What made you first get involved in house sitting?
I lost my beloved Holly at 14 and at the time of her passing decided not to have another dog, although I had many animals all of my life and at the time could not imagine life with out any. I had engaged a "sitter" when living on Vancouver Island, to look after Holly whilst we went away for New Year (her last as it turned out) Deborah, the sitter, approached me when she knew I'd lost Holly and asked if I would like to help her, she was in huge demand locally, I agreed and that's how I got involved.
Was the process straight forward?
For me, yes, I provided Deborah with references, she knew me, how well I cared for Holly, how particular I was with my own home and how genuine, trustworthy and reliable I was.
What agency did you use and would you recommend them?
After some local sitting I decided to register with on line agency, there are three main players, all act as an "Introduction Service" between sitters and Home Owners. In my opinion www.Trustedhousesitters.com have got it absolutely right. Their site is user friendly, attractive, guides the individual through the process and profiles the sitters better than any others. They are the world's largest house sitting website and growing rapidly but manage to retain the personal touch with their accessibility to members and excellent customer service, so important in today's electronic market place.
Our first "long haul" assignment was in the UK (we have a home in BC Canada) A three month sit looking after a lovely home with a beautiful Springer Spaniel and his very aloof feline brother! It was winter, on the edge of the Sussex Downs a lovely area which I had not visited before and "residing" there for 3 months allowed me to fully explore Sussex, it was a great experience....I cried when I left the animals, but that's me!!
Where have you been since then?
The UK many times returning at home owners requests and for new clients. Australia, New Zealand. Frequent assignments in the USA and Canada, regular trips to France and currently in Spain on our third pet/house sit in Andalucia since October 2013
I don't charge for my services looking after the animals and having a comfortable home in an area I want to visit is payment enough. Also receiving payment (paid employment) could affect having visitors status/visas, depending on the country.
On some long term sits I sometimes pay utility costs. Each house sit is different and each home owner has different expectations, any costs are purely a personal arrangement between the home owner and sitter
What are the pros of house sitting and what are the disadvantages?
Living like a local, FREE self catering accommodation, flexibility, the animals. A sense of pride in a job well done, bringing peace of mind to home and pet owners. Becoming involved in a community, no noisy or busy resort living, home from home, I traveled the world for 25 years with my Engineer husband staying in some of the best hotels, even a Mandarin Continental Suite can become "claustrophobic" after a week or so. A cost effective way of seeing the world..... you also make some lovely friends both animal and human along the way.
Disadvantages are few as this is a life style choice for example if you don't like change, living out of a suitcase or being responsible for other people's pets and homes, House Sitting is not for you.
Have you had any unpleasant surprises?
Yes I once refused to stay in a home which had been "miss-represented" The location was less than desirable and the house was not of a standard, in cleanliness or comfort, that I was prepared to accept, after making certain the home was safe and secure I left. Considering we've been house sitting for nearly 10 years, completing numerous sits each year, just one bad experience is nothing to get concerned about!
What has been your best experience?
The animals and the amazing people you meet. John and I have made many lovely friends and are frequently asked back to homes as guests, a wonderful compliment. We have our family in the UK and house sitting has allowed us to be there for Christmas's in homes large enough to accommodate them all, with the home owners permission of course. Being both retired from work, but not from life, this has become a second "career" it keeps me active, challenged and motivated allowing both of us to indulge in our two great passions, animals and travel.
What advice would you give to people thinking of trying house-sitting?
Firstly ask yourself why you want to house sit, as the one thing it isn't is a FREE holiday. It's a serious undertaking based on trust and often hard work. Register with a good house sitting agency, Trustedhousesitters.com is excellent, they have a wonderful network of experienced sitters. Search for a short term, fairly local sit, perhaps without any animals. When looking after animals they take first priority, there's obviously less flexibility if you want to explore an area. Obtain a police check, references, character and employment. Have copious amounts of communication with the home owner, I'm a home owner who's engaged sitters as well as being a sitter so I know what's expected of both parties. If not already register on Skype. Be honest, open, flexible, adaptable, reliable, practical, unflappable and most importantly you have to like people and LOVE animals.
Pet sitter need to be animals LOVERS note the bold type and here's why, to pet sit you need to be able to love and care for the animals as if it were your own which of course they are not. You may not mind picking up your own pets poo but how will you feel about doing this when it's not? You may not mind clearing up muddy paw marks, sweeping up carpets of hair etc after your own dog ….. so think very carefully what sort of animals lover you are. For example I love my own children and grandchildren but would I want to take care of other two legged, little ones? No!
Animal care is a huge part of House Sitting and a large percentage of sits have animals involved and again this is a choice a sitter makes. The animal HAS to be the priority. I'm experienced with dogs, cats, horses and most other two and four legged creatures, they've been a part of my life, all my life, my daughter is a vet, which comes in very handy at times. Obviously looking after a puppy is far different from a Senior who may need medications and special care but this is all known at the time of contact so again the sitter chooses. If you're not a walker or remotely energetic you wouldn't take on looking after a couple of Springer Spaniels who will run for 24 hours if they could. All responsible owners will provide a "profile" of their pet including Veterinary care, personality traits, feeding etc etc. Where animals are concerned I can't emphasize enough the need for full commitment from the sitter, there are many kind and caring sitters in our sitting community.
House and pet sitting is our affordable, chosen travel lifestyle. We're not on an endless vacation this is travel with purpose. It's work, work for the soul the most enjoyable, satisfying and fulfilling "job" I've ever had. If you're a pet and home owner looking for peace of mind and guilt free travel and the opportunity to travel more than you ever thought possible look no further ..... we are your perfect pet and house sitting couple!!
Angela has been traveling the world for the past 40 years. Her career in International Marketing took her across Canada and the US and since the mid 80s has lived in Italy, N. Africa, India, Singapore and other parts of SE Asia with husband John, a Petroleum Engineer, now retired. Self-professed nomads with a shared passion for travel and animals, they continue to travel the world having adopted an affordable travel lifestyle: Pet and house sitting. Some five continents, many amazing homes and wonderful four legged friends later, Angela is the resident in-house expert, advising home owners and house sitters at Trusted House Sitters and a regular contributor to travel blogs sharing experiences of life away from the travel brochures, living like the locals. You can read more at www.housesittingperfected.com.