Sunday, 14 August 2016

House & Pet Sitting - So Much Fun!

House & Pet Sitting - So Much Fun!

So many times in life, it's the unplanned events which bring about the most unexpected, but awesome changes to our lifestyle. 

A couple of years ago, John & Dianne - two wonderful people who have become very dear friends - told us about their 6 months in Europe traveling from one house/pet sitting assignment to another. We were intrigued and plied them with lots of questions. 

Early last year, some mutual friends wanted to go away for a couple of weeks, but John & Dianne were in Europe, so they couldn't house/pet sit for them, as they usually had done in the past. So, they asked us if we would fill in for them at our friends' farm in Warsaw, just east of Peterborough, Ontario. 

We readily agreed, as we knew the animals quite well, and we arrived a day before they left for their vacation so that we could have a tutorial about caring for the farm animals and learning the morning and evening chores. Those of you who have been following us for some time may remember the several blogs we posted about the amazing time we had. 

Our Friends' farm, near Peterborough, Ontario

Several months later, a similar opportunity presented itself in West Lorne, just west of London, Ontario, where we got to look after an indoor cat, an outdoor dog, and three outdoor cats - as well as two horses (though these required little attention apart from our daily visit to pet them and give them some carrots!) You may remember some of those blogs, too!

West Lorne, Ontario

View from the front porch at West Lorne

We thoroughly enjoyed both of these sits and became fast friends with the couple in West Lorne, who asked us to repeat the sit a few weeks later. This got us thinking of all the possibilities of traveling, staying in some lovely homes, meeting wonderful people, while getting our animal fix on a regular basis. 

When we returned to Elliot Lake, we visited John and Dianne and peppered them with more questions, eventually deciding to open an account with the company to which they belonged, and the rest is history, so to speak. 

Here are some of the beautiful homes in which we have stayed. (We always obtain permission from the home-owners before we post any pictures, as we feel strongly that their privacy should be protected).

Au Train, Michigan

The view from our balcony at Au Train, Michigan

Caledon, Ontario

Quirke Lake, Northern Ontario

Pot Luck Farm, Vermont

Waterloo, Ontario

For just $50.00 for the year, we joined Trusted House Sitters, one of the many companies that list house/pet sitting opportunities, and got busy completing our profile, obtaining our police record check, and setting up our schedule to see when we'd be available. 

Trusted House Sitters - website

We also decided to create a website of our own that would showcase our lifestyle so that people could have a better idea of who we are and our philosophy of life. 

Our own website

So, how does it work? 

This U.K.-based company sends us two e-mails per day showing all the listings of house/pet sitting opportunities from all over the world -  Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the Far East, the U.S.A. and, of course, Canada. Each listing usually includes pictures of the home, the pets, the responsibilities and expectations, as well as a map showing the location. We browse through each one and if any of them take our fancy, we apply - through the website mailing system - and keep our fingers crossed. 

We get two e-mails each day

Sometimes, we don't hear back (probably because they are having so many applicants to go through); but when we do get a response, we usually set up a Skype session at a mutually convenient time so that home/pet owners can see us and chat with us to find out if we're a good fit for one another. We also ask specifically about how long the pets may be left if we want to explore the local area, and whether it's OK for us to take the pets with us in our car. 

Once it has been determined that both parties are happy with the arrangements, we usually organize to arrive a day or so ahead of their departure so that we can get to know the routines of the pets, and other important information about caring for the property while they are away (garbage collection days, emergency numbers for vet, hydro, plumber, the go-to person etc.) We take our responsibilities very seriously - after all, people are trusting us with their number one possession - their home, and also the pets that are really members of their innermost family.

We usually touch base with the home-owners a week or so before we leave home to finalize the details, then we count down the hours to the next adventure. While they are away, we usually keep in touch via e-mail, Facebook, or Instagram (whichever they prefer), keeping them up to date, reassuring them that all is well, and sending them pictures of their beloved pets. 

Along with the responsibilities of looking after our two- or four-legged friends and their homes, we have been able to swim in the Gulf of Mexico on Christmas Morning, help with tapping sugar-maple trees and collecting the sap, go canoeing in Northern Ontario, meet with old friends who may live locally to the sit, eat in some awesome restaurants, hike in the mountains of New Hampshire, and visit the Atlantic Coast, as well as  a whole host of small towns, villages, and cities near to the house-sit, and on the way to and from each assignment. 

Canoeing in Northern Ontario

The coast of New Hampshire

Panama City Beach, Christmas morning

Swimming in the Gulf of Mexico on Christmas Morning

Collecting sap from sugar maple trees

We have also loved being able to swim in the pools, and enjoyed the use of hot-tubs.

We continue to appreciate the many benefits of doing this. We get to spend time with, and look after, some fantastic furry-friends, feathered-friends... and yes, even scaly ones! Also, we have made some really superb friends in the process. In every single house-sit we have done, the home-owners have made us feel incredibly welcome, and we almost feel part of the family. In all cases, we have been asked to go back again, which makes us feel so good about what we do. 

A wonderful group of new friends we made while in Vermont

Apart from those people we have met through Trusted House Sitters, some of our friends on social media have noticed the posts we have made about our various sits, and have asked us to look after their pets/homes as well. We've been delighted to say 'yes' whenever we are free to do so.  

Some people have asked why we don't charge for our services. We tell them that the 'payback' for us is that we get to stay in some really nice homes and settings, and are free to explore the area, sometimes taking the pets with us. As a result, we feel that we are continually on vacation, ourselves!!

Yes, we love our home-town of Elliot Lake, even though the longest period we have spent there, continuously, is 5 weeks! However, when we turn north from Hwy 17 onto Hwy 108, we both experience an excitement about returning to our base and reconnecting with all of the dear friends who have come into our lives in the last three years. We feel have the best of both worlds!!!

We're planning to look for some house/pet sitting opportunities in Europe next year, and maybe Down Under, the following year! Life is good!

Rarely does a day go by without us feeling so much gratitude and appreciation for John and Dianne, for introducing us to this way of life. They also have a wonderful website, which you can visit by clicking TLC International Housesitters or this picture...

Here are just a few of the lovely animals we've been privileged to care for...

Alice, the donkey


The Milkman


Gus Gus & Lilly

Julie 2

Nessa (who decided to get in on a Skype session!)


And we are SO appreciative of all those wonderful people who have trusted us with their pets and their homes and who have taken us into their hearts. They are all awesome - and we have grown to love them dearly!

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