House Sitting Sydney June 24- Aug 15, 2016


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Oceania » Australia
August 11th 2016
Published: August 12th 2016
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Mosman-Coogee-Maroubra-Moss Vale


I dedicate this blog to my mother, who turns 90 today.

She has given me the freedom and support to do whatever I have wanted with my life and has always told me that whatever I want to be when I grow up and what ever I want to do that I will do well.
With all my indecision and experimentation I have felt support, no matter how far I strayed from mainstream convention.
She taught me self sufficiency in how to sew, cook and fix things. She introduced me to fitness and running and was always positive, showing strength in the most difficult of situations. Most importantly taught me that I was enough, with or without a partner.
I have been lucky to have had them in my life for so long and admire and love them for who they are and have been and for what they have allowed me to become. Thank you for letting me find my own path in life and for allowing me to search for my own true happiness. My perfect, worldly, intelligent and unselfish parents gave their children the confidence and ability to navigate their own paths through life whilst providing unconditional love.
Happy Birthday Mum!

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This blog is a challenge to read. It's a pretty chunky chew, so much so that I haven't yet given myself the luxury to re-read it and have written it in numerous sessions. If you feel the same, you are excused to do so.

I feel very blessed to have been able to have achieved a long term goal to have had this opportunity to temporarily care for others beloved pets in some of Sydney's most beautiful areas. None of this has been a disappointment, all of it has been a privilege.

ARRIVAL
As we came into landing over Sydney it had been raining. Clouds obstructed the view of the city. I screwed up my nose and exclaimed to Tomas "winter!". I had not really contemplated how the extreme difference between Sydney weather and the extreme heat and humidity of our last 4 weeks in Vietnam would hit me.

It was Friday June 24th. Thankfully not long after landing the skies cleared and the air felt fresh. Being back in Australia was starting to feel exciting. It was also comforting to hear the Australian accent at the airport after
Vietnam. It had also been a year in NZ since last leaving Australia. At the airport I heard a language that I understood and could communicate in, an accent that I spoke. I could speak English in my accent, without any comments noticing that it was different or labelled me in any way.Living in New Zealand has its pros and cons but here I felt a sense of belonging that I only feel in Australia yet being in Sydney would still be an adventure and new.

The first thing we did was buy our Opal travel cards from the Airport Kiosk. Unlike SA and Vic the cards are free in NSW and you only pay for the credit you want on them. This was a relief as my purse already had too many travel cards where the plastic was worth more than the credit that was on them.

Research had taught me that the Railway station at the airport was privately funded so cost extra to use. Stations either side did not incur the surcharge. I always try to be resourceful to avoid spending unnecessary money. We have time on our side so don't need to spend in
dollars where busy people cant afford the time. After many questions to tourist info staff we resolved to take the local bus to Mascot Station, a train to Circular Quay and then ferry to Mosman. NSW have a good public transport web page to help plan a trip anywhere in the State and lets you know the cost.

Once at Mascot we stopped for a great noodle lunch at a popular cafe. People say the food in Vietnam is great but this was the best meal I had eaten in a while. From there we completed our trip to Mosman using a location app. on Tomas' tablet and with the help of a local woman who had been curious whilst sitting behind us. She asked about our story and was intrigued by what we had in store. She kindly offered her phone number if we needed any help whilst we were there. It is amazing, if you ever notice that when you are feeling happy and positive how many strangers are attracted to interacting.

MOSMAN HOUSE SIT June 24- July 19: Lyla and Boomer

It had turned out to be a beautiful day. We walked about 1.5km
to the house sit address and were greeted by bounding poodles, Boomer and Lyla and their owner.

Just before leaving one of our house sit hosts had been trying to get hold of me to update on an operation Lyla had very recently had to have on her ear which had become infected. It had been cut and stitched open to assist in healing the infection. She had not been well. When I saw that I had missed his call I had become anxious. We were on our way to the airport at the time and did not have the time to return contact with him until we arrived in transit at Kuala Lumpar. There I managed to speak to both, he in Spain and also to his wife, still in Sydney. They were very concerned about Lyla and had even been considering that one not leave on holiday. After telling us about Lyla they then worried that we may have changed our minds because of the extra care required and that we might not arrive. I liked that they cared so much about their animals. Not arriving after making so much preparation on both parts would have been a terrible thing to do and would have been a huge loss on our part. We felt so lucky and privileged to be there and were so looking forward to it. They had also taken a big risk in giving us their trust in doing so.

On arrival both dogs were excited to receive visitors. Dogs always sense when their owners are about to go away. Lyla was happy but also visibly irritated by her ear by trying shake it but sensing the pain. It looked infected and sore and we were shown how to clean it twice a day. Boomer was such a big baby and had his nose snuggled into me as we sat and talked. He was very cuddly but cuddling him was like hugging a big black gorilla.

The house was magnificent! Huge and modern with a swimming pool and garden at the end of a cul de sac. From the upstairs bedroom the city lights were visible. Mosman was leafy and felt exclusive. All the houses and gardens were beautifully maintained.

We prepared our room in the downstairs apartment and then went for a walk to Sirius Cove with Boomer and Lyla. They were so happy and excited chasing each other and the ball. It was a stunning spot with the backdrop of the city and a low golden winter sun illuminating the sky scrapers. I was so looking forward to having dogs in my life again, even for this short time. Dogs make me feel so happy.

How could we have been so lucky to have got this house sit in this beautiful part of Sydney and to be able to have company of these gorgeous poodles! I was embracing every aspect of being there.



