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MindMyHouse News 22 July 2006

by Susan Holtham

Edition 12 of our community newsletter brings you all of the following: our new sitter wanted adverts from metro NYC (USA) to Scotland; a small matter of home owner etiquette; a wonderful response to last month’s request for house sitters’ REAL job descriptions; site traffic goes through the roof as we are finally released from Google’s sandbox; and finally we ask you for your opinion on our latest hare-brained scheme for developing our site.

Posted in: MindMyHouse News

Dear MindMyHousies,
It is hot, hot, hot here in London (in that great British tradition I’m always complaining about the weather aren’t I?) and we are steaming in our little basement flat. But nothing could stop us getting this edition of MindMyHouse News out to you in time!

Thank you for your condolences on the recent death of our 13-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Doody Bell. It helped us deal with our grief to have fellow dog-loving MindMyHousies express their sympathy with us from all around the world.

We have noticed that home owners are starting to advertise their house sitting assignments for the busy Christmas period. This is a great idea as house sitters often really appreciate having five month’s of lead-in time on their next house sitting assignment. The fabulous news is that traffic to MindMyHouse is up, up, up due to a happy turn of events in the world of search engines.

Edition 12 of our community newsletter brings you all of the following: our new sitter wanted adverts from metro NYC (USA) to Scotland; a small matter of home owner etiquette; a wonderful response to last month’s request for house sitters’ REAL job descriptions; site traffic goes through the roof as we are finally released from Google’s sandbox; and finally we ask you for your opinion on our latest hare-brained scheme for developing our site.

Attention house sitters – your services are required here!

Live rent-free for up to a year in metro New York (USA)
Would you like to live in a small community between the Catskill Mountains and NYC (USA) for up to one year free of rent? There are no pets to care for in the assignment just the usual basics of minding a house in this part of the world.

Mind a home for sale in SW Idaho (USA)
This ten-day (or longer) assignment includes the care of two dogs and the showing of the property to interested buyers. In the words of the home owner: ‘a wonderful location for the outdoor enthusiast’.

Hogmanay in Scotland!
If two months in a country cottage in Scotland this winter excites you then get in touch with this home owner. Two well-behaved dogs await your reply.

(To contact these home owners you need to login to your account area first.)

Home owner etiquette

Dear home owners – we have received a number of emails from distraught house sitter members who were concerned that you weren’t receiving their applications. As we are confident that our internal contact form system is working I could only come to one conclusion: you are not always responding to house sitters’ applications made through our site.

We realise that some of your sitter wanted adverts are deluged with replies from eager house sitter members, which may seem a little overwhelming. However, if someone has taken the time to respond to your sitter wanted advert it is only good etiquette to reply to them in kind. To take care of this, you only need to draft a single polite message to send as a bulk email post out to your list of applicants. Your message could include a ‘thank you’ for their interest and add that you have kept their contact details on file should you need them in the future. Why not? – it’s a nice way to tie up the relationship.

If you don’t want your list of unsuccessful applicants to know your email address, you can send each of them a separate email using our blank contact form system. To access our contact form system, open their original message to you and click on the reply link contained within that message. Simply copy and paste your message to them into the blank contact form provided.

You may find it quicker and easier to send your list of unsuccessful applicants a single email from your personal account. (Keep in mind that these people will then have your email address and may try to contact you again.) When making this single email it is imperative to list these house sitters’ email addresses in the BCC field of your email browser only (so that their addresses are not revealed to each other). Their privacy is as important as yours! Include your own email address in the ‘to’ field (so that it will appear to everyone that you have sent yourself the email).

Send us your REAL job description

Last month I sent out a request for house sitters to send us real-life examples of what they were actually required to do in their lives as house sitters (as opposed to the standard job description). Clare, our resident Blogger on Assignment, had a lot to say on this matter. I think you will agree she brings a wonderful sense of humour to an otherwise conscientious approach to house sitting.

One thing that they don’t tell you when you embark on a career as a house sitter is that you need to become an overnight expert in animal behaviour problems. After much internet research, perusing articles such as ‘What to do with a feather plucker’ (parrots!) and viewing of TV programs such as ‘The Dog Listener’, I feel I am now gaining a most respectable proficiency in this specialised domain.

