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?
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!
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.