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Stories, poems, blog excerpts

House sitting assignments can be the fertile ground which inspires people (house sitters, pet sitters, home owners and pet owners alike) to write. This collection of stories, articles, poems and blog excerpts is loosely based around what happens when people get together to meet each other’s house sitting needs. Some of our contributors are writers and poets in real life, others have taken the opportunity to self-publish on their own blogsite. If you’d like to get your stuff published too, see Bloggers on Assignment and the FAQs listed under Community Area.

Have mop, will travel: a new wave of caretakers

Hey look it’s me again… A nice little piece about those seeking a ‘sea-change’ in their lives via caretaking. Not so much a ‘how-to’ but a ‘can-do’.

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MindMyHouse Wordle

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Hi folks, we thought you might be interested in this amazing image featured called a “Wordle”. The words within the image come from our very own MindMyHouse website. Greater prominence is given to words that appear more frequently on our website. Credit: Images of Wordles are licensed by http://www.wordle.net.

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Who needs to be a millionaire?

Tom Hill and Linda Worthington say they feel like they are living the lifestyle of millionaires. Yet they earned only UK 10,000 pounds between them in the 2006-2007 tax year. Huh? It would seem that the secret to all of this contentment and their feeling of having ‘riches’ is their ability to borrow other people’s homes all year long. On the European continent that is. Nice.

Tom Hill is a regular contributor to our Community Area. If you want a bit of this kind of action too, read this summary of Tom and Lin’s ‘how to do as we do’ guide. Better still, wait for the publication!

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Country matters: Stand by to repel boarders

Two weeks away from home during a balmy English autumn has left British journalist, Duff Hart-Davis’ garden bereft. Diana, the very capable house sitter, had her hands more than full with the family’s considerable menagerie, so was not to blame for the windblown apples, the invasion of moles, the poplar’s new suckers or the pebbles on the lawn which would disable any mower. This is what it takes to get it all back on track.

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House sitting

Rock bassist, published poet and academic, Tim Morris, is having a helluva time waiting for home owners to relieve him while on house sitting assignment. The vagaries of electricity supply and the wind seem to be his undoing. But baseball in the dark? Here at MindMyHouse we don’t recommend this!

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Five personal growth lessons learned while house sitting

Self-empowerment guru and proud blogger, Aaron Potts, has a small epiphany while on house sitting assignment. It seems that your perception of your own little Universe can shift a degree or two when you do something as simple as getting out of your car and walking around your own streets or minding a neighbour’s house for a time.

I think our membership are already in tune with Aaron’s message. When asked, a full 32% of our house sitter members state ‘wanting a change of scene’ as their main reason for house sitting. Yes!

But Aaron says it best:

‘Your life is out there right now waiting for you to experience it. Get outside of your comfort zone, break out of your routine, try new things, peek around new corners, and see what life is like outside of your little box. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find out!’

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Return from vacation. If you dare.

Former New York Times gossip columnist, Joyce Wadler, dishes the dirt on the perilous nature of house sitting for home owners, their properties and their animals (not to mention their underwear!) Timed to coincide with the start of New York’s house sitting season (June), this article is indeed cringe worthy. Ouch!

When interviewed by Maureen Langan and Diane Dimond – the ‘Radio Ritas’ of American feminist-style syndicated talk radio – about how to prevent a house sitter from wearing your underwear in your absence, my response was most likely inadequate. To say, ‘Erm…our house sitter members don’t do that sort of thing!’ was probably a little naiive. Having had a chance to think about it, I would say ‘lock your undies away before you leave!’

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Reflections of an apprentice first mate

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‘Almost’ boat sitter, Lynn Redmond, is excited about getting ‘up close and personal’ with someone else’s boat as she starts her enthusiastic journey to owning a boat of her own one day. While she’s avidly studying the boat’s navigation systems and the like a little detail of the design lets her down big time…

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The artists, and others, of the floating world

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A very young Peter Watts escaped his parents’ Surrey home to become a boat sitter for an English summer. Seven years later he declares that for him, ‘boat life’ is over. And what was life like as part of the floating world moored on a strip of water near some of London’s Boho areas? It sounded…eventful.

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Tony’s old gaff for hire

Journalist Ian Griffiths had this remarkable challenge for the UK’s Labour leader and long-time prime minister, Tony Blair, upon his election in 1997: let me house sit your now-empty family home for you. Was it a dare or a bluff?

