The End of an Era: Goodbye Housesitting, Hello Home.

For those of you readers and clients who have more, um, delicate sensibilities, I apologize for what is about to be a torrent of unprofessional and coarse language.  In other words, pardon my French,


The past month has sucked gigantic, sweaty donkey balls.  I don’t know what my poor animals or I did to piss off the universe, but we must have some serious bad juju happening.

It started precisely a month ago today.  My boyfriend’s cat, Witchie, had a very minor URI. Nothing major, just occasional sneezing with clear nasal discharge.  But I was housesitting and therefore not around to observe her behavior.  Chuck had mentioned that she wasn’t eating as much, but on the 19th I noticed she was looking thin, dehydrated, and icteric (i.e. jaundiced/yellow skin and eyes/signs of liver failure).  Dr. Bendall came over, did an exam and bloodwork, and sure enough, she had cholangiohepatitis.  Basically, she had gone too long without eating (and by “too long” I mean two days, which is precisely why I don’t do every other day pet sits), her body started digesting its own fat, and the fat clogged up the liver, causing it to shut down.

She needed to be force fed, given daily subcutaneous fluids, and a whole slew of medications–most of which Chuck had to do by himself, but some of which I had to run back and forth between my housesit and pet sits to take care of.

In the meantime, I was still housesitting, and therefore didn’t notice that our dog had created a massive, infected hot spot at the base of his tail.  He has no history of skin issues and Chuck didn’t know what to look for, so since I wasn’t home, the spot got really big and really infected before I noticed it.  Fortunately, I have this home remedy concoction that I make which works like a charm, so it was just a matter of shaving the hair off of the affected area and applying the home-made salve for a few days to get that cleared up.

But then, on the 28th, my darling Hawkhead, Archie, died suddenly.  Once again, I was housesitting, so I wasn’t there when he died.  I didn’t even get to visit him and see his sweet little face at breakfast that morning.  I cuddled with him the night before, but that was the last time I saw him alive.


Dr. Strunk suspected PDD, so after the necropsy she sent out several tissue samples to a pathologist.  $650 later, we had inconclusive results indicating, fortunately, that he didn’t have PDD, but that he had acute kidney failure, a large adenoma (tumor) in his kidneys, and several calcified parasite ova in the great vessels of his heart from back in the ’70s when he was still living in the wild.  (Yes, we also found out that he had been wild caught in the ’70s, which means he likely could have just been at the end of his natural lifespan.)

I got his body back a little over a week ago, buried him, and have been trying to recover financially and emotionally from everything that happened in December.  We just stopped Witchie’s force feedings a few days ago.  Then, yesterday, I was trying to finish the new bird room before I started my new housesit today.  I had both Yodit and Zuma’s cages completely gutted when Chuck asked if we could go out to dinner.  I didn’t want to shut them in empty cages, and since they have always gotten along well and done just fine being loose in the old bird room together, I didn’t think anything of it.  But when we got back from dinner, I discovered that Yodit had bitten Zuma’s tongue so badly that she had almost completely bifurcated it, leaving the tip only attached by about 30% of the tissue.


He was in so much pain he was making this growling, groaning scream that I have never heard from him before.  I wrapped him in a towel, gave him some Tramadol, gave him some subcutaneous fluids, and set up an appointment with Dr. Strunk today.  She immediately took him in to surgery to suture up his tongue as best as she could, but he may still lose the tip of his tongue.  Or the tongue could split open again, if he messes with it too much.  Ideally, he needs to be closely monitored, but I’m at another housesit now, so I just have to go visit him when I can and have Chuck keep an eye on him in the meantime.  I have to tube feed him his food and medications three times a day for the next week or so, at least, because he can’t eat on his own.  When I fed him this afternoon, he screamed in pain the whole time, then lay limp in my arms, quietly groaning as I have never heard him do before, for a long time afterwards.  It was heart-wrenching.  And aside from the meds he’s already on, I can’t do anything to ease his pain.  And I can’t stop crying.

One thing that has become abundantly clear to me is that I need to stop housesitting.  Four of my animals, in the space of a month, have either gotten sick, injured, or died while I was away housesitting.  Whether or not I could have prevented those injuries or illnesses by being here is moot; the point is that I need to be at home, living with and taking care of my own animals, rather than spending most of the year living with and taking care of other people’s animals.  My family needs me.  My housesitting clients do not.  There are plenty of capable housesitters in town, I’m sure.  As nice as it is to think that you are needed, the reality is that no one is irreplaceable.  My housesitting clients will find others who can fill my shoes.  My family, on the other hand, only has one me.

Of course, I will still be pet sitting and doing behavior consults as usual.  I’ll still be working with Dr. Bendall.  And I’ll still allow certain animals to board in my home under the right circumstances.  I’m not quitting my business altogether.  I’m just redefining it–setting new boundaries, refocusing my energies, rearranging my schedule so that I can spend more time where I’m needed most.

And I’m not so foolish as to make any absolute statements about the future such as, “I’ll never housesit again.”  I may very well do so once in a while.  If one of my pre-existing housesitting clients ends up in a bind, they are more than welcome to call me.  Under certain circumstances, and as long as it is fairly infrequent, I might make an exception to the rule and do a housesit here and there.  But overall, this is the end of my career as a housesitter.  It’s been a good five years, but I’m ready to hand over the reigns to someone else.

As of next week, when I will be finished with this housesit, I will officially be a homebody.  And it will be so good to be home.


  1. Deanna said

    I am so sorry for your hardship of late and especially for your loss. Your decision is completely understandable and I applaud you for putting your family first. Take good care.

  2. Donna Gordon said

    I applaud your decision.

  3. Melisa said

    Emily – I’m so, so sorry. What a terrible string of events. My heart goes out to you and to little Zuma. I would cry the entire time as well.

  4. […] for has fallen through.  Everything I have set out to accomplish hasn’t happened.  And as I described here, I’ve taken a series of financial and emotional […]

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