Housesitting and pet-sitting are rapidly becoming very popular among Retired professionals looking for ways to enjoy retirement, discover active holidays and new locations by living in housesits within a community. Bob and Shirley Hesner are Retired professionals who have traveled for much of their professional careers moving every few years. Latterly they ran their own businesses online. And after caring for a friend’s home decided they would travel as housesitters. They liked looking for new locations to visit, and new adventures from the comfort of a housesit. They found that caring for pets, homes and gardens came easily.
In this blog, they tell us about a HouseSitMatch housesit in Spain that they really enjoyed, a cat sit in Palomares in Spain.
Retired professionals Bob and Shirley fit easily into housesitting
House and pet sitting is a natural fit for us as retired professional, it is the next evolution in our lifestyle. We moved from city to city while working for a large US-based company when we were first married, and then later on into the world as self-employed business owners. And, yes, throughout that time we always had a dog. Mostly we had Huskies, and we always chose a rescue.
We housesitting started by taking care of a town home for a friend after he moved to warmer weather. Our home sold more quickly than we thought it would, so it kind of pushed us to start housesitting. You know, there is no such thing as coincidence. When he would return to the area for ski season, we would take off to spend Winter in countries that were always in Summer weather. Then we would return when he was ready to go back to the sun. Before we realized it, we were housesitting.
Exploring the world as retired professionals
As Retired professionals our instincts are first to research an idea we want to explore. We then stress test it and discuss our approach planning carefully and documenting as we go. Naturally we did the research to learn more details. We found house sitting websites and signed on. HouseSitMatch was one of those sites. We applied for various positions starting in the UK and after being accepted for that first international house and pet-sit, the rest as they say is history.
A big part of house and pet sitting is research and we are always on the computer looking for that next place. We found it while we were finishing our last house sit in Australia. It was a request to care for four cats in Palomares, Spain. We sent out a letter of application or introduction to the perspective homeowner and started a dialogue.
We spent time investigating the area and patiently waited to hear from the homeowner. Before we knew it, we agreed to a Skype video call to meet them. By the end of that call, having answered all of their questions and received answers to our own, we accepted their offer. We had agreed to stay and to care for Jimenez, Meffy, Juliet and Gabriella their cats.
We loved housesitting in Almeria, Spain
Palomares is a lovely, small town very near the Mediterranean Sea. In fact the whole coast is delightful with many charming towns such as Aguilas that we visited and enjoyed during our stay. It is a two-hour drive from Alicante, just 215 kilometres to the south. We always try to arrive a few days early, so we can learn about the pets we would care for, the house where we would be living and the surrounding area. While we were working time was always so precious we seldom had time to ease into a project or a posting.
Now as retired professionals we take time to familiarise ourselves with the task in hand before starting. It is a great luxury and we enjoy our projects more that way.
Preparing by having detailed conversations and making preparatory arrangements are very important to a successful house and pet sit. Our homeowners, Joan and Brian, were very nice and friendly as they showed us around the area, took us out for lunch and allowed us the use of their vehicle while they traveled.
Local guided tour by the home owners
They drove us around to see many of the towns close to Palomares. For example, we visited Vera, Garrucha, Mojacar and the beach community, to name a few. We were invited to meet them and their friends for a coffee in the local square. These people became our local contacts, just in case. The Square is the centre of the town and surrounded by three cafes.
This is the place to meet friends, conduct business or just relax and people watch. It’s a great European habit we now enjoy as retired professionals. A coffee or a café con leche here costs only one Euro! Before we knew it we were on our own, making sure the cats were fed, and had everything they needed. Everything is just a short walk around this lovely town. We visited the bakery, the grocery store and many cafes, pubs and restaurants on a daily walk. We dined at a local restaurant, La Dulce Casa, on market day, Wednesday. They offer tapas for one euro a plate on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Housesitting allowed us to spend time to discover a region
We were able to drive to see different cities within an hour of Palomares and visited Cartegena, Almeria and Aguilas. It turned out that we liked Aguilas the best, as it was right on the sea, protected by a cove and just the right size. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant right across from the boardwalk. The menu of the day was three courses plus bread and beverage for just eight euros. We were in time to order Paella for our entrées, and were able to sit in the sun, enjoy a wonderful meal and a beautiful view.
