When John and I applied for a six week house sit in New York with www.trustedhousesitters.com we were absolutely thrilled, not to mention a little excited, when the home owners selected us. Located on 5th Avenue, Manhattan, the apartment was a short walk from the shops on Madison and Park Avenues. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park just 100 yards away. Starbucks on the corner, I know hardly a novelty, there's a Starbucks on every corner in every city but we usually have to drive five miles to find one.
Our home away from home, a veritable townies paradise, no car needed, either walk, catch a bus, metro, taxi or get anything and everything delivered. I do wonder why everyone, including Mums, nannies and chauffeurs on school runs, need massive SUVs. Must be more Cadillac Escalades in Manhattan than the entire State of New York and there's not a muddy hill in sight!
To complete our stay we would be caring for Alfie, a gorgeous Golden-doodle, Mitzi a sweet senior Dachshund and Sabrina a affectionate senior Norwegian Forest cat. “The Manhattan Gang's” owners made us aware, from the start, that both Mitzi and Sabrina had major health issues and needed daily medicating, no one could have foreseen how much worse little Mitzi would get.
There's a well know storage company in NY who's slogan is "If you have enough space in New York City you're either very wealthy or very small" Just had to throw that in, although I think it applies to every large city on the planet. The apartment was a very comfortable size but all dogs need regular exercise, Alfie loved Central Park and his walks three times a day, regardless of the weather. Not something to be taken on if walking isn’t your thing, especially during a bad New York winter. We have experience of living with dogs in apartment, in Bombay with our Springer Spaniel Holly who's idea of apartment living was a three acre field with a river running through but we only had Bombay beach, not 834 acres of Central Park and no way of saying “Not today Holly”
Three weeks into our sit Mitzi started with bouts of distressful coughing I made an appointment with her vet. As with a lot of elderly dogs she had many lumps and bumps but there were two, either side of her throat, that gave me cause for concern. The vet took samples for analysis when the results came back sadly it wasn't good news, Mitzi had grade four lymphoma. She was very poorly and reacted badly to the medication given to relieve her cough, refused to eat fortunately some scrambled eggs mixed with pumpkin tempted her. Between the vet and I we worked on adjusting the medicine dosage until she was comfortable and after a week took her back to the vet for a cortisone injection, the goal was to keep her stable until the owners return, it certainly worked, her tail started to wag again! Bless her she needed lots of nursing and TLC, I've was in constant contact with the vet and her owners reassuring them her tail will still be wagging when they got home, although there were days when I began to worry I wouldn't be able to keep that promise...... I did and she was, just for another week.
Discussing owners wishes, regarding their pets care is so important. I've cared for many pets, this was the first time I've had to deal with something so serious,. Minor accidents happen, Alfie cut his paw on the ice which needed a trip to the vet, he was given a rather smart Manhattan type boot to wear. When I was looking after Snook another lovely old soul, in his eagerness to greet me he ripped a nail out of his paw, which bled profusely and it was late in the evening, luckily my daughter is a vet ..... “Put the paw in a bag of flour mother, it'll stop the bleeding until you can get him to the vet in the morning” it did and she didn't charge me for the advice.
Would I look after senior animals again of course and here's why, if I were leaving my pets I would want them safe and secure at home with a trustedhousesitter just like me. It really is ALL about the pets.
New York harbour from the High Line
For some reason best known to the techno gremlins the photo captions of our wonderful Manhattan Gang below remain in cyberspace
- Photo one is our two handsome boys, John (the less hairy one) and Alfie,
- Photo two Alfie in his very smart raincoat
- Photo three our Alfie with one of his many destroyed toys .... only when he's alone which wasn't often when we were there.
