From time to time we love to bring you our house-sitter ‘pet-sit’ stories, to find out how the sitters began their journey, what they particularly enjoy about house and pet-sitting. Laurie and Keith’s story is fascinating, as they have worked as full time professionals in America for many years. Then on retirement decided they wanted to remain active and to continue learning. They decided to do this by indulging two of their lifelong passions. Here is their ‘pet-sit’ story:
Savouring a long, slow tour of the world, one pet-sit at a time
Laurie and Keith Brammer
When and why did you start house-sitting?
We started to house/pet-sit in October of 2012 when we retired. We wanted the opportunity to travel extensively and because we house and pet-sit we can considerably extend our travel budget and experiences. Thanks to house/pet-sitting, weve been to Australia for 3 months, twice to New Zealand, Scotland, twice to Spain, London for two months, three months in Anguilla in the Caribbean and in the states, New Mexico, several sits in California and Florida. Weve experienced Las Fallas and Easter celebrations in Spain, Carnival in Anguilla, and the largest balloon fiesta in the world; helped decorate a float in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California; walked on an active volcano in New Zealand; and marvelled at the Great Ocean Road in Australia.
What did you both do previously, professionally?
Laurie spent 30 years in marketing heading up an advertising agency in Chicago and leading creative marketing teams in bank marketing in Wisconsin and Buffalo, New York. Keith owned his own successful retail/wholesale business. We met 40 years ago when we were both serving in the U.S. Air Force and while we’ve enjoyed many vacations, like most working folks, the vacations were often rushed.
What does house-sitting allow you to do that normal travel does not afford?
Were able to travel at a much more in-depth but more leisurely pace and to live like locals. One example, when we were on a three month house/pet-sit in Anguilla, Laurie joined the local women’s craft group who met weekly to work on projects that were sold to raise money for medical equipment at the local hospital. House-sitting also gives us the opportunity to meet very interesting, well-traveled, kind and generous people from around the world. We stay in touch with the homeowners long after the sit; its like having international pen pals. In fact just this week, we Skyped with an Australian couple from our very first house-sit 2 years ago. We love getting the homeowners emails with updates on their pets, their families, their upcoming travel plans, etc.
How do you try to manage your practicalities of travel as you go from one home to another?
We’ve been on the road 11 of the past 12 months to house/pet-sit around the world. That takes great organisational skills and a lot of online research regarding train, plane and bus schedules. Double and triple checking Visa restrictions is very important. We use our time at home to squeeze in getting our annual exams and dental appointments.
What advice would you give anyone thinking about trying a pet-sit?
First, only consider the opportunity to pet-sit if you genuinely love animals. This isn’t just about getting free accommodations. You have a responsible job to do which is spending quality time with the homeowners pet(s); you aren’t totally free to come and go as you wish. We take that responsibility very seriously. Next, follow instructions. Homeowners have differences regarding their pet-sit and you have to honour their instructions pertaining to exercise, feeding, treats, etc. Third, work hard at marketing yourself. We spent a lot of time writing our profile in a way that conveys our personalities and our business-like approach to each house and pet-sit. Its competitive; we’ve heard of pet/homeowners getting dozens of responses within days of their posting a listing. Finally, enjoy and count your blessings. We look back at what weve done, where we’ve been, the people we have met and we are so grateful to have this opportunity to be living this lifestyle.
What Top Tips could you share for sitters to stay safe, and ‘in tune’ with the homeowners?
We have Skyped with the homeowners on all but one of our 18 house-sits to date. Thats the perfect time to clarify upfront about expectations (are you comfortable walking a dog for 90 minutes every morning, are you skilled and understand the complexities of caring for a swimming pool, do you know how to care for a garden if a deep frost hits). Second, if the homeowners are agreeable, arrive a day or two early and come prepared with a thorough list of questions about the home and the pet-sit. Make sure you know what to do in case of a power outage or serious weather conditions, where to take the pet in case of an emergency, etc. Some homeowners will have already prepared very detailed instructions; others don’t do that. As a house-sitter its your responsibility to ask the right questions upfront prior to their departure. You need to prepare, it makes the house-sit really more enjoyable if you feel ready.
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