Let’s list some of the things I have had to do in my travels:

  1. Calm a neurotic anxious squawking parrot with constant food and attention.
  2. Regularly soothe a thunderphobic collie in the middle of the night and administer dog valium – which of course only kicked into gear once the storm was over.
  3. Extract a ravenous (and already fed) cat licking plates and cutlery in a dishwasher after my back was turned for one minute, and also extract it from a bin and then prise the night before’s lamb bone out of its jaws.
  4. Cheer up a seriously depressed siamese fighting fish on hunger strike.
  5. Train two dogs in different houses to walk on the lead.
  6. Clean up the house and wash the quilts after the dog had used them as a toilet facility. When it rained he didn’t like getting his paws wet in the garden so the house was MUCH more inviting (of course!).
  7. Work out why a budgie had started plucking its own feathers out and solve the problem.
  8. Fix two faulty Kreepy Krauly pool filters using masking tape.
  9. Coax a neurotic small dog to take its antihistamine tablet every morning by any means possible.
  10. And to bring it up to a nice round 10 – put up with a frisky cat trying to strategically wake you at 5am every morning with the following sequence (a) miaowing determinedly in your face (b) walking all over you giving you a nice shiatsu massage (c) attempting to draw the covers back with its paw (d) walking onto the bedside table in an attempt turn the light on.

Here’s a picture of Clare’s latest catastrophe – trying to get a food obsessed cat out of the dishwasher where she found it licking food off the plates
Tigger tiger

We are out of Google’s sandbox!

You may remember your hard-working editor having a whinge back in February in the first anniversary issue of MindMyHouse News about that naughty behemoth of a search engine, Google. We were thoroughly sick of still being stuck in their legendary sandbox a whole year after launching our site. (Google generally withholds new sites from their search engine for an unspecified period of time; this process has been nicknamed ‘the sandbox’.) Despite having what we modestly think is the best house sitting-related content on the Internet, Google were ranking us in the mid and high three hundreds in a list of ‘relevant’ websites when searching for keywords such as ‘house sit’ and ‘house sitters’.

Just six months later and my how things have changed! When searching for our keywords, Google is now ranking MindMyHouse around 14 to 22 among all the world’s websites for relevancy – hallelujah! Our new home owner and house sitter registrations have taken a correspondingly sharp turn upwards which is great news for us, and great news for the level of exposure for your adverts. We are firmly on track to keep on bringing home owners and house sitters together as per our mission statement. Thanks Google! (Better late than never.)

Our plans to become an Internet portal for all things house sitting

In our quest for world domination we are considering becoming a Internet portal for all things house sitting. This would allow the world’s home owners and house sitters to search all of our competitors’ online adverts through a search engine on MindMyHouse. As this search engine would be powered by Yahoo it would most likely be superior to our competitors’ individual site search engines.

Why would we help out our competitors in this way? We simply think that it is in our and our members’ interests to help bring home owners and house sitters together, no matter where they advertise. However, the whole enterprise could flop for us as home owners and house sitters flock to our competitors, leaving us choking on their dust. We would love to hear what you think about this possibly foolhardy plan. Would you appreciate having the world of house sitting on your plate (so to speak)? Where you could search all of the Internet’s sitter wanted and sitter available adverts from one page on our site, using a search engine powered by MindMyHouse? What do you think? Vote in our poll below:

yes, that’s a great idea
no way
hmm, I’m not sure

Happy house sitting (or best of luck with your sitters!)

Susan Holtham
aka the team at MindMyHouse

About the author: Susan Holtham

Susan Holtham

The editor at MindMyHouse is a fun gal, intrepid traveller (in a former life), holder of three passports and enthusiastic house sitter. A book editor by trade, she did a three-year stint with Lonely Planet Publications at the start of her career. During her time at LP she shepherded many titles through the production process. Baaaa-aaaa-aaaaaa! Now that two gorgeous little girls call her mummy she's a very busy woman tending to their needs and to the occasional cries for help from among our 5000+ membership. No really, she's always keen to help!