- Photo Four Lady Sabrina .... we were her devoted servants:)
- Photo Five Alfie and his Mitzi, who was very poorly
- Photo Six Me in love .... again
"Our author, Angela Laws, welcomes you to the growing, global travel phenomenon that is House Sitting"
This feature article is part of the path-breaking Travel with a Challenge website, a senior travel magazine hosting timely articles and advice about educational adventure travel, and unique destinations for planning stimulating journeys worldwide
"LET'S IMAGINE having access to an online travel brochure from which you could fill your travel destination "bucket list". Updated daily with new locations, the brochure describes and illustrates elegant furnished flats in Paris, ocean view condos in California and Vancouver Island, majestic chateaux in France, rural homes in New Zealand, apartments in an Australian metropolis or overlooking New York's Central Park, Spanish vacation properties with private swimming pools, or perhaps a grand Victorian home in Central London. Stays range from a long weekend to a year and everything in between. The only cost to you is getting there. Yes, all these self-catering properties are FREE! " ..... read the complete article at:
"In the last five years house sitting has provided Angela and John Laws with superior accommodation on five continents, in addition to sitters that keep their BC home safe and secure. Angela is a retired beauty industry executive, John a retired engineer in the oil industry. They are registered house sitters and home owners with www.trustedhousesitters.com. Angela has contributed house sitting blogs and articles to various online publications. Her website is www.housesittingperfected.com."
Based in the UK, www.trustedhousesitters.com is the largest online house sitting organization in the world with support in the US, Canada, France and New Zealand. Started in 2010, it currently offers the most comprehensive website for both sitters and homeowners with approx. 8,000 members split 55/45 between homes and sitters. Trustedhousesitters.com has registered sitters from eighty countries. Membership as either a homeowner or a house sitter for one year is US$75. Signing up for both categories together is US$99 per year. Services include daily email alerts for homes in locations of choice. Check out the simple registration options and the informative Frequently Asked Questions page.
Our second week in New York and if you're at all familiar with our house sitting adventures you'll know weather phenomenons have a habit of finding us, hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoon like rains, earthquakes, you name it, it's found the Laws-es and New York is no different! As I write this we're "hunkered" down waiting for the storm of the decade (CNN's forecast, which as we know is a 24 hour news channel, requiring viewers, so sensationalism prevails) Looking out of the window it is snowing rather hard and soon I'll have to prepare myself to take young Alfie (to the left) out for the afternoon walk. No chance of a quick dash into the garden we're in an apartment, on the seventh floor, opposite Central Park, not too much of a walk to reach grass and stuff that doggies like. Would take the camera with me, to record this momentous occasion, however all shots would be guess work, the LCD screen has quit so it's not point and shoot, it's point, guess and shoot. There is a train of thought, held by a certain Mr L that says my photographic skills will probably benefit from this mode of picture taking .... ahem!! New York is brilliant, love being able to walk to everything instead of driving three miles to get the milk. This house sit is perfect we have the most amazing home owners and their pets are just adorable, there's Alfie the Labradoodle, 9 years young, so sweet and so laid back, Miti the Senior Dachshund, who just wants to be loved and understood, like all us old folk:) and Sabrina the Senior Kitty Cat who has cancer and other health issues but bears them so very well, you wouldn't guess there was a thing wrong with her.
So there we have it will post again soon if we're not snow bound forever .........
Family Race Day
2012 was an adventure, an amazing house sitting adventure. January found us in Nevada house sitting in Vegas for three months!! Mad to spend all that time in Sin City? Not at all, there are after almost 1 million who live normal lives there.... we did just that, with a few exceptions like seeing the NY in with Stevie Wonder, mind blowing Cirque de Soliel experiences and some excellent dining.
Home to BC in February, planning our summer in UK and Europe through TrustedHouseSitters.com our preferred house sitting/sitter website in fact the only one we use and trust. May with friends in Hay on Wye, then on to Chippenham and the beautiful Biscuit, Suffolk with Florence, London with Teazel and the Olympic experience, Eurostar to Paris, a short interlude before house sitting for Simon and Sabine looking after their beautiful home, two dogs and cats, near Epernay, Champagne Heaven!!
October found us back in BC, saying goodbye to our sitters from Oz. Hopefully they'll return, our home was immaculate when we left and just as perfect when we returned!!
