I enjoy house-sitting.
For me, it’s a miniature vacation. I get to live in different surroundings for a little while – sleep in a different place, drive a different way to work, shop at a different grocery store; it’s almost like trying on a new life.
One of my favorite parts of house-sitting is discovering new running routes. I’ve house-sat (is that a word?) several times for my friends Monique and Eric, and during those stays I explored, honed, and established one of my favorite running routes in Albuquerque. It comprises some paved neighborhood streets, a well-groomed, prettily landscaped dirt path, and a gravel road, all paralleling a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande. From that route, the views of the central and Eastern parts of town and the Sandia mountains are lovely, especially in early morning light.
If I hadn’t ever taken that house-sitting gig? Never would have stumbled upon that run.
My friends Tara and Randy have a house in a different part of town, with its own offering of running adventures. Once I started trotting along their street and kept going till I convinced myself I had reached the southeastern edge of the universe. Or at least Albuquerque. To one side, I faced foothills, behind me was a cluster of houses, in front of me was a very distinct fence, and then just nothing [which I’ve learned belongs to Kirtland Air Force Base – so much for romance]. It felt a little surreal.
House-sitting provides not only new experiences in running, but also dining. During any given “sojourn,” I like to get at least one meal from a place near the house I’m mooching, er, carefully tending. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a fast-food joint that I don’t have near my apartment, or home-style Italian, or heck, even just coffee and pastry in the mornings.
This is where I confess my secret fear of other people’s coffee makers. Mine is a hand-me-down, keep-it-simple, one-button operation. Anything much more complicated, and I get nervous about breaking things and high-tail it for a drive-thru and a delicious skinny vanilla latte. In other words, my taste buds have a good time when they’re in another part of town.
Not every part of house-sitting is fun and games, of course. Frankly, most people don’t need a house-sitter unless they also need…a pet-sitter. Which entails certain responsibilities.
Feeding different food to different dogs at different times, and policing mealtimes? Done it. Putting a pill down a pet’s throat to make darn sure that pill gets swallowed? Done it. Cleaned up messes from multiple parts of dogs and cats, usually so early in the morning that the only part of me that’s awake is my gag reflex? Done it.
But I love those pets, each and every one that I’ve cared for in their owners’ absence. I like having buddies to pet after work, who act super-excited to see me walk through the door, or at least curious. And every pet, as their owners know, has such a distinct personality that during a house-sitting gig, it feels like I’m meeting or hanging out with friends.
It surprised me recently when I realized how much house-sitting can reflect life. One of the dogs I used to pet-sit, a wonderful, adorable, fabulously crafty bulldog named Abby, passed away a couple of nights ago. It was unexpected and sad news, but as I type this, the owners of the house I’m currently tending are inPhoenix getting to know their brand-new daughter. The circle of life goes on. And while it does, I’m available to keep your homefire burning.