So after leaving that job, Patterson was looking for his life’s calling when a friend pointed out he had done some pet sitting in his neighborhood.
“I was looking for something that was not in an office, that I could express my values in a congruent manner, and deal directly with people — and their pets,” he says.
As an openly gay man, Patterson said it does help with gay clients looking for a pet sitter because they don’t have to explain their family situation or other aspects of their life.
“That is my community,” he said of LGBT people and pet owners. “Gay and lesbian people don’t need a gay pet sitter, but there can be advantages. At initial meetings I could tell the people were more comfortable knowing I was gay.”
Patterson and his partner, Ray Larson, are the proud owners of Zack, what they call a “Schnoddle” — a mix of a schnauzer and a poodle. Larson brought him home six years ago after finding him at the animal rescue program at Dearborn Animal Hospital in Decatur.
“He told us we are a one doggy household,” Patterson says. “It has taken me awhile to accept that I can love other people’s pets. On one hand, it is kind of strange because there is that strong bond. But I share it then give the pet back to their families.”
Patterson has yet to sit for any reptiles, birds or other exotic pets. He did, however, help a woman who needed to find a place for her parrots while she was gone for an extended time from home. Being a resource to clients is also part of his business’s mission, he says.
“It’s different with a professional service. I do this for a living so there is a certain level of commitment,” he says.
Patterson is a member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and NAPPS certified with a “broad-based and in-depth knowledge of pet health, care, nutrition, and behavior.”
“It’s not rocket science. It takes common sense. What I bring is that I take my responsibility seriously. I consider myself honest and dependable,” he says.
Top photo: Tom Patterson (courtesy photo)