Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Completed House Sits: Oakland, CA – June 20th to July 13th, 2017

With all the commotion and craziness of the last two weeks, I haven’t had time yet to report on our three-week house sit with Stella and Tucker in Oakland, California. Compared to our first sit in the city of Oakland last February, this one was very enjoyable and repeatable! The area and the house are desirable, the dogs fun and the owners friendly, helpful, communicative and appreciative. The only thing these two sits had in common (other than being in the same city) was – surprisingly – the size and layout of the smallish home, with the difference that this one was well-organized, clean, airy, bright and cozy.

But, enough about the comparisons. Every experience we have when house and pet sitting is different and so are the pets. Little Stella, a chihuahua mix rescued off the street by the owners, and medium-sized Tucker, a gentle mutt, immediately took to us and we had a fabulous time together. Stella, my black shadow, followed me around everywhere I went, especially inside the house. Outside, her undivided attention went to harassing the squirrels with such ferocity that Tucker, winded up by her, would try to kill his toy, shaking it madly. The two were an adorable set to watch, and cuddle. While they never really interact together, it was clear during walks that they requested and respected each other’s company. On leash, Stella would stubbornly halt and wait for Tucker whenever he lagged behind.

The back yard of our temporary home was incredible and well-taken care of. We enjoyed having lunch, hanging laundry and appreciating the sunshine in this little oasis of cacti and carnivorous plants. Every other day, these awe-inspiring plants (or are they pets?), and the vegetable garden, needed water. It is summer after all. The carnivorous kind, hundreds of them, set in big barrels, required watering from the bottom. One has to make sure not to spray inside the tubes. They feed themselves, on flies or other insects lured into their mouths or flaps. It was intriguing to watch them, or listen to the buzz of a fly trapped inside. I almost felt bad for the struggling insect!

The front yard was a spectacle, full of succulents (plants with fleshy tissues that conserve and store moisture), requiring no care at all. Not of the green thumb kind, Mark and I thought this cactus garden looked cool, and that was that. It wasn’t until I noticed many pedestrians stop dead in their tracks and adore this garden of beauty and patience that I realized we had something special here. They took photos of it, pointed at certain species and discussed the plants with their companions.

Inside the house, more carnivorous plants graced the kitchen and living room. They need watering and misting every day, but take care of their own food supply. The fish in the aquarium were easy to keep happy – just some food in the morning and one water top-off.  Twice a day, we fed the dogs home-cooked meals, all of which the owner prepared ahead of time and stored in the freezer. That, with added supplements, provided Stella and Tucker with a healthy diet and a shiny coat. Different toys, the two of us, a doggy door to get outside and squirrels abound meant they were never bored. Did I mention these two are spoiled?

The house – in walking distance of shops, bars and restaurants – borders the incredible Mountain View Cemetery, accessible a block away. Every day – unless we took them on another adventure – Mark and I walked Stella and Tucker on the extensive grounds. Each time, we found new roads and trails to wander, some of them winding their way up or down, along century old graves and lavish monuments. The view from the top of the hills was spectacular, when the fog cleared. We always saw the skyline of Oakland and often an outline of San Francisco. On really bright days, the Golden Gate Bridge was visible.

The owners had told us that the Chapel of the Chimes, a brick building near the cemetery, was worth a look. One day, we left the dogs at home and explored the hallways, nooks and crannies of this overwhelming interior. Different levels, gardens, fountains and final resting places create a maze-like feeling and one could be here for hours, marveling at the architecture, paying respect to the people who have passed on, listening to the trickling of water, and contemplating everything that is or has been.

“All we seem to be doing is spend time with dead people,” Mark said, one of those days we perused the cemetery. He was right. Everywhere we walked and looked, we saw graves, urns or mausoleums.  While the park, created by the landscape architect Frederick Olmsted (who also designed Central Park in New York and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco) has a beauty of its own, the confrontation with what and who is no more, made us sad at times. For me, it also reminded me of my oma, who passed away not too long ago. It became important to mix our outings and company up a little bit.

We (re)visited parks Mark and I took our own dogs to over a decade ago. Especially Tucker truly enjoyed being off leash. Both of them listen really well, so it was a joy to take them to the dog-friendly Oakland Hills and to some off-leash parks in the area. Mark and I also met up with friends old and new and celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary – in the same city we met.

