House and Pet Sitting – What’s in it for senior travellers?

What’s in it for the sitter? For me, it combines my love of animals with my love of travel. After my own dearly loved pet died, I wanted to fill the dog shaped hole in my life while enjoying the freedom of travelling. I love the ‘home from home’ scenario and caring for pets adds to the experience as you quickly become a ‘local’ in that community. Over the past year, I’ve enjoyed sits in France, Spain, Scotland and parts of the UK that I’d never visited before. And, as a keen amateur photographer, it’s been fun to explore new places in the company of a furry friend or two.

I’m a member of the site called Trustedhousesitters and a  number of things appealed to me about the site. From the start, I was impressed by the quality of the profiles of my fellow house sitters. These include police, magistrates, teachers, animal rescue centre workers, medics, people who can work wherever there’s an internet connection, as well as retired professionals keen to look after homes and pets. I was impressed too by the care taken to ensure that all house sitters are police checked and include references with their detailed online profiles. For the payment of an annual fee (which currently works out at £5.99 a month), you can register either as a house sitter and/or, too, as someone in need of a sitter. Sitters come in all shapes and sizes: singles, couples, families, young, middle aged and older. Those in need of sitters are just as diverse, with homes ranging from modest to majestic, throughout the UK and abroad, including France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, Canada, USA, UAE, Australia, New Zealand and more. It’s a service based on altruism. For the majority of sits, no money exchanges hands. Exceptions might be where the home owner expects the sitter to take on additional tasks (e.g. general maintenance of grounds, property repairs, looking after farm animals in addition to pets, etc.), where some payment may be appropriate. Conversely, for an extended sit of several months, say, some contribution by the sitter towards use of utilities etc. may be appropriate.  Sits can range in duration from an overnight stay to a year or more.

All in all, it seems the perfect win-win situation. Owners know that their pets are being looked after in their own home rather than kennels, which can be both stressful and expensive.  Their property is occupied and secure, plants and gardens maintained, post taken in, etc.  In return, sitters have the pleasure of helping other people travel while knowing their home and animals are in good hands, new friendships and connections, a change of scene… and a good reference at the end of it all, which helps obtain future sits.

As I write, I’m house and dog sitting in a village in Norfolk. It’s an area I haven’t visited before, so lots to explore. The dog is a beautiful Weimaraner, 12 years old (so 84 in human terms!), but full of energy and life. We were up and about early this morning for our first walk of the day, around fields and alongside a stream. (Since my own dog succumbed to old age last year, I’ve really missed the walks). It’s a perfect summer’s day, sunny and warm with a light breeze. Now we’re both relaxing in the garden, me with a good book and a glass of wine, she dozing in the shade.  Perfect!

Visit www.trustedhousesitters.com for more information. The author has no commercial interest in this company and wrote her article to share information with other Silver Travellers.

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Jennifer Nisbet

Retired academic with wanderlust

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