House Sitting Magazine: Issue 32 July 2020

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You'll find extra news, reviews and snippets throughout the magazine!

Big little adventures Ian Usher

How our travel style is changing Sandra Ryken

Back to house sitting Collaborative article

How to take care of an older dog Alexandra Seagal

Dog parks - Rules & etiquette Victoria from

The beauty of the Peloponnese Tony Argyle

When there's no choice but to stay home Vanessa Anderson

Quartantine tips from our pets Molly Barnes

House sitters become foster parents Andrew Redfern

Moments of gratitude in Panama Janet Sussman

In the next issue...


Well, the last few months have certainly been challenging for most of us, haven’t they? And of course, house sitting was hit pretty hard when lockdowns and travel restrictions came in to force around the world. Vanessa and I had both of our April and May United States house sits cancelled, and our repeat sit in the Caribbean for June and July also fell through as all our flight bookings were cancelled. Without a place to stay, and lockdowns beginning we quickly settled on a small holiday rental in rural Cornwall in the UK’s south west. We were lucky to find among our friends, a recommendation that meant we could stay until tourism reopened in July.

Our travels on hold and our adventures restricted However, we soon discovered that adventure can come in all shapes and sizes. Vanessa and I often dream of adventures on a grand scale – chartering a yacht in the Caribbean, driving across Australia, touring Eastern Europe, freefall skydiving... that last one is more me than Vanessa! But adventure can be found anywhere, even in your own back yard. I was inspired by a book I stumbled across (at one of our previous house sits) called Micro Adventures (Local Discoveries For Great Escapes), written by UK-based author, Alastair Humphreys. Among the many suggestions this wonderful book offers, I was particularly attracted to the idea of an overnight adventure, sleeping under the stars in a hidden spot somewhere close to home. Equipment required for such an adventure is basic and reasonably cheap. The only purchase I made for my first wild overnighter was a water-resistant bivvy bag. I already owned a sleeping bag, sleeping mat and small inflatable pillow. It was the warmest day of the year up to that point, in mid-May, so even under a crystal-clear night sky the temperature wasn't going to be too cold overnight.

It took about 5 minutes to pack the small backpack, and I headed out around 9.30pm in the late evening twilight. I had a rough idea where I wanted to spend the night, in a field just off one of the coastal paths. I planned to pick a spot which would be out of view of any passing ramblers or dog walkers the next morning. After a beautiful sunset walk along the coastal path I headed inland and picked my field, about 15 minutes walk from home. The grass was long and the earth dry and flat. Within 5 minutes I was tucked up in my sleeping bag, with a stunning view over the coastline, as the last light faded from the sky. As darkness descended the stars slowly appeared, and with almost no artificial light to pollute the night sky, the vista was stunning. I slept well, and woke to find it was already light, and the sky was now overcast. I enjoyed a short "lie in" to take in the view, then packed my bed away. It was slightly damp from condensation that had built up inside the bivvy bag, but would soon dry out back at home.

In didn't take long to return home, where I discovered the time was 6.30am. Vanessa was still fast asleep. I reckon I must have had around 7 to 8 hours of sleep between the hours of 10pm and 6am. I had consciously chosen not to take my phone, so had no electronic distraction for the evening, and no real idea of the time. I wanted the experience to be one of enjoying the silence and the solitude. I used our small digital camera to take the pictures. My little adventure was quick and easy to organise, super-cheap to fund, but paid off hugely in terms of personal satisfaction.

A small radius challenge

Together Vanessa and I also planned a longer term local Cornish adventure. As local lockdown rules eased we were allowed to travel a little further afield for daily exercise reasons. Our local walks along the cliff tops could be extended further. We set ourselves a challenge to walk a section of the stunning South West Coast Path, between Land’s End and Lizard Point. We split the route into about ten sections, some of which would need a full day to complete, some shorter, which could be fitted into half a day, around our online teaching jobs. We took the bikes in the back of the van, locked them up at the end point of the day’s walk, and drove to the start of that day’s section. At the end of the walk we’d collect the bikes and cycle back to the van at the start. Over a month or so we completed our little challenge, and extended our route beyond Lizard Point to Helford. We were lucky to have great weather almost every time we went out, and with the UK still under some long distance travel restrictions, we had this stunning coastline almost to ourselves. We feel that despite the challenges the coronavirus crisis put before us, we managed to make the most of the situation we found ourselves in. We found simpler pleasures in smaller adventures, and thoroughly enjoyed our Cornwall micro-adventures.

Now, as we approach the end of July, house sitting is beginning to see a slow return to normal (at least here in the UK), and we’re now house sitting again, looking after two lovely dogs in rural Kent. Of course, there are probably further challenges and surprises ahead, as home owners may have to cancels sits, because travel remains so uncertain. But we know that whatever happens, we’ll still manage to find our little local adventures to enjoy. We hope you do too. Ian and Vanessa (currently house sitting in Kent, UK)

South West Coast Path:

Micro Adventures book:

OUR NEW TRAVEL STYLE IS CHANGING POST COVID-19 From battling overtourism to becoming truly conscious travellers by Sandra Ryken

Only a year ago, Paul and I would go out of our way to avoid the hordes of tourists in the Old Town of Dubrovnik, and dodge the day trippers from up to four cruise ships in the otherwise charming Bay of Kotor. There was a term for what we experienced: OVERTOURISM. A term minted to put into words the sad reality tourism had become in many popular destinations.

Paul and cruise ship in Bay of Kotor

These days, overtourism is a thing of the past. COVID-19 has killed it - at least for now. The pandemic has also taught us a thing or two: That what we took for granted - travel, our health or simply catching up with family and friends - can vanish overnight. That resilient communities matter more than global trade. That nature has suffered from our collective human activity. But also, that nature can recover quickly if we remove our activity from the equation. The pandemic has forced us to stop and listen. Travel may be subdued for some time. And we may get to know every nook and cranny of our own backyards before we venture overseas again. But ultimately, travel will return. And the number of people seeking out adventure and awe around the world will magnify. My hope is that we (humans) don't just return to our old (bad) habits. Travel is an incredible privilege, and with that privilege comes responsibility. So, how have Paul and I honoured our responsibility pre-COVID? And what changes are we making as we (slowly) resume our travels?

How did we travel pre-COVID? Paul and I are immensely grateful for the travel-centric, nomadic lifestyle we have created for ourselves. But we are also very aware what a privilege it is. As travellers, we are ambassadors of our countries. How we spend our funds can either help a destination thrive or contribute to its demise.

We write about sustainable travel on our website and other publications. And we live what we preach. Before COVID-19 put a (temporary) stop to our vagabonding ways, we would research extensively and plan ahead: When is peak season, and what's the weather like during our visit, (so that we'd know what time to avoid)? What are local laws and customs? What language is spoken? If we didn't speak the language, we would look up and learn key words and phrases: hello, goodbye, thank you, please, yes, no, where is.

Transport We would check how to get from A to B, identifying the options with the lowest carbon footprint. For long-distance travel, we would choose train over bus over plane. We would check what public transport is like at our destination. And we would choose public transport (or exploring a place on foot) over rental cars or scooters.

Sandra with tram in Antalya

Accommodation We would choose accommodation that is near public transport (or in walking distance to the places we would like to visit). We would make sure that the properties booked had all the key things we needed: cooking facilities, (ideally) our own bathroom and good internet. But also who owns the property/is our host? We would choose staying with locals over a hotel/motel room owned by international hospitality chains. And house sit whenever possible.

Food Before booking our accommodation, we checked the location of local produce markets. We would investigate what unique food our destination is known for, and where we can eat local specialties. While we would go out for meals to experience the local cuisine, we would also stick with some staples wherever we went: cereal, fruit, milk, yoghurt for breakfast; bread, peanut butter or jam, cheese or cold meat for the second meal we may have at our accommodation. Unfortunately, this often meant supermarkets and sadly, packaged food.

