Our next 8 House Sitting Questions were answered by Rosaline Callaghan, who is working on her own personal Irish house sitting adventure at lovingthewildatlanticway.com. With Irish roots, we have a soft spot for those in the Emerald Isle!
Name: Rosaline Callaghan
Hails From: Ireland
Question #1. How/When did you become a house sitter?
I have always loved to travel. I went to live in Canada for one year back in the day when I was 19 years old. I enjoyed the experience so much I ended up spending almost 7 years in Canada and America working as a nanny. The wanderlust has always whispered in my ear. My mum calls me Lee Marvin as “I was born under a wandering star”. I found regular holidays in hotels and resorts to be rather lonely, unfulfilling experiences as a single person usually surrounded by families and couples. I searched for different ways to travel and discovered house and pet sitting which I have now been doing since 2009
Question #2. What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you while house sitting?
The funniest experience I have had so far in house sitting was not funny at the time but has been a great topic of humour ever since. Last year, I was sitting in County Clare looking after 4 cats and 10 hens. Looking after hens was a first for me and seemed straightforward enough. The owner showed me how she shooed the hens into their hen houses in the evening. Simple. On my first night I started to coax the hens inside. Two of them got really flustered and started to fly! Up and over the chicken wire into open fields around the house. I saw one white speck and one brown speck scurry into the distance towards hungry foxes and danger. My heart stopped but soon sped up as I began to ran through the fields and mud trying to catch them. Each time I got close to one, it would run away again. Now, you all know that it rains a lot in Ireland. I was up to my ankles in mud at times, slipping and sloshing in my frantic chase. About one hour later they were truly nowhere to be seen and by now it was almost dark. With a heavy heart I decided to give up and headed back to the cottage. I had just opened my laptop to do some research on where to buy hens in County Clare and to find out how much the replacements would cost. Then, to my utter amazement I saw the little brown hen and the little white hen circling at the door of the hen-house. I grabbed a towel and sloshed my way through the mud again, and caught them one at a time by throwing the towel over their heads and grabbing them in my arms. One at a time the runaways were rejoined with the brood. After more research I learned that hens are much easier to maneuver after dusk. I had just tried a little too early in the day. I still have no idea how they survived.
Question #3. What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you while house sitting?
All of my experiences bar one have been positive and mutually rewarding. In fact, many of my sits are now repeats which is great. I was pet sitting in the wilds of Donegal during the winter months a number of years ago now. I had agreed to pay for the oil heating. The owners had agreed to pay for electricity and internet. It was only my second sit and I would be much more savvy now and actually agree a fixed figure. The owners sent me a bill for almost 700 hundred euros, almost 4 times the cost my heating would have been at home. I questioned the amount and they sent me an invoice. There must have been gold dust in the oil they used for heating. I felt pretty aggrieved but after thinking about it for a few days I decided it was more important for me to keep my word. I was truly out of pocket on that one and it cost me a small fortune to look after their home and very active border collie.
Question #4. What is the single most important item (aside from laptop/phone/electronics) that you take with you to every house sit?
The single most important item for me is to make sure I have comprehensive travel insurance. We might think bad things only happen to other people but I fell and broke an ankle on La Palma Island a number of years ago and was so grateful that I had the necessary insurance or the experience would have been an even bigger nightmare, especially as I was two airports away from home.
Question #5. How long do you plan on house sitting?
I left a secure but soul destroying career as a barrister in Northern Ireland in 2013 with a dream to set up a small business selling my brand of Wild Irish Seaweed products. Money was going to be very tight and became even tighter when two people I have loved all my life did not pay back significant amounts of money they had borrowed from me. The nest egg for my new business was gone. After dealing with that particular heartbreak I realised I needed to become more creative in having more of any available money for the business rather than spending it on living costs. In June 2015 I downsized to a tiny cottage in Donegal and slashed my living costs to about one third. In June 2016 I decided to go one step further and do full time house sitting for the foreseeable future so did not renew my lease. I have now slashed my living costs to about one fifth of what they were. It can be done. But, I do plan to continue house sitting no matter what happens as it is now a way of life for me. As I write this I have arranged back to back house and pet sits for the next six months. And, working on a website on travelling Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way which is new and needs a ton of work, but sure we all need to start somewhere.
Question #6. What’s been your favorite house sit so far, and why? (location, awesome pets)
Oh my. It is incredibly difficult to choose a favourite as I have enjoyed many lovely locations and have been fortunate to have bonded with all my charges but I would have to say my six week sit in Boston in 2015. Lovely home owners and my wee darling Bevin who was an elderly Manx cat all of 19 years old. When Bob and Maureen called me to let me know Bevin had passed away from old age within weeks of my return home, I cried my eyes out. So in tribute to Bevin, I would say this was my favourite sit.
Question #7. If you could improve one thing about house sitting in general, what would it be?
One thing I would like to see is that sitters have an opportunity to leave reviews too. I would have liked the opportunity to let potential sitters know about the extortionate heating costs in my one unfortunate experience.
Question #8. If you could offer one piece of advice to would-be house sitters, what would that be?
Apart from the advice about having travel insurance, I would also suggest sitters to have as many chats as it takes to be clear on what is expected of them, discussion about the personalities of the pets, agreement regarding any financial matters, and agreement on what happens should things go wrong. On my current sit in County Roscommon, I have agreed to cut the grass with a ride-on lawn mower. The husband is an expert at this. I am not. We have agreed to stay friends if he comes home to crop circles on his lawn as opposed to his current, beautiful stripes.
Bonus question: What’s your favorite movie?
Interesting, one of my favourite songs is Rock Me Amadeus, by Falco! And it seems anyone who has house sat chickens has a story or two to share!
You can check out more on Rosaline below:
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Now go sell all your stuff and house sit!