Tag: House Sitting

Dog Friendly Bridgnorth

Dog sitting in Worcestershire

Mr Travelling Coral aka Sleeve Notes and I are house and dog sitting. We are in Worcestershire looking after two adorable dogs, organised via Trusted Housesitters. Indeed this is the third time we have cared for Percy and Cecil. They are a joy to look after, easy going and ultra affectionate. Just having them around makes me happy.

A day out to Bridgnorth

Today we took them to Bridgnorth. There was a classic car and food festival on there. We like cars, we like food and our friends @illopetals also had a stall there on the craft market.

Cecil and Percy love being in the car with us. Indeed if we ever go out and leave them they act as if they are being deserted forever. And Percy, as much as he likes the car, won’t go anywhere until he is sure I am going too. He sits down, with his lead in his mouth, and refuses to move.

Bridgnorth

The streets were car free for the festival, and it seems everyone had brought their dogs to Bridgnorth today. A five minute stroll from carpark to town hall took 20 minutes as Percy and Cecil checked out the other canines out with their humans. And of course to sniff every lamp post.

Street food

After a meander around the town, and scoffing paella on the food market (try eating and walking with two dogs attached to you) we decided to go for a ride on the Bridgnorth Cliff Railway. 

dogs on Bridgnorth cliff railway

The funicular railway links the High Town to the Low Town and the River Severn and opened in July 1892. A return journey costs just £1.60. And dogs are welcome to travel.

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After a short stroll along the river (the weather was very cold and wet, Autumn is racing in this year) we returned to the High Town via the funicular hoping to find a dog friendly cafe. And we did.

Dog friendly cafes

The dogs found it, as they spotted some canine playmates in the coffee. Their human urged us to come in stating that they were dog friendly.  Giovanni’s not only make great coffee, sell locally made ice cream and serve up delicious looking crepes. If only I hadn’t been so full from the street food paella….

They also gave us homemade dog biscuits. How good is that?

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The rain had stopped so we ventured back out to explore some more. Met The Tin Man.

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Bridgnorth is a lovely market town, with some fine buildings.

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Dogs, cafes and the law

I noticed a a number of shops in Bridgnorth had dog friendly signs in their windows too although a fair few had the dogs not allowed sign – bizarrely a hardware type shop that did not serve food, so it is clearly not about dogs and food hygiene that is the issue.

You may have heard of a marathon runner and charity fundraiser Dave Heeley aka Blind Dave. I have had the privilege to work with him in the past and he has some great stories to tell including one about the time he was a forklift driver… anyway he has been refused entrance to dining establishments because he had his guide dog with him. Taxi drivers have also refused to take him – I was a witness in that court case – and this is a man who is blind and relies on a guide dog. It is illegal for businesses to refuse his dog, yet they still do. Many companies and their staff are unaware of the law about the access rights of a person with an assistance dog. They are also incorrect when they claim that (non assistance) dogs are not allowed in a cafe.

If a guide dog is allowed in a cafe, why not any other dog? Of course the owner needs to have the right to refuse a dog that is disruptive. And maybe limit the number of dogs on the premises. I totally get it that some customers could be uncomfortable with lots of dogs in a cafe, especially if they are wet and smelly. There needs to be some discretion, of course. And a responsible dog owner would not take a wet, smelly or snappy dog into a cafe.

This is an excerpt of the guidance by The Kennel Club. They are actively campaigning for more businesses to be dog friendly.

It is not as many will say, illegal. Even in cafes. It is only food preparation areas that are out of bounds, not areas where food is served and sold. 

Is it time for more businesses to be dog friendly?

As dog sitters, we actively seek out places to take the dogs to increase their socialisation. We like to explore where we are house sitting and don’t want to leave the dogs alone for long periods.

What we have noticed in the UK is that we find more dog friendly places in the countryside than in the city. All three local pubs we have visited allow dogs in the bar, where they also serve food. The local cafe has water bowls outside and dog treats. Tappeto Lounge in Kidderminster welcomes canine friends. Having checked out their website I am not sure that all Lounges share this dog welcome policy so I have tweeted them for clarification.

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My local pub does not allow (non assistance) dogs on the premises, not even in the garden. As it is situated adjacent to a park frequented by dogs and their humans and is called The Dog, I find this odd. Only one cafe on my local high street in Bearwood welcomes dogs. The supermarket doesn’t but my butcher does.