Evening came quickly and together we cooked the mushroom risotto that had been planned for dinner in the gorgeous marble kitchen and we ate together.

They had recently had a house breakin whilst they had been upstairs asleep so after dinner a police officer visited. Things had to be dealt with before leaving on her holiday the next evening. I sensed the stress. Leaving her elderly parents, Lyla having the ear infection, the robbery and the concern of whether her house sitters would be capable were all weighing on her.



Early the next morning we went to another
off-lead park, so I could be shown the dogs favorite play ground. Tomas stayed behind. We took the car there and then she showed me where the local shops were. We also had a quick visit to the vet for new tablets for Lyla.

When I returned Tomas and I then went out for the day so as to give our host some space to get organized and packed. We walked to the cafes at Mosman and then to Balmoral Beach, following the foreshore to an island and then back to Mosman through Rawson Park. Then, because Tomas had not been with me in the morning we walked on to Spit Junction shops so I could show him what I had been shown that morning. We returned to the house at about 5 pm. and shortly after 6 we had the house to ourselves.



LYLA AND BOOMER

Lyla was very, very sweet, gentle and attentive. Eight years old and grey in colour. She was groomed with posh pom poms around her ankles and tail. She had a sensitivity that made it easy to communicated with her. She was very intelligent and seemed to understand us without having to say much to her.

We needed to clean her ear morning and night as she had just had the ear canal opened up and stitched. Her stitches were to be removed at the vet on the Saturday after being there a week. She also was to take 2 tablets morning and night, which which were different antibiotics. These were lasting two weeks. Doing all this bonded us to her. Although she didn't enjoy it she was very tolerant and allowed us to do what we had to with little breaks where she protested with pain. In the park she loved taking ownership of the orange ball. It made her feel superior to Boomer. We would throw it with the ball launcher and she would try to grab it out of the launcher before it was thrown. She would walk home with it in her mouth, knowing that she would be chased by Boomer once inside.

Boomer was Lyla's 3 year old puppy. She had had a litter of 10 and he was one of them. They were very playful together. In the park Boomer would chase Lyla and in order to keep her within reach he would grab her fluffy tail with his mouth. Lyla was used to this and never took it as aggressive behavior or got scared. She sometimes encouraged it.

The problem started when he would grab her ear instead of her tail and there was one incident that Lyla yelped and came crying to me. I assume it had set back the healing of her ear and torn open the wound slightly. From then on she would occasionally yelp when her ear was touched or patted. I couldn't tell if this was from actual pain or for the expectation of pain.

Boomer was a playful adolescent all the time. As soon as he was in the park his focus was on playing and teasing. Grabbing Lyla by the tail whilst chasing her was tolerated but this didn't always go down well when he tried it on other dogs. He wasn't so interested in keeping an eye on us or behaving at all, he just wanted to tease the other dogs to get a reaction out of them. We were constantly shouting his name to try to stop him from pushing the boundaries or for potentially getting sandy or wet and dirty. I dreaded the thought of having to wash dry and groom them, it would have taken a whole day. My nickname for Boomer was "The Big Baboomer" I thought that suited him perfectly. This may help in understanding what he was like. Despite all this he was incredibly loving.



WEEK ONE SUNDAY OUTINGS

On Sundays in Sydney we could travel any where on Sydney public transport with our Opal Card for $2.50. This made a perfect opportunity for us to schedule and look forward to big Sunday discovery days out and about.

We would set our alarms extra early, rug up and give the dogs a big play time in the park. For the most part the rest of the week was dedicated to The Poodles, Sundays was our day.

Our first Sunday was only 2 days after arriving and was also Tomas' birthday. We began by catching a ferry from Taronga Park Zoo to Circular Key. There were very few people travelling on this ferry in the direction we were going but coming to the zoo was completely full. It was a sparkly blue sky day and Sydney Harbour was in its element and shining. Again the sense of appreciation and awe that we were actually here and doing what we were was unbelievable. We felt blessed.

There were only about 5 people on this morning ferry. A private Sydney Harbour cruise! From Circular Quay another ferry took us to Manly. This ferry was much busier but no less awesome.

Manly looked wonderful. We actually didn't have much time to spend there but we bought a huge icecream, sat on the bay foreshore and shared it. We had an appointment to be at St Ives at 3pm to visit a family regarding a potential house sit.



FILLING THE HOUSESIT CANCELLATION GAP

Unfortunately, one of our house sit assignments had been cancelled. It had also been a booking in Mosman.

The owner had contacted us whilst we were travelling Vietnam and asked if she could talk to us further. I had eagerly offered to make contact through Skype, Viber or WhatsApp, or to call her. She told us to enjoy our holiday and we could talk further once in Sydney. She did not offer her number for me to contact her. I then got her permission to book our flight from Sydney to Adelaide for our next house sit for August 15, which was when her house sit finished. There was currently a flight sale on and, we thought a good chance to take advantage of the fares. Three days after booking our flight she emailed to say that she had, unfortunately chosen someone else. It was very deflating to hear this and highlighted all the negatives of doing this sort of work without being paid.

Anyway all of this is the lead up of why we had to go to St Ives. Since having had the proverbial rug pulled out from under us we either had to find a new house sit in Sydney or fork out for another flight ticket to Adelaide.

The dates for the St Ives house sit were perfect. The only drawback was that it was for 4 dogs; 2 large, 2 small. The large were German shepherd and a staffy, both very strong, powerful dogs. The smaller dogs were both incessantly, overwhelmingly yappy. When we arrived we were greeted by the son in law, offered a cuppa and shown the backyard of the house, which was merely a small courtyard, littered with dog shit. This was the only outdoor area that the dogs were permitted in. The parents arrived shortly after. We got along OK and took the dogs for a walk in the forest. The German Shepherd behaved aggressively at one point when another dog passed and this concerned me. We chatted and arranged to return for another visit the week before they departed.

