Living in Strangers’ Homes: House/Dog Sitting in New Zealand

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House/Pet Sitting in New Zealand

On the bus heading north from Auckland, we stared out of the window at the New Zealand countryside in a kind of exhausted quiet. I silently reflected on the last month: four days in Christchurch with a family of five, 20 days living in a mini-van with Nic while touring the South Island, one overnight bus ride from Wellington to Auckland and a one night stay with a family of four in Auckland. During most previous mornings, we stood next to our van looking out onto a different landscape than the one we saw the day before with hot cups of instant coffee in hand (I know, yuck, but it is what we had) and dirty hair since showering wasn’t always part of our daily regimen.

But this routine will change in about an hour when we meet Jill, a woman we met on the internet, and her two furry friends, Paddy and Tui. Two months earlier in Florida, Jill’s request for a house/pet sitter popped up in my inbox. We connected and now we were on our way to meet her.

Questions about the future started to suppress my reflections of the past –

  • Was Jill going to like us?
  • Were the dogs going to greet us with licks or snarls?
  • What if Jill loses confidence in our abilities and fires us before we even get started?
  • What if Jill feeds her dogs the neighbors’ cats instead of dog food?
  • And, most importantly, what are we going to have for dinner tonight?

There was so much uncertainty! At that point, we couldn’t even pick Jill out of a crowd and we were about to live in her house, drive her truck and feed her beloved dogs for a month.

And then the bus stopped and we saw Jill, all smiles, with Paddy and Tui wagging their tails and looking very enthusiastic about visitors. Knowing what we know now, Paddy was probably more excited about running across the park in front of us and Tui was most likely counting how many more hands were available to give her loving pets.

I think we were all a little relieved to finally meet each other. To be honest, we got a good feeling that Jill was not some nut job from the world wide web during our earlier exchange of emails. Like most Kiwis, she seemed kind and generous and this was expectedly confirmed when we met her in person.

Hello Paddy
Hello Paddy
At Pakiri Beach with our favorite friends, Paddy and Tui.
At Pakiri Beach with our favorite friends, Paddy and Tui.

For those Curious Carls out there, we were brought together through the website, It is a UK-based internet platform that connects home and pet owners with caretakers from all over the world. In the overwhelming majority of cases, it is an exchange of services and there isn’t any money involved. For accommodation, the caretakers look after the home and pets while the homeowner is away.

We learned about house/pet sitting while doing research about around the world travel. It sounded like such a great fit for us – you live in a community, get to know the neighbors, wake up with happy dogs next to your bed and spend quality time getting to know the homeowner. It is an experience you simply can’t have as a typical tourist and it included DOGS and dogs make us so happy.

We traded our alarm clocks for Paddy and Tui.
We traded our alarm clocks for Paddy and Tui.

We Loved Jill

Over the next few days, Jill made us feel like we were at home as she explained the operations of the house and caring for Paddy and Tui.  She mentioned things like Paddy can actually catch flies with his mouth and gets overly excited when trucks are within eyesight. Tui, on the other hand, refuses to race Paddy on the beach unless she gets a head start, which means that an adult straddles Paddy, wraps arms around his chest to hold him back, tells Tui to GO and, when Tui gets about a hundred feet ahead, releases Paddy. Ha! I like Tui’s style 🙂

Jill took us on a tour of the area in her 1984 Toyota Land Cruiser. What a truck! We traveled through the hilly, backroads passing paddock after paddock of sheep and stopped at the quirky Leigh Sawmill Cafe for lunch. Then, Jill introduced us to Pakiri, Forestry and Te Arai beach, all within about a 30 minute drive from her house.



Taking Jill’s truck for a spin through the beautiful NZ countryside. The Pacific Ocean is in the distance.

Each night over dinner, we shared stories, asked each other questions and learned a little something about each other while Tui and Paddy relaxed at our feet. Jill was incredibly kind. She offered us the use of her truck while she was away visiting her daughter and made a delicious home cooked meal when we arrived, which we were so grateful for after spending almost a month eating way too many eggs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of the back of our van. She even encouraged us to head up to the Bay of Islands for a night or two with the dogs while she was away, which we we did and it was beautiful.

How can you not love this face?
How can you not love this face?
Surprisingly, weed whacking in NZ is the same as in the U.S. :) :)
Surprisingly, weed whacking in NZ is the same as in the U.S. 🙂 🙂

When taking a step back, this experience really just blows our minds – strangers from two different countries one very large ocean apart, connect over the internet, meet up in person, and then one trusts the other with home and pets for a month! And, in the end, our life stories and…facebook accounts…will forever be linked unless one unfriends the other and then I guess those electronic ties will be severed but the memory will remain. 🙂

The world is an amazing place, friends.

We had such a great experience with Jill, Paddy and Tui, we decided to continue to house/pet sit while in Thailand!

I loved these dogs. On a trail near Te Arai beach.

When Jill returned from her trip, she took us to this spot and snapped this shot! Thank you, Jill!
When Jill returned from her trip, she took us to this spot and snapped this shot! Thank you, Jill!
Nic makes coffee at Jill's place
Nic makes coffee at Jill’s place

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