The dog sitter

Gary Swietanski

Photo by vic cantu

Gary Swietanski grew up around a lot of animals—dogs, cats, horses, birds and more—and has described himself as a “magnet for animals.” Friends and family knew this and would often ask him to care for theirs, and now, strangers are as well. In 2012, the 48-year-old husband and father of two turned his love for animals into his occupation, and opened Chico Paws and Claws, a pet-sitting and dog-walking service. Swietanski (who is licensed, bonded and insured) can care for your pets at your home or his. For more information visit or call 448-9561.

How did your love of animals develop?

I always loved having dogs and cats as a kid. I also went to a boarding school for high school—where we were allowed to have pets—and cared for a horse on 3,000 acres of land. It was a fantastic experience!

What’s your favorite part of the job?

Seeing and being able to be a part of the animals’ excitement when they see me. They want that love and attention, and I feed off of their endless, unconditional love. I’m a lucky dog.

What’s included in your service?

I’m a pet sitter who takes care of dogs 90 percent of the time, but I also care for cats, birds and even reptiles. I feed them, love them and take them out to play when needed. If the client is gone awhile, I can also take out their trash cans and collect their mail and newspapers. I even clean up pet waste in their yards.

Any clients stand out?

One lady had to go to the hospital unexpectedly for a week. She had no family and was low on funds so I took care of her sweet Chihuahua/ dachshund—Chiweenie—Henry for no charge. She was a sweet lady and it was my way of giving back to her.

Are there any breeds that scare you?

Before I started I used to have a really hard time being around pit bulls, so I volunteered at the Butte Humane Society to get used to them. It was very eerie at first, but I gained a lot of love and affection for them. I learned that it’s not the animal’s fault if they’re aggressive, it’s the owner’s. Pit bulls are the same as Chihuahuas or labs—they just want love and attention.

What’s next?

Right now I live in the city, so my boarding capacity is small. But in April we’ll move to a bigger place in the county, near Dayton Road. It will have three-quarters [of an acre] so I can board a lot more pets there.