My husband and I have just returned to Las Tablas after a five-week jaunt in the US. We left our dogs back in Panama with a housesitter.
I’ve written previously (this is the third installment) about our quest for the person we could trust with our pets and our home while we were away.
What did we find when we returned home?
Did we find our car missing, our dogs running loose, and our house stripped to the bare walls?
Was our kitchen hip-deep in garbage?
These are the kinds of fears you have when you entrust your pets and your home to a stranger. No matter how carefully you’ve vetted them, there’s always that nagging little doubt in the back of your mind. . .
In case you missed the first two installments, here’s where I wrote about the Trusted Housesitters website, and here’s an outline of the process we used to find a trustworthy housesitter.
The Housesitter Arrives
We were scheduled to leave Las Tablas on May 8, a Thursday. Ashley arrived the previous Sunday so she’d have time to get used to the dogs (and vice versa) and learn her way around.
We wanted her to feel as comfortable as possible in our home and in the community. We took our time showing her the town, the beach where we take the dogs, local grocery stores and restaurants. We also arranged to meet a group of friends for lunch so we could introduce her. Included in the group were a diverse group of expats who’ve lived here for varying lengths of time, and a couple of Panamanian ladies.
I had jotted down a booklet full of information about the dogs, the house, and the community as well. Anything I thought might be useful to her went into it.
One of our friends had an extra cell phone which she was happy to loan for Ashley to use during her stay.
She was pleasant and friendly, interesting to talk to, and got along well with the dogs during our few days together.
So off we went. . .
Staying in Touch
During our travels, I got updates regularly from Ashley. I had asked her to touch base every day, even if it was very brief.
Some days I got long, chatty emails full of news about what she and the dogs had been up to. Other days it was just a couple of sentences, but enough to let me know they were alive and well.
We also spoke on the phone a few times.
Several times she asked questions about the dogs (“Wyzer’s developing these spots on his belly. . .”). Once she asked if it was okay to have a friend who was traveling through the area come to the house.
She took the dogs to the beach frequently, and even took them on an expedition to Playa Venau!
She joined my friends — now her friends too! — for aqua aerobics.
We flew back into Panama on June 18th, stayed overnight in the city, and came on to Las Tablas on the 19th.
Ashley came to meet us at the bus station in a sparkling clean car — I almost didn’t recognize it!
When we got to the house, the dogs were ecstatic to see us, and I was ecstatic to see that the house sparkled as well. It was spotless — much cleaner than we keep it, if truth be told.
She knew we’d be tired, so she had prepared dinner for us.
After dinner I fell into bed (freshly made with clean sheets).
“Ashley’s a treasure,” one of my friends told me later.
While I can’t guarantee you’ll have a housesitting experience as good as ours, there are steps you can take to make it the best it can be.
- Figure out the qualities most important to you in a housesitter and choose accordingly
- Be absolutely clear about expectations and responsibilities on both sides
- Communicate often before the housesitting gig starts
- Be flexible where you can
- Help the housesitter feel welcome
- Give him/her time to get to know you, your pets and the community. Make it as easy as you can.
- Introduce him/her to people who speak the same language
- If you can, put some emergency backup systems in place and let the housesitter know about them. For example, we gave a second set of house keys to a friend just in case.
- Enjoy your travels!
Once again, here’s a link to the Trusted Housesitters website. (And we were so impressed, I am now happy to recommend them as an affiliate.)
Want to hear about the experience from the housesitter’s point of view?
Photo by Ashley B. Mudra
Have you used housesitters? Have you been a housesitter? I’d love to hear about your experiences.
Anita @ No Particular Place To Go says
As occasional housesitters ourselves we’ve found that a lot of the success of a good housesit is in the preparation; letters exchanged, face-to-face or skype interviews and clear expectations of what is needed on both sides. You obviously worked hard to make sure that Ashley felt comfortable with your animals and at home in the community and communicated your requirements clearly. Another key step is keeping in touch frequently during the housesit and addressing questions and problems as they arise. We’re so glad that your housesit experience was great.