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House sitting from a homeowner’s perspective

Carolyn & Ed Saari who escaped and sailed the world many years ago, recently discovered the online housesitting websites and are very excited “as it will open up a whole new world”.

Carolyn was gracious enough to share their experiences and its challenges with us.

“We lived on our sailboat for almost 28 years. Since we were usually uncommitted to a set schedule, we took various housesitting positions for friends we met along the way. It was nice to have a change from the boat, access to a real refrigerator and watch cable TV. We watched houses and cared for pets in a number of luxurious homes on different islands.

We also wanted to make sure that living aboard was the still the right lifestyle for us.   We soon realized that cable TV was boring, and a big fridge was no substitute for shopping regularly at a colorful local market, or catching our own fresh fish.

We always had at least one pet on board our own boat.  Although we were living and traveling in many beautiful and exotic locations, we did not do much travel away from the boat because of our responsibility to the pets.  On the few occasions we did leave the boat, our experiences were mixed, some of them still difficult to think about.

Caribbean cruise-14

One winter in St Croix, we met a couple that were planning an extended bicycle trip around southern Europe.  We arranged for them to meet us in Sevilla, Spain the following October. Sure enough, they showed up on the exact date planned.  They cared for the boat and our dog while we were able to explore much of the rest of Europe, it was a great experience for all of us.

In Venezuela, we wanted to fly to Peru, and we found a lovely local woman who cared for other boaters’ pets in her mountain home outside of Puerto la Cruz.  She kept our two cats for two weeks; they had the run of the house and the outdoor garden. Unfortunately, with all the problems in Venezuela, we would never be able to do that again.

It was in Curacao, where things went bad.  We wanted to find someone to watch our two cats while we flew to the States. We tried for weeks to find someone suitable and finally had to resort to our last choice.  We left the cats at a kennel that seemed to be fine.  It was clean, with plenty of staff and they promised to give the cats personal attention. By the time, we returned several weeks later, both cats had lost weight and were very depressed.  Once back on board, we realized the younger cat was not eating anything at all.  We found out that Norton had “Fatty Liver Disease” (the animal stops eating, and the body just feeds off of its own tissue to survive).  We tried everything to make him eat.  I made fish broth and force-fed him by syringe. We injected vitamins daily.  We did everything to keep that little guy alive, but he had just been through too much stress and he eventually passed away in St Thomas.

In 2007, we decided to sell the boat and move back to our home base in Puerto Rico.  We began to accumulate pets, most of them were not of our own choosing, they just showed up and moved into our hearts and our home.  In order to go on vacation, we now needed to find our own house sitter.  We canvassed the local marina for live-aboard folks wanting a break, we tried friends, and we asked relatives who had never been to Puerto Rico, all with no luck.  We did everything short of advertising to find a reliable person.  Finally, in desperation, we asked a 40-ish woman who lives across the street, with her aunt and uncle.   She was willing to help and we used her several times, paying her a daily stipend.  We expected her to sleep at the house and spend as much time there as possible, and she agreed to this.

The first time, she let all the plants on the porch die, but the pets were fine, and the house was clean.  The next time things went slightly different.  The dog was fine, the plants were alive, and the house was clean, but we found that our cat was spending most of her time across the street at the aunt and uncle’s house.  Ultimately, a car hit Zoe, crossing the street. We doubt this would have happened if the house sitter were actually staying at the house, because she rarely went out of the yard when we were there.

The last time, we had all indoor cats, so were not so worried.  But when we arrived home after a two week absence, I finally determined that the house sitter was certainly not sleeping at the house, but only coming in to feed the pets and clean up once a day.  It was obvious the dog had spent much of the time barking and lunging at the front gate. The cats were healthy, but incredibly lonely they wouldn’t leave us alone for days after our return, it took them quite a while to get back to normal kitty behavior.

This was definitely not, what we wanted or expected, so we needed to find another solution.  We stopped taking long weekends to go camping, and were determined to find another way to keep our pets happy while we took longer vacations.

This is when she found Trusted Housesitters one of our favorite online sites and we are happy to report that their first experience worked perfectly. Their sitter did a great job of caring for the pets and dealing with a couple of minor issues.

They plan to use the site every year to find someone to stay with their pets. So if you are planning a trip to Puerto Rico let us know and we will introduce you……….


About the author: Born in the UK, with what must be more than a dash of Romany blood in her veins, Yvonne loved to travel even before she met Michael. Yvonne has a varied career history, which includes several laborious years as a laboratory manager, followed by a fun few years as a scuba instructor and crew in the British Virgin Islands, and then many boring years in financial services. Her discontent along with the passing of a dear friend was the prod that led to the realisation that there was a lot more do in life. It has taken almost 40 years to come full circle to realize what Yvonne’s English teacher saw all those years ago……… Yvonne’s true passion (apart from travel) is writing and now finds herself fortunate to have the time to follow her bliss and combine the two as a blogger and travel writer. Yvonne loves to tell stories and talk to lots of strangers (the best way to get the real scoop on the place). Yvonne is a “rainmaker” and makes things happen!

1 comment… add one
  • Wow what a story Yvonne. I am so glad that they preserved and went to a platform to find someone I guess more professional, but at the end of the day someone more dedicated to service. Some horror stories along the way though! We will definitely keep them in mind if we want to head to Puerto Rico… would love to get there some day!

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