While many Monrovians have heard of Jen Haven’s business, Two Dogs Petsitting, not everyone knows that Havens has cared for at least 28 different kinds of animals, including hedgehogs, skinks (a type of lizard), bearded dragons, and sugar gliders.
This marks Havens’ fifth year in business, but her experience dates back more than 20 years, from the animals she cared for in her home as she was growing up, to the pet sitting jobs she took on after she graduated from in the 1990s. In addition to pet sitting, Havens has always sought out learning opportunities through different forms of employment, ever since she went out to work when she was 15 years old.
“It gave me a great sense of purpose. I've worked almost every day since and at one point had four jobs while going to school part-time. Every employer that gave me the opportunity to work with them taught me something,” she wrote in an email.
As she juggled jobs, including various retail positions, working as a youth director at , and managing Bean Town (now ), Havens would also care for the pets of friends and their relatives when they were out of town. She credits her mother, Millie, for encouraging her to make her own decisions.
“She has allowed me to make some fantastic errors in judgment and has encouraged me to do whatever brings me great joy. My mom also showed me the art of adaptability and observation, which has been invaluable,” she said.
Havens began to encounter more and more pet owners when she started working at in 1998. As an outpatient nurse coordinator, she helped clients with older animals by administering subcutaneous fluids and medications. Working at the hospital also allowed her to gain experience with many different types of pets.
“Some of my most memorable moments while working at Dr. Domotor's were with a very talented Registered Veterinary Technician, Sienna Bourke. She taught me how to safely handle just about any species that came in from snakes to macaws to feral cats to the most nervous of dogs. She pushed me to find my niche in the animal hospital world and I did,” Havens said.
“I loved working with clients and their pets in the exam rooms, as well as educating anyone who would listen about basic pet care,” she added.
Although she thoroughly enjoyed working at the hospital, a back injury in 2006 forced her to re-evaluate her employment situation.
“I began seriously thinking about my future in the pet care industry,” she said. “Working with animals in an animal hospital setting is definitely hard on the body, so I knew my days in that environment were numbered. I needed to have complete control over how many hours each day I would be on my feet.”
Thanks to her previous experience, combined with the relationships she had built at the animal hospital, pet sitting began to look more and more like the ideal choice. When she decided to form a business, Havens came up with the name “Two Dogs Petsitting” because of her own two pets, with whom she has a very special relationship.
“My two dogs, Tiberius and Bicycle, went everywhere with me as pups and frequented the vet as demo dogs, and are extremely good travelers. They are truly amazing boys that have been through some tough growing pains with me and have changed my life because of how unconditionally they adore me,” she said.
“When I was thinking about what to name my business and creating the logo, it seemed impossible for me to name it anything other than Two Dogs Petsitting, since these two fantastic dogs are the heart of my daily life,” she added.
As she was growing up, Havens' pets included hamsters, goldfish, cats, and dogs. Often, the lifespans of children's pet goldfish are short-lived, but after she won some fish at a carnival, Havens cared for hers for more than a decade.
“I remember proudly walking home from one of the Fiestas with my good friend, Adrian McClendon, a few goldfish in hand. We decided to stop at the Monrovia Bakery and I set the bags of fish on their counter and burst! Fish and water everywhere! Emmie helped put the fish in a coffee cup and the one that fell the farthest ended up living for more than ten years!,” she wrote.
“I've always been pretty lucky in pet ownership,” she said. “My pets usually live a really long time. I grew up with the notion that pets are a big commitment and a lot of work.”
In addition to Tiberius, a 12-year-old Lhasa Apso, and Bicycle, an 11-year-old Shepherd Chow mix, Havens is currently the proud owner of a parakeet named Boomerang and a nearly 70-year-old tortoise named Old Man Myrtle.
She loves them all, but Bicycle is the one who is most often seen as the public mascot of Two Dogs Pet Sitting. He has his own Facebook page, Twitter account, and even an advice column. He has also helped his 6-year-old friend Sophia learn to read by listening to her read Clifford books, most recently at a community event and car show in Duarte on Saturday, Havens said.
A shy and gentle dog who “loves social activities,” Bicycle has assisted Havens with puppy training and teaching children how to safely interact with dogs. He has also raised funds and awareness for local numerous organizations and causes, including the and Pet Food Bank, as well as Monrovia’s , and .
Havens said that Bicycle “ loves to stand tall when he is working for a purpose and commands attention as he wears his Doggles, Donation Dog canister, or donation back pack & various bandanas, depending on the event he is attending.”
Bicycle played an especially important role at this year’s Bark For Life by helping supporters work toward their $5,000 goal. Although the event was all but rained out, Bicycle lent a strong presence from the very beginning, when Havens spoke about Bicycle’s brother, Brick, an osteosarcoma survivor and amputee who is now battling metastasis into his lungs.
“Because I have cared for and lost so many pets to cancer, it can be a very emotional subject for me to speak about. I started to cry as I was looking at Brick stand next to his family and Bicycle sat taller, with his head held high,” she said. “Within a few minutes of near silence, the canister was full of twenty dollar bills, adding up to $300.”
“For the next 30 minutes, he walked right by my side as the rain increased, his head held high, looking at each person we passed with such purpose, they felt compelled to donate. I barely uttered a word the entire hour we were out there before the rain turned to hail and we packed up, “ she said. In the span of one hour, Bicycle had raised more than $800 for Bark For Life.
“He seems to understand what is needed and he silently reaches people everywhere he goes,” Havens said.
Bicycle will also be at a Fundraiser for Pet Oxygen Masks at the Highlander Pet Center on June 11, where he “hopes to create awareness about the importance of all first responders having these live saving devices on board their emergency vehicles, especially with fire season fast approaching,” Havens said.
In addition to raising awareness for worthy causes with Bicycle, Havens enjoys making a difference by helping pet owners and providing them with whatever they need to improve their pet’s quality of life.
“Part of my job as an animal advocate is to strengthen the human-animal bond and when caring for nervous, ill/injured, or shy animals, gentleness and kindness go a long way. That has carried on into assisting my clients find the best solutions to their challenges with their pets,” she wrote. “Regardless if we are hired to take care of a potential client's pets, we all go above and beyond to find the best possible pet care solution for each pet."
Although some aspects of owning and running a business aren't easy, it’s Havens’ work ethic and love of animals that keeps her going. She especially loves spending quality time with the pets she meets through her sitting jobs.
“I'd rather be outside playing ball with Sparky, a Golden Retriever, bird watching out the sliding glass door with Zoey and Lindy, a mom and daughter cat pair, swimming with Elijah, a Yellow Lab, socializing with Sweet Pea, an Argentinian Dogo, or listening to the sweet songs of Gerard, a handsome orange canary,” she said.
“Bike and I walk around as much as possible and find ourselves wandering around Old Town a few times a week...always making new friends,” she added.
After benefiting from all she learned from her early experiences, the animal lover believes she has finally found her niche, as well as the ideal place to live and operate her pet sitting business.
“I've lived here since 1980 and don't plan on living anywhere else,” she said. “I adore Monrovia.”