I want a dog. Real bad.
My mom bought our Dalmatian, Dutchess, for my older siblings and I soon after my dad passed away when I was 9. Dutchess soon became my best friend.
When I needed something in the basement, she would follow me, giving me the courage to walk down the dark stairs. My fondest memory is from one day that I was sitting on the front porch, sad about something with my palms holding up my chin. Dutchess came and sat beside me, resting her head on my shoulder. She was my guardian and friend.
So needless to say, I love dogs. But my landlord doesn’t allow dogs in the house and rent is way too cheap to leave. I’m so often frustrated by living with roommates and living in an old junky house, sometimes scared of living my neighborhood, and especially frustrated because I can’t have a dog!
Over the past few years I have found a wonderful solution to this problem, and if you’ve got a love for dogs but can’t have one right now, I think you’ll find that this solution can work for you too: pet and house sitting. If you have a family and can’t stay at other people’s houses, keep reading. I’ve got a good solution below.
1. Satisfies Your Urge to Have a Dog
Having a dog at my side gives me such a feeling of comfort and safety. So when I dog sit, it truly helps satisfy my desire to own a dog, even if it just helps for a few weeks. When I leave the houses that I dog sit for, I feel a sense of, “Okay, I’m good!” The more I dog sit, the more I feel okay with not having my own dog right this moment.
2. Experience Realities of Owning a Dog
If you want a dog but don’t have one yet, and if you haven’t owned one before or haven’t owned one on your own, I highly recommend dog sitting before buying one. Having a dog as a child is completely different than owning one as an adult. I was pretty oblivious to the amount of work my mother had to go through in taking care of Dutchess.
Dog sitting reminds me that dogs aren’t completely self-sufficient! They need to be taken out, yes, even sometimes first thing in the morning or late at night, in the heat and in the cold, when you feel like it and when you don’t. Depending on your living situation, you may have to pick up their poop, which in my opinion is really weird and disgusting. They need to be fed twice a day too and they’re counting on you to remember this!
The biggest wake up call has been my social life, what little of it I have. Leaving straight from work to an evening activity isn’t possible with a dog because they’re waiting on you to eat and go out. They probably can’t be left alone for more than 7 or 8 hours either. Speaking of which, it’s a reminder that every time I go out of town I’ve got to find and pay for my OWN dog sitter! Oye!
None of this has deterred me from wanting one but it’s a great reminder that dog ownership isn’t all roses and butterflies. And one of the major reasons I’m waiting on a dog is so that I will have the house, the yard, the job, etc. to allow some of these rules to bend. For example, I don’t want a dog till I can have a doggy door. I want my dog to be able to drink and go out as much as she wants!
3. Gives You Space
I’ve never lived alone, and having roommates is, let’s just say, character-building. They move, touch, and break things. Food is left out, surfaces are left dirty, and they wake you up. Everyone with a roommate has experienced this! It’s a challenge. But it’s one of the wisest financial decisions you can make! That’s another article though.
Dog and house sitting gives you a wonderful respite. It feels wonderful to have peace and quiet after living with a house full of people. When I dog sit I feel like I’m at a retreat. My mess is my own and I can do what I want.
4. Provides Change in Scenery
I believe it’s so healthy for us to have changes in scenery as much as possible. I start to feel like I’m going a little mad unless I change my surroundings once in a while. Just last week I ran across maybe 5 Palmetto bugs and I was so mad! There was a disgusting smell in my kitchen from someone else’s food. The carpet hadn’t been cleaned in weeks and all the important light bulbs seemed to be busted at the same time.
Taking a break from the house always does two things: It gives me joy to live in other people’s houses away from my own environment, and also makes me thankful to come home when I get back.
5. Realistic Reminders of Living Alone
Dog and house sitting also gives me a realistic look into what it would be like to live alone. I often daydream about having my own house and living with my dog, away from roommates. It’s a lovely picture, except, living alone can be lonely!
Some of my best memories of living in this house have been when all of the roommates happen to be home at the same time, often times very late at night. “Laughed till we cried and cried till we laughed” would sum up those times together. Living alone means none of that will happen organically unless you are proactive in inviting people over. It’s an important reminder for me to embrace community when I have it.
6. Provides Extra Income
Another aspect of pet and house sitting that makes it truly a win-win scenario is that you get paid! Sometimes very well, too. This is such an easy way to get extra cash in your bank account. My friend became a dog sitter on Rover.com and it’s actually become a real secondary income for her and her family. She doesn’t have to go anywhere–the dogs come to them and they get paid.
How Do I Get Started?
There are two approaches you can have towards dog and house sitting:
1. Relaxed: I’m very relaxed in my approach to this experience. I only watch dogs I enjoy and mostly just for friends and friends of friends. Because I’m not dependent on this income, if I’m too busy to take it on I politely decline. Start with just putting it out there on social media and telling your friends. Once you start getting business, word of mouth will take over.
2. Aggressive: If you’re thinking of making this a true part-time job, there are plenty of things you can do to get started:
- Put the word out on social media and start telling your friends
- Design a quick and simple website explaining your services and fees
- Put ads out on Craig’s List, Back Page, and other local ad sites
- Print flyers and business cards and distribute to appropriate businesses and people
- Become a sitter on Rover.com
- Develop a referral program. Give your friends or family X amount of dollars for every referral they bring to you. Also consider giving first-time clients a discount.
Oh, and here’s Dutchess (aka “Dutch”) and I around 12 years old.