Local markets and living like locals
There is a market every day of the week in some town or village in this region of Spain. They are listed in the tourist guide for Almeria. Wednesday is in Palomares and on Sunday there is a much larger one in Villaricos, just two and a half kilometers away.
Villaricos is a little larger and a little busier than Palomares, probably because it is so close to the sea. We would walk there each Sunday to see what they had to offer. They sell everything from fruit and vegetables, loose-leaf teas, to bread and sweets. Then there are the clothes, shoes, house-goods, fabric, plants and flower kiosks to wander through.
At every corner and curve, we found something else we liked about this region in Spain. It never stopped surprising us with its wonderful weather, beautiful views, and warm friendly people. We have already agreed to house sit and care for those ‘carefree cats’ again next year!
Preparations make housesitting arrangements work
We will soon be returning to the States after traveling for over one year, house and pet sitting as we go, seeing many places in the world we had only imagined we might visit. We owe our success to our diligence in making that details were attended to before arriving at a house sit. Then we review the details one more time together with the homeowner before leave on holiday. As Retired professionals we have a lifetime’s experience of formalising our work arrangements. We like documenting agreements, communications, and taking responsibility. We believe it is part of the process in home and pet care.
Housesit Match check lists
We send checklists like the ones provided in HouseSitMatch’s members only pages via email for the homeowner to review. Whether you are retired professionals interested in active travel or fancy trying housesitting, HouseSitMatch offer useful documents:
- Easy Guide to Housesitting – 55 pages of tips and advice
- Easy Sit Guidelines and Checklist – key information you need to share as homeowner and housesitter
- Generic Housesitting agreements – legal template drawn up by lawyers for members’ use to itemise agreed mutual responsibilities
- UK Housesitting agreements – tailored to UK Law
- Australian Housesitting agreements – tailored to Australian Law
House sitter’s check list
When considering a house sitting assignment it is essential the housesitter ask for a list of details. These are things to know about the house and especially the pets before taking charge. In addition to the HouseSitMatch documents we also use:
- An authorization form for emergency veterinarian care should it be needed;
- An authorization form for vehicle use by the house sitter, if available,
- Most importantly the authorization form that proves we are the house sitters authorized to be in the home while the owners are away.
Once we arrive we review everything important with the homeowners to make sure, for example, we know which cats are allowed to roam and which ones should be contained behind the protective fencing of the property. Managing the details of each housesit has for us been our key to success.
Preparations help you in the ‘What if’ scenarios
Most of this article has been all about the positive, wonderful parts of house and pet sitting. If I did not mention the duties required in house and pet sitting, taking action to care for the home and pets when the ‘What if’ scenarios actually happen, it would be irresponsible. We have completed most of our house sits with nothing too challenging happening. That is the best news we can give the homeowner when they return.
However, occasionally situations happen and as a housesitter you can act to aide the pets and maintain the home. One time we woke up to find the hot water heater leaking and water running down the driveway. We tried to contact the homeowner. However, it turned out there is no Internet in that exact location. In this one instance, we made preliminary decisions to fix the problem. Once we were able to confirm what we could do and when we could reach the homeowner we explained our plans. This was three days after the incident. We made the appointment to have the hot water heater replaced before the owners’ return.
Another time: We had to take the dog to the veterinarian because his paw was red and he wouldn’t stop trying to lick or heal it himself. Two hours later, we were home with antibiotics and cream to apply on his paw. We took action to help the pet in our care.
A final though on retired professionals house sitting
Finally, at another housesit in Italy our retired professionals experienced a freak summer thunderstorm. The roof started to leak water down the wall, over the paintings, which they quickly removed from the main room to protect them. Then they rushed to place every pot and pan from the kitchen and the towels from the bath to collect the water. Thank goodness the landlord lived next door and was experiencing the storm too. The next day he helped them to reseal the roof to prevent another storm from descending on them and the house contents.
All of these events happened in the 10 and a half months our retired professionals completed in house and pet sitting.
A final note from Bob and Shirley –
The truth is that it is “good and sometimes challenging yet we would do it all again. We plan to continue as house and pet sitting because we believe it is just right for us.”
USEFUL REFERENCE CAT SITTING LINKS –
HANDY BLOGS ABOUT HOUSESITTING AND TRAVELLING IN SPAIN