BY ELISABETH ANDREWS
As the proverbial kitten in a tree would attest, firefighters have long been called upon to ensure pets’ welfare. But few get quite so many calls as Russell Anderson, a captain at Bloomington Fire Station #4 on East Third Street. In one month, he’ll respond to as many as 400 requests from concerned pet owners. But these aren’t 911 emergencies: After hours, Anderson takes off his fire helmet to put on another hat as professional pet sitter.
Along with his wife, Deena, 48-year-old Anderson owns and operates Bloomington Pet Sitters, a company specializing in caring for pets while their people are away. With charges ranging from cats, dogs, and hamsters to snakes, rats, and ferrets, the four-person company averages some 3,000 visits per year.
“I’ve met every kind of person and every personality of pet,” says Anderson, whose firefighting schedule of 24 hours every third day gives ample flexibility for the business. “Some people just tell you to put the food out. Others have more precise requests.”
Anderson has one client, for example, who feeds his dog exactly 38 pieces of food and one spoonful of yogurt, and another whose cats only drink from champagne flutes.
“Whatever they want is fine with me,” he says.
Bloomington Pet Sitters has been in business for 20 years, but Anderson purchased the company eight years ago from fellow firefighter Jean Magrane, who is now his employee. Between the two owners, the business has served more than 1,000 clients and has had access to their homes.
This type of trust has to go both ways, says Anderson. Before he will take on a client, he insists on meeting both the person and the pet.
“I know nowadays people like to do everything online, but I have to have human contact with my clients,” he says. “I won’t do pet calls if I haven’t met you first. But once you’re a client, you’re in. All you have to do is call me.”
Just don’t call 911 — Anderson says the fire department doesn’t actually get kittens out of trees anymore.
For more information, visit their website or call 333-1789.