During the weekdays, we focused on work and prepared our upcoming adventure. It was no surprise that these three weeks went by way too fast!

Best feature(s): The size and organization of the house suited us perfectly. The back yard was very attractive and we enjoyed being able to go on a long walk with the dogs, right outside the door. The neighborhood was desirable, neat and friendly. And, there were no bugs, inside or out! I wonder why?

Our little oasis

Best gadget(s): The blender – while loud – was very effective.

Surprise(s): The owners left us a $100 restaurant gift certificate, which contributed to our fancy anniversary meal. Twice during these three weeks, a cleaning duo made sure everything looked shiny again. Especially on the last day of our sit, this service is very welcome. We have to be careful not to get too used to this, as the owners in Sebastopol arranged for similar clean-ups as well!

Happy tenth anniversary!

Downside(s): Tucker always whined during car rides. Our Prius turned very dirty under the trees along the street; being able to park on the driveway would have helped. Because there was no curtain in the kitchen, every evening when making and eating dinner, the sun was shining directly into our eyes. Just when we were ready to pick and cook the one ripe pepper and zucchini in the garden, somebody else helped herself to it. We suspect one of the friendly neighbors, but never found out. Small annoyances on a sit we loved…

The owner’s review of us for this house and pet sit can be read here.

26 Comments

  1. Happy 10th anniversary and what a fantastic place to sit with the adorable Stella and Tucker! :o) xxx

  2. Fun stuff! I always enjoy reading about these house sit experiences and seeing the pictures brings it all closer. I’ve not spent any time in the Oakland area, so this was all the more interesting.

    • Sometimes it is hard to describe why we like a certain area – it is more a feeling when we are there… The Rockridge/Piedmont quarters of Oakland are very appealing, especially because it is quite vibrant, well-taken care of and in walking distance of most everything you need/desire. If we’d ever live somewhere and made lots of money, we wouldn’t mind getting a little house around here. 🙂 Mark’s biggest regret is that he sold the small house he once owned in this neighborhood. But, that is what allowed him to buy his first boat and the rest is history… so… maybe not a real regret!

  3. You’re either going to make me want to be a house and dog sitter myself, or you’re going to make me want to hire you! This sounds like the ideal assignment for you guys – think of the cosmic forces that had to align to get that great location and situation right at the time of your special anniversary in the city where you met! That is not a coincidence, I am sure. You are doing something (many things) right!

    • You could do both! The owners of this Oakland sit traveled to England for three weeks and house sat there for some of the time, with their teenage son.

      You are right, Lexie, this sit ticked a lot of boxes and it re-energized us for the adventure afterwards. Sitting in the yard exuded peace. The main reason we applied for it, though, was that it started the evening we arrived after our long journey from Belgium and that it was in an area we adore. The anniversary was a lucky “afterthought”. 🙂

  4. I’m with Lexie on the ‘you are going to make me want to be a house and dog sitter myself’. Your experiences (houses, locations, owners and pups) have on average been pretty gosh darn awesome.
    On another note, admittedly, oddly, I like long walks in historic cemeteries. And you can’t beat Olmsted as a designer. Your pictures from Mountain View were gorgeous. I am sorry that your walks brought you sad memories of your oma and hope you were able to quickly return to celebrating good memories of her life. Hug from Siem Reap.

    • How exciting… You are in Cambodia!!! Enjoy Angkor What and the “special” pizzas in town. 🙂

      I think you would totally dig a life as a house and pet sitter, Lisa. So diverse and yet, so comfortable and … so dog friendly, all without long-term responsibilities. Pretty darn perfect. The only issue might be the gaps in between, but there is a solution for everything. 🙂

  5. What a fun and upbeat post. That cute little black dog looks quite like a baby goat in your arms. Love the natural fly solution! Does it work for mosquitoes as well? Cacti plants are quite popular in those parts because of the frequent droughts. My son who lives in San Francisco has an impressive collection too.

    We both love going to off leash parks in the U.S.with or without a dog!

    Where are you guys off to next?

    Peta

    • Hmmm. I wonder what Stella thinks about the goat comparison. But, she loves jumping on and over logs, planks, rocks, etc and she has no fear!! So, not a bad observation. 🙂

      We did not see, feel or hear mosquitoes while we were there, so I would answer “yes” to that question.

