“I grew up on a ranch in Temecula with all kinds of critters,” she explains. “I remember taking hikes through the vineyards and fields with our three German shepherds/Labradors, our goat, and our goose. People would pull their cars over to makes sure their eyes weren’t deceiving them.”
From a young age, Sylvia knew that looking after pets wasn’t just for fun—it was her life’s work. Her first foray into professional pet care was as director of a small animal shelter in Los Angeles. As a rescue worker, she did everything from administering fluids to puppies with Parvo to fostering rescue dogs in her own home. Fostering meant 24/7 hands-on experience, sometimes with very challenging dogs. Luckily, Sylvia had help from her own two dogs, Hunter and Tallulah. Together, they socialized and rehabilitated sensitive rescue pups, and helped them find forever homes.
These days, Sylvia continues to work full-time with dogs with special needs as a Rover dog walker and sitter. She considers it an honor and inspiration to be entrusted with the care of special needs pets. “It’s so beautiful to see the dedication people have to their pets,” she says. Working with special needs pets can be hard work, but it’s all worth it when she sees the results: “I always find so much joy in breakthrough moments.”
One of Sylvia’s regular clients, a rescue dog named Sophie, has made a recovery since being sprung from a shelter. When Sophie first stayed with Sylvia, she had only been in her new home for three weeks. She was incredibly scared of new people and environments, and spent the whole first day hiding in a crate. “I had to literally crawl inside the crate with her to get her leashed up for a walk,” Sylvia remembers. “She was scared of most things.”
With Sylvia’s care (and lots of help from Hunter and Tallulah, of course), Sophie began to come out of her shell. After a year regular visits, Sophie is now “a well-balanced dog that says ‘hi’ to strangers at the dog park.” Sylvia points to Sophie’s journey as her very favorite Rover experience. “Every time I see her, she has changed and made leaps and bounds in becoming a normalized dog.”
Sylvia thinks Rover is the perfect option for rescue pups like Sophie who may not do well in a traditional doggy daycare setting. Busy, noisy boarding facilities may remind dogs of their scary shelter experience and compound trauma, but in-home care “keeps dogs comfortable and safe even though their parents are out of town.”
Sylvia’s best tip to ensure a rescue dog has a positive boarding experience? Pick a t-shirt to sleep in the night before your dog heads to boarding, and pack it in the pup’s luggage the next day! The shirt picks up smells from home, and helps your dog feel safe and connected to you while you’re away.
Sylvia always tries to go above and beyond for her clients. “Animals are just a pure source of unconditional love,” she says, “and to be entrusted with that is an honor.” In fact, one of Sylvia’s standout moments as a pet sitter was being part of a client’s birth plan! She was on call to look after a dog while his human baby brother entered the world, and was amazed to be part of such an important life moment.
In addition to walking and boarding dogs in Los Angeles, Sylvia recently graduated from study of animal behavior and is now a certified dog trainer. She constantly seeks more knowledge and skill to help as many pets (and their people) as possible. Based on her five-star reviews, it’s clear Sylvia is off to a great start.
“I love my job,” Sylvia says, “and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”