At 5 pm we raced for the bus back to town when they told us that the last bus on a Saturday was around this time. We were nervous that we might have missed it but after a 15 minute wait it arrived. On the bus Tomas and I discussed the pros and cons of doing this house sit. It was obvious that no one else wanted to take this on so it was ours for the taking. I had a feeling that the family wanted a house sitter for economic reasons rather than for the benefit of the animals.

Did we just do it? Would it really be that bad? Or should we just buy another ticket to Adelaide?

In the end this was not really how we wanted to fill our time. For us house sitting fulfilled an adventurous spirit in us. It fulfilled both parties involved and had to be a pleasurable experience. The St Ives house sit was deserving of payment. It was not an assignment that I felt we should take on voluntarily, nor did it feel like it would be pleasurable. The expectations and responsibility were too high and provided little reward.

I kept looking and luckily, 2 days later I nabbed a house sit in Coogee, for a little terrier, Chloe. This would take us until July 27. The terrier's mother had been overwhelmed with applicants and just couldn't choose. I had contacted her to give her our Mosman number at just the right time and it made her take notice of our profile. The fact that we could talk and meet prior to the commitment was the advantage in winning this assignment.

I ventured out with the bus on the Tuesday to visit her and the family and made a day trip of it. The weather was crisp bright and sunny again. I traveled to Bondi first and did the 2-3 hour famous Bondi to Coogee Coastal walk before meeting them at Coogee at 5 pm.

They hadn't used house sitters many times before, if ever, and was quite conservative and protective. I got the Coogee Housesit ahead of 40 other applicants. It was just a simple, older unpretentious town house, less than a kilometre from the beach. It was astounding that there had been so many applicants. Sydney was unbelievably competitive in every aspect.

This house sit ended July 27th was still a long way off from Aug 15th but it was heading there.

It was such a relief to be able to confidently decline the St Ives House sit for a viable and attractive alternative that we were now even looking forward to.



Everything started falling into place within 3 days of having visited St Ives. The day after accepting Coogee I received an offer to house sit in Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands from Aug 1-16.

We had actually been targeted for this offer. The house owners had read our profile and selected us for the assignment from the website. Upon looking into it and discussing it with the owner we negotiated that we could do it until our flight on the 15th and they would get a friend to look after the 2 Labradors and cat for the final night before they returned.

We had only been focusing our search on the Sydney area and had not considered the Southern Highlands. Now we were excited about the opportunity to explore further. Everything was starting to work out in our favor.

The house sit that had been initially cancelled would have kept us in Mosman for another 4 weeks and we wouldn't have had the chance that we now had of exploring other attractive areas of Sydney. The day after securing Moss Vale an add came up for a position in Maroubra, which was the neighbouring suburb to Coogee. We still had 5 days un-booked and I persevered in trying to contact the elusive Maroubra house owner. After 2 days of having the position advertised I had it secured and offered to meet the house owner the following week.

Initially the people at Moss Vale had offered for us to spend some of our unbooked nights with them before they left. It was a kind and generous gesture and had encouraged us to accept the assignment but now we were now fully booked and excited about all the opportunities, experiences and new friends we would make and we wouldn't have to impose on their generosity.



WEEK TWO SUNDAY OUTING

Once again we started our Sunday adventure with the ferry departing from Taronga Park Zoo.

We left about an hour earlier than we had the previous week and as lucky as we were we had another sparkling, sunny winter Sydney day. This time we had the entire ferry for ourselves. Our next ferry took us to Cockatoo Island. Tomas was surprised with what we found at Cockatoo Island. From its name he assumed that it was a nature reserve.

It was actually an old penal colony and historic ship building and engineering area that had closed down in 1991. It was now a UNESCO World Heritage Area.

Cockatoo Island had been suggested to me to visit by my friend, Michelle, in New Zealand. Michelle had been in Sydney for a few days during the Vivid Sydney festival in June. From there we caught another ferry to Watson Bay, which had been a suggestion from the owner of the Mosman House.

The Watsons Bay ferry was full and Watsons Bay was buzzing with people. The $2.50 travel Sundays brought life and crowds all over Sydney.

There were so many people out and about everywhere and so may options for us of things to do and places to explore in a new city. We walked around the National Park area with spectacular views down the harbour and beyond the heads. It was a perfect vantage point to watch sailing regattas all over the harbour. Maybe one day we could return here to watch the Sydney to Hobart race.

We had plenty on our to do list for this Sunday. After Watsons Bay we wanted to go back to Manly, as we had not had much time there the previous week. It was impressive how many people fit onto the ferry. There was such a long queue waiting and it looked like the ferry might overfill but everyone managed to fit on.

In Manly we did some supermarket shopping, walked to the surf beach, looked at shops and then just before dark caught a bus home to Mosman, which wasn't very far. Again, it had been a fairly quick visit to Manly but we would hopefully have more opportunities to return in the future.



WEEK THREE SUNDAY OUTING

This Sunday began with a trip to the Kirribilli Markets which are only on once a month. It wasn't very far from Mosman and they were busy and colourful. I would have liked to have walked across the Harbour Bridge from there but Tomas was hard to convince and had other plans. Being a Swede, he has an attraction to IKEA which makes him feel less homesick. There is no IKEA in New Zealand, probably one of the few countries in the western world where it doesn't exist. He had wanted to buy some sweets so we caught a train about an hour away to Rhodes. It was as kitsch as you can imagine and had no appeal for me. Other than that I no longer felt that I was in Sydney or even Australia. The number of Australians in this area was a small minority.

