I’m sitting at the kitchen table holding my steaming cup of instant coffee because I couldn’t figure out the fancy shmancy gourmet coffee maker. Staring out the sliding glass door, I watch a herd of deer walk by. There are 2 elderly dogs at my feet waiting for me to hurry up and finish so we can go for our morning walk. A purring cat in my lap makes it difficult to type, and another cat is sitting on the table staring at me, obviously hungry and waiting for breakfast to be served. This has been my alternate life for 9 days here in northern North Carolina.
House/petsitting lets us live rent free in a private home in exchange for caring for pets, livestock, or just the house. We get a realistic feel for what it would be like to live in that area, something you really can’t do if your home base is a hotel or campground. It’s like we’re assuming the identities of the homeowners and living their life, complete with pets, to see if it fits.
I signed up with Trusted Housesitters at the encouragement from one of my travel blogging friends who is housesitting his way around the world with his son. They are currently living in a beach house in Thailand for several months taking care of 9 cats.
Because we’re new to finding housesitting jobs through an organization, as opposed to word of mouth, we’re applying for local gigs first. Local = continental US. We have 3 goals in doing this:
1. To build our Trusted Housesitters resume so that we can eventually get some long term jobs overseas, preferably in areas where excellent paragliding is nearby.
2. To scout out new places to live
3. To enjoy the luxury of having pets in our life while we’re still in travel mode.
I’ve been able to visit with several friends during my stay so that was an added bonus.
There are many ways to save a buck while traveling, but now that I’m 46 years old, I’ve outgrown a few things…like youth hostels, sponge baths, and eating spaghettios out of the can.
We are the perfect team for house and petsitting jobs (in my humble opinion) because with George’s handiness and my mad cleaning skills, we’re guaranteed to leave the house in great shape, with maybe the car tuned up, gutters cleaned, or the shed rebuilt. Add military and law enforcement retirees to the mix and we have a winning combination of trustworthiness and reliability (again – my humble opinion). What clinched this gig for me was that I knew how to operate a woodstove without burning their house down.
This part of NC is on our list of possible places to live. Since George was stuck boatsitting in Eleuthera, I did this assignment solo. I drove down early Monday morning in the middle of a sleet storm and met the homeowners before they left for the airport so they could show me the ropes. They provided maps, feeding schedules, medicine instructions, emergency phone numbers, and car keys to their spare car in case I wanted to take the dogs for a ride.
Petsitting is more than feeding, watering and cleaning up after them. Much more. It’s playing with them, brushing them, rubbing lotion into their dry skin, allowing them to gnaw on your fingers like a pacifier when they’re excited, cleaning up their puke, comforting them when there’s a storm, wiping all 8 paws after a walk in the mud, and letting them sleep with you if they’re lonely. It’s my job to make sure their schedules are not disrupted which means that Maggie brings me her collar at 8:00 am for her morning walk, Blue gets tucked into bed with her Pooh bear every night and kissed, and Tess the cat is allowed to lay across my shoulders when I’m reading.
There are 100 acres of private land behind this property, and some of the paths are hard to see. I got lost somewhere between the Blue Bottle Trail and Maggie’s Romp. The dogs are walked off leash and they were busy chasing imaginary squirrels. I called for them and Blue finally came running to my rescue. I let the dogs take the lead the rest of the way home.
Also, it’s a very good idea to make sure you know which animals you are responsible for. This guy wasn’t on the list, so I re-located his hairiness to a tree. 100 yards away.
Housesitting not only allows pets to stay on their schedules, it allows me to stick to my own schedule too. I brought 3 sets of dumbbells and my bands so I can keep up with my P90X workouts, something that was very difficult to do on a boat or while camping. I also brought my own food, and my books, and enough clothes to cover all of Mother Nature’s moods.
We’ve applied for a few assignments from Manhattan to Mexico, and just like with answering any type of ad, sometimes you don’t hear anything back. But we’ll keep looking, and applying, and crossing our fingers, and we’ll eventually get an assignment that fits us and our goals.
**There are many House and Petsitting websites out there, but Trusted Housesitters was the first one we joined, and we like the user friendly format so we’ll stick with them. They also provide the ability to leave feedback for both housesitters and homeowners, and these ratings can give you an edge over the competition. There is a small membership fee, however, it’s very reasonable, and if you search around, maybe you can find a promotional code like I did that knocked 25% off the price. There are also lots of excellent blogs about how to get started in housesitting, so do a Google search and take notes.