Home for a couple of months before our return to Las Vegas, this time we had two little treasures to care for, Paddington and Coco. Our daughter Nicky and her partner Richard came for Christmas and New Year, from the UK, we had such a fun time with them, always hard to say goodbye. Our home owners returned from their European trip and we headed to their Condo in San Diego .... to sunshine and warmth, our body, mind and soul rejoiced! The world renowned Zoo and Safari Park are amazing (this from someone who really doesn't find most zoo environments a pleasant experience, for the animals that is!!) The Saturday Farmers Market in Little Italy is such fun go with a very large, empty basket and full purse!! After 10 lovely, lazy, days we drove back to Vegas for our flight back to BC. Three days later we're on the "Red Eye" bound for New York ............. welcome 2013 and our next house sitting chapter. Happy New Year Everyone.
Losing our Holly and how we started to heal ......
Losing a beloved pet is often a grief many of us bear in private, for how many times have we heard, from those not privileged enough to know our profound sadness, “It was just a dog, (cat, horse, bird, hamster) … it’s not like it was a person!
” Well I’m here to say our Holly WAS a person, OK so she had four legs and more hair than I’d care to have on my body but her spirit, her soul, her character and the unconditional love she heaped on all her humans was, and still is, irreplaceable.
We said goodbye to her five years ago and yet as I write the tears stream down my cheeks, they often still do but let me explain how house and pet sitting
is helping us heal, to do this I really have to tell you the Story of Holly, it’s a joyful adventure!
Animals have been a part of my life forever, I cannot imagine life’s journey without them. They give far more than they take and teach us more about ourselves than any human can. Just consider the hardened criminal who cries like a baby when having to say goodbye to the puppy he’s been training for a year, in prison, when it embarks on it’s next stage as a Guide Dog, or the “problem” teenager who’s life is turned around at the horse rescue centre, where a wise person started rescuing youngsters as well as equines.
Holly became a Laws family member in January ’93. It was my son who thought of her name, she was born on Christmas Day. Mary, Joseph or Jesus didn’t quite fit, Holly did. Had there been two puppies available who knows we may have had Holly and Ivy! At the time we were living in Tunisia and our daughter attended an English boarding school I was settling her back in after the Christmas holidays when I picked up a local paper, local to Heathrow Airport that is, and in the pets for sale saw;
“Springer Spaniel puppies for sale we have experience shipping overseas" “Mummy lets go and look!” “No Nicky, you know what Daddy said, no animals, living overseas and traveling as we do is not conducive to owning a pet. He was right of course but that’s head thinking, not heart! “Let’s just go and look …….
So I arrive at Tunis airport and John’s waiting in the baggage hall. We retrieve my three suit cases, “Is that it
?” he asks, “Err no there’s just one more
”. Along the carousel comes this wooden crate peering through the door were the biggest, most soulful and slightly scared eyes, attached to a quivering body, with ears much too long for her tiny head, my heart melted, again! All puppies are cute but there’s something very precious about a spaniel puppy (or perhaps I’m just biased after all she was my sixth Springer) “What is that
!” My husband was furious with me but knowing him as I do, knew his anger wouldn’t last long. (Before I’m branded as being irresponsible, I know and agree that all parties involved should be in agreement before even considering getting a pet, of any kind)
We walked out of the airport in silence Once outside we needed to get her out of the crate to see if she needed to go to the toilet, she was shaking and at just 8 weeks old so very tiny. When she’d relieved herself, it was a long flight for her, I picked her up. John’s face was still red with anger, or high blood, at this point I wasn’t quite sure, I asked if he’d like to hold her. He gently took her off me and clever girl that she was, she put her nose inside his shirt collar and licked his neck ……. It was mutual love and adoration from that first lick, a love affair that was to last and grow stronger for the next 14 years. Holly was John’s first pet, he used to say, BH (before Holly) that he wasn’t an animal person but she taught him that he is, she saw it, she knew it.
