Coming straight from Goa, India I flew about 21 hours until I finally arrived in Auckland. It’s always that moment when you walk out of customs. Is the person who picks you up already there? Do they recognize me? And more important do I recognise them? Mostly the only contact with the owner’s is through email. Some like to do a short Skype or phone chat, but generally they only exchange emails, fill in the welcome guide on the house sitter website and that’s it. That leaves you screening the arrival hall with tired eyes and only a vague idea of whom you’re looking for, searching for people which you by then only have seen on a picture or heard the voice. Is it one person or several? What did that person on that picture look like now? In this case I looked out for woman with dark hair, name Kay. Interestingly enough it always works and because Auckland – a comparable small airport – therefore is quiet, Kay saw me first and waved at me as I just walked out of the clearance area. After a friendly hello and that usual “How was your flight” conversation, we walked to her car and I seated myself into the front seat next to her. She had taken one of her three sons – I think it was the second oldest – with her and we walked to the car outside. Understandingly I was a bit tired and felt exhausted. It was the opposite for Kay she was in preparation for a deserved and needed family vacation while still assimilating with her new home. Just three days ago the whole family of five had moved into a new house about half an hour drive from Auckland away. Not much time though to settle in, as they – so I thought – had already packed their luggage and got excited to start a four week cruise ship vacation through Asia. On our way to their new home she told me everything she thought might could be interesting and useful for me, while I am here looking after their beloved black dog, called Bentley.
They would be on vacation over Christmas and New Year. And after they had just moved in to a new home and area the family didn’t want to put Bentley in a dog hotel, they assumed that then he might became a bit confused. They first had arrangements with a friend whom had taken care of Bentley before. But it turned out that this friend only was available for the first two weeks and couldn’t prolong to four weeks. To keep the emotional stress for Bentley on a low level they decided to go for only one house sitter for the whole time and that was me, lucky me I can say afterwards. Now, just arrived, we talked about different things and after running some errands on the way back home, about an hour later we arrived at the house. She pressed the remote and slowly the electronic gate opened. We drove up and parked in front of the closed garage, left a green lawn then a spacious main entrance with two huge pillars left and right and another wooden door on the right side. The sun shone brightly and the air was warm – to my great delight -, because it was December in New Zealand and that means the peak of summer. She parked the car in front of the garage and explained me that there were three cars in total. One was her husband’s car, hers and a small car for her eldest son who just had started driving. In New Zealand the rules are completely different to where I am from. Here first the juveniles have to drive under supervision with a fully licensed professional or parent for that matter to even start doing their exams. To be recognized by other drivers on street, the car is marked with a big L on its back rear window. She looked at her keys, turned to me and with a smile she said: “I still have to look which key is for what, so I’ll leaf you those two sets I’ve got from the real estate agent”. “That’s fine for me”, I answered smiling, because the overall feeling was good and the house seemed to be very well maintained as well.
