House Sitting Stories | Clare from @claresitsdogs

Recently, we chatted with Clare from @claresitsdogs, we learnt about her 50+ house sits which includes a house sit in a small village in Sweden. Find out how she took a pooch from couch to 5k and what she is up to next!

Tell us a Little Bit About Yourself– who are you, where are you from, for, do you do it full-time or sporadically?

Hi, I’m Clare (@claresitsdogs) I’ve always adored animals from a very young age and taken care of many for family and friends over the years, so for me, this was a natural and beneficial move/vocation.

As I can work from home as a graphic designer and as home was becoming increasingly expensive to rent, I decided about 3 years ago to give up my lovely rented cottage in the country and become a full time pet/house sitter.

How many House Sits Have you Had and Where?

About 50 I’d say – certainly 35 of them came through Trusted Housesitters of which I’ve all 5 star reviews – and others for friends and regular clients.  My very first was in Amsterdam for a shy cat which was wonderful, as it’s one of my favourite cities. 

Since then I’ve been to Spain, France, Sweden – many places really – but I try as much as possible to stay fairly local to the South West UK, mainly due to having a quite old car that I don’t want to put too many miles on.

Why Do You House Sit? What is The Main Motivation?

My main motivation is purely my love of animals and travel.  I get bored easily being in the same place for too long – so this really suits my nomadic spirit.  But one of the big reasons I chose this lifestyle was wanting to carve out a healthy work/ life balance, whilst doing something I enjoyed and relieving the stress and anxiety of ‘normal’ life.

How Did You Find Out About House Sitting?

I’d heard about it many years ago when the likes of Trusted House Sitters first started – I joined the site – but never followed through with paying membership, so I was receiving all the daily emails with all the wonderful sits that were open for applications, and it always intrigued me.

One very late night / early morning when I was finishing a very stressful work deadline, I happened to look at my emails before shutting down for the night and the site was offering 25% off membership (as it was Black Friday) so I decided to bite the bullet and join!

Unbeknownst to me, the site had a special offer also that day that 25 newly joined members (from all over the world)that day also stood a chance to win Lifetime Membership to the site if they joined before midnight that night. Well, the following day I received a phone call and to my luck – I WON!!! I’d say that was fate now and that’s really why I’ve decided to pursue this to a full time lifestyle.

Pros of House Sitting?

Independence, very little stress, living in the moment, staying in some lovely homes, seeing more of the country/planet, making life long friends (human and furry).  Plus I’m so much more organized than I ever was in the corporate world!

Cons of House Sitting?

It can be a little lonely sometimes – I do envy some of my acquaintances that do this as a couple. But at the same time – I hear their issues too! I’ve never been a morning person – so getting up early to let the dog(s) out for a pee or walk was a new routine for me (from usually working through the night). Now I’m in bed by 10 pm usually which is great and up around 7.30 am! I actually enjoy my morning walks now! Sometimes client’s cleaners can be a real pain the arse… I’m OCD so will invariably leave a property much cleaner than I found it – so when I encounter a bad and/or lazy cleaner, it really does bother me.

What’s Been the Biggest Adventure so Far?

Flying to a small village in Sweden to look after 2 dogs and 5 chickens. I almost didn’t go as a few months before the sit, my car failed it’s MOT (she’s very old bless her) and I had to contact the homeowners and explain that the money I’d set aside for my travel costs, now needed to be spent on my car. 

I felt awful as it was the first time I’d ever had to cancel on someone (but thankfully let them know months in advance). They insisted they then flew me over on their air miles – and I had a great time. They are regulars now and if Covoid19 didn’t happen, I would be there again now!

I found amazing long walks on that sit even they didn’t even know existed and let their chickens out daily for a run (something that until then, they were a little to nervous to do). Now they have a lot more freedom which makes me very happy!

How Do You Decide on a Destination?

I don’t really choose by destination – I find myself these days very much booked in advance about 8+ months thanks to lovely regular clients – so I generally have the odd few days or weeks intermittently spread about here and there, so generally I use the dates function of the platform and depending on where I am before and where I need to be after – select my sits to suit logistics.

I’ve got quite smart over the three years at noticing certain things in the house pictures online – so over the Winter months for example, I highly prioritise the homes with Agas – so I know I’m going to be warm! I also after say a month or two with mainly dogs, make sure to select a few cat sits so I get a bit of a rest. I tend to walk between 10-17km a day with the dogs I look after – so it’s nice to have a relaxing cat sit now and then to recharge.