Activities We love (free) tip-based walking tours where passionate locals share historic facts, interesting anecdotes and insider tips with their curious audience. Before booking an activity, we would research what the activity entails, how large the group is and who owns the company. We avoided large group activities (even before the pandemic), activities that exploit animals or where our funds don't remain in the community.

Travel gear We travel with carry-on backpacks. In fact, our two backpacks and everything in them is all we own. So, naturally, we research everything we own and travel with, to ensure it has the features and qualities we need. We would check what raw material it is made of, travelling largely with clothes made from sustainable fibres like merino and lyocell these days. We would also research the supply chain of our gear, trying to ensure that its production doesn't pollute the environment or exploit the communities who make it.

How is our travel style changing post COVID-19? We may have already travelled with a sustainability mindset pre-COVID. But having experienced the impact of the pandemic on the travel industry first-hand, we realise there is a lot more we can do - for the benefit of both us and the destinations we visit.

Travel slower and stay longer Paul and I are explorers first, house sitters second. In the past, due to visa limitations, we sometimes felt we needed to pack in as much as possible. But it often turned out to be more than was good for us (or the environment).

Sandra with our backpacks in Tikal

Occasionally, it was too expensive to stay longer. Anyone who's been to Scandinavia will know what I mean. During our year-long journey around Europe, we averaged 5 nights in one place ranging from 1 night (for transfer reasons) to 35 nights. This year so far, we are averaging 12 nights in one place. And we intend to slow down even further.

Immerse ourselves in local life During our almost four years of full-time travel, we stayed with some amazing people: a film maker in New York, an Oscar winner in Sydney, an Indigenous Chief and his family in Eastern Dominica. Our hosts around the world became our friends, like the owners of an eco-lodge deep in the Peruvian Amazon, our Airbnb hosts in Porto, Vilnius, Ĺ ibenik and Central Dominica, our Spanish school host family in Quito. Thanks to them, we've felt like locals. From them, we learned more about their way of life than any guide or book could teach us. Through them, we found many hidden gems - from local eateries to beautiful nature spots off the beaten tourist path. The experience has enriched us as much as it has enriched their lives. This is how we want to travel more in future. To immerse ourselves deeply in local life and contribute to the communities we visit, through homestays, volunteer work, WWOOFing, etc.

Avoid food packaging and learn to cook local food We travel with a large silk bag that doubles as a shopping bag and carrier bag for our weekly trip to the laundry. In future, we will bring with us small cloth bags and reusable silicone ziplock bags to buy more bulk and unpackaged food. When we can't avoid supermarkets, we'll check the origin of the products, in addition to the recyclability of the packaging. We also want to do more cooking classes with locals to learn to prepare local dishes.

Be (even) more selective about our activities In June 2019, we joined an organised day trip to the Kornati Telašdica National Park, a group of beautiful islands just off the Croatian coast. While the boat we chose was owned locally, the food served was pre-packaged in plastic, served on plastic cutlery and crockery, and everything ended up in one big rubbish bag. That tainted an otherwise beautiful day out. Going forward, we will ask more questions upfront to identify the activities and providers that are best ticking all three boxes: value for money, supporting the local community and protecting the environment.

Take a circular economy approach to our gear While our gear is high quality and lasts for a long time, eventually, we have to replace items. We are now asking ourselves before we buy: 

What happens once it reaches its end of life?

How can we ensure now that our purchase doesn't end up in landfill?

Finding products that are being reused to make other products out of them is an ongoing challenge, but we don't give up.

So how do you make sure you are the best traveller you can be?

We are Sandra and Paul, the Gen X couple behind Having said farewell to our corporate careers in 2016, we now travel full-time. We are passionate about simple living and sustainable travel and have made it our mission to help others experience more by living with less. Connect with us on Facebook or Instagram (@MinJourneys) - it would be lovely to meet you on the road.

BACK TO NORMAL? Certainly back to house sitting for some of us Collaborative article

As lockdown's have eased, it's been encouraging to see house sits reappear on the house sitting platforms, albeit with less regularity than before, and also with less certainty of actually taking place. But that aside, sits in July have been available and many of us have been relieved to get back to our regular "job" of house sitting and taking care of pets. There is no "back to normal", not yet, as continued local lockdowns and increased infection rates scupper travel plans around the world. House sitters are discovering a whole new meaning to the words "flexible" and "adaptable", as one house sit falls away, but is often quickly replaced by another.

We've been aware that there's more safety in booking local sits where people aren't leaving the country, but instead are staycationing in their home country this summer. We've also notice that sits aren't being listed as far ahead as in pre-Covid days. People are advertising sits often not more than a month ahead as they wait to see what new travel restrictions come into play. But we have to remain positive, and that together with our new level of flexibility, a Plan B to deal with cancellations and a backup fund for emergencies, has led us quickly back into our house sitting lifestyle‌ at least for the moment! Here are the stories of four other house sitters who have also either returned to house sitting this month, or are still contemplating doing so in the near future!

KATE LANCASTER Hope, masks and handwash See Kate and Mike's profile at Well, it's been an interesting few months‌from a happy house sit on the Cornish borders to panic as all of our sits for a year fell in less than a week. The possibility of several months in a tent morphed into an Airbnb, an empty holiday apartment and now, in July, our first post lockdown house sit, up in beautiful Wales.

In common with most full time sitters we have spent the last few months desperately trying to cling to any certainties in an uncertain world. Although we knew we wanted to continue sitting, we also wanted to do so responsibly, both to protect ourselves and everyone else we might come into contact with. For us, that meant risk assessing the point at which we felt we could sit fairly safely (with social distancing, face masks and hand sanitiser at the ready), without risking potentially being an unknowing vector for Covid, given many people are symptomless. We currently sit exclusively within the UK and since we gave up our rented home at the beginning of 2019 to go full time, we have always travelled between sits using public transport – quite an experience with anything up to eight bags and suitcases between us! However, once lockdown eased and we went on a bus and train for the first time in almost three months, we realised very quickly this would no longer be an option. Social distancing on public transport has dramatically reduced the amount of space available, and we didn't feel it would be helpful to take up all the space with our luggage, not to mention the fact we would be more at risk if we were travelling regularly. This led us on to the biggest Covid-related decision we have made – to buy a car. Cue massive amounts of excitement, quite a lot of trepidation and a whole load of research. We have a very small budget to get by on, so this was a real leap in the dark for us, but our elderly Volkswagen Passat is already making a massive difference to our house sitting experience. It's a revelation to be able to travel with a few kitchen implements and crafting materials (not to mention Kate's knitting Afghan loom). Given Covid has by no means gone away, and there is a very real possibility of local lockdowns, flexibility is going to be all important and having a car has also given us the opportunity to try for sits that were previously out of reach due to their remote location. We're working on the assumption that lockdowns are going to be more likely in densely populated Cities, so we are now trying to take opportunities in small towns and villages, as they may have a greater chance of going ahead. We thought our return to house sitting would feel odd after everything that has happened in the last few months, but actually it was simply lovely to get back to a familiar routine and particularly back to looking after pets, which we have both missed desperately during lockdown. We know that sits will be less certain, and Covid related measures will be in place for the foreseeable future. However, with good communication and a bit of extra planning, it feels as though things are starting to settle down and we can move forward once more. Here's to new adventures!

FAITH COATES Back on the road soon - Donegal to France Follow Faith at We had just returned from a week break in Krakow when Covid hit Ireland and we were instantly in lockdown. Fortunately, for us we had rented a place temporarily in Donegal so I could have surgery for my cataracts. Our temporary move has now stretched beyond a year and we are getting a little stir crazy. Unable to housesit since the summer of last year when we managed back-to-back sits in Oxford and Warwickshire, we planned a few weekends away for 2020 but we've been locked down since mid March and for most of that time we were unable to travel more than 5 kms from our house. Fortunately, here in Donegal nobody paid attention to that because most of us live well over 5 kms from the nearest shops. It was a strange lonely feeling travelling streets and lanes where once tourists tromped mercilessly onward to their next bucket list site. It's usually pretty quiet here in rural Donegal, except for traffic and tractor noise. Traffic had disappeared and it wasn't yet tractor season, so the silence allowed us to hear woodpeckers, crakes and pheasants, and the mewling of lambs and calves in the fields. We could even hear the donkeys bellowing a few miles down the road.