At the moment we opened the door, a tiny black fluffy bundle of a dog came running to the door and looked inquisitive at us. His stance was upright and first he looked at Kay and then at me. You really could see him asking “Who is that?” And Kay just did follow that facial expression by saying: “Hi sweet heart look who is here, this is your Christmas buddy Mo”. His short legs didn’t take away his majestic attitude and that bow tie around his tiny neck immediately let me think of the word “Sir”. I looked down and said: “Hi Bentley, you’re a Sir, aren’t you? He looked up at me, his tail wiggle as in: “You got that right!” He then sniffed me out and turned with no sign of rejection to a further inspection of my suitcase. After Sir Bentley declared my luggage as accepted, Kay called her oldest son from his room to help and carry my luggage up to the first floor. The spatial generous two level house had been equipped with all modern necessities. All three boys had their own room, a master bed room, open kitchen with pantry, a vast dining area with a huge glass table. Next to a TV corner and another living room flooded from sunlight, which shone through floor-to-ceiling-glass windows. That room was set up with two sofas, a table and a book shelf. There were three bathrooms, an office and a small gallery with comfy chairs and a coffee table between. The place was spotless and the family very welcoming. What a relief I thought, after those six weeks in India and all the chaos what came with it. Kay asked me if I want to have a glass of water and after I nodded she poured me a glass and together we walked outside. To no surprise the backyard was as same spacy and well maintained as it was inside. A wide terrace surrounded the house, up some stairs you got to a kind of BBQ area which lead to a lawn area. Usual for New Zealand it went slightly uphill and was surrounded through a fence and trees, so that no neighbour could look into. Just great, I like privacy and the only sound you could hear were the singing of birds and the rushing of the trees. While we walked around Kay explained what she expected me to do and how well Bentley had already adjusted to the new environment. She then walked the way down to the rear end of the house where a door let into the garage. There were another two refrigerator/freezer units, the hover system and on one side a home worker unit. Around the corner the laundry unit and a door back to the main house. I was impressed how smart constructed and thought through this house was. I asked if it would be ok, if I go for a quick shower and may have a short nap to compensate the jet lag. Kay happily agreed, because she had to attend a company party in the afternoon, drop and pick up her kids from several activities and needed to shop for grocery. She told me that she thought making a roast for dinner and hoped that I’d like it. “Sure”, I answered surprised, adding that after 21 hours on travel only consuming airplane meals and fast food I absolutely was delight to take in a real good homemade dish. So I went upstairs to my temporary room and opened my suitcase and went for a shower. The bedroom I was using for two nights was from the youngest son, but of lack of space he had agreed that I can sleep there and he’d stay with his parents in the master bedroom.
Yeah you got that right it was 2 nights, because Kay and her family wanted to get a bit of an impression of the person who takes care of their beloved dog. Fair enough and I’ve to say that I also like to do that, because by doing so I can see how the owners handle their dog. Then I just copy what they do in order not to confuse the pet more than necessary. That way it works best for me, but people are different and sometimes you don’t even see the hosts at all. Here, right from the start I had the feeling that I blend in nicely. Finally, after I had showered and although I usually feel not much of a jet lag, this time I nestled myself in bed and quickly fell asleep. About two hours later the alarm woke me up I opened my eyes and didn’t know where I was. Confused I looked around me, strange furniture, contours of robots and other space like figures. Another minute it took me and slowly it dawned, I was in New Zealand. I laid my head back down on the pillow and looked up to the ceiling. It was quiet in the house and my muscles felt a bit stiff, I stretched my legs and body and got up. I dressed casual and slowly walked down into the kitchen. One of the kids was sitting in the TV corner and totally consumed by the cartoon he watched and didn’t look up as I walked in. I helped myself to another glass of water and went out on the terrace. The sun still shining I sat down smoked a cigarette and enjoyed a moment to myself. Shortly after that Kay arrived home, laughing and bubbly from the afternoon with her colleagues. She told me a bit about it and then showed me were to find the dog food and how much to feed Bentley. I hadn’t seen much of Sir Bentley so far, but got told that he usually freely walks around on the property, and comes by whenever he likes or if he’s hungry and thirsty. As normal he got fed twice a day and his water bowl also got refilled twice to keep the water fresh and because of the summer heat, easy going though, I thought. Kay then said she would prefer if I’d sleep in their bed after they had left, because Bentley was use to sleep with them there. Also that she cleaned his coat every week, using normal shampoo. “OK”, I replied and asked when and how often they’d walk with him. “Well, normally very early in the morning and early in the evening. Now, in summer the pavement heats up very early and quick, “so you’ve to take care that he doesn’t burn his paws”, she explained kindly. “Good thank you, I didn’t thought about that”, I answered. Just as we walked back to the kitchen her husband came home from work and joined us in the kitchen. Kay introduced us and for the next hour or so I had the great pleasure to see a family interacting, a really nice and very rare occasion for me, because as a travelling writer I normally don’t get much in contact with families anymore. “Time to prep the dinner”, Kay said after she’d welcomed her husband warmly. They all had their tasks, the two younger boys set up the table while the oldest was the king of gravy – so I learned – and it was his job solely. I was very pleased to see what nice of a family this was, they all were talking and working together, just nice to watch and listen. “May I help you with something” I asked Kay, but she shook her head and said that she loved to cook and that it relaxed her. Then out of the fridge she took out an enormous Lamb shank put it into an oven pan, seasoned it and shove it in the oven. She then quickly peeled some veggies and potatoes, put them in the oven as well and made a fresh salad. While turning towards me with a smile she said: “Yet another forty five minutes and dinner is ready”. Impressed how effortless she did prepare a meal for six people and nothing left to do before dinner was ready. I asked if it might be a good idea to do a quick walk with Bentley. She nodded and said sure, go ahead. The eldest son showed me where Bentley’s gear and leash was kept and how to dress it up. Bentley got excited and jumps willingly into his gear while already heading for the door. Ready to go Sir Bentley, I said and we went out of the door. As you would imagine in a suburb, normally those are kind of arranged in squares, which holds the assumption to walk up the street then turn right and another right turn on the next corner, to get back to the street where you came from. But it did not work out that way here. We walked up the hilly road and turned the first right surrounded by nice mansions, which didn’t mean much to Bentley but I wondered if this was New Zealand standard or just the area. Huge mansions with gardens full of flowers and trees, big automatic gates and garages with several cars in front, most of the gates wide opened.