      Off leash parks are the best. I have often wondered whether, if I were to show up without a dog just to pet others, people would think I”m a weirdo! Going for a hike there is a good excuse for a necessary puppy fix, of course.

      We are back in Sebastopol, CA now, with sweet Lola for (only) three weeks. Very busy, though, so not sure about a lot of entertainment, explorations and hiking adventures…

  6. Wow how fun! You get to go to the coolest places and see amazing sites! What an awesome way to travel and get out and see what’s around you!

    • We love it! It is the best of many worlds, when one needs a break from “real” full-time travel! 🙂 You guys should try it one day. Not too much coming up in Utah, though. People there never want to leave. 🙂

  7. Sounds like a good experience overall, Liesbet, and I thought the Chapel of Chimes looked lovely. 🙂 🙂

    • I think you would enjoy roaming around all the alleys, Jo. So many little discoveries to be made and then all those benches in peaceful settings with plans and fountains. It is indoors, but it is impressive nonetheless. 🙂

  8. So do you and Mark work internationally, Liesbet? If so, we just might have to talk about you coming to Ontario, Canada. I’m sure Shylah would warm to you (she’s slowly getting better) plus I’ve now got a second dog to enjoy. I’ll be writing about Toffee on my site next month.
    This house sit looked really interesting. I’m glad you took and shared dozens of pictures. They really did enhance your post.
    And I’m envious that there were no bugs. That is NOT the case here in Ontario. The deer flies are out right now. Mosquito bites are itchy, but deer fly bites really sting.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • I wonder whether the deer flies are similar to the horse flies here in the US. They do hurt when they prick! We call them “dazen” in Dutch. I’m pretty sure they are all the same, fat, painful little buggers. 🙂

      We are open to house and pet sits in North America right now, Karen, because the time zones and locations suit our work schedule, interests and reach by vehicle. We were hoping to house sit in the Pacific Northwest this summer, but nothing interesting came up, so we committed elsewhere in the US for that period. We have also noticed that a lot of Canadian households have cats, and my husband is allergic to them. 🙁

      Ontario might be on our radar next summer! We will either head up the East or the West Coast of Canada then, we think. Keep us posted of your vacation and travel plans. We’d love to spend some time with Shylah and Toffee and are really good with (rescue) dogs.

  9. Your sits are always so fascinating to read, Liesbet! Love the carnivorous plants and Stella and Tucker!

    • Every place and every assignment offers something new and exciting, Terri, whether it is the pets, plants, owners or area. It sure keeps life interesting. 🙂

  10. You ignited my now new interest in Oakland. Don’t talk to me about whining dogs and car trips, what a nightmare. Singing helps 🙂 That is so wonderful to have your 10th anniversary in the city you met, now that’s what I call good planning!! Happy Anniversary.

    • Good planning, or good fortune, right! 🙂

      We never tried to sing, but we have noticed that turning on music helps a tiny bit. We have sat a few dogs whining on car rides and don’t get it. We are taking them somewhere fun, to be outdoors and go hiking… How could they not love the prospect of that??

  11. Liesbet I just clicked on the reviews that people have left of you and Mark as house sitters. wow such fabulous posts. With reviews like that I think you will be or might be already in very high demand. this house sit looks amazing. Love that they left the gift certificate for you.
    Anxiously awaiting updates on what your train trip purpose was. The suspense builds.

  12. House sitting can be so much fun and quite an experience. From the looks of it, it seems as though you enjoyed yourself while there. Beautiful scenery!

    • While we are getting itchy feet and desire to become thrifty campers again ourselves, this house sitting lifestyle is just about perfect for wandering souls who work “from home” and “need” some comfort and conveniences, and a base for a little while at a time. Thanks for swinging by the blog!! Have you house sat before as well?

  13. Isn’t it interesting how a well-maintained and organized house can make such a difference. Houses that are much larger – but full of chaos – can feel claustrophobic. The Oakland house looks like a perfect gem.

    I loved that you shared your reviews… excellent. We don’t have pets, but you can housesit for us anytime 🙂

    • We totally dig organized and well-maintained houses, Janis. It really doesn’t matter how big or small (well, the smaller, the easier to clean up :-)) in those cases, you are right.

      We would love to house sit for you both, whenever you have the need and it fits in our schedule!! And, we already know how clean, organized and well-maintained your home is! 🙂

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