What do you think? Would you like to see more dog friendly cafes and pubs? And if you have a dog, which is the most dog friendly town you have visited? Are there any dog friendly places you can recommend?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Housesitting – why I house sit and why you could too

Have you considered housesitting?

I am currently housesitting (with my husband) and looking after two delightful dogs. We are staying in an amazing house in the Worcestershire countryside that is straight from the pages of an interior design magazine. With the use of a well equipped kitchen we can cook what we like and not spend on eating out. We have access to a library of DVD’s that we can watch in the cinema room. The bed is comfortable, it makes getting up a tough decision. The bathroom has a rainfall shower and a big tub that if I were so inclined I could bathe in with glass of champagne that the house owners thoughtfully provided, stargazing through the skylight.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

And it is. Not all house sits assignments are so luxurious of course. This was a lucky find in so many ways, right time, right place. And a bonus of some loving dogs to care for in a lovely home.

This is our sixth house and dog sitting assignment and the second house sit booked via Trusted Housesitters. The third via Trusted Housesitters assignment is already confirmed. The houses are all different. What they all have in common is that the dog and house owners want to be able to relax in the knowledge that you will take good care of their home and pets while they are away.

There are lots of resources out there – I particularly like We Love House sitting – lots of information for prospective and active housesitters.

Housesitting as an alternative to renting

The DH and I are housesitting as an alternative to renting accommodation or living on a building site whilst the builders knock part of our house down.

We have emptied the ground floor and sold or given away most of our furniture.

Housesitting on our doorstep

At the moment we are limiting our sits to assignments within 30 minutes commute to Birmingham. We need to be close to where we live as the DH has to work and we need to pop back to keep an eye on the building work.

When we have applied for the sits we have been upfront and honest with the clients as to why we are housesitting. They need to know that the DH won’t be at the house all of the time so that it is mostly me looking after the home and pets.

We will need to go home occasionally and so sometimes that will mean their pets can come with us is they are happy for that to happen, or be left for a couple of hours in the house. This honesty may mean that some people will decline us and that is just fine. It is about finding the right match for you.

What has been good about sitting houses and pets locally is that we have had the opportunity to meet the dogs and the house owners before agreeing to the sit.

We are new to Trusted Housesitters and so far all the people we have sat for are using the service for the first time. It has been reassuring for the people entrusting their home and pets to strangers to meet us – and we have had a chance to check that the assignment is the right fit for us. We have seen where the house is, how to use the appliances and be shown where and when to feed the dogs.

Housesitting far from home

Our first house sits were in Melbourne. These were arranged privately as they were for an old uni friend. We must have done something right as she asked us back to look after the dogs on two further occasions. Then her work colleague booked us too. Read more about that here.

How do you know the sit or sitter is right for you?

Using a service like Trusted Housesitters gives you a lot of assurance. Regular users of the service will have built up a portfolio of references and levels of verification. After an assignment both the house and pet owners and the sitters are encouraged to feedback on the experience.

Read the reviews. Look at the photos of the house and the pets. Make sure you are confident with the requests of the house sit and the needs and types of pets. Will you need a car or will you be able to use theirs?

I was recently approached to look after a house and two horses. I declined as I have no experience with horses. Another sitter told me that they had declined an assignment after meeting the dogs. The dog were very boisterous and she suspected they could be aggressive with her if the owners were not there. To test this she asked the owners to come out of the house with her and give her the house keys. She then went to the front door to open it and the dogs barked very aggressively and threw themselves at the door. The owners were shocked. And lost a sitter.

Some assignments ask for you to clean the house and look after the garden. Do you want to do this? Others will have a gardener and a cleaner as does my current sit. It goes without saying that we keep the house tidy  and water a couple of plants in pots but I don’t have to, nor want to clean a big house and mow a lawn.

One of the motivators  of selling a big house was so I didn’t have to do these jobs. The DH and I concentrate on keeping the dogs happy and I use the time catching up with my writing and reading. I don’t mind watering the plants and cleaning a small house. I do expect the house to be clean when I arrive.

Write an amazing profile

Read other profiles. What stands out to you and makes you want to be a sitter for them or ask them to sit for you?  If you want to be a house and or a pet sitter think what you have to offer that would make people feel happy about you staying in their home and looking after their pets.

If you are looking for sitters, why would someone want to stay in your house, your town, city or village and look after your pets?

