Potlickers melt my heart. And I know I’m not the only one. These island dogs can be found all over the world, similar in their nature and melting hearts just like the heat melts our faces off. We endearingly refer to them as potlickers in many places and they are beloved, adored, and adopted by many of us who call these islands home.
I was one of those who fell hook, line, and sinker for a little blonde potlicker on the island of Roatan. Our sweet girl lived in a gas station parking lot, cleverly positioned next to a fried chicken joint where she regularly inhaled entire chicken legs – bones and all. When we showed up (per information from the humane society), she sweetly came trotting over to let us pat her, so we put her into a taxi and took her home furever.
We named our little potlicker Lina, for gasolina. We wanted to pay homage to her early home and to always remember that she had the roughest of beginnings, so she deserved nothing but love for the rest of her days.
We lived for three years in Roatan, several months in the US, and then moved to Scotland, so Lina became quite the expat doggie herself. She was a lucky little potlicker, but we were infinitely luckier for having her in our lives.
So, yes, potlickers still melt my heart. And if you have found yourself welcoming one – or many! – potlickers into your island home, then you know how I feel. You are my fur momma people!
But there’s a small problem facing many of us potlicker-loving transplants to the islands. When we travel or visit family back home, we need some help. Sometimes, our little furbabies can come with us (I’m looking at you, Island Dog Diego). But, most times, we need to leave them at home in the care of someone else.
And so begins my tale of international house and pet sitting…
How I Got Started in House and Pet-Sitting
After our sweet Lina passed away, my heart needed to heal. Without the ability to take in another furbaby of our own at the time, I chose the best alternative I could find: I joined TrustedHousesitters to begin house and pet-sitting for others.
Getting to travel to other places, stay in local homes, and all the while cuddle other people’s furbabies sounded like a version of heaven I didn’t even know existed.
Trust me, dear reader, it is a very, very real heaven.
Since I joined TrustedHousesitters back in 2016, I have looked after a true menagerie of animals in various countries. I’ve traveled to France, Ireland, the US, Scotland, England, and Spain to take care of other people’s homes and pets.
Those animals have included dogs, cats, chickens, and even goats! And I’ve had neighbors that are horses, cows, sheep, and donkeys. On top of all that, the homes I’ve stayed in have included urban mansions, sprawling farms, seaside apartments, and everything in between.
To say that I’ve enjoyed it would be a silly understatement.
But let me break it down a bit so you know how this whole thing works…
How does house-sitting actually work?
House and pet-sitting is all built on an exchange of trust. Some house and pet-sitters will charge for their professional services, which is absolutely respectable. The type of house-sitting I do, however, is actually free. We don’t get paid, but we get to stay in a place for free and get paid in lots of cuddles and face licks.
If you need someone to look after your fur babies (and your home), then you can join a site like TrustedHousesitters (note: this is my personal affiliate link. It will not cost you extra to join, but will give me a small commission for sharing something cool with you – and trust me – it is cool) and post your request online for house and pet-sitters to see. You’ll add photos of your home and of your fur babies, along with descriptions of your home, your neighborhood, and your fur babies’ needs.
Potential house and pet-sitters (such as myself) peruse listings that match with our available dates and our own personal requirements. Some sitters have regional preferences while others will go anywhere. Similarly, sitters have all sorts of needs and requirements that can range from accommodation arrangements to the types of animals you have.
For example, some sitters might only want dogs or only cats. Others, like me, are open to all sorts of experiences. I looked after two goats, more than 20 chickens, and a kitten on a smallholding in Spain for three months last year. And, yes, it was amazing!
Everyone is different, so just be honest about who you are and what you need if you’re posting and looking for sitters. This ensures you find the right sitter for you. More is truly better when it comes to photos and information on your pet-sitting request.
If you’re in need of a sitter so you can travel knowing that your fur babies are well-cared for, I can personally recommend TrustedHousesitters. Everyone on that site joins due to a love of animals. There are lots of house-sitting sites available, but TrustedHousesitters is specifically for animal lovers. There are very few sits on TrustedHousesitters with no animals at all – the primary purpose is to care for pets.
Tips for Homeowners to Find House-Sitters
If you’re ready to start looking for the perfect house and pet-sitter, take your time to create your profile and listing. From the perspective of a regular sitter, here are some tips for finding the perfect house and potlicker sitter!
1) Add Lots and Lots of Photos
You’d be surprised how many homeowners add only one or two photos. Sitters are trying to decide whether or not they will feel comfortable staying in your home with your pets. They want a good idea of what the home looks like and the size and scope of the responsibilities involved.