After Tomas had eaten his fill of Swedish Meatballs and bought his sweets we caught an early afternoon train back to town and then wandered through the shops of Paddington, admiring the beautifully restored Victorian architecture along the streets.

From Paddington it was an easy bus ride to Bondi. The streets were crammed with traffic in this area. It was just "the place to be". Great beach atmosphere and loads of people watching. The trip back to Mosman took much longer than planned as we got "stuck" at Bondi Junction trying to find our way to the bus stop heading to the city. The plan was to take a train but they had been cancelled and replacement buses took their place.

A side note here about buses in Sydney. They are the most difficult way of getting around. It is as if you can only catch a bus if you know what you are doing. I feel that there is an assumption that everyone who catches a bus is local. There are no obvious numbers to any of the bus stops nor any indication whilst in the bus of how far it is to where you want to go. The drivers are also very poor at offering information. The only way we managed was with the location app that Tomas had downloaded, showing us where we were and how far we were from our destination.

Once we made it to Circular Quay it was dark and a 40 minute wait for our ferry, which turned out to be an advantage as we wandered towards the Opera House to kill some time. It was cold, clear and also dark by this time but the night lights spectacularly illuminated the bridge and Luna Park. The harbourside boulevard was buzzing with people dining, strolling and taking photos. Sydney Harbour, in my opinion, is surely one of the most spectacular and beautiful city sights in the world.





Back at Mosman we got an enthusiastic, loving welcome from our two lovely poodles. We felt guilty arriving home so late but they are very fortunate, pampered pooches. Whilst home alone they have access to their very own room filled with bean bags as well as the whole garden. They get at least 2 walks a day and their food is specially heated and then blended in the food processor, so that it would be the right consistency and mix of flavors. They were certainly worth it.



A THURSDAY OUTING THROWN IN

When our trip to Sydney was confirmed I applied to be in the studio audience of The Living Room TV show. Weeks later I was sent some dates to choose from and I eventually got confirmed tickets. Tickets were not actually as difficult to obtain as I had thought that they might be. Once moving here I found out that they actually advertise to obtain a studio audience.

We decided to go earlier than the 3 pm meeting time so we spent lunch and the afternoon at Darling Harbour, wandering amongst the tourists and office workers. At 3 pm we queued up for the Aug 19th episode filming. It was good fun and all the cast were personable and engaging with the audience.

Afterwards we could talk to them and take photos and although so many were crowding around for photos after the show it kind of felt rude to take a photo without chatting first. Then again chatting was an imposition on a chance for others to have their photos taken. It was a quick hello, click and thank you and leave feeling awkward. I have been in the studio audience of other shows and these have been by far the warmest and most engaging of all the hosts.

Whilst waiting in the cold and dark for the bus to return to Mosman after 5 pm we remarked how lucky we were not to have to do this most nights of the week like most "normal" people who live, work and commute do.

COOGEE HOUSE SIT June 15-27: Chloe

WEEK 4 SUNDAY SUNDAY OUTING

On this Sunday Tomas and I were living separately. Tomas was finishing the house sit in Mosman with the poodles on Monday July 19th. I started the assignment with Chloe the Jack Russel terrier in Coogee on Friday July 15th. By doing this we managed to have full-time house sitting without any gaps.

Chloe and I went for a good walk for over an hour along the busy beachfront and headland park in the morning. Tomas and I had arranged to meet at Central station at 10.22 am and catch a train to Cronulla. I left Coogee at 9.30 am, giving me plenty of time to get to Central. A heap of people got off the bus at a certain stop, which I would assume would happen at Central Station but I could not see it anywhere. I then asked the person behind me and he said I could get off at the next stop but there was no near stop. Then he said the bus might loop around, which it didn't. All this was taking me further away from my meeting place with Tomas. Then the driver told me I could get off at Town Hall and catch a train to Central but we were getting too far away and time was running out so I finally decided to jump off the bus 4 stops later and I sprinted back to Central, finding Tomas on platform 25 with 6 minutes to spare before our train departed. This was pretty lucky considering how much I had stuffed up and how far I had to run back. Another example of the difficulty in catching Sydney buses when you don't know the city.

On our way to Cronulla I got a phone call from our future house sit host in Adelaide, a month away to the day. He was just confirming that everything was still on track and checking in with us and it helped get us excited about what we had to look forward to there.

Cronulla was lovely. The day had started cloudy, with spots of rain it then cleared to another sparkly, sunny day where everything looked beautiful as it had for the past 3 Sundays.

Cronulla had a similar feel to Manly but less touristy. There were surfers catching breaks in the water everywhere and such a great assortment of unique cafes in the streets behind the coastal strip. Manly had been full of tourists but Cronulla felt less crowded with tourist and more with locals. The feel was more like an iconic, genuine Australian surf town.

We walked along the foreshore, checked out the shops and had a great hamburger at a foreshore cafe.

The trip back on the train made me realize that I had probably overlooked some potentially great house sits in Sydney because I thought that they were to far out from the CBD. I can't really complain about any of the house sits that we did get but now I would like to explore even more areas of Sydney after seeing some interesting locations from the train window.

Once back in the city we got caught up in a food festival at Circular Quay. Tents selling incredibly overpriced food on paper plates and plastic forks to people who had to sit on crowded plastic seating. We walked through the markets at The Rocks with its stunning backdrop of the imposing Harbour Bridge close up and hovering over us.

