We’re lucky that we get to travel as much as we do. However a problem this presents is what are we to do with our toy poodle, Dobby, while we’re away from the house? Dobby is a cuddly ball of cute but she does have a mischievous streak in her.
As you can see, Dobby likes socks, I guess that’s we get for naming her Dobby (from the Harry Potter books).
We’re fortunate that our wonderful vet offers boarding services and they’re more than happy to welcome Dobby for a stay when we go out of town. We think she might get a little bit spoiled when she’s there. They even named her “Pet of the Week.”
While we’re totally confident in leaving her with them, it’s a bit of a process to get everything ready. So to make things easier for quick getaways, we’ve occasionally had my dad and his wife watch Dobby. An advantage of this is that we get frequent picture updates.
Unfortunately, we also sometimes get a picture of when she’s not been the best cute puppy. Like the time when she didn’t like getting left alone in their house and tried to make an escape by digging through the door.
We needed to decide what to do when we were going on our 21 day trip to Australia and Japan and didn’t want to leave her at the kennel for 3 weeks. After all, we realized that asking someone to watch your dog at their house for that amount of time is an imposition we wouldn’t ask anyone to take on.
The best option, we felt, was if she could stay at our house, where’s she’s comfortable and familiar with the surroundings. She’s familiar with us leaving her for hours at a time, so she just chills out on the couch or chair until she hears our car enter the driveway. We asked some trusted friends who sometimes did house/petsitting if they would be able to stay at our place during our trip, but none were available. There were also some dog walking & feeding services but that’s only stopping by for a short time each day and the rest of the time she’d be alone in the house. That’d be OK for a weekend or even a few days longer, but definitely not for three weeks.
I did some searching on the internet and found an article about a service called TrustedHousesitters.
After doing some reading about it, we thought it could be a possibility. Having someone stay at the house and watch Dobby would be a good option. As I read more on their website, I liked the type of service they offered. You pay to access the service, either as a person wanting to find a sitter or to offer petsitting services, so it removes the people who aren’t really serious. They also do I.D. checks and criminal background searches on sitters to give an additional sense of security about having a stranger stay in your house.
Unlike other local petsitting services, most of the people who list on TrustedHousesitters will petsit for free. Watching your animals is their payment for getting free accommodations. This could save us a bunch of money over 21 days of vacation.
I decided to open an account and make a listing for us. It was five months before the trip, was a long time to stay at our house and it was several months away to make a commitment. So we figured we’d get 5-10 responses. Boy, were we wrong! Within the first 24 hours, we had over 20 responses and they just kept coming. After 3 days, I turned off messages, with over 35 people wanting to stay at our house and watch Dobby.
Then came the next step…how do you pick which one?
Fortunately, TrustedHousesitters does give you some tips. We read over the articles and looked for people who had reviews of prior petsitting jobs. We also looked at other things that would be important to us in terms of someone staying at our house. It took a while but we narrowed the field to 5 top candidates and 5 maybes and the rest were “no” for a variety of reasons. We messaged everyone and sent a special message to the top candidates, asking for a little more information about themselves. Our field was narrowed down, as one person already was unavailable because they found another sitting location and another never wrote back. So we were down to three.
We set up phone calls or video chats via Skype to talk with each of them. It’s amazing how personal of a decision this was. We were not only going to invite these people into our house but also trust them with our dog. We took it very seriously and had an open mind while talking to everyone. It was very clear by the end of the third call that we had our preferred choice – a very nice couple from Canada who were traveling around the United States, looking for a place to retire. They were using the petsitting to get a sense of each part of the country. Staying in a location for weeks to months gave them a good idea of what it would be like to live there. They would be driving to our house from another sitting job ending the week before, and they used the time between jobs to do their sightseeing. They seemed perfect so we set up the details and confirmed the agreement.
We traded emails back and forth about when they’d be arriving and details about the stay. We’ve never had to think so much about how our house worked until we needed to leave instructions for everything. We over cleaned the house and emptied out the guest bedroom, providing closet and drawer space. We joked that our house never looked so good and now we we’re going to leave for three weeks. The day our sitters arrived, we took them out to dinner, did a walk around the house and let Dobby say her hellos, with plenty of jumping and playing.
Of course, no plan goes off without a hitch and the luggage service that was supposed to pick up our bag to ship to Japan (which was the second leg of our trip) never came. I traded emails back and forth the night before we were leaving and they said that a courier would pick them up the next day. I had to leave the instructions with our petsitters, who said it was no problem and they would make sure the bag was delivered.
The day of the trip arrived and our guests were kind enough to drive us to the airport at 4AM for a 6AM flight. That’s the type of service that gets you a 5 star review. When we arrived in Australia, we already had a message that our luggage had been picked up and the sprinkler service had visited the house to do our maintenance. They also decided to go out and get some fresh air at the local farmer’s market at Lake Eola.
It was clear at this point that our dog was going to be spoiled rotten the whole time we were gone, getting a level of attention we’re not able to provide on a daily basis. We received occasional emails with updates, sometimes with a photo or two of Dobby, mainly telling us that everything was OK at home. Exactly what you want to hear when you’re on the other side of the world.
We had a wonderful time on vacation and not having to worry about our pet or house was a huge weight off our shoulders. When we arrived home, our guests picked us up at the airport. When we arrived home, they were already packed and ready to go onto the next job. The final touch was when we found that they had left us a gallon of milk and a pre-made dinner in the refrigerator because they knew after a long trip home we wouldn’t want to cook for ourselves that night.
What else can I say? It’s only one experience but I was amazingly pleased with the service. I’d imagine the quality of sitter you get will be equal to the amount of time you put into finding them. We did a bunch of work ahead of time, gave plenty of notice and sorted through every application to find the people who worked the best for us. It wasn’t an easy process and we went through way more hand wringing about our choice that we ever thought we would. I’d suggest if you are ever in a situation where you need someone to watch your pets and house while you’re away, keep this website in mind. They have people who will watch any type of animal, up to horses, snakes, birds and everything in between. The more obscure your needs, the less choices you will have and some of the more specialized requests may only do sitting jobs they are paid for.
If you sign up for the service with my referral link HERE, you will receive 20% off the yearly membership fee of $119 (and we’ll get two free months). They also have occasional sales with lower pricing and I won’t be offended if you want to the save the extra and use that code instead.
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