In her short life, and fourteen years is such a short time, she clocked up more air miles than many people, if only there had been a Canine Frequent Flyer programmme. She lived with us in N Africa, India (six years) Canada, France, Germany and the UK. We nearly lost her, through illness, three times, through following her nose whilst in the woods twice, had adventures and stories that could fill a book, like the time British Airways “lost” her, how her and I were the source of great curiosity when we lived in Bombay, as I chose to drive a truck with her riding on the passenger seat …… not done by too many women, especially Westerners AND with a dog as a companion. Then there was the time, when through work commitments in Singapore and Vietnam we had to leave her in India, for 9 months. I cried, worried that she’d forget us, (of course she didn’t) that she’d have no A/C in our maid Connie’s house (pathetic that part, I know) Fortunately I had incredible pet sitters, my maid and her family! So you see I know what it is to have to leave a beloved pet, I also know how utterly lucky we were to have our pet sitters.
One Saturday night, in the summer of 2005, with no warning signs Holly fitted 12 times in the space of 20 mins I called Nicky, by now a Veterinary Surgeon, she told me to take her straight to the Royal Veterinary College at South Mimms ( where she’d studied) she’d meet me there. After two days in ICU Holly was diagnosed as having a brain tumor but with drugs to control the seizures and masses of TLC we managed to keep her well enough to fly her home to Vancouver Island the following year. We’ll never forget her reaction when she arrived back at her house on a bright, sunny October day, she ran up onto the deck, which overlooked the ocean, ran back and forth and barked and barked as if to say “We’re HOME Mum and Dad!!”
She stayed home for that Christmas and left for “Rainbow Bridge*” on February 12 2007. Our hearts were broken that day, I have never seen my husband so bereft. Her passing left a hole in our hearts and lives so big that the pain was palpable …… No, she was not just a dog, she had a name, Holly and she was a precious member of the Laws family. So how has pet sitting helped John and I?
Well after a lot of heart searching we decided not to have another pet, the pain was so raw could we really go through that again? Also we’re not getting any younger and a pet really is for life, a long term commitment, in every way.
About a month after Holly passed away I was asked to pet sit a spaniel, in her own home, for two weeks. Her owner said she understood if it was too soon for me. I won’t lie I did have my reservations but also knew that her owner wanted her to stay safe, secure and happy in her own home, much like we had with Holly who never experienced being in kennels, our choice for her. I said yes and have thanked the heavens, stars and everything else every day since. The experience was healing, cathartic and a joy. I was able to have the love, albeit it a second choice to Pippa’s real Mum, of an animal again and give love in return. In the five years since my first pet sit we’ve been privilege enough, and trusted enough, to love and care for many lovely animal souls, each one is different, each teaches us something new, each helps lessen the pain of losing Holly, what we gain through our experiences is immeasurable.
Cat & dog sitting with Trustedhousesitters.com can help to overcome your own pet loss
Thank you Trustedhousesitters.com
for all the amazing work you do bringing loving pet sitters and precious family pets together and for helping mend our broken hearts *Rainbow Bridge, Poet Unknown, A beautiful poem of hope for those grieving the loss of a beloved pet
Painters, Pageantry and Punch
Our UK summer sitting journey continues in Suffolk, East Anglia. Basic geography lesson ..... the part of the UK bulging into the North Sea. Suffolk borders Essex and Norfolk, counties steeped in history and having such diverse topography. People fascinate me, one of the reasons I love house sitting, it gives me the opportunity to learn so much about my home owners my current client is no exception. Every year and she's done this for 20, she spends three weeks in costume and completely in character (speech included) as a Tudor Cook. The kitchens are absolutely authentic, not a microwave, cooker or food mixer in sight, all food is grown, prepared and cooked in the manner of the time ..... true cooking and oh so fascinating to see.
We spent the day at Kentwell Hall, Long Melford, Suffolk, being transported back to 1556 Tudor England where we discovered while Spain and Portugal carved up the New World the English had been idle, until now. Sir Hugh Willoughby had led an expedition to find a Northeast passage to China, although he and all his men perished, others had reached Moscow setting up a new venture, The Muscovy Company.
A time when every craftsman and labourer had to be at work by 5 o'clock in the morning and not depart before 7 in the evening. Where they were paid, with meat and drink, 4d a day, or 5d for a “better” sort. Where money had lost value in recent years, so much so that it is only worth half it value of a few years ago. Yet “lesser sorts” were paid no more than formerly, which created dissatisfaction (sounds familiar) Where despite Sumptuary Laws which define who should wear what, many still wore clothes above their station.