I got lost in all that beauty, the street was next to the main road so not much traffic either and Bentley walked from one site of the pavement to the other sniffing around. But as nice as it was to stroll around and look, there was no turn in sight which would lead us back down to the street we came from, it only got uphill. Time moved on and I looked down at Bentley and said: “Well, we better turn around and walk back the same way, otherwise we might end up in the next village and dinner gets cold, what do you think?” His gaze was expressionless with no sign of any recognition of the area, so I turned and we walked downhill all the way back. He pretty much enjoyed sniffing here and there, left his mark but no sign to do the big business. “You didn’t do the big stuff yet”, I asked him, but he didn’t listen and walked further. “But you know that you’ve to do that it’s about time, you had dinner about an hour ago”, I repeated, but he just turned his head and looked at me not really knowing what I was talking about. I let it go for the day and speed up my pace thinking that we must have been outside for a while already. About twenty minutes later we were back at the house and as I walked into the kitchen a mouth-watering smell of roasted Lam filled the air. Everything was cooked to perfection, the meat melted in my mouth, potatoes just a bit crispy on the outside, veggies still crunchy and the gravy really was finger licking good. After a few bites I felt that warm settling feeling in my stomach, what you only get from a real good nutrition meal. What a difference to my experience in India I thought and happily participated in the dinner conversation. Inwardly thankful for being invited – not only to take care of their house and dog -, also to have met this harmonious family, it really set me off to start thinking about myself and my capability to adapt to everything. Consequently it raised the question in me, why I tend to place myself in challenging situations? Considering that I am originally from a modern country just like New Zealand. I had to dive into that thought later I said to myself, but definitely I would. During dinner we talked a bit more about their upcoming trip and the reason why I was doing house sit in the first place, my book and aspiration to become a freelance writer. After we’ll finished dinner we cleaned up the table, put all dishes in the dishwasher and everyone went his own way. I had another cigarette outside relaxing and enjoying into the thought, that this would be my home for the next four weeks. A little later tiredness overcame me, I went upstairs and after a quick evening toilette I went to sleep. The next morning as I woke up I heard the family doing what they’re doing and – again – just enjoyed watching family life for a change. I got up went to the bathroom and looked for a lock on the door, but couldn’t find one at first glance at least. Just as I sat down for a pee – to no surprise – the door opened and one of the boys accidentally walked in. Oh sorry, he said and immediately closed the door again. “Why didn’t you lock the door?” he then called through the closed door. “I don’t know how” I said, mentioning that I hadn’t found a lock. I finished what I was doing and opened the door. The young lad looked at me and said: “I showed you yesterday, don’t you remember? Oh, now that you mention it, I answered. Indeed I remembered that he had shown me, but I simply had forgotten. I apologized, saying that I must have forgotten it because of the jet lag and beside that I wasn’t use to lock the bathroom door because I am always on my own, so no need to. He nodded understandingly and went away. I took a shower, got dressed and walked down into the open kitchen. Kay, her husband and the youngest son were having a quick breakfast.
