St. Petersburg pet sitter makes buddies and pals
Lexi Gonsales grew up in Germany, and her father bred and trained German shepherds. At a young age, she was used to spending time with dogs. “Back in the day in Germany, you would not take kids into the stores,” she says. “My mom would park me outside in a stroller with a German shepherd, and he’d just lie there. When I learned how to talk, I’d refer to him as my brother.”
Growing up with German shepherds wasn’t her only early experience with animals. “My grandparents raised Great Danes and thoroughbred horses,” she says. “So the love of animals has always been there.”
Gonsales moved to the States in 1985 and became a self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades.
Owner Lexi Gonsales of St. Petersburg founded the company in 2009 and earned the Super Service Award in 2012.
From EMT to bartender, Gonsales eventually decided to look for job opportunities that suited her best. Pet sitting was a dream job, and she went to work for another company in 2007. Her first paycheck in the business was for $18.
Gonsales started her own business in December 2009, although she didn’t have her first clients until February. “I started really small,” she says. “I wasn’t making much money. Then I started getting referrals and got bigger and bigger.”
Today, Gonsales has clients all over St. Petersburg for her dog sitting, dog walking, cat sitting and other pet care services. They include member Mary Bertolasio, whose dog looks forward to weekly visits with Gonsales. “My dog loves her,” she says. “She waits by the front door for her on Thursday mornings when I tell her Lexi is coming.”
St. Petersburg member Karla Jenkins says she couldn’t do without Gonsales, who stops by daily to not only care for her four dogs and two cats, but also to bring in the mail and make sure the house is in order. “She provides such a level of care to our guys, and an overall sense of security and safety to us, that her services are absolutely mandatory for our daily lives,” she says. “There truly isn’t much I wouldn’t trust Lexi to do! She’s become more than a dog walker. She’s our friend, family and aunt to our little guys.”
Dog walks cost $15 from Monday to Friday, with weekend walks rising to $18.
Gonsales says her job doesn’t only involve the pets. “You’re coming in to someone else’s home, and that’s a huge amount of trust,” she says. “You should bring in the mail and bring up the trash cans so the house doesn’t look empty.” She says it’s hard work, but it definitely pays off. She even has clients who invite her over for holiday dinners. “It’s such a rewarding career. The relationships you form are unbelievable!”
Gonsales says she always treats animals as if they were her own. “The bottom line is this job has to be your passion,” she says. “Everything else is secondary.”
The Super Service Award recognizes contractors and health care providers that have maintained a stellar service rating on Angie’s List throughout the past year. Be sure to always check the List before hiring, however, as ratings can and do change.