Feeling as if we have been in one spot too long became overwhelming though. It's not as if we don't love Ireland, it's just the staying in one specific place for over a year that has become somehow irritating. If we can keep moving, even for the short term, at least we are moving and not stagnant. So we started planning for house sits later in the year. We had decided on house sitting in the UK, France, Italy, or Spain and kept a close eye on the news as to what was taking place in these countries. France won out with its lifting of borders and slowly moving back into some semblance of normalcy. There were many sits coming available in Brittany and other heavy expat areas of France. So, I put some feelers out on a few Facebook groups for expats in France and was quickly asked to take on three sits. Starting in September we are on our way to France for a minimum of 5 months and we'll leave the rest to the wind and chance. We are travelling by car and ferry so for the most part we will be self-contained and careful to wear our masks when in public. We have booked a cabin on the ferry so we can maintain social distancing and the ferries seem to be organized with respect to on-boarding and departing all colour coded to maintain social distances. I have to admit we are getting a trifle impatient to get moving. As usual when you settle for any length of time stuff tends to start piling up around you and you are not as minimalist as you hope to be. So we are in the process of de-stuffing again before we head out on what we consider our road to freedom.

JENNI & HENRY FLETT Going back to Europe Follow Jenni & Henry at Hoopla Adventures As we tentatively step onto an empty train to make the journey across central London, we have a pang of guilt. Was this the right time to travel so far? Last year we booked a summer in Bulgaria as part of a pre-Brexit European tour and like everyone, our plans were cancelled, and we were effectively homeless. Fortunately, family could take us in. Although, after three months of learning to coexist in perfect harmony, we knew we had to move on or risk an extremely tense Christmas dinner at the end of the year. Then we get a call from the homeowner who asks us if the borders open, could we still do the sit? It would involve two weeks of quarantine, but it would give us back our summer and some sanity. The minute the announcement comes through that UK nationals can travel to Bulgaria, we book our flights.

Getting to London's Luton Airport is the biggest concern. Once we get to Sofia, we are to be picked up by our homeowner in her car and go into quarantine together for two weeks. We go from Didcot to London, make our connections via tube and train and arrive to Luton. It's early morning and the city is desolate. There are only a few people on each of our transport and the screens at the airport list only 6 flights due to leave that day. Then we get to the queue for the flight. It's jam-packed. A saving grace is that we do have our own row, and we're all wearing masks with bottles of antibacterial hand gel at the ready. However, that flies out the window when the plane lands. Everybody immediately stands up and squish together in the aisle waiting to disembark. We decide to stay put and wait for everyone to get off before we tackle the border checks. There is a bit of confusion at the border as to whether we're just passing through, but they let us in, take our quarantine details and do a temperature check. An hour later we're sitting in our new temporary home on the outskirts of Sofia. Now we're here we know it was the best decision for us in our circumstances. Cautiously we still only leave the house one day a week to explore, do normal touristy things and get our food shop. Honestly, it feels no different than usual. We still work online, we look after a menagerie of animals, and it's a busy sit with a huge garden to care for.

Part of the allure of this sit was that it's a little remote and it's a veritable Garden of Eden, and there are all kinds of animals including chickens, cats, dogs, and birds. That seems like a dangerous combination, but they all get on, even if they do try to infiltrate each other's food bowls! We knew we could easily spend all our time here and over the three months do little bits of travel here and there. We know it's not for everyone to jump back into house sitting, but our situation felt right because it is such a long sit. We spend our days working, doing the household tasks, feeding, cleaning, and trying our best at learning Bulgarian. We chat to the neighbour over the fence and do little DIY projects around the house. If we've made one decision, it's to invest in a house to rent while we travel. If this happens again, we need to be better prepared and maybe we can offer our family and friends the same safety net they were able to give us. As for afterwards, we still have at least one booking nearby so we have some semblance of the life we had built pre-pandemic. We know how lucky we are this could still happen, but we also know if the situation turns again, we might have to dip into savings to settle down for a bit. It's uncertain so we try to carry on and hope that we're doing the right thing!

DOUG DYER From globetrotter to basement dweller Follow Doug and Johanne at Joyful Travellers The other day I was trying to find words to convey to a friend what it feels like to go from world globe trotter to basement dweller in just a few short months. Like a ship without a rudder I was feeling adrift and without steerage. My friend nailed it when she said "I had lost my purpose". Exactly, I am out in the world without purpose, adrift. That brought up a very interesting point that I hadn't really internalized before. Over the past four years, house and pet sitting has indeed been my purpose and a noble one at that. I have always savoured that sense of fulfilment that comes when a homeowner shows their gratitude for the care that you have given their home and pets. It was like a bonus to me but maybe, subliminally, it is much more than that. It is the expression of my purpose. A job well done! The last four years have been an absolute blast. Johanne and I, have traveled the globe living in places we could not have dreamed of. We have cared for restored mansions in Mexico, alpaca farms in New Zealand, and organic coco estate in Panama. We have lived remotely on gorgeous Caribbean Islands and on breathtaking beaches in Ecuador. For the most part, our house-sit gigs have been booked back-to-back with a few days of adventure travel thrown in for good measure.

But of all the amazing homes and properties that Johanne and I have experienced, we sit here in the basement feeling at a loss for all of the beautiful animals that we have cared for. So that again affirms that house-sitting truly is a purpose for us. A menagerie of over eighty dogs, sixty cats, donkeys, sheep, cattle, various fowl and turtles have benefited from our love and attention while their owners enjoyed a carefree vacation. Pretty good eh? Before the news of a global shut-down engulfed us, we were looking forward to twelve more months of fully booked sits. Eight fabulous back-to-back sits began to unravel, we went from Plan B to Plan C, D, and then E. By now we are on Plan K or something like that. Johanne is spending almost as much time working on airfare cancellations and refunds as she did in organizing it all in the first place. Like many of you, we are truly nomadic in that we have no home to go back to. The uncertainty that arises from being homeless in these times could easily keep a person lying awake at night. However, another dear friend and house sitter (house sitters have the best wisdom) shared a paradigm shift that has really helped. She told us that "uncertainty" is easier to manage if you exchange it for the word "wonder". I love that bit of wisdom and have tried to incorporate it into our vocabulary. So rather than fretting about the uncertainty that comes with closed borders and cancelled flights we prefer to just be in wonder of where we will end up. We hope to have at least another four more years with house-sitting as our main purpose but for now, we can only "wonder" what that might look like!!


Your pal has been there for you over the years, so when they get older, you'll want to return the love. And, if you are a house and pet sitter, you may find yourself looking after an older pup, as people are less inclined to board their older dogs. Senior dogs have different requirements than younger canines and puppies. As they age, they slow down. Sometimes, they suffer from diseases like cancer, or they might get arthritis, or have joint problems. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to help them transition into their golden years. Read on to learn more.

When is a dog a senior? First things first: when is your dog considered a senior? That depends. Toy and miniature breeds usually live longer than large and giant dogs.

An Irish Wolfhound only lives about 5 to 7 years. That means your dog may as well be considered a senior when he is just 3 or 4 years old. On the other hand, Chihuahuas tend to have the longest lifespan. Some of them can live up to 20 years! So when your dog hits 15, she may just be entering old age. The best way to know if your canine friend is nearing their senior years is to talk with your vet and watch for things like age-related diseases and behavioral changes. Once they become seniors, it's time to act. Here are 5 things you should consider when taking care of an elderly pooch.

