Anita and Norman Prior enjoy the variety of life as homesitters
Posted on 22 October, 2019
Anita and Norman Prior both joined the Royal Air Force at the age of 17 and worked in the service for over 30 years, until taking early retirement in their 50s. Having travelled the world during their time in the Air Force, the pair developed itchy feet in retirement and decided to live on a boat so they wouldn’t be tied to one spot. They are currently moored near Tamworth in Staffordshire.
The couple are also animal lovers and used to have four spaniels and a cat, however when their last spaniel died in 2015, they decided they couldn’t put themselves through that kind of loss again.
Last year the Priors met a couple in a local pub who had a Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Woody. They got on so well with the dog, the owners asked if they could look after him when they went on holiday. It was a leap of faith as they didn’t know each other very well but Anita and Norman agreed to stay in their house and look after the dog.
Anita says, “We really enjoyed looking after Woody and we’d forgotten how nice it is to be around dogs and take them for walks – there’s nothing nicer than a dog walking in front of you with his tail wagging!
“The house sit went well, but I worried what we’d do if something were to happen to the dog or the house. I started to research housesitting companies to see what kind of insurance they offered their housesitters and many didn’t seem to offer adequate cover.
“Then I discovered Homesitters Ltd and was reassured by the fact they’ve been in business for almost forty years and offer comprehensive insurance. If something happened while on assignment – either to us, the animal or the home – we’d be covered. From our experience in the Air Force we know that sometimes things happen outside of your control and Homesitters seem to have all bases covered with their 24 hour support service for homesitters and fully comprehensive insurance.
“Having rediscovered our love of dogs but not wanting one of our own, we realised that as homesitters we could travel the UK, stay in nice places and looking after other people’s dogs. We applied to Homesitters and after a face to face interview and reference checks were offered the role.”
Since joining Homesitters in August 2018, Anita and Norman have travelled all over the UK and looked after twelve dogs, three cats, three donkeys and a lake full of wildfowl.
They love the variety of the job from the peace and quiet of rural homesits where they can take long walks in the countryside through to city breaks in London where they can visit new shops, try different foods and meet interesting people.
The couple enjoy spending quality time together on assignment and work well as a team. Anita usually looks after the house and cooks while Norman enjoys gardening. On a recent assignment he was delighted to have a walled garden and large greenhouse to potter around in, with a glut of ripening tomatoes and fruit the owner urged them to eat. On another homesit they were asked to put out nuts every day for the family of red squirrels living in the garden.
Anita says, “We also like to keep fit and having a dog to look after gets us out and about, we love taking long walks with them. We don’t always look after dogs though; we had a six week assignment in a lodge on a large estate in Kent with a large lake in the grounds with lots of ducks and swans. Every day we enjoyed long walks around the lake feeding them all.”
Anita and Norman like the fact the role is flexible and they can pick and choose their assignments. They also find the preliminary visit with new clients beneficial as it gives them a chance to meet the dogs and visit the home and check it is going suit them before committing to the job.
They have done some repeat homesits and enjoy building a rapport with the dogs and their owners. Their first assignment was on a hunting, shooting and fishing estate looking after five working Labradors and a Lurcher. Anita was impressed by how well trained the dogs were and they got on so well with the dogs the owner booked the couple again the following year. On their first stay two of the Labradors had been six month old puppies and Anita and Norman enjoyed seeing them all grown up on their following visit.
Anita says, “We’ve looked after a lot of different dogs and quite a few Labradors, but they’re all different and we enjoy getting to know their different personalities. Some owners like to keep in touch while they’re away and we’ll send them photos of the dogs so they can see what they’ve been up to. If we’re going out, we take the dogs with us if we can because we enjoy their company.
“At the end of the homesit Norman writes an account of ‘what we did on holiday’ from the point of view of the pet and sends it to the client so they have an idea of what their pet did while they were away, which people love.
“We really enjoy the variety of life as homesitters, we’ve stayed in some beautiful homes in gorgeous locations and there’s always something different to do. We have our RAF pensions which we can live on quite comfortably, but our earnings from homesitting mean we can enjoy life just that little bit more.”