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A yelp for help

It is astounding what a dog will eat to get themselves in trouble: tennis balls, underwear, tin cans, pop cans, wedding bands, toadstools, towels, gasoline, socks, rocks, Popsicle sticks, ear plugs, Prozac, birth control pills, batteries, kite string, horse wormer, marijuana brownies, loaves of bread dough, and so much ribbon their intestines pleated. One dog downed two pounds of sand.

House and pet sitters take note! A tiny bit of prevention can be much less expensive than a whole lot of cure. Don’t let your charge become a ‘chocolate dog’ or worse. This tale of the plight of the patients of the Pet Emergency Clinic in Spokane, Washington state (USA) over a single weekend in 2000 will have your eyes watering.

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Overseas – and experienced

Kiwi ex-pat journalist, Rachel Helyer Donaldson, has unearthed a massive trend in the demographic profile of New Zealanders flooding into Europe to do what is traditionally known as the ‘OE’ (overseas experience). It seems that it is now overwhelmingly the over 50s who are keen on some footloose adventure based in what for most is the ‘mother country’ (the UK). Good luck to them! If you are a younger Kiwi abroad, be warned that your folks (or your friends’ folks) may be eyeing up your couch for some free accommodation.

Surprisingly, this journalist claims you can only house sit in London if you are over 40 and have owned your own home. Not so!

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The emptied-home mystery

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Simon Watts left his rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco’s North Beach area in the capable hands of a house sitter while he made is annual pilgrimage home. Nothing strange there. However, when she left the flat empty for four days to go on a boat trip, something bizarre happened along the lines of the plot of Dr Seuss’ book ‘The Grinch who stole Christmas’. And the moral of this story? Don’t leave your home alone (even for four days)!

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All I want is a grand mansion somewhere…

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Gothic chick and graphic illustrator for the pre-teen market, Angela Martini lives in a ‘railway apartment’ in New York. (So-called because you walk through various rooms en route to other rooms the same as you would on a train.) A childhood spent growing up in tiny, dark apartments has fuelled Angela’s dream of living in a gothic mansion on a moor with turrets and sweeping staircases. But what is it they say about how you should never try and live out your fantasies?

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Follow your dreams (for next to nothing)

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US-based journalist and animal lover, Judith Reitman, decided to spend her birthday on a mystery caretaking assignment in France. In between preparing fresh fish fillets for the four resident cats she found herself changed by time spent in a medieval-style region in south-west France. From talking to other caretakers worldwide, it seems that many of those engaged in caretaking properties worldwide are finding the whole thing as addictive.

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Concerned about leaving our home abandoned…

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Did you know that home owners will go to extraordinary lengths to protect their number one asset while they’re away RVing – except for getting in their own house sitter that is. Read this fascinating forum discussion as nine part-time RVers talk about just what needs to be done to stop the vermin moving in, mildew taking over, wood drying out, sewer smells persisting, food decomposing. Eeeeeeeuuuuuuuwwwwwww – I agree with RVer number five who says that ‘a trusted house sitter is best’. Yes!

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Need help planning your next vacation?

‘The point is that the act of readying myself, my husband and our three children for vacation is so time-consuming, so fraught with anxiety and so weighted with ontological questions about the passage of time and the relationship of self to surroundings that it’s a miracle I survive it.’ So begins Jennifer Moses’ treatise on how to worry yourself out of the house and onto the plane. The question is: will a house sitter wreck or save her home during the four weeks while they’re away?

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Instructions for a teenage housesit (from notebook found on 38th and 9th, NYC)

Canadian writer, Pasha Malla, indulges himself in this spoof on the fine art of leaving written instructions for your house sitter. It seems that the young Miss Higginsbottom-Baxter is in for a rough ride while the erstwhile home owner and patriarch absents himself on a tour of British Rhodesia. While it is nice to know exactly what a home owner expects of you, who could follow all of these rules?!

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The non interference rule

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MindMyHouse’s resident Blogger on Assignment, Clare, continues to bravely housesit a variety of Brisbane’s more comfortable suburban properties. This third post from Clare is all to do with hard lessons learned about how good intentions need to be reigned in least things go wrong!