I then joined Tomas on the ferry to Mosman to say goodbye to The Poodles. I hoped to see them again one day. I would love to do it again.

In the dark at 7.30 pm I caught a ferry back to Circular Quay and got home to an anxiously awaiting Chloe at 8.40 pm. We went for a good evening walk together to make up for her day alone.

There was a great dog park only a two minute walk away from the Coogee townhouse. There are always dogs there and it is very sociable for both the dogs and owners. Since my very first visit there on the Friday it felt very welcoming. There were about 3 dogs at 9 pm and Chloe was happy to be with me there. I knew that Chloe and I would have plenty of quality time together for the majority of the week.



The next day, Monday July 19th was the day that the Mosman couple returned home from their holiday. They had been sailing around Sicily with a few other couples. Prior to that trip the husband had gone with some male cycling friends and cycled around the north of Spain. Tomas awaited their arrival at the house before meeting me at Coogee.

I took Chloe for a long morning walk to the beach.

This was my first day to get a chance to really settle into the town house, so when we returned I cleaned out their underused courtyard and set it up with a breakfast table and some chairs so that I could enjoy it. I nearly messed up badly because as I was cleaning Chloe had pushed open the old, poorly fitting screen door and went outside exploring. It was about 20 minutes before I realized. I thought she had found a sunny spot upstairs, like where I had found her a few hours earlier. I raced around the entire house looking in every hiding spot and then raced around the entire dog park. Upon returning I found her sniffing around the rubbish bins beside the apartment. Such a relief!

Tomas arrived early afternoon. He had been driven to Coogee and been loaded him with 3 expensive bottles of red wine as a thank you. Nice for him, considering I don't drink wine! We had also been offered to be taken to dinner. Further communication informed us that their mother unexpectedly passed away the following morning. It was a surprise as she had called me whilst we were house sitting only 2 weeks prior to check if everything was OK. I doubted that the dinner invitation would stick after hearing this. Dinner was also difficult as we didn't like to leave Chloe alone at night so early in the house sit.

WEEK FIVE SUNDAY OUTING

On this Sunday Tomas and I were again at different house sits. On Saturday Tomas moved in with Harris the Staffordshire Terrier at Maroubra and I was still with Chloe at Coogee. Our Mosman host had offered to take us out for the day either sailing, or for lunch on the Sunday but we left this open considering they had just had a bereavement in the family. We were expecting that it may not happen but late Saturday by phone we arranged to be picked us up at Bondi Junction the next day. The weather was uncertain so we resolved to leave further plans open until we met.

I woke at 7 am and took Chloe for a big walk to Clovelly Beach. It was unexpectedly cold considering the heat winter heat wave that had only recently passed through.

I really enjoyed this walk to Clovelly with her and had done it a few times now. There were also a good set of steps that enabled me to do the 4 x 30 seconds of sprints that I had been making a habit of doing before we left for Vietnam. There were great views on this walk and the track followed the coast all the way. In fact it is a section of the famous Coogee to Bondi walking track.

When we got to Clovelly I threw Chloe's pink ball around so she could chase it. As soon as I would take the lead off her she would look at me with expectation that I throw the ball, so if I ever forgot it I could see the disappointment in her eyes. Another big dog got hold of Chloe's ball and he was not letting go. She was not going to mess with this dog either so barked at me pleading for me to fix the situation. Eventually he lost interest and we got the ball back and she would not let go of it for a good part of the walk home. On our way home from there I spotted a lonely, lost, disregarded pet frizbee and picked it up. Once I showed her the frizbee she forgot about the pink ball and this was her new favorite. She rolled on it to try to cover it with her scent and shook it with her mouth. She walked the rest of the way stubbornly struggling to keep the frizbee in her mouth which was as big as her little body.

I was battling over the decision of whether to leave Chloe in the cold, dark, courtyard for the day, whilst we went out or whether to give her the comfort of the house and risk a mishap. I left at 9.30 am for Bondi and she was comfortable on the bed beside me before I walked out the door, so I took a risk and decided not to disturb her. She would be warmer and less worried about me if I was back late if she was in the house. It was a good move because this day turned out to be unusually freezing.

I met Tomas at Bondi Junction at 11 am and at 11.30 we were picked up after our Mosman host had gone for his big Sunday morning bike ride. He had his bicycle in the car as well. There are 15 in his cycling group and they are the same people he toured the north of Spain with before the sailing trip together with his wife. He offered that we go back to Mosman to see The Poodles again and we would decide to sail if the weather improved or we would go to lunch.

What was nice about returning to Mosman was that whilst driving there I found that I was now familiar with the route. Only a few weeks before I was confused with the twirling random roads. This was a good feeling as familiarity was part of one of the things I achieved by exploring new environments.

It was great to see them again but especially Boomer and Lyla who made us feel so welcome and special. They were so soft and fluffy and such a pleasure to cuddle. It would have taken hours to have washed and brushed them to get them back into this condition.

We decided to brave the cold weather and go sailing. The sky was brightening, they were keen to air out the sails and we were keen to make memories of the experience. The wife decided not to join us sailing as she had too much to sort out with her mother's passing. The boat was a 28 ft beautifully maintained wooden hulled vessel. A boat taxi service took us to the mooring. This boat was as meticulously kept as Tomas had been about caring for his boat in NZ. We spent 2 and a half hours tacking into the wind toward the Harbour Bridge and then 20 minutes with the wind behind us returning. It was a good opportunity to get to know each other. We learnt that we had been their best house sitters so far and that they had taken a huge risk with us. They thought that they had been very lucky with us but we were the ones who had felt lucky.