I love both cats and dogs equally so it’s never a compromise. I just tend to be a hermit with cats and not go exploring the area as much – so can easily put a bit of weight on with too many cats sits!! Dogs are just great at getting you out and about! I’d actually love to find a sit with a curious cat that I could take out on a leash!!

How Much Luggage Do You Travel With?

As much as I need – I’m pretty minimal, this life teaches you to be! As I have a car I can travel with more than the non-driving sitters. I have a lockup in Gloucestershire – so will change my clothing needs winter-summer / summer-winter etc., Sometimes I take my own Dyson vacuum and steam mop around with me (I mentioned my OCD right! LOL), but something I do take everywhere is my own coffee machine – as life is just too short for bad coffee!

Was it Hard for You to Secure Your First House Sitting Gig?

It thankfully wasn’t as hard for me as I’d heard it was from others. I luckily had someone take a punt on me in Amsterdam and we obviously had a video call first – so she felt I was trustworthy etc., (in Amsterdam you need to be – or your house could quickly become a party home!). So from that one sit, it just took off! I also had two external reviews on the platform from previous friends and people I had sat homes/pets for which helped.

Did You Ever Have Any Unusual Pets?

No unusual pets, but I did have a client that treated me like own her personal assistant once – calling or texting me daily with “could you just… “ and “would you mind…”.

I also had the pleasure of her mother-in-law living next door, who would let herself in with a key any time of the day or night with no knock or warning first. Hence to say I didn’t leave them a review.

What Was Your Favorite House Sitting Experience?

I wouldn’t say favourite – more memorable.

I arrived at a home in Kent, for a three-week gig, to meet a lady who was on a portable breathing machine. Unbeknownst to me (and not mentioned in the ad) she had stage 4 terminal cancer and was going on what was likely to be a last chance holiday while I looked after her house and dog.

He was, unfortunately, SOO obese that almost cried when I saw him. It was a really tough situation as I realised understandably that their dog wasn’t the couple’s priority right now and I felt he was somewhat neglected (though not via food). The house was also riddled with mice!

I dealt with the mice by buying some ultrasonic plugins and worked my magic on the dog getting him on a couch to 5k program in just over a week! I even took him to the groomers for a makeover. I won’t ever forget that dog… I cried my eyes out when I left him (sadly before his owners arrived home) – to see the sparkle in his eyes come back was just so moving.

Have You Had Any Funny House Sitting Experiences?

Well on the same sit as above – the first day I took the dog out, he must have mustered some energy from somewhere deep within as I managed to walk him about 3.5km – BUT it was slow, REALLY slow (over two hours) and by the time we got to our destination I knew there was NO way I was going to get him to walk the same distance back… so thankfully our destination was a lovely National Trust property.

I needed to walk back to the house pick up my car and drive back to the NT property to pick him up – but where would I leave him? I went into their gift shop and enquired whether they would keep hold of him while I did this. They were glad too, he even had a little bed in an office where he could lie down and get his breath back.

I practically ran back to the house, grabbed my car (and a bottle of wine for the lovely National Trust Employee) and drove back over.

The people at the property got quite used to seeing this dog I was looking after over the next three weeks and they all made a huge fuss of him, giving him a treat (or two) and commenting on how much fitter and lively he was looking each day. He loved visiting the place and feeling like a VIP each time. It was a gorgeous estate to walk around and they had many routes that got us from 1k to 5k quite easily. I joined the National Trust after that experience as the staff there were so lovely!

Tips for Others Wanting to Get Started?

Go for it – but DO have plan B’s – as many people have been really stuck with this Covid19 issue… if you do this full time and suddenly all your sits are cancelled for 2-3 months (as were mine) what will you do? I was lucky enough to find a cheap Airbnb – where I am right now. But didn’t have a plan B – so now I urge people to think about this kinda stuff (who knew right!?!)

And of course, do it for the RIGHT reasons – not as a means for cheap travel. The way I see it if the owners are having a holiday – so are the pets – so I go out of my way to see that they have the BEST TIME EVER!!!

Where to Next (When You Can)

Who knows… it’s all a bit up in the air (or not as the case may be). TBH it’s made me question whether flying all over the place 4-5 times a year is a good thing… I think the planet needs fewer carbon emissions and unless it’s a very long sit – I think I’m going to curtail flying anywhere for a while. I’ve REALLY enjoyed lockdown – seeing nature take over again with the absence of so many people and traffic, it’s a good thing. I don’t want the planet to back to ‘NORMAL’!!

Where to Find More About Clare
@claresitssdogs

Read More House Sitting Stories

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The Best House Sitting Websites
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