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My story: True confessions of a yuppie lawyer

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Linda Breen Pierce is a happy convert to the Simple Living movement that is sweeping the Developed World. Finding herself in a lavish home she couldn’t afford, Linda realised that while she had, in her own opinion, become a successful ‘someone’ she didn’t feel like she was living an authentic life.

Two events gave Linda and husband Jim the freedom to remake their lives: a three-year house sitting gig and stumbling across others’ writing on Simple Living. Since the early 1990s, Linda and Jim have tried to live according to their understanding of Simple Living: wanting less, spending less and celebrating the simple things in their daily lives. This is Linda’s story of her journey into her happier and fuller Simple Life.

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Flowers make wonderful pets

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‘Flowers are helpless. They can’t even turn on the hose.’ So begins Henry LeFevre in this ode to his beloved ‘pets’. Henry thinks his flowers won’t let him go on vacation. If only he knew that he could find a free flower-sitter through MindMyHouse. (But you knew I was going to say that!)

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From summer to winter; Wild animals!; From salad to soup

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Six weeks spent house sitting in northern California seems to have done wonders for celebrity Kiwi chef, Alison Holst’s, appetite. Funny how seeing rattlesnakes and mountain lions make you want to eat soup and salad.

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A perspective on houses

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After living in 200 square feet of yacht for years on end, Todd and Ellen Mandeville found themselves lost in the cavernous spaces of someone else’s house in Auckland (New Zealand). The pluses of their house sitting gig were being able to finally scrub out and de-clutter their boat as well as enjoy the luxury of daily baths and citrus fruit off the trees outside. The minuses? Their teddies were suddenly very prone to falling out of the family bed. Cute.

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House-sitters anonymous (reference for a house sitting star)

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What happens when your isolated home stands empty for a while? I’m guessing you can see the removal truck-sized answer to this question coming a mile away. Introducing super-sitter, Roger.

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To leave home, find someone to leave behind

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A loving dissertation on one American woman’s quest to find a good, free, available house sitter. According to freelance writer, Karin Winegar, the existence of such people diminishes with the age of the home owner. ‘Not so!’ says the editor at MindMyHouse, ‘you just need to widen your search to an online database of enthusiastic house sitters’.

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Willy Trolove: Unusual talent for living in other people’s homes

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Willy Trolove and partner are really hunting for a little patch of New Zealand to call their own. Since starting their quest to get onto the property ladder, they have gone from naïve and full of hope to…something else. Nice to discover that you have an unusual talent for living in other people’s homes.

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Partially perished parrot

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Buckbeak the princess parrot has full-time house sitter, Clare, at her beck and call. Despite being lovingly blown on and having her beak stroked, Buckbeak suffers an affliction common among the aged of any species. Nobody mention that insensitive Monty P*thon sketch!

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New means to friendship: the house sitter

Three Long Island stories of happy house sitters helping out busy home owners in the Hamptons. These home owners discovered an easy (and reassuring) way to take the worry out of caring for their second homes while they weren’t there. If house sitters Butchy, Kathryn, Carlos and Melanie can become friends with the owners of their (spring, autumn and winter) homes, maybe you can too!

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A season in Cairo

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Erika O’Neill was only 19 when she landed a house sitting gig in Cairo, Egypt that changed her life forever. When the house’s Scottish owner went back to his summer home in the damp, cool climes of bonny Scotland, Erika moved in and found her bliss. Not in a man – but in a culture and a language that made her feel totally alive.

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Upon returning from a brief vacation and I seem to remember that we said we might have brunch this Saturday (a poem)

Will the real house-sitter stand up? Julia wonders whether her folks’ tradesmen have gone over the Iguazu Falls in this poem written in the throes of her house sitting assignment.

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Jason

A six-month sabbatical is a whole lot more enjoyable when you’ve found a house sitter to hold the fort at home, even when he’s seen to be moving his drum kit into your sewing room. Academic couple, Anne and David, extol the virtues of young Jason the house sitter – ya gotta love the kid!

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Ten homes a year

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‘Frequently, my desire for quiet times reminded me I needed a home of my own. So I borrowed ten.’ So begins retiree Frances Turney’s tale of how she discovered ‘the friendly trade’ of house sitting for people in her community. With her career behind her and no home of her own it all worked out swimmingly…

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Sitting pretty

By a stroke of luck, Australian girl Vicki Williams beat 900 other applicants to a plum house sitting job: a month spent minding an old stone farmhouse in Italy’s Le Marche, the ‘undiscovered Tuscany’. Reflecting on her time house sitting for Giovanni and his two Scottish terriers, Alfredo and Luigi, Vicki couldn’t think of a single reason why she shouldn’t have done it (apart from the scorpians).