A time when Pageants were very popular. They enabled the “Quality” (great or lesser) to show off. They enabled lesser sorts, whose lives were ones of unremitting toil, to have breaks in a dull routine and enjoy themselves. Pageants often included a Tournament, a Melee or a Mock Battle, we were treated to a Pageant in honour of Dame Elizabeth Clopton's betrothal, featuring the Battle of Agincourt.
All of this and the sun shone as well!! Considering it's been the wettest June since records began(July's not looking too good either) we felt incredibly lucky. Painters www.constablecountry.co.uk/
Just down the A12 from Ipswich is Dedham, a pretty village in the heart of Constable Country. The Parish Church dates back to the late 15th Century. 5 miles from Dedham is Flatford Mill where Constable painted his famous Hay Wain in 1821. You can stand on the banks of the stream exactly where he stood but no need to take the easel and paints, unless of course you can paint, a digital camera or phone will tell your story!! We had a delightful encounter with a pair of swans, actually they weren't THAT delightful, hissing and spitting in protection of their young, it was the newly hatched cygnet, not yet able to co-ordinate it's very big feet, that was the source of great amusement ..... we were laughing with him NOT at him (or her) Punch www.suffolkpunchtrust.org/
“....combining the horses with the unique living landscape of the Suffolk Coast.
It's well known amongst family, friends and the Facebook World that I'm a huge lover of all animals, great and small. Horses hold a very special place in my affections, I've ridden, owned, loved and been in awe of them my entire life. If I could have spent my every waking hour surrounded by everything equine .... including the manure, I would willing have worked for FREE!! So a visit to the Suffolk Punch Trust was a must, they really are the gentle giants of the equine world:
“The Suffolk Punch Trust is a charity set up in 2002. Initially the plan was to purchase the stud of very rare Suffolk Punch horses which was about to be sold by the Prison Service which was then running over thirty farms in association with prisons around the country. The one at Hollesley, near Woodbridge in Suffolk, was the biggest at 1,500 acres on which a dairy herd and a pig herd were kept and where a variety of crops including potatoes, apples and soft fruit were grown with produce being used by prisons. All the farms were to be sold, and this would have caused the dispersal of the stud of Suffolks. However, the Prison Commissioners were anxious that this large breeding group should be kept together, so they gave the Trust 3 years to raise the money to buy a 200 acre farm and the horses."
For over twenty years the Prison had received visits by children from deprived inner city areas, so the Suffolk Punch Trust was set up as an educational charity whose remit was to provide educational opportunities for all age groups. The charitable aims also include the rehabilitation of prisoners, the conservation of rare breeds of domestic animals and the provision of an open space for the benefit of all.”
So there it is folks our house sitting tour around Suffolk. We've been here for three weeks and as we prepare to leave for our next www.trustedhousesitters.com
sit in London the Olympic Flame arrives ...... we're headed west along the A12
Biscuit .... 8 months still growing and gorgeous
With our TrustedHouseSitters from Melbourne, Australia safely settled in our home in BC, Canada it's off to the airport for the start of our summer house sitting adventure. We'll be away for about four months and the planning has been done with military precision, not sure what part of the military mind you, but precise nonetheless!
Having one assignment would have been brilliant, negates packing and unpacking and if you could see how we travel, you'd understand what a challenge we give ourselves. Wish I could master this “Travelling Light” just my lotions, potions and personal appliances enjoy a suitcase to themselves, well I am a female of the species. Consequently this summer, with five sits through www.trustedhousesitters.com
spread across SE England and one in France, hubby and I could do with a mule train or our very own valet service.
