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Anna Meiners co-owns the pet-sitting company Sister Sitters with her own sister, Sarah Ward. She says her Newfoundland dog, Kayak, is great at calming the fears of others dogs who stay in their home.

Name: Anna Meiners

Age: 34

Hometown: Kenya

Occupation: State director for foster parents in Tennessee at Omni Visions; co-owner of Sister Sitters of Chattanooga

Anna Meiners' clients are all different, but they do share a few traits: tails and fur that is short or long, soulful brown eyes, or sometimes blue, and an affinity for lying around with their loving human companions.

Meiners owns Sister Sitters of Chattanooga with her sister, Sarah Ward, and is among the highest-rated pet sitters in town.

"It's been a wonderful side job," Meiners says. "I started out watching dogs for friends and things like that. [My sister] started doing it before I did and loved it. I found that I really enjoyed it.

"I just really love dogs and have two of my own."

Meiners and her sister offer sitting services both individually and as a team. Meiners' independent side of the sitting service is called Kayak's Bed and Barkfest, which she operates out of her home. The offshoot is named for her Newfoundland, Kayak, who acts as a sort of goodwill ambassador to Meiners' canine visitors.

The sisters generate some of their business through websites like Rover.com, an online network that connects pet owners with pet sitters.

"I started my profile and I think I got a call like a week later," Meiners says. "My first booking was a Great Pyrenees named Quinn, and I've been watching him regularly ever since. I didn't have to do any marketing or anything. I think that's because there's so much demand for it and then word of mouth kind of spreads, too."

The side job has become a labor of love that has grown far beyond the sisters' expectations.

"We both kind of thought, we'll have an extra dog maybe one weekend a month or something like that," Meiners laughs. "We had no idea how big it would get. Now, I pretty much have extra dogs in my house at all times."

My sister and I started out on Rover and then we realized how big this was. We've started our own Instagram page for it and we've partnered together. We've got a Facebook page for our sitting services, too.

  • I like the idea of dogs being able to come into your home and feel like they're a part of your family. My dogs really love it, too. They're really great with the dogs that come. I've had dogs with anxiety issues come and stay and my dogs seem to put them at ease.
  • I think people often choose me because I really treat dogs like they're my own. They're out in the yard, they're allowed on the furniture, we go for walks.
  • I talk with the owners and say, "What's your dog used to? What is it like at your house?" and then I try to mimic it so the dogs feel as comfortable as possible.
  • If they regularly sleep on the bed, I let them do that. If they get on couches, they can. If at their home they're not allowed on furniture, then I try to not do that. I'm basically giving them a home away from home.
  • [Customers] can tell I really enjoy it. And I think they also really love my dogs. Mine are kind of extraordinary. They're my branding. I guess what it really boils down to is I really love dogs. I don't feel like watching them is a job. It's enjoyable to me.
  • They're never outside unless I'm out there with them. My very first booking, Quinn the Great Pyrenees, jumped my fence. I had to chase him through my neighborhood at 11 p.m. and finally had to tackle him in a yard about five blocks away. He's a regular and he's one of my favorites now and he's never tried to escape again.
  • My dog (Kayak) is really great at calming the fears of the other dogs. I've had him the whole time I've been on Rover. He's sort of the dog whisperer; he kind of watches over everybody. [My] Saint Bernard I just rescued a few months ago, so she's new on the scene. He's the calm watcher and she plays with the other dogs. We all have our roles.
  • Kayak's favorite boarder is probably a 5-pound Yorkie named Riley. Kayak is 165 pounds, so you can imagine the contrast. But whenever Riley comes to visit, he and Kayak spend all their time together. Riley follows Kayak everywhere and I'll usually find them snuggled together on the couch. I'm pretty sure Kayak is Riley's hero.
  • It's a big responsibility because I know how much I love my dogs. I'm very picky about who gets to watch them. I expect that people are picky the same with me and I want to live up to their expectations.
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