1. Regular vet visits are key Visiting the vet is essential when you have a pet, but visits would be done more often and are vital once your dog hits his senior years. A bi-yearly check-up can help you spot potential health concerns before they become devastating. It also enables your vet to keep an eye on changes in your pet's behavior that you might not notice. Since we see our fur babies every day, we might not realize that our fido has slowed down or become depressed over time. But a vet may spot these changes and help you address them. Even if your dog isn't facing health challenges, he may not have the same energy level that he used to enjoy. A vet can help address this so that your doggo can be as happy as possible. Vets can also help you maintain your dog's oral health. This is especially important when dogs get older because they start to lose their teeth or suffer from dental problems. Finally, the vet will supply and monitor your dog's medication to help him live a full life even as he gets older.

2. Change their food or diet Your senior dog may love the kibble he's been eating for the past six years, but when he's aging, you might want to revisit his food routine. Some dogs need to go on a lower-calorie diet as their metabolism slows down with age. You don't want your pooch to get overweight because this can cause joint problems and other illnesses. Your furry buddy may also need to switch to wet food if they have mouth or jaw issues. Dogs who have lost their teeth can't eat the same crunchy kibble that they used to. There are lots of high-quality senior dog foods out there aimed at getting your dog plenty of nutrition in their senior years. Check out online some of the many brands and recipes out there to determine what may work for you and your dog. Before giving a dog food that you think is best for your elderly canine friend, talk about your choice with the vet and find out whether you should feed it your pet, or if they can provide other options.

3. Exercise is still important There are days when your senior dog will look up at you when you pull out the leash, and instead of jumping up with joy, they'll roll over and go back to sleep. But so long as they aren't in pain, you should still make sure your dog gets some exercise.

Your dog won't need the same amount of activity that they did when they were in their prime, but a daily walk for 20 minutes can get the blood flowing and ease stiffness. It can even help stave off diseases, just as it can in humans. For dogs that have joint issues, swimming in a pool or a lake can be a good exercise option. For those canines that can't exercise, they may still enjoy a ride in the car so that they can see the familiar sites and hear the familiar sounds in their neighborhood. They need mental stimulation, as well. Provide interactive games and puzzles for your dog to keep them busy. You can create a puzzle by hiding treats in an empty cupcake tin and covering each cup with a tennis ball. Or you can purchase toys like wobble balls or Kongs to keep them busy.

4. Accommodating special needs for elderly dogs As dogs get older, they can also suffer from the same types of joint and bone problems, just like us. Some can get arthritis, and others start to lose their sight. Your pup may also lose the ability to hold his bladder. While the effects of aging are inevitable, they don't have to negatively impact your senior dog if you take the right steps to accommodate their needs. Putting ramps on stairs or steps to help them get onto your bed, or into cars, are options for dogs with mobility issues. If your dog can't use the stairs anymore, move their bed, toys, food, and water bowls somewhere where they can easily access them. If you've ever watched a dog scramble around a corner on a hardwood or tile floor, then you can imagine how difficult it can be to get around for a dog that has arthritis. Put rugs or mats down where they walk the most to help them navigate the house without slipping. Install gates or close doors to prevent dogs from going places where they might get hurt. That means limiting access in areas with dangers like glass doors or stairs for dogs who don't see well. If your fur baby loses his sight entirely, be mindful not to leave things around that he could stumble into. Try not to move furniture so that she can still try to roam indoors based on memory. Your dog should also have a fluffy, soft bed to hang out on. Something with a lot of padding can help ease sore and tired joints. Other canine buddies even require a heating pad or a bed heater. You should also increase the number of times you let your dog outside to go potty, instead of accidentally peeing themselves.

5. Vaccinations and meds may need to change If your dog has been taking medication for most of his life, you may need to adjust those meds as your dog gets older. Some may not be as effective, or they may not benefit your dog anymore, so you may need to try something else. Or, if your dog has gained weight, you may need to adjust the dosage. If your dog hasn't been on medication, he may need some as he gets older. Diseases like arthritis and joint issues can be treated with the right medication. You also may want to change up preventative medications like heartworm preventatives or flea and tick repellents. This is something to discuss with your veterinarian. Chat with your vet about vaccinations. You and your canine buddy's vet may decide to stop doing some injections. For instance, older dogs who don't go outside as much may not need a leptospirosis vaccination.

HELP YOUR DOG LIVE THE BEST OF LIVES Aging doesn't have to be miserable for you or your pet. All it takes is a little extra time and care, and a willingness to adjust your routine. With that bit of effort, your dog can be as healthy and happy as possible. Don't forget the most important tip for caring for a senior dog: love. Your pooch needs as much, if not more, love and affection as they've ever had. Don't let their reduced need for playtime trick you into thinking they need less attention. Besides, is there anything better than snuggling up with your faithful pal for a relaxing evening?

Alexandra Seagal is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief at Animalso. She's an ardent animal lover with two dogs, one cat and an adorable hamster. Her website provides important answers to your questions with a community that shares your love for animals.


For dogs that get along well with others of their kind and enjoy the interaction, a dog park can be a fun place to burn off some energy and socialize. However, dog parks also have the potential to be a "free for all" situation, especially if you are unaware of the standard etiquette and unwritten rules to be followed that keep the dog park safe and fun for all - humans and their dogs! When you are on a house or pet sit with dogs, it's good to check out with the home owner whether their dogs are used to visiting dog parks. In some countries, like Australia and the USA, it's much more common, and dogs are used to this social experience, but in other countries solitary walks are more the norm. In the UK the Kennel Club actively discourages the use of dog parks. Having an understanding about dog park etiquette will help you and the dog in your care, have a stress free experience.

Know your dog's temperament An essential aspect of proper dog park etiquette is knowing your dog's personality and temperament, and being aware if it's safe for your dog to join the other dogs. Some pups can be too pushy and overwhelming for shy dogs, and others don't get along with those who are more significant in size than they are. Check with the home owner just how socialized your charges are. Knowing how your dog will react to a group of dogs in the dog park will help you know when it's time to leave, especially if there is a dog yours doesn't get along well with. As a pet sitter, you'll find that other dog owners will probably know more than you about how your dog gets along with others. Dog parks are often just as social for the owners‌ strike up a conversation and see what you can find out.

Appropriate behavior for your dog Even if your dog is generally friendly, not all dogs will always appreciate the type of play your dog enjoys. There are a few best practices for appropriate dog behavior at the dog park, and if you notice your dog displaying anything inappropriate, you should take the opportunity to call your dog away and put on a leash before an incident can occur.

A veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Sophia Yin, covers many of the things we do and don't want to see from our dogs at the dog park. One of her recommendations is to not allow your dog to rush to a group of dogs. It's no fun to be mobbed!

You should also make sure your dog doesn't steal toys from other dogs. If you know that your dog guards his/her toys, or might take toys from other dogs, look for a dog park that doesn't allow toys and check to make sure nobody has broken those rules when you arrive. Also, watch out for your dog if they are "pushy" or "rude" in their greetings, or are playing too roughly with other dogs. Not all dogs will want to be friends with your dog, so even if your dog is trying to play, you must intervene to keep the other dog from feeling like they need to defend themselves. Ensure that you keep your dog from hogging all the play space and jumping on other owners. One of the most important aspects of attending a dog park with your dog is paying attention. Unlike a dog daycare, where you drop your dog off to be supervised by a staff member, the person responsible for watching your dog is you. Some of Dr. Sophia Yin's recommendations for how to practice proper behavior to lead to an enjoyable dog park visit, include training your dog to focus on you.

Try to get your dog to stay engaged with you rather than just running in a free for all with other dogs. Make sure your dog's recall is sound - when you call your dog it should return to you. Following these recommendations, you can help make the dog park visit safe and enjoyable for all participants. As a pet sitter it's a good idea to attend the park first with the homeowner on your handover – this will give you an opportunity to see how good you dogs recall is, whether they respond to treats and generally how well socialized they are.