This had been a wonderful house sit. The Poodles had been so rewarding and the appreciation that we have received from the owners made us feel very special and valuable. They were big dogs and needed plenty of walking and grooming but they gave back so much. Boomer and Lyla were well loved, very well behaved (most of the time) and extremely intelligent and interactive.

The house was such a dream to live in and Mosman was an amazing base for us to experience Sydney for our first house sit there. We had a cleaner visit weekly, so that meant that we could concentrate more on the dogs rather than the house. We got along well and I even taught him to clean some spots that he hadn't ventured to clean in his 2 years of service. He told us that we were the cleanest, tidiest and friendliest house sitters they had so far had, as he had met them all over the past 2 years. It reinforced that we were doing the right thing.

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MAROUBRA HOUSESIT July 23- 31: Harris

The Maroubra house sit was the most surprising of all. My expectations had not been high and I expected the dog to be hard work and perhaps slightly agressive. I had wanted to do it basically to fill a gap between Coogee and Moss Vale. It turned out to be very enjoyable and Harris was a complete delight; gentle, intelligent, intuitive, extremely well behaved and sociable.



Our Maroubra host had arranged to meet us at Coogee to give us the house keys on the Friday afternoon. He brought Harris along and we walked to the dog park with him and threw the ball. Harris seemed to behave well with the other dogs and enjoyed meeting them.

On the Saturday I joined Tomas in arriving at the house. We were concerned about how Harris might respond to us entering the without his owners being around. They had left early in the morning.

After a loud reception Harris then hid in his kennel and was not coming out. We sat with the door open to the courtyard throwing him treats while we had a cup of tea, For a good hour Harris stayed in his kennel. To start with he was completely hidden and then an eye and nose were visible. After a while he was obviously checking us out and then he came out when we filled his bowl with food, shortly after hiding again.

We had experienced this once before with a previous house sit The dog being very timid and would not come near us. We remembered that when we offered to go for a walk that this dog had completely forgotten her fear, so we thought to try this.

The only problem was that Harris was a very strong dog and we did not want to risk him pulling the lead and running away. This proved not to be an issue because as soon as we gave the call "Let's go for a walk" Harris came bouncing out of his kennel, jumping with happiness, wanting to kiss our faces. Such an immediate transformation!



This made the rest of the time easy. One walk around the leash-free dog park with the lead on and on the second round he was tugging and playing so we let him walk leash-free. Harris had won our hearts.

Tomas stayed alone with Harris until the following Wednesday, whilst I finished off the house sit with Chloe in Coogee. We each had some wonderful weather that week. I enjoyed my walks with Chloe along the coast to Clovelly daily and Tomas enjoyed bonding with Harris and having his own space in Maroubra. Both of the house sits were easy enough for each of us to handle alone and we were only a few kilometers away from each other. I cycled over from Coogee to Maroubra on two occasions.

On the Wednesday the Coogee family arrived from their flight from Bali at about 7.30 am. Most of my stuff had already been taken over to Maroubra so I walked, arriving at 9 am. It was about a 45 min walk.

Tomas and Harris had just arrived from their morning walk as I arrived.

When I had first seen the town house at Maroubra it had not appeared particularly appealing. The house and courtyard were nice, fairly modern and well kept but the surrounding area appeared quite derelict. It was mostly government housing, un-cared for with rubbish on sidewalks. Newer buildings were slowly going up here and there. I expect that land in this proximity to Sydney would be becoming extremely valuable.

As we walked Harris we had the opportunity to explore further and found that it was only the surrounding area that was government housing and derelict. Crossing the nearest main roads took us to some wonderful parks and reserves with much more attractive and cared for neighbourhoods.

We had some glorious sunny days and the 15 minute walk to Maroubra beach became our favorite place to walk Harris. He ran leash free through the reserve on the way to the foreshore and then we would sit and watch the surfers for hours at a time. Harris didn't really know that he was a dog and would imitate whatever we did. If we sat patiently and people watched, he would do the same.



Not far from the house, about a 30 minute walk in another direction was the Maroubra Central shops. Tomas and I would walk together to be around cafes and people and there we found some great Mediterranean supermarkets. We commented on how if our house sit had been in this part of Maroubra we probably wouldn't have bothered to walk to the beach because the extra distance made it a little more difficult, so even though the immediate neighbourhood was a little dodgy we loved the surrounding walks and particularly sitting at the beach watching the surfers.



On our final Saturday morning there we both walked out the door to walk Harris and just as the door was pulled closed we realized that neither of us had the house key with us. Not only that but both of our phones were also locked it. Initially, we thought we had created a disastrous situation. Our only hope was that we had been told that the neighbours held a spare key. I knocked on their door and the little boy gave us some keys, none of which worked. Then the father came out with more keys and bingo! What a relief. Firstly, how lucky were we that it was a Saturday and the family were home let alone that they actually had a key that worked. Something was on our side during our moment of stupidity.

It had turned out a blessing also to have met the neighbours because on the following day when walking Harris to the beach we bumped into them again. They were having a family picnic in the park. We told them that we would be leaving later that evening to go to Moss Vale. Harris would be in his kennel overnight and his parents would arrive back from Bali between 7-8 am the next day. It felt good that they were aware that Harris was alone outside and that if things did not go to plan that they could help. As it turned out they arrived back as planned and Harris was very happy to see them and none worse for wear. Their flight back from Bali had been the last for the next 24 hours as all flights were then cancelled due to ash cloud and by this time we had already started our next house sit in Moss Vale.






