House-sitting Havoc – Mallorca
Do you want to know what Mallorca and Silence of the Lambs has in common?? I’m about to tell you…
Imagine going to a country where your family heritage resides, add the fact that I’m a sea worshipper, you’ll understand how much my soul was looking forward to this Mallorcan Island trip.
I’m in heaven, surrounded by salty aqua, secluded empty beaches and white limestone cliffs over looking the Mediterranean Sea, living virtually for free, looking after 2 dogs and a cat. The dogs; Puppy (Pronounced Poopy) – a very lucky Mexican dog, that only speaks French, living the life of luxury on Mallorca; Iria – a stunning wolf-cross whom only speaks Spanish and did her utmost to ruin my sanity; and Margot – a cat whose head is too small for her body.
For a self professed “Animal whisperer” like myself this housesit was going to be a cinch… Or was this animal-sit just to prove to me that my ego was too big?
The sheep of Spain wear these beautiful wind chime chattering bells around their woolen necks – which, in normal circumstances, sounds like something from a guided meditation by Buddhist monks, but hearing the chaotic rush from those bells after being chased by Iria, I now have flashbacks to Silence of the Lambs. (Insert mental image of Clarice Starling trying to catch a serial killer).
My fluffy, freedom-seeking, soul-sister proves how alike we are by choosing lambs as her favourite meal. She would disappear for an hour or so, initially, and I’d just live in hope that she’d return after she had finished whatever it was she was doing (this was on numerous occasions before I was able to discover exactly where she went on her expeditions).
So, if you’re contemplating doing a house and furry-beast-sit for anyone, here are some things to consider and questions to ask the owner before you say yes…
- It’s possibly mid-winter or high-summer where you’re going to housesit.
If you’re ok with chilly or cooked bones then by all means sign up for everything and anything.
My most recent housesit I was incredibly enthusiastic about going to Spain (from Australia) and having spoken to my incredibly kind and seemingly relaxed homeowner, I anticipated a super laid back 2-3 months with 3 beasts and all the time in the world to myself to explore my mild wintery island home (I say mild due to Melbourne’s Antarctic wind blown, frosty comparison), complete some study and travel blogging. Boy was that far from reality.
Thankfully Mallorca’s version of winter is a humid balminess – On average, temperatures were around 15-20 degrees celsius.
Find out whether supermarkets, restaurants and other basic necessities are operational during winter or if you’re going to be bombarded by tourists before your decision too. I discovered that just about every town shut down for 4 months upon my arrival in early November. Insert tumbleweeds being the only traffic through the small, crispy breezed, ghost towns with closed, multi-colour shuttered doors and windows contrasting the endless terracotta stained buildings.
2. Find out what training the furries have had.
Dare I go into detail about how important it is to train your dogs? Even something as simple as being able to walk them on a lead and recall should be mandatory but isn’t always the case – so I painfully discovered. Humans spend all this money on educating their children, why do animals miss out?
In my not-so-humble opinion – humans need more training than domestic pets. What makes you think you can house a wolf-cross, another elderly Mexican dog and a cat, whose head is too small for its body (obese), in an apartment with very minimal backyard?
I’ve walked these animals on average 18kms per day. It’s not anywhere near enough. Poor Iria needs to roam free on acreage not be trapped in a townhouse with a bedroom sized yard day after day.
Due to the beasts neediness / separation anxiety, I couldn’t leave the house for 5 minutes without something in the house being attacked.
Chaos by the pesky varmints:
Numerous books selected individually from the full bookcase, then ripped to shreds;
Tea towels mauled, swallowed and vomited up in a pea soup looking liquid days later – inside the house;
The box of masticated materials is currently too small so a new, larger shipping container is required now.
Although I appear miffed at Iria, I know the problem lies in ownership.
It’s cruel keeping this stunning creature locked up and without any training what-so-ever.
To put it simply; Make sure you’re fully aware of each of the animals’ idiosyncrasies.
3. Meet and talk with the owner and animals before you take on the role.
Personally, I think you can tell a lot about domesticated animals behaviors by their owners personality. In this case, I believe that my host creates these needy relationships where she is depended upon to warrant her own existence. This is why all three animals required constant attention.
If you’re overseas then I suggest a few Facetime/Skype calls to see how all parties involved are behaving. Find out all behavioral patterns before agreeing because you may find that your usual natural ability to talk to and understand animals is pointless.
4. Ensure all the basic house stuff is operational.
i.e. Wifi, hot water, electricity etc
The first month I spent without wifi – that caused absolute boredom and crabbiness because I couldn’t do any of the blogging and study that I had planned.
Also, the hot water disappeared for a week. I believe I was advised that the gas bottle would last a good couple of months, so I didn’t think to check that initially. But after being frozen solid each morning in the shower for a week, during winter, I thought I’d better see if it was a lack of gas. Of course it was.
See below regarding receiving detailed notes on how things operate within the household.
I tried not to use the heaters too much as my host told me how much previous house sitters cost her in electricity. Well Love, perhaps investing in something other than electric blow heaters is a cheaper option. After 1 month of being cold and fully man-flued – even whilst wearing a rainbow coloured dragon onesie for warmth – I decided that heating was an absolute necessity.