Health, safety and the dog park Another consideration, besides your dog's temperament and obedience training, is the health of your dog. The American Kennel Club has several recommendations for safely enjoying a dog park and keeping your dog healthy. According to advice from ThePets, don't take young puppies to the dog park until they are at least 4 months and have received all of their vaccines. A dog park can harbour disease. It’s important to remember that even if you are a responsible dog carer, not everyone using the dog park has the same standards. One way you can help keep your dog healthy is by bringing your own bowl and water. Several easily communicable diseases can be spread through communal water bowls, such as a form of highly contagious (but benign) mouth warts. Taking your own water and bowl will let you keep your dog hydrated while avoiding the increased risk of disease using shared water bowls. Part of being responsible means cleaning up after your dog at the dog park and only taking healthy dogs. If your dog is sick, it's time to stay home. There are also some injuries where dogs should not be exercised, especially in a boisterous dog park. For example, if your dog has something like a torn cruciate ligament you are likely to have a very explicit exercise routine, which won't involve running around at a dog park. You'll also want to keep female dogs in heat away from the dog park for obvious reasons. Dogs in heat can also be the catalyst for fights between other dogs. Another way to keep your dog safe is to make sure that your small pet sit dogs play with other small dogs - they can incite prey drive in large dogs or accidentally be injured in full on play with a dog more significant than themselves.

Additional manners for the dog park Dog trainer and daughter of a veterinarian, Mikkel Becker, contributes some other ideas for do's and don'ts to enjoy your time at the dog park with your dog. As always, follow any posted rules for your individual dog park and recommended suggestions.

Mikkel Becker notes that it's essential to keep your dog on a leash until you are in the dog park entry, to prevent your dog from running off or scaring dogs outside the dog park. It's equally important to remove your dog's leash before letting them play in the park because keeping your dog on a leash comes with an increased risk of dog fights since your dog can't "escape" with a rope holding them in place. It's also essential to make sure your dog is under control and calm before entering the dog park. While you might consider the dog park to be where your over-excited dog burns off their energy, it can also increase the risk of high arousal situations. Ask for some basic obedience before your dog enters the dog park and try taking your dog on a walk first or playing fetch at home to take the edge off before letting them play.

Pay attention to your dog in the park Finally, make sure you are paying 100% attention to your charge. If you have kids, leave them at home. You should be focusing on your dog, and remember not all dogs will get along with kids, nor have the manners not to knock them over or cause accidental harm. Keep your phone in your pocket and closely watch your dog, so they don't hump or bully other dogs, or start long and rousing games of chase.

Remember, dog walkers tend to have steady routines. Find out what times your dog normally goes to the park. If he or she is used to playing with a particular set of dogs at a certain time of the day, you may find this provides an altogether easier experience. If ever in doubt about your dog's behavior or interaction with other dogs, play safe and leave the park.

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Mention Greece to most travellers and it conjures up images of crystal-clear waters, stunning beaches and enjoying a drink at an affordable taverna while boats bobble at the jetty nearby. It's an image synonymous with this beautiful country. Contrary to belief, however, you don't need to head out to the Greek islands to make this your reality. As much as we enjoy the islands of Greece the mainland, particularly the Peloponnese peninsula, holds a special place in our hearts. Not only does it offer all the above, but often at more affordable prices, and far less crowded than it's more famous offshore cousins... and it can be reached in less than an hour from Athens. The Peloponnese is authentic Greece, warts and all, with cute villages, majestic mountains that are more impressive than you would expect from this country, and some of the most stunning coastal drives you'll find anywhere, with amazing views of the Aegean sea around every corner. There are more places to mention than we can cover in this article but here are some of the favourites we've enjoyed seeing:

PYLOS Situated on the west coast of the Peloponnese, this pretty fishing village is home to just a few thousandinhabitants, but its reputation is growing (the Beckhams were rumoured to holiday nearby recently). The drive into town from the north (for those who are coming from Ancient Olympia) is gorgeous as you round the bay and climb a hill before coming down into town (there's a lookout with views to Sphacteria island just offshore). The centre of town is a communal square with an abundance of cafes to enjoy a drink and take in the harbour view. Just across the hill nearby is Methoni with its crystal-clear waters providing an excellent swimming beach for young and old with the ruins of the Fortaleza Venecia de Methoni framing the view from a nearby spit.

MONEMVASIA Situated on its own island with a causeway that reaches back to the mainland, Monemvasia (image above) is one of our favourite places and truly something out of a movie scene. The walled town is positioned overlooking the ocean and although quite touristy, with many of the original buildings turned into cafes and craft stores, it hasn't lost its feeling of authenticity. Those feeling energetic can climb the many steps to the church above with wonderous views back town to the village and the boats that pass regularly out to sea.

Close by is the island of Ellafonisos (above), reachable with a shortten-minute ferry ride from the mainland. The island is small with a village that can provide food, drink, and a little shopping but its beaches are rated among the best in Greece.

NAFPLION Briefly the capital after Greece gained independence from the Turks, Nafplion is a popular tourist location less than two hours from Athens. It sits on the Bay of Argolis with its old town area jutting into the ocean.

The shopping is very good, with many craft manufacturers producing their wares on the premises, and you can enjoy a drink or meal in the town square, along the promenade watching the luxury yachts pull in, or in some of the pretty little side streets which are often framed by the bougainvillea. The old town is overshadowed by the Palamidis fortress, its 999 steps providing breathtaking views for those who are prepared to take it on. A short drive away is the ancient Amphitheatre of Epidavros, still used for outdoor concerts some 2000 years after it was built.

POROS Another favourite for us is Poros which can be reached in less than two hours by ferry from Athens. Although strictly speaking an island, Poros sits just a two-minute boat ride from the mainland and is easily reachable by the small water taxis that charge just one euro for the ride across. The main town is charming and for those wishing to take a vehicle over there is a car ferry which gives you the freedom to explore some of the beaches and backroads of the island. From the high points you can see across the Saronic Gulf and past the island of Aegina to the whitewashed buildings of Athens in the distance.

Nearby is Methana, a would-be island except for a natural land bridge that joins it to the mainland. The more adventurous can hike to the top of an extinct volcano or enjoy the natural thermal waters that pour into the ocean near the site of the main town. A half hour drive from Poros and you can be at Metoxi where you can catch a 30-minute ferry ride to Hydra. This island is largely deserted other than the main town which is famous for its absence of traffic (donkey and by foot are the only ways of getting around) and for being the home of musician, Leonard Cohen, for a number of years. Hydra can be a little touristy along the waterfront but head back a street or two for a real experience. Those who are fitter can climb the many streets that offer breathtaking views across the harbour and back to the Greek mainland.

COVID TRAVEL UPDATE FOR GREECE Greece has been one of the most successful European countries at restricting the outbreak of coronavirus and as such has been open for tourism since June. Citizens of some countries are restricted from entry, so please check your own situation and more recent government website updates prior to booking.

Tony and Leanne Argyle are Kiwis who sold all their stuff, rented out the house and hit the road. They are now enjoying traversing the world as full-time travellers. You can follow their adventures, subscribe to their free magazine, and check out their in-depth interviews with other long term travellers at

WHEN THERE'S NO CHOICE BUT TO STAYCATION AT HOME by Vanessa Anderson Our world has been turned upside down. For the past seven years we've been full-time nomads and international travellers. We've explored the four corners of the earth, house sitting and combining slow travel. We found a way to experience as much of the world as possible, on a limited budget. We sold our homes and changed our careers. Firstly becoming TEFL teachers and spending a year living and teaching in China, then developing an online community and magazine for the global house and pet sitting community. Outdoor adventures are what we most enjoy, from hiking up mountains, mountain biking, canoeing, and more recently, sailing. We don't sit on beaches, frequent spas or spend evenings in upmarket bars and restaurants. It's just not our thing. We love the outdoors. We live for change, and we relish a challenge. And that's just what we got in March 2020!