So take photos of all of the following (at least):
– The bedroom you are offering to a sitter
– All of the common areas the sitter will use
– The outdoor/entrance area (especially if you have landscaping you want them to do)
– Plenty of photos of your pets!
Think of what you look for when booking an Airbnb or a hotel – you want as much info as possible before you book, right? The goal is to provide as much detailed information as possible so a sitter feels prepared and aware of all expectations. Don’t leave it up to their imaginations – just provide the photos.
Top Tip: Choose landscape-style photos and don’t worry about lots of close-ups of your beloved pets. When all we can see is a nose and eyes, that’s super cute but doesn’t offer much insight. Give sitters an idea of the size of your dogs, for example, by showing a photo of them with a person. The last thing you want is a sitter who thought you had a tiny dog and is incapable of managing a 100lb dog on a leash.
Just compare these photos: In the first, you see 2 cute dogs but can’t tell how big they are. The second photo shows they’re super tiny!
2) Include Details in Your Description
You don’t need to write an entire guidebook for your city, but some detail is very much appreciated. Let a sitter know about public transportation options, how far away grocery stores and other amenities might be, and also offer tips on fun things to do. Remember that this is an exchange, but you are not getting a servant! These sitters want to dote on your fur babies while exploring a new place, so share your favorite restaurants and bars – especially the dog-friendly ones.
If your home is remote, make sure you offer insight into transportation options. Allowing a sitter the use of your vehicle is common, especially for a longer sit. If you live in a remote area, asking a sitter to rent a car for several weeks or months is a massive financial burden that is likely to deter most sitters.
3) Double-Check Your Dates
Make sure your dates are accurate. If you are flexible, be sure to note that at the start of your listing, but it’s best to use your ideal dates to start. If you want a sitter to overlap with you before you leave or after you return, then be sure to use that entire date range in your listing.
It’s ideal if you can share your departure and arrival times with your chosen sitters as soon as you select them. They can then plan their own travels accordingly without lots of back-and-forth questions.
4) Communicate Effectively
Sitters will submit an application to be chosen for your sit, which means they’re taking time and effort to review your photos and information before taking more time to submit their own information for you to review. So, please be polite! At least let an applicant know when to expect a decision as well as the result of that decision.
If you’re listing a sit on a gorgeous Caribbean island that looks like a dream come true, you will undoubtedly receive a deluge of applications.
If a sitter’s application can be excluded outright, tell them right away. If you really love a sitter but want more time to decide, tell them they’re being considered and when they might expect a decision.
Sitters will make other plans in the meantime, while some hold off because they really want to do your sit. Just be polite and communicate with everyone. This will take some work on your side, but it’s worth it to find the right person to look after your beloved home and pets. If you put the work in now to find a fantastic sitter, this could easily become a long-term relationship. Many people do house and pet-sitting full-time, so those sitters might want to return next year when you travel again.
5) Interview Your Favorite Applicants
Schedule video calls with your top few applicants. This is important for both sitters and homeowners to get to know each other and to see if this is the right fit for both parties. Showing the sitter around the home and introducing the pets is helpful, but this is mostly about meeting each other and setting honest expectations. This gives both of you the chance to ask any clarifying questions, so take advantage of the opportunity!
Advice for Homeowners on an Island
As a house and pet-sitter who also lived and loved the island life, I want to offer some insight from this side of the exchange if you’re considering getting pet-sitters.
Remember this: You know what it’s like to live on a rock, but most potential pet-sitters don’t!
Make sure you accurately describe daily life there in your descriptions. If your home is surrounded by jungle and lots of little critters, make that obvious to deter any squeamish, unsuspecting folks. If you have no air-conditioning and you’re leaving during frizzy hair season, give those potential pet-sitters a heads-up.
Try to remember what people don’t know about island life and inform potential sitters of those challenges. That includes the humidity, the bugs, the power outages, the potholes, the machete-carrying landscaper in your front yard… whatever it may be!
Remember that a free stay on a tropical island with adorable potlickers will literally look like heaven on earth. Which, as we all know, is true.
But we’ve also seen those mainlanders who want their creature comforts and are totally blindsided by island life realities. They come to the islands with rose-colored Ray-Bans on and… well, sometimes it doesn’t go so well, does it?
Try to avoid that situation with house and pet-sitters by showing the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. The more information a sitter has upfront, the more likely you are to have a successful exchange. Sharing these little quirks will ensure you get the right sitters who will love your home and your fur babies as much as you do.
Have questions about house and pet-sitting? Ask me! I love the experiences I’ve had over the years and I’ve also learned some valuable lessons. Feel free to contact me anytime.