You find this sweet looking place on Trusted House Sitters. A modern villa close to the beach. There’s even a pool. Plus it’s a stone’s throw from a historic port town. The owners are going to be away for two months over the holiday period. A luxurious retreat in warmer climes, rent-free! All you have to do in return is look after the pets and keep the house clean. You think it sounds easy. But is it really? Now we’ve lived this scenario for a week, we’re going to break down our day so you can see the truth about what it’s really like Pet Sitting.
08:00 Feeding time:
The phrase ‘horses for courses’ might be an inappropriate term to use when talking about a dog’s dinner but thankfully, there are no tins of meaty chunks around these parts. No. The owners of this house, cook food specifically for their dogs. We can’t just open a tin of Pedigree Chum and be done. We have to cater for the pampered pooches in their usual style, so we cook up a batch of carb-rich chickpeas and blend it with the remains of the fruit from our own juicing exploits. Then we top this off with tasty chunks of liver and steak. A breakfast fit for humans. If we cooked the meat.
09:00 Breakfast time:
Access to a full-size kitchen means we have developed a new appreciation for fridge freezers. More importantly, there’s a juicer and a blender we can use to start our day with a fresh-fruit smoothie. (Check out Lou’s Campervan Cooking column for culinary inspiration!) The battery in our campervan can’t provide enough power for a blender. These modern conveniences have really kick-started our motivation to eat more healthy. It’s as if we never left home, with the added bonus we’re not paying the utility bills.
10:00 Running time:
We take the dogs for a run rather than a walk. There’s a choice of two routes: Turning right out of the gate results in systematically aggravating every hound in the ‘hood when we jog down the street. The intense cauldron of barking makes the dogs pull hard on their leads. So, we’re limited to going in the other direction – Left, through the forest. The sandy tracks beneath the cork and pine trees are relatively safe for dogs despite them being used by horse riders and quad bikers. It’s a shame the area isn’t larger and not surrounded by new-build holiday homes.
11:00 Chores time:
Even this far South, we can’t escape the effects of winter, which means more rain. A storm dumped a load of sand down on the 80sq metre patio, as well as some snails! So, we had to sweep and mop all of the tiles. Then there’s the front garden, a large portion of which is grass. It’s growing like crazy and we need to get the mower out. Inside, the dogs shed the sand they’ve picked up on their run all over the tiled floor, so that also needs regular cleaning. There’s no end of maintenance required to keep a large property in shape.
12:00 Swim time:
You look in the pool and it’s full of big fat flying ants and other creepy-crawlies, not to mention all the pine needles. Pools are great when you don’t have to clean them. First, we get the net out and remove all the debris. Then we hoover the bottom. (Sadly, no robot cleaner). We test the water pH levels to makes sure there’s not too much or too little chlorine. Finally, we clean the filters, which is surprisingly complex if you’ve never done it before. Sadly, we can’t do anything to increase the water temperature. The cool night-time conditions and low winter sun mean it never warms up!
13:00 Shop time:
Nearby, the only shops are aimed at tourists staying in local resorts. It’s an 18km round-trip to the nearest decent supermarket. In our campervan, there’s always a shop en-route to our destination so this is frustratingly inconvenient. We spend more time and use more petrol which increases the cost to us compared to our usual campervan lifestyle. On the upside, our proximity to the sea means we can purchase affordable fresh fish as a treat. At least with a working fridge freezer, we’re able to stretch out one shop for the entire week.
14:00 Work time:
In summer it would be 30 degrees Celsius by now. Whilst the pets are snoozing in the soporific heat, it’s the perfect time to write up an article like this. Except that it’s not 30 degrees, it’s 20 degrees. Not warm enough to sedate the dogs, who emit a sharp, throaty bark every few minutes, designed to remind you that they are very important and you should take them for a walk at the earliest possible opportunity. Or just to annoy the neighbours.
18:00 Walkies time:
With our faithful hounds in tow, it’s back to the forest we go. Luckily the dogs can be trusted off a lead, according to the owners. The speed at which they bound through the bushes is amusingly care-free. More worrying is the proximity to the horse riding centre where there is a hole in the fence. We only let one dog off the lead at a time. The bitch has a habit of legging it through the fence on the other side of the forest and not returning for an hour. Thankfully she’s able to find her way home. This is quite nerve-wracking but the owners seem to treat it as normal.
19:00 TV time:
On the road, we’d be in bed watching a downloaded movie because the internet isn’t fast enough for streaming. In this place, we have a massive television with Netflix and Amazon Prime. Most importantly there’s a huge sofa to curl up on. The dogs stretch out on their massive beds unless the cats have decided to hog it, but they sit on us more frequently now they learned we are the food givers. We’ve been watching Stranger Things on Netflix which was incredibly enjoyable.
One cat stays in at night but has to be let out first for a pee. The other two stay out at night. There’s no catflap. The dogs sleep in the hallway so we have to move their beds from the living room and shut the door, or they’ll eat the cats’ food. Frequently none of the animals wants to move from their cosy comfort zones so getting them all into the right places can be a bit of a chore. One we’ve done that we retire to our ensuite bedroom. The bed is only a standard size double but it feels like a queen compared to what we’re used to in our campervan.
So, what is the truth about what it’s really like Pet Sitting?
- Pet Sitting is not an easy ride.
- We’re here to provide for five different animals, each of which has differing needs.
- The property alone is a challenge to clean due to its size.
- We do not get paid money for Pet Sitting.
Something we’ll examine more closely is how you can make Pet Sitting into a job that pays. (Watch out for a piece on that shortly). Of course, the villa is more comfortable than our campervan. But the van feels like home. Right now, Pet Sitting is just a good way for us to escape the cold winter months and be in the company of animals.
Thanks for reading ‘One week on: The truth about what it’s really like Pet Sitting’. We hope you enjoyed it. We would love to hear from you so please feel free to email us on antlou [at] vanutopia.com and don’t forget you can stay right up to date with all of our antics by following us on social media: Facebook; Instagram; Twitter and subscribing to our YouTube channel.
Ant & Lou