In case you haven’t noticed from my writing, I love to travel. Fortunately, Thom does too, and we intend to do as much of it as possible while we are physically able. Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. When we were young our work and our finances often took priority. Then we rightsized our lives and most of that changed for the better. But one thing that has always been a concern is what to do with our pets. Kloe, like each of our former dogs, is a big part of our family and adds an incredible amount of good to our lives. But managing her needs with our travel needs can be tricky. Fortunately, we have discovered a great solution. After three very successful experiences, I’m finally ready to recommend this service to everyone who faces a similar challenge with wanting to travel while cherishing a pet. Not only does it cost a fraction of traditional care, I think it provides Kloe with the best attention possible.
So, what’s the big secret? A year ago we signed up and started using a pet and house-sitting service. This may not seem like a revolutionary concept but what is so amazing is that it costs so little. In the past it was assumed that in order to have someone stay in your house and water your plants, bring in the mail, keep everything secure WHILE watching your beloved fur-baby would cost you plenty. I don’t know about where you live, but it can easily cost $50 per day to have a traditional pet/house sitter come stay in your home for every day you are gone.
Plus, in our opinion, taking Kloe to a “kennel” was never a solution. Although there are luxury kennels in our community, they require that we take Kloe out of her familiar surroundings and kennel her with strangers—not to mention unknown dogs. In addition, there is also the chance that your pet will pick up an infection from another one of the pets. That happened to us one time and we swore we’d never do it again. And even if a person is fortunate to find a kennel that is loving, kind and clean, again, the price could be prohibitive. Paying up to $75 per night for your pet (and think about if you have more than one!!!) could mean the difference between a weekend getaway camping in the mountains vs. a three-week European vacation!
So, what’s the catch? After all, if it doesn’t cost much then surely there must be a downside? The disadvantage is that you have someone you don’t know very well staying in your home taking care of your pet while you are away. When we tell people what we have done, that is one of the first things that seem to freak people out. Second? That many people seem bothered by the idea that a stranger is sleeping in their bed.
Okay, I agree there is an element of trust involved when it comes to having someone watch your beloved pet. The thing is, if you’ve had pets in your life for any length of time (and we just about always had them in the last 41 years) …. then you realize that just because you know the person watching your pet does NOT mean they are providing good care. Years ago we had a close friend and co-worker watch our dog. We eventually discovered that the dog had run away mere days after we left, and the guy never told us about it. A few days before we were set to return home, he finally let us know. WTH? Fortunately we were able to find our pet at the dog pound before anything too serious happened. And that wasn’t the only “lesson” we learned about putting friends or family in charge. There are NEVER any guarantees when it comes to someone else caring for your pet—whether you know them or not.
And as far as being concerned about other people sleeping in your bed—I guess those people must not travel much. After sleeping in hotels and vacation rentals all over the world, as long as the bed (and bedding) is clean, then I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the other people who have slept there before me.
A major way our concerns are soothed is the fact that the service we chose, Trustedhousesitters.com, is a membership site. In other words, the people using the service pay a fee to belong. That tends to eliminate people who are just “thinking” about doing it and requires a certain level of commitment. Then once you join and start doing sits, there are reviews for both the pet sitter and the home/pet owner. That way sitters get an idea of what is expected of them and what they might expect, and pet/home owners get an idea of the quality of care that will be provided. And again, WHAT IS AWESOME is that there is no money changing hands. The sitter does not charge the pet/home owner. In exchange for the service, the homeowner allows the sitter to stay in their home rent and utility free enjoying the benefits of living in a certain location with whatever amenities are included.
In addition to the level of assurance provided by the website, Thom and I have made a practice of calling potential sitters on a SKYPE video call and chatting with them for about an hour each time. So far all our sitters have been couples and when we (as a couple) talk with another couple, it is reassuring to see them in person and get a feeling for their temperament and personality. After all, when you look into the eyes of your potential sitters, ask them direct questions, and communicate as honestly as possible, you learn a lot in a relatively short time. In some ways they are really not strangers when they show up on your doorstep.
After three successful sits, what is the worst thing that has happened? Well, our first sitters who were here for two weeks let a houseplant die and left our hot tub pretty dirty. Kloe however seemed extremely happy and well-nourished and that was most important. During the next two sits we had absolutely nothing to complain about. One couple was here even in the dead of summer for three weeks (very hot!) but they ran the A/C less than we would have if we had been home. And keep in mind it is really nice to have someone staying in your home, giving your dog attention, and keeping an eye on things while you are gone. There hasn’t been any emergencies or troubles but isn’t it nice knowing that it will get handled if there is?
Another benefit is that I request that any potential sitters walk Kloe every day as much as I do when I am home. All of our sitters have been very active people and look forward to it. They all send photos of her throughout our travels so we can “check in” on how she is doing. We also request that the sitters never leave Kloe alone longer than four or five hours at a time. Because I work at home Kloe is very accustomed to having people around. So far so good. You can request that your sitters do all sorts of routine things that your pet enjoys.
We aren’t naïve enough to believe that things could never go wrong. But again, at some point you have to trust someone else with your pet’s care or you never can go anywhere. If it bothers you to have someone sleeping in your bed, you can always request they stay in the guest room. We also have a cupboard/closet that we put our most “precious” or personal items in and lock it when we go. Other than that, we aren’t concerned with loss (beyond Kloe)—and have had absolutely nothing lost or broken—just that one house plant. In fact, the house is usually cleaner when we come home than when we left. After traveling for a total of seven weeks last year, I think it was a pretty good test.
If you are the kind of person who is extremely attached to your possessions then this might not be an alternative to you. Likewise, if your extremely attached to your pet, you’ll never leave them with anyone regardless. But for those of us who love our pets AND love to travel, the SMART and frugal alternative is to find a pet/house setting service might be worth a try. And if you’re anything like Thom and I, you are already planning your next vacation.
Trustedhousesitters.com offers a 25% off coupon for anyone who signs up using this link. (The normal cost is $119 per year.) If you use the link, they give me two months free membership. Win-win for us both!
Okay, your turn. Have you ever used a service like TrustedHousesitters.com? What was your experience? Does it sound like something you might be able to use? Please share your thoughts about this in the comments below.