House Sitters highstandards recount their house sitting highs and challenges

Thanks to 2009 found us making the easy decision to continue our house sitting life, which started off as a means of visiting and spending quality time with grandchildren and their parents, in New Zealand and Australia. With the birth in 2009 of our 4th grandchild, this was still our main purpose, but we love traveling and treated ourselves to a few house sits in interesting places, where house sitting offered the opportunity to meet people and experience the local culture.

On the family side, we had a rocky start to 2009, when, in February, our 18 month old grandson Luke was seriously injured, when a large car-park gate came off its runners and fell on him. This happened only a day after his Mum and Dad came home with a new baby. As this coincided with a gap in our schedule, we hastily secured a house sit in Sydney after only a few days search. Thanks to house sitting we were able to assist with his care, and after 3 months in plaster from chest to ankles, we watched as he learnt to walk again, and he made a full recovery.

The highlight this year was having our family together at Christmas for the first time in 12 years, while looking after Pepper, a dear little Bijon Fries/Maltese, (for the second time), on the Central Coast, NSW. This house and pet sit is in a great location with swimming and surf beaches, cycle trails, a golf course and 3 shopping malls nearby. It was an exciting few days as the NZ grandchildren met their Aussie based cousins for the first time. A happy ending to the year, after a rather scary start, this reunion could not have happened without the benefit of house sitting, and the generous attitude of the owners who have become more like friends.

All the sits throughout the year have been great and we had several loveable pets to look after, and a few farm animals - old, young, large and small. Our four-legged friends help to keep our fitness levels up, and keep us surprisingly busy. We do appreciate the homeowners' trust and confidence in us, allowing us to stay in their homes, drive their cars, and in return we take our job of looking after their homes and pets very seriously. At all times their requests and instructions are followed with great care. It is so special to go back to visit the house owners at a later date, and receive a warm welcome from them and excited tail-wagging from their pets.

While in Sydney we were interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald, and an article on house sitting appeared in the paper as a result.

Another highlight of 2009 was a very enjoyable 6 week break in Tahiti where we cared for Hiro, an elderly, lovable pitbull, in his home in the village of Papara. Coconuts, breadfruit, bananas, pineapple and limes grew in the large garden, and a daily swim at the local beach was a short stroll away. We were able to buy fresh fish and vegetables from nearby roadside stalls, and enjoyed extending our diet to include local delights such as raw fish, and making mango and lime marmalade, leaving some for the owner on her return. Challenges such as mastering the outdoor washing machine (which had a tendency to go walkabout, and sounded like a plane taking off!), and communicating with the friendly locals in our very limited French, added to the fun. New friends were made, and a very special Tahitian family, Jean-Marie & Anne-Marie welcomed us into their home, and we were privileged to spend time with their family and their Tahitian Cultural Dance Group. We will never forget the time we spent with this group of young dancers and musicians, and the stunning concert performance they gave on a magical evening, shortly before we left.

Back in rural New Zealand, we can't forget helping to get a Highland bull into a horse float, or our week on a lifestyle block in Timaru, chasing sheep through invisible fences, and keeping a discrete "eyes right" while the local calendar girls did their photo shoot in the sunflower paddock!

In Australia, not to be forgotten was a side trip up the NSW coast, and through delightful villages inland. On the road we enjoyed meeting with a group of bikies on the way to a festival, and we won’t forget getting lost while trying to find Slim Dusty’s Pub with no Beer! We finally arrived at 5pm having made the mistake of following an inaccurate tourist map, which led us up and down dale along winding roads leading to a padlocked farm gate at the top of a mountain! With the advice of the farmer’s wife, and with the petrol tank and our liquid intake on “nearly empty”, we finally found it after miles of back-tracking along steep, unsealed roads, on a very hot day. The pub was well stocked that day, and that beer was sorely needed!

So we are now at the beginning of another year, and are planning our schedule. But as 2009 taught us, house sitting is full of surprises. We have 3 sits lined up already, but who knows what surprises are around the next corner. We are open to suggestions and is sure to deliver!

Lois and Kevin (highstandards)
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