5. Do you know enough of the language to get you out of a tough spot?
Say your wolf-buddy disappears for hours at a time – how do you put up signs or ask neighbours if they’ve seen the missing fluffy when your native tongue is English and everyone else speaks Español?
Or wifi doesn’t work – how do you call the provider to work out the issue and have it fixed?
6. Check which neighbours are besties with your host.
I say this for 2 reasons;
1. Who is going to be informing your host what you’ve been up to?
2. Who can you call on for help?
7. Are you physically and mentally strong enough to do all that is asked of you?
In this case, walking the beasts for 18kms per day over rocky, limestone cliffs beside the Mediterranean Sea wasn’t enough to stop chaos in the household. Plus, being in my 40’s I’m not that well equipped physically to do much more walking every single day. And not being prepared for the three most needy animals I’ve ever met was one of the most mentally draining experiences I’ve had to deal with.
8. Check the beasties for any health issues.
I’d suggest even taking before and after photos to ensure you’re not blamed for problems once the owner comes home. (Like when you hire a car, go over the critters checking for any scrapes and bumps).
Yes, I was blamed for 3 different problems that were not within my control.
9. Is there a car for you to use?
Are you confident enough to drive on the opposite side of the road and car?
You know I’m a sucker for large, salty aqua, outlined with rocky limestone cliffs and hills, so I’m incredibly grateful that the lady I’m housesitting here for, for 2+ months, has allowed me to use her criminal looking van so I can visit such quiet and pretty coastal towns.
Driving on the opposite side of the road, sitting on the opposite side of the car and changing gears right handed in the white, serial killer appearing, VW van is amusing.
Attempted gear changes with left hand: 19
Wipers on instead of indicators: 1 (true, only once)
Trying to find seat belt with right hand: 12
(Insert rainy day – wipers and indicators both going for nearly the whole drive)
10. Know what your host expects of you..
..and what you expect from your host.
Being able to use the heaters when you have icicles hanging from your nose is an important query.
Will you be paid for your services? Or do you have to pay?
What tasks are you asked to perform on a daily/weekly/monthly basis? Like putting bins out for collection. Bill payments so you’re not left sitting in the dark at night without electricity. Worming the pets. Taking pets to the vet for check ups. Will they leave you enough food or money for supplies and emergencies?
If it’s a decent length housesit then ask if it’s ok to have friends visit. Super handy for those sits over the Christmas/holiday period. Surely you don’t want to spend Christmas and NY with furry, needy beasts alone.
My friends’ arrival couldn’t have been timed any better, I was at my wits end after 6 weeks in my nightmare. Thankfully they helped me walk Iria to give me a break from being dragged along the street and resting my temporary Tourette’s – I don’t think I’ve ever sworn this much in my life.
Just for old times sake I took Iria for a toilet break where I was lucky enough to score some more animal induced skin loss and bruises. Ugh! Get me out of here.
11. Ask for detailed written instructions of how to run the house and pets.
If you’re anything like me, the memory can be a bit of a sieve sometimes, so having everything in writing helps you recall what’s expected. I was fortunate enough to spend a few days with my hosts before they left for overseas, but still, I can’t be expected to remember everything.
12. Know the dates of your homeowners travel plans.
Even ask for a copy of their itinerary just in case of emergency contact. Also, knowing where they are at certain times can help when you are trying to contact them – especially when you discover that they had lost their phone in their country of tour and you have no idea where they are.
I loved the fact that my host was travelling with her young daughter and not having any real plan… initially.
After a month from hell I started asking the question as to when she will return home, only to be met with “I don’t know” too often. This same person contacted me almost on a daily basis as to when I was arriving in her country about 3 months out from my arrival.
So, it’s important to get all the information ahead of time so you know where you stand and can book your own escape.
13. What to do if you want an invite back for the next holiday.
Do a big house clean at the end of your stay, make those floors and kitchen shine like the sun.
Give the beasts loads of love so they actually want you back. Buying their love with treats also acceptable – unless you’re dealing with an obese critter.
Take LOTS of happy phone snaps and send to the host on a regular basis. Those images that show how much they’re enjoying themselves are best.
14. Learn the lessons of yourself if you have had the housesit from hell.
I discovered that Iria and I are alike – we don’t like being tied down and in a small environment without escape options.
I also learned that, even after my whole India-Yogic experience, only recently prior to this housesit, wasn’t enough to help keep me calm in very stressful situations. Something to work on, personally.
I despise neediness,
I need secluded, warm, swimable beaches,
My Spanish is average.
My friends and family call me the Dog Whisperer because I have an innate sense of what a dog needs and train them pretty well. So I am always confident in my abilities when I go to any housesit.. This time my ego has been shot down.
Still want to housesit after hearing this worst case scenario? Here’s the website I used to score this gig;
This website requests supporting reviews on your previous housesits, which is important reassurance for the homeowner that is allowing a stranger into their private world.
They also charge you an annual fee for the privilege.
It’s all about education of the mind, body and spirit…. and getting the hell out of crappy situations immediately.
For more images and entertainment head over to my YouTube Channel here.
I’d love to hear your travel house-sitting stories and will happily add them to the blogs here so comment below or send me an email. https://blinked.com.au/contact/
For super cheap and extensive travel insurance;