Holidays without the dogs Print
News - Rubrieke
Friday, 20 July 2018 22:55
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Dr Liesel van der Merwe is a small animal medicine specialist. Send her your questions: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Dr Liesel van der Merwe

I went down to the coast last month and for the first time had to organise a house sitter. This turned out to be quite stressful, even though I used a young vet nursing student.

Firstly, the issue of the general chaos at home and the fact that my books are still in boxes eight years after moving in due to lack of a bespoke bookcase. A week of general decluttering ensued.

Then there was the list of what to do, when and how. I have eight dogs and three cats and as I was writing up the list, I realised how individual each animal was.

One of the younger ones is too naughty and escapes through the main gate so she was taken to Bela Bela for her own holiday at the parents. This entailed a trip before the main trip. The two old dogs, one deaf and senile, and one with weak hind limbs, both need daily medications and special food.

But on top of that came all the individual quirks. This one needs to be fed in this dish, in this spot or else it won’t eat. The big boerboel needs to be fed last, at the other side of the house, otherwise she pushes in and eats everyone else’s food. The little dog doesn’t need a dish at all, but wants her pellets on the floor in the TV room.

Supper is the main meal. Breakfast is scattered over the top of the drive. This allows one to leave the property without being mobbed. All of them will of course sleep inside if they can, but only three are allowed to. There are outside cushions and inside cushions. All cushions can and will be pulled apart.

If it weren’t for the old dog being a bit bony and skinny, all the dogs would be sleeping on the hard floor.

Outdoor furniture is the next best thing to sleeping indoors, so all benches are covered with pieces of material, which have to be “nesting” proof. They thus have large wooden dowels threaded through each end, otherwise they end up in a circular dog bed in the middle of the couch after the first night.

Then there is the issue of bodily functions. This dog will pee inside if not taken out straight away. This other dog will pee inside against the furniture if allowed in. All the dogs feel that it is inconsiderate to poo in the far reaches of the garden. Thus you need to be prepared to pick up off the driveway or bricked-in areas. This means little caches of poo packets at strategic areas around the house. . . The poor little house sitter. 

As I was going through this very personalised list I realised how individual our pets are. I am always quick to say that my dogs are just dogs and live in a pack-type arrangement without too much fiddling about.

Yet once I started writing the list out for the house sitter, I realised that they are all very much individuals and that they have me wrapped around their little toes. I also realised that they weren’t all microchipped and the newest two didn’t have name tags. Time had just flown by, so there was a last minute flurry to accomplish this as well.

By the time I actually left the house I was exhausted and stressed. It was only after the first 48 hours without incident at home that the holiday actually began. Then I must admit that I quite enjoyed not having to worry about any of the above. Also, no dog hair and no following me into the toilet, no bickering and no snoring in front of the TV.

There is really a niche in the market for good reliable pet and house sitters. For others in my predicament there normally are veterinary students who will house sit for pocket money. I will make a list available at the shop. They generally are reliable and often more so than the run of the mill house sitter.