo do well together as long as JoJo doesn’t intrude on Daisy’s throne of pillows and floof on the corner of the couch.  Clearly snoozing is important!

Exercise and health really matter to Matt. On JoJo’s first stay, Matt took him on long walks, very long walks.  Texts from Matt included a beautiful photo of JoJo accompanied by things like “We’re on Mile 2.5” or “Just finished 5.5!”  Matt likes to think of visits as camp, where the camper’s only thought at the end of the day is to sleep.  Matt prepares homemade treats—dried pork liver, stomach, and heart—and JoJo seems to be expecting something extra—like what Matt offers—with his breakfast at home.  I think we’ll keep treats as something special he gets at Matt’s.

Matt has been great and is always attuned to psychological nuances for JoJo, who is very sweet but is apt to challenge authority.  JoJo is interacting well with other dogs and humans, although sometimes JoJo has to practice calming his body once he gets excited, and JoJo has learned new behaviors, like sitting before crossing the street.  JoJo also balked at sleeping in a crate and experienced anxiety when crated, but we felt this was important to avoid chewing and swallowing random items. Matt progressed JoJo from short naps in the crate to sleeping overnight, which allowed us to attend an evening jazz event at a club on King Street!

We can’t say enough good about this experience JoJo is having with Matt. Our dog is not really inclined to be an athlete, but if he’s doing 5.5 miles at camp and napping with his four legged friends, that’s more than fine by me!

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