The experience of starting a first-time housesit
I became anxious the evening before we were to begin our first house-sitting experience, a five-week stint in the British countryside looking after two fox terriers. What if we hated the place? What if the dogs were difficult? What if we couldn’t manage the house or the dogs? In my post Beginning the House Sitting Adventure, I wrote about how we got started with house sitting. I likened the experience to job hunting. I now had the same type of jitters one might experience upon starting a new job.
House-sitting matches home owners with people willing to stay in and look after their homes while the owners are away for periods of time. Usually there are pets to care for. There are several companies that act as brokers to match home and pet owners with sitters. Sometimes, situations and relationships result in sitters returning to the same house for future sits, but in most cases the owner and sitter do not know each other before the sit. This was the case in our situation. We’d learned a bit about each other through email and Skype conversations, but we were mostly strangers to each other. Although we’d housesat in the past for friends of friends, this was our first experience with a sitting network. It was also the home-owner’s first experience. I expect she also had some anxious moments.
We travelled from our home in Canada to the United Kingdom a few days before the start of the sit. That gave us time to get over jet lag and to visit with friends. We’d made arrangements to arrive at the house the day before the owner left. She picked us up at the train station. Immediately upon meeting her, my anxiety subsided a bit. We drove to her house and met the dogs. Two quiet, friendly, lovely fox terriers. As the owner showed us around the house and provided us with information, one of the dogs rubbed up against my legs and waited for petting. I relaxed a little more.
We walked with the owner and her dogs in one of the areas she commonly takes them. She cooked dinner for us that evening. We stayed in her guest annex for the night. In the morning a friend and a neighbour, people we can contact with questions or problems, came over for coffee. One of them told us we were both brave – my husband and I for staying in a house and looking after dogs we didn’t know, the owner for leaving her house and pets with strangers. I didn’t feel particularly brave and hoped everything would work out well for us and for the owner. She left around midday and we moved into the main house.
The owner provided a large packet of information, which included contact numbers for several people, including the vet, locations of grocery stores and ATMs, heating and electrical information, wifi password, garbage and recycling instructions, and places to walk the dogs. She showed me where things were in the kitchen and how to operate the television and the washing machine. We had time to get to know her and the dogs a bit before she left. The sit was off to a good start. We would have to see how the next few weeks unfolded.
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