Sell yourself. Say what have you done in the past and why you want to house and pet sit. Bring some personality into the profile. Be honest.

Sell the house and the area. What is there to do in the area? For example if I was selling Birmingham I would say it has an emerging food scene with 5 Michelin star restaurants in the city and amazing street food events. I would mention the indie coffee houses, talk about the Museum and Art Gallery and the Staffordshire Hoard, the parks and surrounding countryside,  National Trust Properties, Grand Central, John Lewis and The Balti Triangle. I would also add that it is near to Stratford upon Avon and the Cotswolds, because potential overseas sitters will be familiar with those and rarely realise that Birmingham is so close.

Take photos (with permission)

The DH and I take lots of photos of the dogs we look after and share them on our Facebook Page (not profile).  I suggest that you do check with the owner first that they are happy for you to do so. Never share any photos of the house. If the owners prefer we would also email photos. Owners love to see their happy pets. I sometimes tag Trusted Housesitters in the posts. Again, make sure the pet owners are happy for you to do so. Some of my photos of the dogs we have looked after are at the bottom of this post.

Welcome them home to happy pets and food in the fridge

And leave basics for the sitters, especially if you live some way from shops. Milk, bread, tea at the minimum. On our last sit we cooked dinner and made a crumble for the house and dog owners. They had been to Australia and we knew from experience how exhausted they would be. We also met them from the railway station. This time we are leaving some fruit and salads and some chicken and cheese so they can make up a light meal when they get home. They have a long drive from the airport and we are sure they will stop for a meal on the way home.

Complete and read the housesitting welcome guide

This is where all the important information is. About the house, the animals, the responsibilities and the area. It is the housesitters bible. And it guides the house owners as to what information they need to provide. As a housesitter, read it before the assignment starts. This way if you have any questions you can address them beforehand.

Write a review

Once the sit is over you will be asked to feedback on the sit or the sitters. Please remember to do this. For a sitter like me it helps me get more assignments. For the house and pet owner it helps sell the sit.  And if it was dreadful talk to Trusted Housesitters first before writing the review.

And enjoy looking after lovely dogs like this

  • footballing dogs

 

 

 

 

 

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Melbourne – things to do for free

As part of our round the world trip, we are house and dog sitting in Melbourne. After being on the road for a month and a bit, having a comfortable bed, our own shower room and a kitchen is fantastic. Beats a camper van, hands down. We are very lucky to have essentially free accommodation for six weeks, which is a bonus. Another bonus is we get to live like Melburnians not tourists. Well mostly!

Other bits of this trip are going to take serious chunks out of our travel budget, so we are more than happy to look after a house and the dogs and be able to explore this great city, which is consistently voted one of the best places to live in the world. What I hadn’t reckoned on was how big the place is. And that it’s divided up into mini towns, all so very different. And the traffic and mad drivers. So we are mostly using the public transport system. To get our bearings we took the FREE city tram, which runs around the CBD. This is a hop on, hop off ride, with a recorded guide to what you can do and see at each stop. A couple of weeks later we hopped on the FREE city bus, that does a bigger tour of Melbourne. * see addendum below.

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There is also a recorded commentary, but our driver also added snippets of his own which was brilliant, such as this is where my grandad got married. Random, but fun.

We have yet to join a FREE guided walk, courtesy of one of the information centres volunteers. Melbourne certainly knows how to utilise volunteers in the culture and tourism industry. They have volunteer guides around the city with maps and other information, volunteers at the Royal Botanic Gardens and you can join a volunteer guide at the NGV to learn more about the art collections on show. Also FREE. And when we are all cultured out and need to escape the heat we can get the FREE shuttle bus to Chadstone Shopping Centre we haven’t been yet, I suspect it is like Merry Hill or the Bull Ring, but bigger.

As National Trust members we also get FREE entrance to the Polly Woodside and The Old Melbourne Gaol The Polly Woodside was good fun, especially as there was only us two on the FREE guided tour. Phil got above himself, as second mate! When we visit the gaol I will ensure he is punished!

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There are a few other places we will be using our National Trust membership to visit. And while we pay for membership, these visits are not technically free. However, my view is that my membership is a charitable donation and visiting the properties is a privilege. Free transport, free accommodation, free guided tours, free entrance to attractions, so all we need now is to eat for free……..

 

Addendum – the city shuttle is no longer free. However all trams in the CBD are (clearly marked free zone).