You hope you get lucky – perhaps those who have been doing this a while are better at it. For me, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I wanted to have a travel plan, so I applied early for places that fit into my schedule – Europe in the late summer/fall and then Australia for December and January when I knew Old Man Winter was going to be doing his thing at home.

My first houseit in Melbourne was (as they say here) “cruisey”. Translation: super easy. My hosts were amazing and helpful. Helen even booked me a doctor’s appointment when I was worried about a mole on my back. (Much to my chagrin and a major affront to my ego – it turned out to be simply an “age spot”.) My hosts picked me up from the airport, let me stay a few extra days on either end of the sit so I didn’t have to pay for a hotel and let me keep some luggage at their house while I went off to the Whitsundays.

In fact, most of the people I’ve sat for have been amazing and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Jenn, my first sit in California, was like finding a long-lost sister. Sasha and Stuart, absolutely – even with the pandemonium that is the Tarrant Hinton household.

But this time I’d call it perhaps a slight misalignment of values. I have used this word in work situations but this time it means that we live in different ways. I will complete the sit and do the best job I can. The animals will be well looked after and happy but I will leave and probably not look back.

My hostess is very nice; I don’t want to give the impression that she is less than hospitable. But sometimes you don’t click like others. Her plans have changed several times since I agreed to sit. First the timing was Boxing Day until January 8th – they were going away. Then her partner went into the hospital and they weren’t. But could I still come so she could spend lots of time at the hospital? Of course – I totally understand. Well, then it changed again and she was going somewhere alone but from Christmas Eve until January 2nd. Again, no worries. I always arrive a day early so the animals get to know me and I learn their routine. When she came to meet me at the train station she told me she was leaving “later” that same day. Which was about an hour after we got to the house. She was going to her parents’ house and was going to be looking after her nephew, so she might have just been anxious to get there.

Several things hit me at approximately the same time:

  • I discovered she was a smoker – there was a heavy smell in the house. Unfortunately with no air conditioning and an outdoor temperature of 30 degrees Celsius, it was a bit oppressive because you couldn’t open the windows or it would be 30 degrees inside too.
  • I saw the cement pad in the backyard and the second storey patio full of old dog poo.
  • There was a lot of pet hair on the floor.

When I asked about a broom to tidy up, she said they have a weekly cleaner so she didn’t actually know where the cleaning supplies were (I later found the vacuum under the spare room bed). Of course, with it being Christmas week, they weren’t scheduled to come.

So, I’ve spent a fair bit of my first 24 hours making myself comfortable – by sweeping, vacuuming, washing the floor, running a washer load of towels and the sofa cushion covers. Some of the smoke smell is gone – I’ve emptied, washed and put away the ashtrays. Later I’ll turn my attention to cleaning up the poo. I’m not judging their way of life – OK, maybe a little – I know I’m in no way Suzie Homemaker. But if you have someone new coming to stay with your pets while you’re away, wouldn’t you want to put your best foot (or paw) forward?

And honestly, I could completely get over the untidiness of the place. Maybe her partner is the neat one? But what really fuels my unease is the fact that I have seen no less than nine cans of Raid in this house. What am I missing??? Maybe she forgets she has it and buys another can, just in case? Who hasn’t bought another roll of Saran Wrap because they can’t remember if there is one in the cupboard. But NINE???

I have spent hours agonizing over choosing a hotel where I was going to sleep for one night, shame on me for not paying more attention, asking more questions and being more aware of the situation I was entering. In the future, I’ll spend more time reviewing the hosts much like they review me. Lesson learned…

Now I’ll go and take a closer look at that liquour cabinet she said I could help myself to. (See? She is nice!) It’s five o’clock somewhere.

Not all housesits are created equal…

Two tetra packs of Raid bug killer

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