Each year HouseSitMatch hosts a Blog Competition and this year our entries are better than ever. Here we share with you the Housesitting Blog Competition Finalist 1 Entry – Angela Williams and her husband Frank travel while they housesit around the world and tell us what they have learned about housesitting. In her blog entry Angela offers some special words of advice for other housesitters…
‘This is what I have learned about housesitting…’ by Angela Williams, housesitter
I have learned that good preparations and communication are key ingredients in a successful house-sitting experience.
Words of advice from ‘Housesitting Blog Competition finalist 1 – Angela Williams’
– Make sure you have a plan B
My Dutch husband, Frank and I live in the lovely but crowded city of Amsterdam so we jumped at the chance of house-sitting for a month on a remote location amongst the beautiful Shropshire Hills in May, 2015. We were assigned with looking after five equines – one of which suffered from a chronic condition, laminitis. I thought it was going to be a doddle as I grew up on a farm with horses and had experience of looking after a pony with laminitis(equine gout caused by rich grass which can lead to lameness).
Everything went fine for just over three weeks but after heavy rainfall followed by brilliant sunshine there was a surge in spring grass growth. The horse appeared dopey but it was a hot day and I couldn’t tell if it was the heat or his underlying illness. Also, the owners were travelling back on a gruelling trip from France that day and I didn’t consider it serious enough to ring the vet at that stage. The owner had left me no local point of contact in the form of family or friends whom I could turn to for advice. When she arrived home and it turned out the horse had acute laminitis, the owner didn’t blame me because I had followed her care instructions exactly. We parted amicably but I couldn’t help feeling that more could have been done to alleviate the horse’s pain had I been fully instructed in noticing subtle symptoms, and that a robust plan B should have been in place if those symptoms arose.
Learn from experience
As Frank and I both really love looking after animals and visiting beautiful places, we viewed this disappointing first experience as a learning curve and made extra preparations for our next house-sit on the English/Welsh border which involved the care of two elderly dogs; one of which suffered from pancreatitis. I Googled the condition and learned that it can be triggered by fat in the dog’s diet. There would be no titbits on the menu, that was a given. I combed over the owner’s instructions for their meticulous feeding regime which she sent me beforehand. Raw meat and multiple supplements were involved. And she carefully took me through it, demonstrating the right quantities for each dog when we met face-to-face. Also, as part of our whistle-stop tour of the area we had a dummy run to the vet! A bit alarming but I made sure to set the vet’s address in the satnav. I thought if anything happens and we are in a total panic at least technology won’t let us down as we speed to the surgery!
Discuss all eventualities then relax
Our ideal lifestyle became a reality when we looked after Mana, a retired racing greyhound, and Moley, a Bedlington whippet. With all the preparations in place I felt we could truly relax and enjoy a dreamlike twelve days of heaven in that quintessential country cottage with roses climbing up the wall built alongside Offa’s Dyke Path. The peace and beauty of the area and possibly also the four-oven Aga made us realise we are tired of our lives in the city and we want something different in the coming years. Wonderful daily climbs with the dogs up to Llanymynech Rock were invigorating and the golf course right at the top boasted spectacular views. If I am ever tempted to take up golf then Llanymynech Golf Club, where you can putt in England and drive in Wales, is the one for me!
The dogs quickly accepted us into their ‘pack’ and joined us each evening in the TV room. It was so funny watching Mana coordinate her long greyhound legs as she settled into the armchair. Moley was hard of hearing but he hated the dragon’s screeching during Game Of Thrones’ episodes. Whenever they were on screen he got off the sofa and nuzzled our hands for a reassuring stroke. Moley is a former Traveller’s dog with a rascally character to match. Every so often on our walks he would disappear on a stealth mission (he was bred for poaching) into the bushes still chasing that elusive prey…Not bad for a fifteen-year-old! Frank and I miss them still.
Pets are paramount
Before finalising a house-sit always ask how old the pet is, and do they have chronic conditions? Satisfy yourself that the owners are the sort of people who will also take responsibility for things going well. Trust your intuition and don’t be afraid to say no in the early stages if the match doesn’t feel right. Once you go ahead, make sure you have contact details for the vet, and also for a relative or friend in the area and program these in your phone so you can ring wherever you are. I also advise talking to the owners on the phone or via Skype before meeting and asking for written instructions before you arrive so that you can air any questions that may arise from that information. The time when you actually meet your home-owners may be limited and if you have had a tiring day of travelling this can make the changeover a lot smoother. Ask how often they want updates and the best way to contact them in an emergency. Homework done you can then get on with the important job of bonding with the pets and enjoying the whole house-sitting experience.
Your house-sit may be life-changing
I hope these practical tips that I’ve shared about house-sitting will lead to many happy house-sitting experiences for you ahead. What I have mainly learned from house-sitting actually goes much deeper: it can be life-changing! Now we have tasted the country lifestyle we realise we enjoy it more than our present city one. Big changes are afoot so watch this space!
Housesitting Blog Competition Finalist 1 Angela Williams is a regular contributor to the Amsterdam Oriole blog and a registered housesitter on HouseSitMatch.com – here is her profile.