You’re going somewhere you’ve never been to housesit for someone you’ve never met? And there’s a dog to care for? Really?
That was the reaction from our parents, which we expected, but also from some of our other family and friends, including, I suspect, a few that did not say the words but thought them just the same. Regardless, that’s exactly what we did…and this is how we did it.
I’d read about housesitting as a less expensive way to travel over the last few years and was intrigued and it wasn’t just because it could help us travel more on our soon to be fixed income by eliminating lodging costs. When we travel, we like to really learn about an area, to live like locals, shop at the grocery, cook the foods, see the places that locals go. We like to stay long enough to really explore. And housesitting came with a bonus – most housesits are actually petsitting and since we no longer have pets of our own and aren’t likely to get any because of our travel, the thought of a furry companion for a week or two or even more sounded great. We’d taken care of pets for friends, housesat for family and felt like this was the next logical step.
The website that came up most often was Trustedhousesitters.com and I began to look at the options there. (I’ve since been watching MindMyHouse.com and HousesittersAmerica.com.) Eventually I paid the nominal annual fee, created an account, and signed up for their daily email showing housesitting gigs listed each day.
There were many from all over the world, most from the United Kingdom and Australia and a scattering from other countries, but there were also enough in the US to keep my interest. Finally The One came along. The listing was for a housesit in Parksville on Vancouver Island and it included caring for a Springer spaniel. It seemed like a great fit. Canada is our neighbor and frankly doesn’t feel like a foreign country most times (well, until they offer gravy with french fries!). We had a Brittany spaniel and are familiar with bird dogs. And we have been to the island but never got very far from Victoria so we’d like to see more of it. We talked about the dates and how they would work into our other travel plans and decided that with a few modifications, including leaving my truck in Seattle when we came home for the holidays, it could work.
I contacted the homeowner through the website messaging system, authoring a cover letter that gave a little background on us and all the reasons listed above as proof that we were the ones for the job. Not long after, I got a message back saying she was interested in us and we exchanged email addresses, followed by pictures, specific details about what was expected, and in short order, an agreement that we would be housesitting in January. It was so exciting.
When the dates drew closer, we exchanged travel plans, agreed that we arrive the day before to meet the owner, S, and her dog. We were a bit nervous when the day came. Would she like us, would we like her, would the dog comfortable with us, would we like the house and area? All those anxieties were put to rest as soon as we arrived.
The house was more beautiful than the pictures showed and the dog was rubbing against my legs like a cat within the first 2 minutes. We talked, sharing our life stories and found that S had fifteen responses to her posting – she says she chose us because of the spaniel connection and we were from Alaska. Fifteen responses! We felt the exhilaration of being the chosen ones!
We went through routine of feeding the dog and walked through the house to see where things were located and got instructions for special items like the complex garbage/recycling system required in this area, that the mail should be checked occasionally, and how to use the security system. We pressed for things we could do to help out and she finally offered that we could pick up some of the tree branches scattered by the wind. We had dinner, packed our things into the guest bedroom, and turned in for the night.
The next day, S headed off on her vacation and we were left to our own devices for two weeks. We walked the dog, explored a little of the area, marveled at how beautiful the home was and counted our lucky stars that we had found this wonderful opportunity.
We’ve spent the ensuing days just living in the moment in this place. Every day, we are awakened by a cold, wet, spaniel nose and feed her breakfast while we drink coffee. Then its off for a walk at the beach, one of the local parks, or through one of the little towns. Qualicum Beach has the oldest average population in Canada and Parksville is sixth. We feel young here! The people are friendly and the shops and restaurants are plentiful. We shop for groceries, searching for local foods. We’ve cleaned up those branches, including one on the garage roof, and swept pine needles off all the patios.
But above all, we spend time with the dog, enjoying our new furry friend and laughing at her antics. We feel comfortable here, in the area, in the home and with our foster furkid. And judging by the fact that she thinks I’m her personal pillow for napping, I think the dog is pretty comfortable too.