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Trust. The T-word.

‘It is…happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.’ Samuel Johnson. So begins maïa’s treatise on the beauty of trust. This writer, philosopher and traveller has been house sitting full-time across the planet for the past six years and swears she’s never met an ‘un-nice’ home owner. Their one act of trust is multiplied many times over, says maïa, as she is then able to help others from wherever she finds herself.

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House-sitting politics: food, perfume, dogs – all mine! Or is it?

The New York Observer’s New York diary gal’ Maura Kelly seems to be on to a great thing with her summers spent house sitting luxury apartments in the Big Apple. But she’s a house sitter with a finely tuned sensibility: Just how many liberties can she take with the owners’ stuff? Hmmmm.

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Signs and wonders

Writer and theology student, Jonathan Callard, is looking for some kind of revelation while on house sitting assignment in Berkeley, California. He ends up having a tussle with one of the absent couple’s precious heirlooms. But do fir trees really spontaneously combust? And to what ends of the Earth does a house sitter have to go to avoid violating city codes? Luckily the neighbour with the Navajo earrings wasn’t watching the whole thing (but the cats were).

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No getting away from the cost of your pet’s vacation

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A nifty piece of journalism by the Guardian’s Miles Brignall reveals how expensive it is to have your pet cared for while you’re away. That is, of course, if you haven’t discovered how to find a free live-in pet sitter through MindMyHouse yet. (But you knew I was going to say that.)

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Home, but not alone

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Carla wonders how her beloved parrot, Louie, will cope for three weeks with just a daily glimpse of an expensive ‘drop-in’ bird sitter while she’s away. Then Sandy, the Mrs Doubtfire for birds, shows up. But just how good was life with house sitters, Sandy, Chris and her husband, that Louie fell for another man (beside his usual human daddy)?

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Home Alone 3: Macauley finds cat poop, and other tales

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Writer and theology student, Jonathan Callard, had several near misses while searching for a room to rent in Berkeley, California. Not a ‘psycho’ at all but a ‘good egg’, Jonathan just wanted a sunny room in which he could find the space to pray. Not much to ask? But for now, Roshi the cocker spaniel and Zoe the cat need his companionship and care (no biting!).

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Note to the house sitters

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Occasional house sitter and always poet, David Hernandez, has found ‘the stuff of life’ in a scrawled note from his family, the owners of the house he was sitting. Expect blood on the carpet.

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Nothing left to salvage

Australian woman, Seargent Rachelle Heath, was stationed in Cyprus when she got the news her Canberra house had been burnt to the ground in a bush fire. Here’s a tale of how your house sitter will go the extra mile to save your treasures. (Nelson Mandela would enjoy reading this.)

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Power outage

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Powercuts can bring on the most fantastic behaviors. Published poet and academic, Diane Thiel, found an anthropologist’s collection useful in fending off the ‘power outage’ boogieman while on house sitting assignment.

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The online housesitting nightmare

Writer guy, Will Fleitch, found himself burned out after the demise of his (now legendary) contemporary culture website, Ironminds. So what does an adventurous but unemployed, broke and homeless, dot-com casualty do for kicks? He decided to rescue his friends and take on what could have been New York’s weirdest house sitting gig. In his own words ‘They couldn’t stand living under the gaze of 32 webcams, so I thought I’d give it a shot’. (Warning: this article contains some adult content.)

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The new barbarians: confessions of a middle-class nomad

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Even the middle-class and middle-aged can go wandering looking for themselves on a kind of ‘walkabout’. Jeremy Atiyah’s tale of abandoning the trappings of modern life in the first world may inspire you to bust out of your own confines. Be warned.

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Living the country life: our little pony goes to charm school

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People who move to the English countryside tend to start an animal collection. Introducing Zoe, the miniature Shetland pony who was being ‘broken in’ while her humans were in a pool in a loaned villa in Tobago. Nice for some! The only person who missed out was Pam the professional house sitter (for the price of a bongo drum).

