Adventures in House Sitting
Last month, I spent a week house sitting for a friend of a friend. My duties included feeding two dogs, one cat, and thirteen tortoises. Besides animals, there were a yard full of plants, trees, and flowers. I discovered some important “don’ts” during that week. I don’t want to be a professional house sitter, unless it involves nothing more complicated than literally sitting in a house. I don’t want to grow anything more challenging than a tomato plant. And even though tortoises do have personalities, I don’t want one.
It was an interesting week. I spent my days and nights in the company of two dogs, Patch and Echo, a strange situation for someone who has only lived with cats. But besides barking at the mail carrier, other dogs going on their walks, and whatever made a noise in the middle of the night, they were on their best behavior. I bonded with Patch, who joined me when I sat on the sofa reading or watching television. The cat, Ditto, only stopped by in the morning and evening for a bit of food and a quick cuddle. It was a joy to be able to see some of my favorite music programs and watch some of my favorite movies. Maybe one day, I would have a house of my own again – a small, funky abode where I could recharge, renew and refresh my soul.
But there are several things that will not be a part of my home of the future – tortoises, bonsai trees, and flowering plants. Each morning, I opened the garage door so Thor and Henry, the two largest tortoises, could begin their day. Every day, I shredded and cut vegetables for their meal, spending more time preparing their food than I did my own. By mid-morning, the eleven guys and gals in the tortoise compound would be milling about, waiting for the diner to open. They especially loved the bright colored food, squashing cherry tomatoes and chopping on carrot pieces.
In spite of my four typed pages of notes, I got the plant schedule mixed up. Not knowing anything about plant life, I could only identify them by their location. There were plants by the utility room door that got watered only twice during the week, but the plants by the family room door were watered more often. The plant next to the hot tub was not watered at all, but the tree next to that plant was watered for thirty minutes daily. I knew to take good care of the bonsai and small cedar trees, but with the flowering plants, I was afraid of watering them too much. Unfortunately, I did not inherit my mother’s green thumb – my digit was more likely to be the Thumb of Doom. During the week, there were several hot days as well as several windy days. Many of the flowering plants lost their blooms – was that human error or Mother Nature? But no trees died on my watch. The abundance of green in the yard was soothing, though, and several evenings I sat on the patio, relishing my leafy surroundings.
But it wasn’t all fun and games. One day, I locked myself out of the house. The family room door was kept ajar so the dogs could go outside at their leisure. On the next to the last morning, I got up, took a shower, put on sweatpants and a tee shirt, and went out the family room door to open the garage door for the tortoises. As I walked out with Patch trailing behind me, I heard a soft click. I knew before I walked back on the porch that the door was locked. By then, Echo was in the family room looking out. Did he have to obey nature’s call? Patch was looking in at him, and looking back at me, wondering why he couldn’t go inside of the house. I felt like I had wondered onto the set of a classic situation comedy. What would Lucy do?
I had to think this through. One of the neighbors had called to see how I was doing – maybe she had the cell phone number of the owner. I couldn’t let Patch out of the yard, but if I went for help, he would follow. I locked the dog in the garage with the tortoises and walked over to the neighbor’s house, as I did have the back gate key. She didn’t have a number for the owner, but she had a number for the owner’s son, who I had met earlier in the week. I took the number and walked up to my friend’s house to use her phone. But right before I got there, I remembered that there was a phone in the garage. Apparently, my powers of reasoning hadn’t kicked in yet that morning. I went back to the house, let the now-howling dog out of the garage, and called the owner. When she stopped laughing, she told me where to find a spare key. As soon as I opened the door, one dog ran in and one ran out. I was thankful that I didn’t have to call a locksmith.
The week passed quickly. The owner came home and did not seem upset that some blooms were missing. She was mainly concerned about the bonsai and cedar trees, which were fine. As soon as she opened the front door, the dogs forgot all about our week of bonding and rushed to greet their favorite person. She seemed happy with my service and even gave me a tip. I gathered my things for the walk back to my friend’s house. I would miss the dogs, the flat screen television with unlimited channels, and even the tortoises – but I would not miss those plants and trees. I hooked my Thumbs of Doom onto my jean pockets and walked away without looking back.