Bentley seemed to be outside and until I had finished my breakfast, it was already too late to go for a walk. Good I thought sun rise is anytime around seven and by ten a clock it’s already too warm to walk with him. Kay asked me if I wanted to join her in running some errands, so I could learn where she usually does groceries, getting petrol.
If we had some time left, she also would show me some nice places – along the beach – to go to. “Take Bentley with you if you like, but don’t let him from the leash as he is very stubborn and won’t listen”, she said a bit later while we’re driving in her car. “But your car looks so clean”, I said looking around not seeing any grain of sand or other dirt. “Oh, no problem, just put a towel on the passenger seat, he won’t jump around and is used to drive in a car”, she explained. “Ok, I sure will do that”, I said. And while she drove around and showed me the area, we got to know each other a bit more and talked about family and things.
By the minute I got more impressed how well she handled and organized everything. Thinking about my life and that little I had to take care of. It just was amazing to watch her organizing the household, working part-time, being there for the kids and husband and doing all other little things that kept the family flourish. And the most amazing thing for me – as a single, unattached writer on travel – was, that she really seemed to enjoy every bit of it. I was pretty sure that I’d have been exhausted and close to a burn-out after a week. Not that I thought I missed out on something, but it was such a different life style compared to mine, simply interesting. Life is a choice and luckily I grew up in a modern, established and democratic society, where I’ve never been forced into doing something I did not want to. But I guess more than 10 years working in tourism changed me and my need to be surrounded by people all the time. As a matter of fact, these years indeed have given me enough good memories and experiences, so that I finally started to write on a serious level. Anyhow, that evening the family had planned to go see the newest Star wars movie and Kay asked me if I wanted to go with them to the mall or stay at home. “I thought we go there a bit earlier and have some fast food before we go into the cinema”, she said. “Sounds good to me, I won’t join the movies but would like to check out the mall a bit”, I answered and so we did. I put on slacks, a wide T-shirt and flip flops – “jandals” in New Zealand – and the six of us drove that short drive to the mall. I enjoyed wander through the mall alone for the first time and started to acclimatize, which is not much of an effort because New Zealand really has a good vibration. The air is clean the clouds are whiter than white and you think you just can pick them out of the sky, so close they seem. Communication usually is polite and there’s not too much of a crowd, let go an overload – of people I mean -. After the movie we met at the fast food area and went straight home chatting about the movie. Not long after we arrived home, we got to bed because the next day promised to become an exciting day for everybody.
Expectedly everybody was already up as I came down into the kitchen the next morning. I looked for Bentley and saw him alert sitting on one of the chairs, watching what they all were doing. Suitcase after suitcase got shuffled down into to hall. Kay reminding her boys on certain things they should have packed by then while packing her own things. I still had to adjust to the time difference and felt a bit low in energy, so once again I didn’t walk Sir Bentley that morning. While eating my breakfast I looked at Sir Bentley and said to myself, no worries little buddy as from tomorrow on we are going to walk every morning and evening, and that’s just what we did for the next four weeks. And while the family slowly got into vacation mood and everybody ran up and down the stairs, packing the last – must have with me – items, I started thinking about a morning pattern, wherein I could walk with Sir Bentley, doing my sport routine and having breakfast at a relatively normal time.
At about 11 a clock the family was ready to go, the taxi was ordered and they were giving me last tips on how to use the build-in hoover system – which was the most exciting household appliance I’ve ever used so far -, apple TV – which also was a first for me then – and some other small but important things. Kay then handed me out two sets of keys, one with the car key on it and the other one just for the front door as well as the remote for the gate. For the last time we joked about it that if they would be back I had been living in their house longer than they had. All was ready to take off for a highly anticipated vacation and Sir Bentley and I stood on the gate and waved them out, as the cab driver pulled of the drive way. “Gone”, I said and turned my head down looking at him. “Now what next, little Sir that you’re”, I spoke in his direction. He gazed at me with an unreadable look turned and walked back into the house.
