A Pyrenees Mountain dog sends deep, resonant barks across a field as a bald eagle summons itself skyward from resting on a nearby treetop. Horses chomp on their grain whilst barn cats weave between hay bales and hens scratch frantically in the dirt as a rooster makes his rounds. We’re staying on a hobby farm on Vancouver Island for six weeks. I am writing this alongside a roaring log fire, a Golden Retriever at my feet and a couple of cats languidly stretching their paws. This is the first housesit we signed up for through TrustedHousesitters, but the seventh we have now completed.
A little over a year ago, my partner and I decided to explore the opportunity of living abroad. We discovered the under-30 ‘International Experience Canada’ (IEC) visa and decided that now, in our late 20s, was the right time to take the plunge. Applications and police certificates and resignation letters ensued, and we began planning where we might go in this unfathomably vast country.
One of our parents came across an ad on Facebook for TrustedHousesitters and suggested we look into it as another option. By this point, we’d envisioned ourselves nestled in a hostel, somewhere in a major city, scrawling through job sites and eating cheap takeaway food before we found a regular job and could rent somewhere. I recently googled rented accommodation in Vancouver, and it seems we’d be lucky to find a furnished apartment for $1,500 a month. We were slightly hesitant about paying to subscribe to a website we’d never heard of until then – but, in reality, it’s enabled us to travel so freely and saved us thousands in accommodation costs!
We started out on the east of the country, looking after a beautiful Irish Setter and Bengal cat in Bath, Ontario, and our doubts and fears disappeared the moment we arrived: their humans welcomed us so warmly into their beautiful home, and even let us use their SUV to get around while they were away. We went to charming, local Christmas events and small town hockey games, with plenty of time spent walking the dog and home baking and playing pool in their games room.
We moved onto Ottawa and looked after a gorgeous, gargantuan Shiloh Shepherd dog, indoor rabbit and ginger cat before going back to Bath for a second sit – and in between assignments, we had the chance to do some more widespread traveling to some of the other major cities.
It emerged that housesitting was forming the backbone of our adventures: we wanted to be in British Columbia for Christmas, so we scheduled a three-week housesit in West Vancouver with the most heart-warming and obedient Border Collie imaginable. She could outrun any four-legged friends she encountered in the dog park by the beach, but always loyally returned to our sides when called. We then went out to a small, rural mountain town called Mission for New Year, welcoming it in with our new hosts and their neighbours, a family from Bristol and their colossal, clumsy Saint Bernard puppy, only nine months old but weighing in at a hefty 150 pounds. Here, we looked after a French bulldog and an Italian Mastiff crossed with an American bulldog for two weeks. When we came to leave, they pressed their noses to the window and kept their sad eyes fixated on us all the way down the driveway.
Another wonderful element to this is that one day we want to have our own dog, and by looking after so many different breeds we are getting a glimpse of what kind of dog we might get one day, experiencing different routines and feeding (and sizes!) and learning first-hand about the care they need. We’ve been able to get flexible, part-time contracts and cover shifts where needed in order to build up some money without compromising on the care of the animals. We’ve unfalteringly earned 5-star reviews and made some amazing friends and contacts through getting to know people in local communities. We’ve been invited back for barbecues in the summer, asked for availability in months to come and put in touch with people in other regions.
TrustedHousesitters made it possible to explore a variety of areas, and places we would never have otherwise gone to, before anchoring ourselves in a specific spot. I’ve met people from the UK who have moved to Canada on the IEC visa, got a job quickly in retail and remained in the same place, comfortably employed but not able to explore much beyond the province. We haven’t had to rush to find a permanent job or set up camp in hostels before hurriedly committing to a rental contract in an area we’ve read up on, but not had chance to properly experience. Most of all, we’ve been exposed to so much trust and kindness and had the most wonderful time embedding ourselves in the communities we’ve stayed in. We’ve been sent on our way with local honey, chocolates and gifts brought back from holidays. We did this because we saw it as a wonderful way to help people and their animals whilst we journeyed around – we didn’t expect it to influence and inspire us quite as much as it has. It’s been the most remarkable and rewarding way to travel, and we wouldn’t change a thing. Time to have some freshly laid eggs for breakfast.
Thank you for sending in your story, Samantha; we love hearing from all our members, so if you have an adventure to share, send it through to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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