All travel and house sitting came to a rather abrupt end as the effects of Covid19 closed borders and confined us all to lockdown, mostly back in our home countries.|

Lockdown choices Of course we were disappointed that our house sit in New York City, and our summer repeat sit in the Caribbean were both to be cancelled. But our initial concerns involved finding a safe place to live before lockdown took hold. It wasn't easy for those of us who have chosen to live a nomadic life. But we were prepared – you have to be these days. You adapt to change quickly when you don't have the security of a home and a regular job! But we wouldn't want it any other way. Through the help of friends we found ourselves with a long term lockdown rental in Cornwall. Tucked away in a bubble of rural safety on the Lizard Peninsula, not far from the remote tip of western most England, at Lands End, we've been pondering the future of our travel and nomadic lifestyle. Instead of dreaming of far distant locations, we've looked closer to home for our travel fixes.

Looking closer to home for a travel fix When lock-down began and we were allowed only a short trip out to exercise each day, we made the most of this hour. With the help of OS Maps, Ian found just about every countryside footpath and bridleway within a few miles of home. When limited to a few square miles you have to be creative. We realized that with a mixture of cycling, a good bike lock, and more off the beaten track hikes, we could extend our range. When we were allowed to drive, we ventured even further afield. In two months we've gone no further than 20 miles and we have rarely repeated any of our routes. We've cycled the shortest coast to coast route in the UK while learning all about Cornish mining history. We've walked the entire section of the South West Coast Walk between the Helford River and Land's End devising circular walks to complete it in 16 separate hikes, become experts at identifying wild flower and birds, and watching seals and enjoying sausage brunches along the way. Last week we reflected on the fact that our 2 months in Cornwall rivalled some of our more adventurous road trips in the USA. It was a revelation!

Pretty Porthleven, Cornwall in the middle of lockdown

A new kind of holiday It seems we have embraced the concept of a "staycation" or 'holistay' by default at a time when we thought our travel was on an indefinite hold. Staycations certainly aren't a new idea. But Staycations are most definitely getting a lot of press right now as Brits find themselves unable, or unwilling to travel further afield. Why would you? At a time when there's so much uncertainty around Covid19, with all manner of different regulations and quarantine rules, the need for mandatory mask wearing in some public places, and a lack of freedom to roam and enjoy sights as we did before. Most inside spaces are now restricted to less visitors and you'll need to book in advance, even for many National Trust and English Heritage gardens and buildings. That of itself, could be a good thing. Over recent years we've seen more and more travellers scrambling to get the perfect Instagram picture, and to be honest we've found ourselves less drawn to the popular sightseeing locations. We were lucky to get tickets to the Alhambra in Granada on our last trip to Spain, but the queuing, and the crowds of people, large groups of overseas tourists, made it a less enjoyable experience than in years gone by.

Stonehenge at the point where travel was diminishing in the UK

Travel over the next year will be like never before as the world comes to terms with how to keep people safe until a vaccine is found. It's likely to involve even more queuing, social distancing, less relaxing cafe and lunch breaks, fewer social interactions, masks and higher costs. That's not for us anymore! Our house sitting lifestyle has already introduced a slower way to travel, to enjoy a local area, to take less rushed between sit adventures. So we think adapting to the idea of that being in our own country for a while, isn't going to be too difficult. And we are enjoying thinking about new ways to create mini-adventures as part of a staycation.

What exactly is a staycation? A staycation involves not venturing further than driving distance of your home, with or without accommodation. It's also become a more general term for taking a vacation in your home country. My thoughts returned recently to friends, years ago, raising much laughter when they announced they were taking their caravan just 5 miles from home to enjoy an alternative perspective on their local environment. They woke up and cooked breakfast in a field, watched badgers at sunset, listened to the birds and enjoyed switching off from their normal routine, for just a couple of days before returning the caravan to the driveway!

Little did they know they were pioneering what we might now see as a normal way to take a vacation. And think about it. Five miles from home requires no tiresome traffic queues, and no wasting a day each end of your holiday in the airport, on the ferry or train. What about the anticipation of experiencing a new and different culture, language, food, and of course the promise of better weather? Nothing is ever perfect, even a trip abroad can have its disappointments. Maybe now is the time to embrace your local history and culture. There are lots of ways we think you'll find a staycation just as enjoyable as a vacation abroad.

Clearing stones ready to set up camp in the Grand Canyon

Alternative staycation options A vacation at home doesn't mean you have to uproot and go to the most popular tourist destination in the UK, book a hotel and venture little further than the spa or indoor pool. One thing we've learned is that there‘s much to be enjoyed in nature, away from crowds and busy tourist sites. We've distanced ourselves from people and replaced this with increased exercise, exploration and outdoor living. We've discovered the joy of supporting local suppliers, eating and experimenting with local foods.

One benefit of lock-down has been that many of us have found alternative ways to enjoy our life with simplicity – gardening, cooking, growing veggies, walking, cycling, running. And we've had much more quality time with our immediate families – time to chat, time to appreciate each other. Will this all disappear as soon as lockdowns are lifted? Will we just gravitate back to the stress and pressure of a rushed package holiday? Or will we try to hold on to these new discoveries? For many in the UK a staycation is the most we can expect this year. But that doesn't need to be seen as a disappointment. We want to inspire you with ideas to discover more remote areas of the United Kingdom. We'd like to help you take pleasure in simple things.

What might you do? 

Have you ever taken a road trip?

Been foraging for wild foods in the countryside?

Explored the canal systems and waterways of your home country?

Stayed in a lighthouse in winter with the waves crashing round you?

Taken a mini-adventure overnight wild camping with a bivvy bag?

Trekked on horseback in the mountain foothills?

Stayed in a yurt or a gypsy caravan?

The options are endless, and with a little creativity we think you might find, like us, that some of your best staycations may rival your most expensive overseas vacations!

Now start dreaming!

Vanessa & her partner Ian are full-time British travellers and house sitters who have published the online publication House Sitting Magazine since 2016. They provide numerous resources for the community as they continue their explorations and slow travel adventures across the globe. You can find out more about their house sitting lifestyle here or at

QUARANTINE TIPS FROM OUR PETS by Molly Barnes The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people around the world to put many aspects of their lives on hold, with residents in some countries, states or even localized towns and cities, under stayat-home orders. The longer the pandemic persists, the higher the risk of depression grows - especially for people who feel isolated while sheltering in place. But there's some good news for pet owners and pet sitters - pets can help ease some of the loneliness associated with quarantine. In fact, since the pandemic arrived in the USA and people were encouraged to practice social distancing, animal shelters and pet adoption agencies have seen a big boost in adoptions. This should come as no surprise. Our cuddly furballs can be the source of unlimited love. But that's not all they provide. We also can get some top-notch visual advice about getting through and surviving coronavirus isolation by watching the behaviours of our pets.

Makeover for the home Now more than ever, home is your safe haven. But it's still tiring to look at the same set of walls day in and day out. Why not mix it up a bit and give yourself something to get excited about? Dogs can squeeze themselves into any space, regardless of how tight it is. Cats, as you know, are the boss and will take any space they please, even knocking stuff off shelves and tables if it strikes their fancy. They make the most of their situation and get comfortable. You can do the same. Maybe not by knocking down your precious things to clear space, but you can use your stay-athome time to clear out bedrooms, basements, attics, or other areas of the home. Get rid of clutter and stuff you really no longer need. If you're a homeowner, you might want to go a step further and get started on remodelling to create the home you've always dreamed of. Create a budget and price up equipment costs. While the project is happening, it will provide a nice focus for your thoughts and efforts — and once it's done, you'll be able to make yourself more comfortable, just like your furry friends.