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How I became an international house-sitter

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maïa follows her path into an international housesitting lifestyle. She wasn’t seeking the job – it found her. Tag along with this philosopher to learn how the practice of caretaking properties can be more than just a cheap holiday – house sitting can become a route to self-fulfillment.

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Putting pen to paper

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Associate editor of Sojourner Magazine, Rose Marie Berger, has some lovely things to say about the poignancy of writing letters. ‘Where does house sitting come into it?’ you may ask. I’m only going to say two words: ‘Leghorn’ and ‘chickens’.

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Home is where your passport is

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Two years of short term housing has left this long term house sitter with ADHD (Attention Deficit and Housing Disorder). The question is: could his current transient lifestyle be worse than living at the airport?

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The hoopy housesitter

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Alan Sharp wants to be a mate-dad to his three kids. So when his little girl is left alone to house sit for her less stable mother, he can’t help but worry about her. What is it they say about teenagers home alone? Hmmmmmmm.

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Beamer go poo-poo!

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Craig (the house sitter) is minding his pastor’s dog. Only thing is, Beamer needs to hear a codeword before he can respond to the call of nature while he’s outside. Nobody say ‘Beamer go poo-poo’ because there might be a nasty accident!

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Home!

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More than the northern lights greeted Alaskan artist, Elise Tomlinson, when she got home from a holiday with her folks in Nebraska. Just how good is it to arrive home (to fat cats and a clean house)!

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Olympia man’s house sitter coats apartment in foil

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I wonder if a house sitting agreement could have saved home owner, Chris Kirk, from the bizarre state of affairs that he arrived home to. But would his house sitter have been foiled by the legally binding document?

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How to wrap your friend’s apartment in tin foil: a love story

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Companion piece to the Associated Press story of the wacky house sitter who foil-wrapped his friend’s apartment while on house sitting assignment one New Years Eve. Who would have thought! Writer, Rachel Elder, gets the inside story on the whole crazy episode from the house sitter himself. In her words: ‘Meet Lucas Trerice, the earnest Smurf-loving geek and aspiring dentist behind the biggest foil-covered prank of 2004′.

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House-sitting – another way to travel – a solo travel report

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When your flat is too small to offer as a home exchange, what do you do? Offer your services as a house sitter instead! Solo traveler, Marge Kelley, has had success and ‘un-success’ with her house sitting assignments in England and Canada. Find out how she made house sitting work for her.

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Adventures in house-sitting

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When the ‘new’ part of the house you’re minding was built circa 1825, the pipes are frozen, the water turned off, and the steam-fed oil furnace is on the blink what can a good friend and house sitter do? Call the nice man to fix the furnace of course! (He’s cute but he reeks of oil.) Luckily for Leslee, heat rises and dogs are warm-blooded mammals (good for snuggling).

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A homosexual lady meets the Apostle Paul

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He’s vegan, elderly and ailing with a stack of bibles on the table. She’s young, queer and proud and wants to put her underwear in his refrigerator. Then there’s the gay painter…

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Bosco dog blog

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Bosco always knows when her beloved human, Joan, is leaving home for a while. Sob! But Doris, Martha, Miguel, Roberta and Ellen all have their own ways of making life more bearable for Bosco while Joan is away. Take me to Camp Bosco! (Or just love me at my place).

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Coupland (and Pepe’s) diary of a housesitter, part l

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One evening, Coupland was asked by Beckett and Bonnie Blue if he’d house sit while they and Sancho Diablo travelled to a far off land to make friends with fishes. Coupland agreed. This is five days in the diary of a housesitter.

Your first day on assignment shouldn’t be this hard!

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Coupland (and Pepe’s) diary of a housesitter, parts ll-lV

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One evening, Coupland was asked by Beckett and Bonnie Blue if he’d house sit while they and Sancho Diablo travelled to a far off land to make friends with fishes. Coupland agreed. This is five days in the diary of a housesitter.

We’re four days into this roller coaster ride now: Coupland and Pepe start to really bond (like a wife-beater and his gently cowering lady).

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Coupland (and Pepe’s) diary of a housesitter, part V

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One evening, Coupland was asked by Beckett and Bonnie Blue if he’d house sit while they and Sancho Diablo travelled to a far off land to make friends with fishes. Coupland agreed. This is five days in the diary of a housesitter.

As Coupland prepares to slide back into his normal life, Pepe has a fond farewell gift.

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