MOSS VALE HOUSE SIT July 31- Aug 15 Nera, Molly and Meri

WEEK SIX SUNDAY OUTING

The day that we were to travel to Moss Vale fell on a Sunday, so it was also our Sydney exploration day. We didn't really have any plans for this day as we wanted to Harris to be our priority. Leaving him outdoors in the kennel overnight as had been planned with his owner was weighing on our conscience, so we wanted to make sure he got enough attention before we went out. They were arriving very early Sunday morning.

After the walk to Maroubra beach and watching the surfers we caught a bus to Circular Quay and wandered along the cafe concourse beside the Opera House. Most were out door cafes and it was freezing. The sun had not yet emerged from the winter morning cloud and we were just trying to find somewhere warm at this stage. I couldn't understand why some girls were wearing summer, sleeveless dresses and were attaching themselves to the outdoor gas heaters. It was nice to wander this area but then we deliberated where to go for the day. We considered jumping on a ferry but we had seen most of the bays that the ferries went to. We hadn't yet been on the light rail so the tourist office advised us to catch a train to Central Station and to go from there.

After a few stops we spotted China Town and Paddy's Market so we jumped off and explored. We then took the light rail to the end station and back again but there wasn't much to see as most of the journey was below ground level. By this time it was lunch time so we ate at a Hawker's Food Court in China Town that we had eaten at many years before on previous visits here.

At 2.30 pm we decided to go back to Harris and walk him to the beach again. We walked until sunset.



We left Harris will a kennel full of treats after a generous serving of dinner at 6.30 pm Sunday evening. It was a complicated series of 2 buses and 2 train connections before we would arrive at Moss Vale at 9.45 pm.

We carefully watched Tomas' GPS app so that we got off each bus at the right spot in order to catch the next connection. Luckily each bus ran to schedule and we managed the train connections so that we would arrive in Moss Vale as planned. Any delay would have meant an hour delay on the arrival time in Moss Vale. Considering they were a family with young children I felt that we were already arriving as late as would be polite. They were picking us up from the train station.

From Cambelltown the train was more like an interstate service with toilets on board and carriages that were different to the regional Sydney trains.

We were picked up from the station just as we arrived. They were not leaving until Monday afternoon but arriving at this time gave us the opportunity to learn the dog's routine and become familiar with the house. Our Moss Vale hosts were from London, so the small, country town of Moss Vale was quite a contrast for them from London. They had come for work 6 years ago, which had meant to be a 4 year placement but they had since had 2 kids and were pregnant with their third, so they now felt settled. They were meeting up with parents from UK in Hawaii.

The house was tidy and warm, although stuffed with clutter, which was all pushed aside. It still felt cosy enough. Warmth was our main concern as the Southern Highlands were considerably colder than Sydney.

On our first morning. Tomas and I took the dogs for a walk, so that we were out of the way while everyone packed and prepared. When we returned we met the friend who was going to look after Molly and Nera on the last night after we had to leave for Adelaide. She drove us into town so we could do some shopping and exploring. Later our hosts came and took us home, shortly before they left for the airport.

Our first few days in Moss Vale were wet and cold. The most unpleasant weather that we had experienced yet. We still managed a walk each day. The dogs loved the attention and the outings. I got the impression that they were rarely walked. The occasional ball throw in the back garden was the most attention they usually got. I feel this family just had too much responsibility with their children to give the dogs much attention so having us around was a gift to them.

The dog park, Seymour Park was a huge, beautiful park area, completely fenced and bordered by the golf course. A pond of rain water overflow was at the base which the girls loved cooling off and getting muddy in. They were so happy and energetic while we were there. It was a great way to wear them out each day. We also got to meet some lovely people and their dogs. There was enough space to escape other dogs , if necessary, to meet others, or just sitting on a bench alone.

By our first Thursday I was hopeful that the weather might have cleared enough for us to explore a little further so we salvaged bicycles that were stuck behind the organized chaos in the shed. I had researched a cycle track that would take us the 10 km to Bowral. The sun appeared around lunch time. We walked to the gas station to pump the tyres and then headed off. The cycle track the whole way was an amazing standard. It was like a "cycle free-way" with 2 dedicated cycle lanes, well away from the main road and followed an idyllic path. The weather hadn't really cleared sufficiently though and well into our ride threatening clouds appeared. I was not dressed appropriately, was cold and concerned that I might get hypothermia once wet. We got to Bowral and I bought extra covering from the Op-Shop. We wandered around the cafes and shops in Bowral but it really deserved another visit as we couldn't lock our bikes. We got home just before the rain really started to fall.

The Southern Highlands are where Sydney people escape in the summer for some relief from the heat but in winter it is a different story. Luckily our second week was much improved on the first. We managed numerous walks around Moss Vale including The Cecil Hoskins Nature Reserve where we had it entirely to ourselves. Molly and Nera provided company and inspiration for most of our other walks always eager and appreciative of being with us.

I managed another cycle ride to Bowral on another sunny, crisp day during the second week. It provided relief from my frustrations with trying to publish this travel blog and faults with the web host. I appreciated the ride immensely on this day; everything looked beautiful in its winter splendor and I managed to take in and appreciate more than I had before. The track was peaceful and pleasant and I enjoyed stopping at the park benches on the way.

Bowral is a particularly up market country town and between Bowral and Moss Vale are some magnificent, affluent properties and gardens.

MOLLY, NERA AND MERI

Molly, Nera and Meri were all waiting to meet us although Molly was much shyer than the others and ran to the bedroom to hide. We armed ourselves with treats to try to win their favour.