Improvisation Resourcefulness is another valuable trait you can learn from your pets. Household supplies can be difficult to find these days. Many products are out of stock, or warehouses are so backlogged that it may be months after stay-at-home orders end before items arrive. Cats and dogs find ways to get what they want, whether it's swiping a piece of food off the table or going out to hunt for it. If you're clever, you can do the same. Why not make your own masks out of old T-shirts and pieces of fabric that are lying around the house. You can even turn vacuum-cleaner bags, furnace filters, or other HEPA-grade materials into filters for them. Create natural household cleaners out of vinegar, baking soda, and peroxide. If push comes to shove, you can even make your own toilet paper! Improvisation is an important skill right now, so take a cue from your pets and see what you come up with.

Health advice Pets are great when it comes to taking care of themselves. Left to their own devices, animals will stay clean, fed, watered, and rested from day-to-day. You can learn from them in this area, too. Just watch them throughout the day and see how regimented they are when it comes to taking care of their bodies. 

Hydration. Be sure to drink plenty of water. Fido will drink from the toilet if the bowl is empty, and Fluffy might take to licking the droplets in the sink, but they're always hydrated. Keep your own water bowl filled so you don't lose fluids and become sick.

Bathing regularly. When every day seems to blur into the next during quarantine, it's easy to forget to jump into the shower. But think about the amount of time dogs and cats spend licking to groom themselves. With the virus spreading, now's not the time to let down your guard around hygiene. Take a shower daily and wash your hands with soap several times a day for 20 seconds.

Keeping a clear head. It's not only your physical health you have to watch while in selfisolation, but your mental health, as well. Dogs and cats take time to chase their tails, stare out the window, or roll around on the floor. Similarly, you should be sure to take a walk, find time for a bike ride, meditate or walk barefoot on a beach. Whatever it takes to help you to clear and calm your mind - and maintain your sanity.

Eating well. You don't have to go digging in the trash can or any of the other creative places pets find food, but you should try to maintain healthy eating habits during isolation. Grab your favorite cookbook and learn how to cook a healthy meal, find an interesting food blog online, or watch some cooking lessons on YouTube. More people have discovered the art of bread making at home since lock-downs began – the smell of freshly baked bread will make you feel that life is still good!

Relaxation. Take cat naps — and take them often. You know Spot and Garfield are doing it, and look how chilled they are!

Now, more than ever, you want to be sure to take good care of yourself. It'll keep your immune system stronger and your physical condition intact.

Relationship tips Dogs and cats provide unconditional love. Whether they give you a big lick across the face or drop a dead mouse on your doorstep, you always know where you stand in their estimation. During this time of high stress, be sure to give your relationships the attention they deserve, as well.

Animals communicate. Dogs bark out the window or through the fence. Cats yowl and purr to share their sentiments. Though it's easy to slip into zombie mode when your workday is done, instead of binge-watching TV, make an effort to contact your family and friends.

Make a phone call, organize a Zoom (or Skype) event, or send out some text messages. Contact people you know who are living alone. Social distancing might be a necessity where you live, but it's still not easy — so make the effort to preserve the relationships you care about. As a house and pet sitter, why not send out an email, a short video or a memory from your time house sitting from them. Let your clients know you're thinking of them and their pets, and tell them you hope to see them again soon.

Keeping distance Cats and dogs also persevere when they need to, and you can learn a lot from them. They can even help you get better at social distancing: They'll hiss or bark at people who get too close. Don't be shy about asking other people to keep the required distance away if they get too close to your personal bubble.

This is an unprecedented time for everyone. The COVID-19 health crisis has created challenges unlike anything we've ever seen. When you're feeling down and it's starting to seem like this isolation will never end, just take a look at your best furry pal. Then give them a big hug, knowing that this, too, shall pass (and, hopefully, you'll be back at the dog park before you know it). Meanwhile, stay healthy, stay safe, and — perhaps most challenging of all — stay sane! With the help of your pets or the furry friends you care for, you will get through this crisis.

I’m Molly Barnes. For several years, I’ve had a yearning to wander and travel. A lot of people wait until retirement, but I really wanted to do it while I’m young. In mid-2018, my amazing boyfriend Jacob Welch and I decided to leave our desk jobs and make it happen. We spent a few months backpacking abroad. When we returned to the U.S., we bought a used RV, put our stuff in storage, and hit the road. Follow Molly and Jacob at: DigitalNomadLife


When COVID-19 hit and our travel plans were thrown into chaos we decided to return to our apartment in Sydney and take the opportunity to bring forward planned renovations. Our 2020 house sitting arrangements had all been cancelled. We knew we wouldn't be travelling for a while so dove into our renovations with gusto and completed them within six weeks. As we started to settle in to our "new normal" we realised we were missing pets, having had pets around us pretty well full time for the past four years as house sitters. But we didn't want to get a pet because we knew we wanted to travel again as soon as we can, and a pet can be a 15-16 year plus commitment.

Becoming cat foster parents A chance visit from a friend mentioned DCH Animal Rescue who are a rescue agency who often require foster parents for dogs, cats and horses. Knowing our apartment wouldn't accommodate a dog or horse, we contacted them and offered our services as foster parents for a cat. Our house sitting references supported our case and we were told about a recent rescue. Mavis, a young tabby cat, had just been rescued from the streets along with her kittens. We agreed to foster her and waited for a few weeks until her vaccinations, microchipping and desexing were all complete.

Supplies and kitty litter Having being nomadic for the last four years and not having previously had a pet in our apartment, we turned to Facebook marketplace and other online second hand shopping sites to acquire the necessary pet supplies – litter trays, scratching posts, toys, cat carrier etc. In a similar way to the house sitting community, we found many generous pet owners. Several of them, when they found out what we were doing even gave us unadvertised supplies such as food and water bowls, grooming supplies and the like. Once again we were blown away by the generosity of strangers.

Kitty litter was another thing we needed. As a house sitter, you just use the litter the home owner provides so we had to investigate the type of litter we wanted Mavis to use. On advice from the adoption agency we discovered crystal litter which is a non-clumping, more absorbant, economical and more environmental option. Up until this point, our favourite kitty litter (from New Zealand) was "pussydo" but we are now converts to "crystal litter" and can provide our experiences to future pet owners if required.

Mavis settles in The first few days (and nights!) were rather challenging as Mavis was on high alert – either hiding behind the fridge or constantly surveying the house, particularly high windows in search of an escape route. The first "sleepless" night she meowed constantly and the second was a little more settled as I, Andrew slept on the lounge to reassure her. Initially she was allowed in the bedroom but one of her favourite things to do in the middle of the night was to jump from a high window onto the bed near our heads, awaking us in fright, as she wanted to play. We have thus changed the routine a little and set boundaries which she has coped with extremely well. Our approach with pets during our house sitting has always be to remain calm and let them initially approach us and this has worked very well with Mavis.

Six weeks on and she is well and truly settled and has us wrapped around her little furry paws. She is very independent and loves a cuddle on her terms and timing. She definitely lets us know when she is hungry, meowing loudly. This can include at 5am in the morning if she hears either of us stir. She cannot control her hunting instincts when the laser pointer comes out and will even lift the floor mats to see if the light has disappeared underneath. She has her favourite spot on the lounge where Christopher "used" to sit and will tap him to move along if he encroaches on her spot.

Adding to our skillset Fostering a cat has been a wonderful experience and has given us a new skillset and knowledge of animals to add to our house sitting resume. As house sitters, you adopt the routines of the pets you are caring for. As foster parents, you are establishing the routines for a new pet which involves getting to know more about animal, and aparticular pet's behaviour. We adopted some of our previous home owner strategies around feeding routines and even the food we provide.

Our experience with rescue animals through our house sitting has been invaluable, realising that there may be situations that bring back traumatic memories. And even that no two animals are the same and will behave differently. Mavis is not a fan of vacuum cleaners so we make sure we do this in a way that minimises her anxiety. She, having had to fend for herself on the streets is rather food obsessed so we ensure she has plenty of space around her at meal times so she doesn't feel threatened. We often compare her antics with some of the other cats we have cared for.

