Trading housework for wagging tails: A day in the life of Nottingham Homesitters Martin and Kristine Bell
By Martin Bell, homesitter with the UK’s leading home and pet sitting company, Homesitters Ltd
My wife, Kristine and I are retired and started homesitting in 2017 after we lost our beloved 14-year-old West Highland terrier. We love dogs, but we were approaching retirement and did not want the commitment of having another dog, but homesitting seemed like the ideal way for us to get our animal fix without the long-term commitment.
We do around ten sits a year – ranging from a weekend stay to a couple of weeks. We could do more, but we like to do other things now we are retired and have the time. The main reason we homesit is because of our love of animals, but it can be an incredibly good way to boost a state pension and make savings on utility bills too – particularly during the winter months.
Over the past eighteen months, we have done more homesits in the winter as we worked out, we save around £50 a week on our energy bills, as we turn our thermostat down when we are away - which is a big saving!
On a typical assignment when we are looking after a couple of dogs, and factoring in the daily food allowance and travel to and from an assignment, we can earn around £25-£30 a day, which is roughly the same as the current state pension and a welcome boost to our retirement income.
There is the opportunity to earn more depending on the number of assignments you do, and the number of pets you take care of on the job. We love looking after dogs, but we have looked after horses, cats, geese, and Koi carp during our homesitting career!
A typical day
A typical day for us on assignment is getting up and letting the dogs out first thing. We then either give them their breakfast or take them out for a walk, depending on what their usual morning routine is. We may then pop out for a bit, to the supermarket, get a coffee in the local town or grab the paper from the newsagents then we head back to the home.
On a recent homesit in Peterborough we were looking after two lively Labradors. The client was in the process of rewilding a quarry area and had a Range Rover Discovery we could use. Every morning we popped the dogs in the back, headed off to the quarry for an hour or so and the dogs had a wonderful time running around the area and having a swim in the lake.
It was then time to head back, wash them off and give them a treat. By the time we have done the morning routine with the dogs it’s usually lunchtime.
In the afternoon we may head out for another walk around 3 pm in the winter, before it gets dark. Then it is time to feed the dogs, have our meal and settle down for the evening.
Something my wife has always done is to request a 'day in the life of your dog' from the client. This is a rundown of what their normal day consists of such as if the dog usually gets a little bit of toast at breakfast, always goes for an afternoon walk at 4 p.m. or sleeps on the bed at night.
This insight provides details about the dog's preferences, habits, and daily routine, preventing any guesswork and ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience for both us and our furry companions.
A break from the usual routine and a chance to explore.
Our priority when we are on assignments is the home and pets. Although we are contractually able to leave the property for up to three hours in daylight hours and one hour after dark, we tend not to make full use of this time. We prefer to be in the home and enjoy the time together. We may sit in the garden or living room chatting, or in the evenings we read books, do crosswords or jigsaws.
It’s a fantastic way to relax and is like a mini escape from our daily lives. One of the best things about homesitting is spending the evening having a dog on your knee or by your feet to stroke while you are reading; it gives us a great feeling of contentment – and the dog too!
Home and pet sitters can use the opportunity to get out exploring new areas, which we really enjoy. We like to do homesits within a 50 to 60 mile radius of where we live in the Midlands, just to cut down on travelling time, but we have ventured further afield to Norfolk, Suffolk and Yorkshire.
We have loved discovering new areas and meeting new people. We have become good friends with many of our clients and all our assignments now tend to be with regulars. This is great as we are met like family friends when we turn up, with the dogs bounding up to us in excitement!
Dealing with the unexpected
Most homesits go smoothly but our first assignment in a lovely rural converted granary was not without its challenges. We were in a very rural location and Storm Doris hit and the power went off for 12 hours!
One of the dogs was very elderly with poor eyesight and usually the lights were all set on a timer for him so he can wander around without bumping into anything. In the absence of electricity, we found as many torches as we could so that the dog could see where he was going.
Everything in the house ran on electricity so we had no cooking facilities, but the next-door neighbour kindly brought round a thermos of hot water so we could make a cup of tea – it was quite an adventure! But this did not put us off and we’ve since done around 50 assignments, equalling more than 330 days – close to a year away in total!
We really enjoy the homesitting lifestyle. We are just ordinary people doing ordinary things and getting the maximum benefit from our retirement. You would be surprised how many people are not aware that home and pet sitting is a job, and we’d recommend it to anyone who’s retired.
Where else would you get the opportunity to stay in different homes in new places and experience other people’s pets and lifestyles and not have to pay lots of money to do it?