A seasoned traveller I leave nothing to chance, where our comfort's concerned, on a long haul flight. Saving $$$'s house sitting, turning left on board the aircraft is an indulgence we CAN afford, although we'll often travel Club Class with a charter airline, if the deals are really good. The comfort level isn't the same as say, Singapore Air or Virgin Atlantic (huge price difference) chefs are more McDonald's than Michelin, so for me packing food is a must. This trip was no exception I prepared fresh salmon salads, crudites, fruit and a nut selection .... very five star. So did I have that “thank goodness” moment during the meal service? No, I'd left my gourmet delights on a table at Starbucks, in YVR, only to realise my mistake once we'd gone through security and air side ....... TOO LATE:((
Still had my PJ's though and wash bag ..... my one big tip, always change into something really comfortable once on board, you'll feel so much better wearing fresh clothes (and breath) on arrival.
Landed in London to brilliant weather picked up the hire car and headed for Hay on Wye in Herefordshire. This wasn't our first house sitting assignment, although I have house and pet sat in Hay, many times. We were going to visit friends for a few days.
It was Hay Festival week www.HAYFESTIVAL.ORG
for those who've not discovered this amazing small Market Town it is THE second hand book capitol of the World, yes the World. This sleepy little town, with a population of just 1500 and 30 book shops, is invaded by upwards of 100.000 visitors over the 10 day festival. Many locals rent out their homes, moving into alternative accommodation, some choosing to camp, nice if the sun shines but remember this IS Wales!! This year the Festival celebrates it's 25 Anniversary. The Festival now travels the world bringing the joys and works of Poets, Children's Writers, Scientists, Novelists, Musicians, Historians, Daydreamers and Comedians to many who would otherwise miss experiencing the wonders of the literary world.
Our few days were glorious. Warm and joyful company, excellent food, wine and weather, even got John back onto the golf course, there's a really, good nine hole, course in , beautiful location surrounded by fields and streams with views to the Brecon Beacons. Unfortunately, the new owners have decided to turn it into their front “garden” locals and visitors will no longer have the pleasure of it's use, sad really.
Traveling around the English countryside is quite special this year with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations www.thediamondjubilee.org
imminent , June 4th and 5th towns and villages have been decorated with buntings, flags and all things Royal. Shops and supermarkets have more Royal merchandise than China has Apple I Pads. Street parties have been planned, BBQ's, pubs and restaurants have Royal “Best of British” menus. If anyone was ever in doubt as to the “Royalness” of these Fair Isles the enthusiasm for all things Diamond render such thoughts redundant .....could also be the two day bank holiday making everyone happy!!
Welcome to Chippenham, Wiltshire, the location for our first www.trustedhousesitter.com
assignment. Chippenham is about 2 hours due west of London along the M4 www.visitwiltshire.co.uk
a pretty county with many historical places of interest, Stonehenge being one of the most famous. Our sit here is for two weeks and we're looking after the most gorgeous eight month old, Golden Retriever, called Biscuit he really is beautiful, I'm in love ..... again!!
So there you have it the beginning of our summer sitting adventure. From here we travel to the county of Suffolk, four hours East. We have Wimbledon and the Olympics to look forward to. A brilliant www.trustedhousesitters.com
sit location in London, a real gem of a find. August will find us deep in the Champagne region of France, again through THS, sampling the very best it has to offer, in every way.
Yes it would have been nice having just one assignment and less living out of a suitcase but it wasn't to be. This way though, we have more variety, experiences and get to meet more wonderful people. It's been a logistical, planning challenge but one made as easy as it could be using www.trustedhousesitters.com
in my view, and it's a very experienced view from both sides of house sitting, the BEST house sitting website on the World Wide Web.
Next instalment ...... Suffolk!
Two posts I wrote on house sitting for this great on line magazine, Retire Early Lifestyle, subscribe to their free newsletter and get great advice, news and articles.
Kaderli Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. They have been interviewed about retirement issues by The Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, The Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement newsletter, nationally syndicated radio talk show host Clark Howard, Bankrate.com, SmartMoney, Minyanville, FOXBusiness and countless newspapers and TV shows nationally and worldwide. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. Continuing to journal and photograph their world travels, Billy and Akaisha have home bases in Thailand, Mexico and the U.S. They have been married over three decades, and enjoy the world of finance, fine cuisine, photography, and publishing, playing tennis, volunteering, traveling and learning about native peoples.