Getting attached One of the suggestions in the foster care manual we were provided is to always refer to the cat as someone else's so that wedon't get too attached. Whilst this may be too late in the case of Mavis, we are used to having to return pets to their owners and whilst we know it will be hard when the time comes, we will let Mavis go knowing that we were part of giving her a second chance. The adoption process involves prospective pet parents contacting us and arranging a meeting with us and Mavis. Following our first meeting, we realised our experiences in interviews with home owners as house sitters prepared us well for this situation. Without thinking we asked pertinent questions to get to know the type of pet the adoptee was looking for and whether or not they would be a suitable match for Mavis.

We also noted the types of questions they asked to see if Mavis would be compatible with their situation and lifestyle. One potential adoptee wanted a cuddly cat andwhile Mavis enjoys pats, she certainly is not a lap cat and so we suggested the applicant look for a more suitable fur companion. Another had other pets and children in the house which we didn't think suitable for an independent Mavis who likes her own space and limited attention. We trust our gut instinct, both as house sitters and now as foster parents, knowing that the right person will come along for Mavis.

Loving pets Mavis continues to live with us, awaiting her fur-ever home. We continue to enjoy caring for her and it has been such a privilege to watch her become more settled and less anxious. We can now add foster parents to our house sitting profile to further communicate to home owners our love (and knowledge) of pets. Just as house sitting is a win-win situation, so too is foster parenting. Mavis has been provided a secure, safe environment whilst we have had the pleasure of pet pats and the responsibility of caring for an animal. Fingers crossed Mavis finds her future home soon, although one suspects she (and definitely us) would be more than happy for this arrangement to continue for some time. And just like all the pets we have cared for as house sitters, Mavis will always have a special place in our hearts.

Andrew and Christopher, known as the Global Wanderers started their international, full-time house sitting adventures in 2016 and have completed more than 50 sits in that time. They love being part of the house sitting community and meeting other travellers. You can follow them at their website, Facebook or Instagram


As house sitters we are nothing if not adaptable, but this pandemic has really been one great big SAT Test! "Sanity Altering Tribulation". I've been blessed with not one, but several offers in the midst of all this and ended up with the quarantine jackpot - absolute paradise in Panama, my home for eight years now. Other than not being able to visit my kids in Florida, (and although it has been an adjustment), I don't think I could have asked for a better place to stay put.

What's it been like in Panama? At the time of writing this I can only leave the house 2 hours per day, 3 days per week, alternating for men and women on different days. On Sundays everyone stays in. Alcohol is not for sale. Only essential businesses are open and restaurants offer delivery only.

A hotline and online Q & A chat were set up early on. The government put a moratorium on all mortgages, loans, and credit cards for 3 months; no evictions if rent cannot be paid. There are severe consequences for violating quarantine. Masks are mandatory. Everyone can be tested and treated who exhibits symptoms, first come first serve and not by ability to pay for private care over public healthcare. Bags of food are being distributed for the poor, even in the most remote areas of the country where there are many indigenous people. The police are not only arresting violators and manning checkpoints. They have also organized groups who go to different neighborhoods and sing and sometimes dance in the streets, with the aim of lifting everyone's spirits. The people sing along, waving flags, and dance on their balconies. Since there is no separation of church and state here, for "Semana Santa" they filled the streets with hymns and prayers as a priest rode through with a police escort.

These people are survivors and this is not their first time of experiencing severe struggles. So for me it is a lesson in "looking on the bright side" even when there doesn't seem to be one. When you look around at a country already full of many, many poor people who in spite of it all, are helping each other. They put another cup of water in the soup so their neighbor can eat, and they STILL find ways to raise a smile and dance. Maybe not‌ "in the street until the sun comes up", but certainly as if they know they soon will.

Keeping myself busy I have time now to attack some of those always-wanted-to-do-lists like writing, organizing all the junk I have accumulated on my computers, or the papers that I still seem to need to stockpile as some sort of antiquated security blanket. I have even gone back to cooking... a little! I exercise regularly to keep my mind and body in as much in shape as possible. I "participate" in my walks these days, not just the left, right, left of it, but in my surroundings. I am more aware. Besides my morning walk around the golf course where I see more jungle animals than people, Instagram live exercise and dance classes are available several times a day and are free. I watch my Youtube five minute crafts that I rarely actually attempt! I am beyond caught up on Netflix along with many other quarantine-ees. My biggest obstacle is trying not to watch too much news, especially from the USA.

What are my takeaways from all this so far? Connection to family and friends at a time like this is invaluable. There will be times when you are down and feel it will never end, or even feel suppressed by all of the seemingly pointless restrictions. To have someone to reach out to, or to be the recipient, for whatever reason, is hope alive and working overtime in our favor. Not all of us are going through the same stage at the same time. This has affected the entire world! However, this virus has swept across different continents in different scenarios at different times. The psychology and reality of it varies for all of us. For the most part, I am happy and hopeful and, having been an only child, am actually enjoying the solitude. I pray for those who are not, who are hungry, stressed over finances, sick, worried about being sick, losing loved ones, worried about losing loved ones, working to save others while worrying about their own problems, and more. This is one insane time! Be patient! Be patient with others but especially be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to feel but don't let feelings take control. Things that were important are no longer important for me. Things in general, eating out, and socializing – they've all taken on a whole new look. What I find important enough to give power to has changed. Things I once took for granted might now be difficult, or even impossible! I am not much for going to the doctor, but I have now had two semi-emergencies where I might have considered a consultation. Instead I resorted to the old grandma (or in this case, Panamanian) treatments‌ and I'm just fine. I can't mail my absentee ballot application because there simply is no mail (or anything else for that matter) going out of Panama.

What about the "normal" that is still going on? Sunrises and sunsets, nature and its cycle of death and rebirth, animals going about their routines as usual, animals venturing out and taking back some of nature, rain, rust, mold and mildew, dust, the breeze, summer turning to fall, hair and nails growing, uncut in many cases, and facing the inevitable emergence of going grey (and owning it!). All of these things go on uninterrupted. This has been a time of so many mixed emotions. It's up to each of us to find our own version of normal during these times so Covid doesn't destroy our lives. We need to discover a way to ride this out and rebuild our lives with the newfound appreciation of what we had, and not just what we wanted.

Being grateful Despite all that is transpiring around me, my days are full and my blessings are many. A daily routine for quite some time has been to send up my "gratefuls" at the start of the day. This positive start really helps set the mood for the day ahead. It can be the smallest of things, like a sunrise picture, or all those things that go on undisturbed in spite of the current chaos. Recently, these things have really moved up my "gratefuls" ladder. "Gratefuls" can also be huge things like my life here in Panama. Getting to visit my kids and grandkids just as often as I had before this virus took hold. My retirement and the ability it gives me to live simply yet comfortably, unlike many people around the world right now. Or, that I have not caught the virus, and am still healthy.

I am grateful for all the experiences that house sitting has given me. I've been able to travel to places I might otherwise have never come to known, where I've met new people, made lifelong friends, been immersed in other cultures and received unconditional love from all those little fur babies. Or, a "grateful" can be simply that I had a good day yesterday, whatever that looks like. Everyone please stay safe, sane, and happy wherever you are.

Janet Sussman is a semi-retired teacher from Florida who wants to “travel until she can’t anymore!” On moving to Panama she discovered house sitting and now calls herself the “Panagringa Wanderlusting Linguist”. Having created an online language program, she works with a team whose aim it is to make Panama officially bilingual. She also volunteers, teaching underprivileged kids English and life skills. In between work and house sits she enjoys trips back to see her own family and 3 grandkids in the USA.

The next issue of House Sitting Magazine will be available from 15th October 2020

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