Molly and Nera were black Labrador crosses both rescued dogs and about 5 years old. Molly, much smaller than Nera and silky like a puppy and a pleasure to cuddle and stroke. Meri, the cat was fairly small and friendly. She would end up sleeping between us on the bed once she became comfortable with us. There had been a second cat until recently but she had gone missing during the last holiday under the care of the previous house sitter, who had been a young girl. I would have hated to have had that on my conscience. Molly's timidness caused problems when she encountered other dogs that were too persistent or strangers that came too close. She would bark and ask Nera for assistance and it could set up an intimidating situation for others. For this reason we had to wary at the dog park. She relied very much on Nera for protection, assurance and companionship. Despite this when she felt comfortable with us she was the most loving and would craved cuddles and closeness.



Although they looked similar. They were very different. Nera had an extremely keen eye and beat Molly to the ball 9 times out of 10. Bigger than Molly she was very well behaved and followed commands diligently. Molly had a mischievous streak. with a slight nervous wagging of the tail and "Oh no you've caught me" look in her eye always gave her away. One evening I filled Meri, the cat's, food bowl so that she wouldn't have to wait until morning if she was hungry. Meri was not overly greedy with food and would pace herself. I thought the bowl was well out of reach of the dogs but in the morning it was empty. I was surprised that Meri could eat so much overnight, maybe I had misjudged her. A few nights later after I turned the night lights out and the dogs had settled at the foot of our bed I became suspicious of some subtle noises and followed the sound to find a guilty Molly in the lounge room searching for food and probably on her way to the cat bowl. I am sure that when she stole food from the cat bowl that she was very specific in making it look like it was the cat who had eaten it by not disturbing the bowl at all and only managing to lick out the pellets. She was a very crafty little girl who looked like an angel.

We went through numerous toys and balls which they ripped to shreds

After a good session of ball chasing Molly would always keep what was left of the ball in her mouth as a prize for a few hours. It was a challenge for her to eat a treat without releasing the ball. Nera would have no problem eating the treat. Treats always got priority but when it came to drinking her whole nose would submerge into the bucket of water with the ball still in her mouth. Drinking without letting go of the ball was her skill!

WEEK SEVEN SUNDAY OUTING

There really weren't very many choices of places to go from Moss Vale, as a day trip. Trains were our only option and on the Opal card they only ran towards Sydney, Moss Vale was the end of the line. We couldn't go too far, as then we would have to come the same distance back. We just hopped on the 9.22 am train and decided we would wing it. After 1.5 hrs we jumped off at Macarthur near Campbelltown where we noticed a big shopping mall from the train. It was a good choice, as Moss Vale was feeling a little colourless and slow with all the bad weather in our first week there so it was refreshing to be around activity, people and shops. It was also refreshing that the further we got from Moss Vale the higher the clouds lifted, the more they lightened in colour and the warmer it felt. Once we got away from the Highlands I had to carry my down jacket and rain coat as they were too warm to wear. As we neared Moss Vale at the end of the day the clouds darkened and lowered again and we walked the 20 minutes home from the train station in the rain.



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INSPIRATION

Being able to discover Sydney had been on my bucket list for many years and I certainly feel that I can now cross that off although it is now not something that I want to leave behind. I have a feeling that this is the start of more and that makes me more excited about what lays ahead. I feel that we have achieved the start of something new and opened up doors to more adventures, opportunities and friends.

I remember earlier in the year when we were discussing what we wanted to do this winter it was my number one wish, more so than visiting Vietnam but it seemed so difficult to achieve. I knew how competitive Sydney would be.

Finding and actually getting a house sit in Sydney seemed so remote. So many wanted to house sit in Sydney- why would we be chosen? I had thought the same about London the previous year but that is also now crossed on The Bucket List.

I remember when I took the plunge to pay the membership fee to the house sitting website and felt that it would probably be a wasted expense. I had first applied for several different assignments
and missed out on a handful. When I applied for the house sit in Mosman it looked like the most attractive house sit of all and I thought that the position had probably already been posted for quite a while, so I figured we wouldn't even get looked at. I sent my application. I think it was a seed being planted that started growing into a tree.

I remember a few days after applying for Mosman when my phone rang and we were interviewed. I said to Tomas "why us?" of all the people who would have wanted that house sit!

It is a lesson. If you don't try to do what you want to do with your life you will never achieve anything. If you love to do something, you will put your heart into it, do it well be rewarded for it by the right people. Only within a few months our seed has already grown into a tree as big as we would want. Now we will sprout more branches in different directions to catch more sunlight.





People look at what we have achieved with our lives and have said
to me "you are living the dream". I get a sense that I should feel guilty when people say this to me. I do appreciate that some of the places we go and things we do are very envious but is this not what life is for? The dreams we have chosen to pursue are not expensive, we don't need to save huge sums before attempting them. We are all given the ability to do what we like with our time on this planet. We can all create our own goals and work toward them, whatever they may be. I have a very strong sense that life is too short to waste. It will not be long that the years of health and opportunity left in us will dwindle away and I sense that approaching fast. Strangely, I have felt it approaching ever since I could remember contemplating my life. If we do not start living our dreams now then that is all they will ever be and that to me is a life lived in fear and squandered.

I write this as a blog to myself. I am excited as I write this and maybe one day, when
I am feeling a little less inspired and lacking direction I can re-read it myself and hopefully ignite my spirit again. This is its intended purpose. I invite others to read it because they may be curious but ultimately I have written this for myself. I am proud for what we have done and achieved. We have done it with little resources and for no financial payment but it has been immensely rewarding and I look forward to what more will come of it.

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