I closed the door behind me and looked around. No talking, no walking around, no music or TV sounds only me and Sir Bentley, all quiet. I stood in the hall watched the sunbeams as it shone through the windows enjoyed that peaceful silence what surrounded me. Only the twitter of birds from the garden and the bark out of Sir Bentley – who was chasing them – interrupted the stillness. After a few minutes I went up the stairs and brought all my clothes and other belongings into the master bedroom. Kay and her husband had cleared some space in their walk-in closet so I happily used the space. About an hour later I finished and walked back down. Time for lunch and I usually start with what it’s left in the fridge. Well, with a family of five there was so much in the fridge that I’d to check it all out first. Some of the food I packed in the freezer back in the garage. Other things like cheese milk and eggs I kept for consumption. Yet, the fridge still was filled up and although I don’t eat much dairy products or eggs normally, I decided to first eat all leftovers, before I’d buy some of the things my normal diet contains. Very important because I am not throwing away any food, that’s just a no go. I rather share it with others – mainly animals in my case – before I throw it away. But here I had to eat most of it myself, because Sir Bentley had taken on some extra pounds lately and I was determined to help him get rid of them during my time here. Sure it was good products but very different from what I’d normally eat.
The day went by and I cut accustomed to the place. Dinner time came and I prepared my food and filled up Sir Bentleys bowl. I always eat together with the animals I take care of, so they know that what I eat isn’t what they get. And while I sat at the table eating, I observed that he carefully selected chunks out of the bowl and threw them on the ground, the rest he ate up. Then he came over to me gazing expected expression on my plate to get his share of my food. I looked down and said: “Ha, no chance little buddy look at the mess you did”. I stood up and walked to his bowl only to put in all those little pieces he obviously doesn’t like much and had thrown out. “This is your food, not mine” I said while pointing with my finger on his bowl. “Come here, eat that up it’s all you’ll get for today”. He looked and came to the bowl, looked up again, I nodded and bent down while I pointed with my finger, then he understood and started eating the rest. “Good” I praised him and went back to the table to finish my dish. Before dusk we went for our walk and to my surprise this time he did do his big business. As bedtime came closer I called “Come sweetheart time to go to bed”, and without hesitation he ran upstairs straight into the master bedroom. Kay had left a small blanket next to the bed with her scent on it in case he would miss the family. Also because they just had moved in three days ago and nobody knew, if this might could trigger some confusion for little Sir Bentley. But that seemed no problem at all, as I walked out of the bathroom he had nestled himself already in the middle of the bed. Well, little man you’ve to move a bit aside, I said while climbing into bed. He did as I told and after I was laid down he stretched out right next to me. The next morning I woke up from the sun shining into the bedroom. As soon as I started to move he lifted his head and crawled up to me, aimed straight for my face and greeted me a big dog kiss. “Oh no, don’t”, I quietly exclaimed while raising my arms and protected my face with my hands. He wouldn’t stop and so we started playing around a bit. I chased him from one site of the king size bed to the other and he got overly excited that I was in for that little morning action. A bit later I said: “Ok enough fluffy puffy, it’s time to go for a walk”. I always go walking the dogs first, because they need to go for a pee. And I like it too, nothing else is more energizing as a morning walk when the day is just started and the air still is fresh. I walked down opened the terrace door and Bentley ran outside up to the lawn chasing the birds. After a quick “cat’s lick” I got dressed and walked down barefoot to the terrace door. One thing I really like is to walk barefoot. It feels so good and natural, not wearing shoes and the house was almost completely carpeted, simply marvellous. I called for Bentley to no response. I thought he was not accustomed to my voice yet. Again I called: “Hello Bentley, come on let’s go for a walk”, but no response.
So I walked out into the garden up the stairs and there he was, sitting quiet, his nose high up in the air while watching the birds in the trees. “Hey little buddy what’s up? Don’t you want to go for a walk”, I approached him slowly, he gaze at me shortly and then looked back to the birds. “Yeah, I see that but you can watch and chase them later as well, come on now we’ve to walk, before the pavement gets too hot”, I talked to him. To support my speech, I clapped my hands and made him understand that it was time to follow me. It worked and he started following me back into the house. I put his harness on, got the doggie bags, my sunglasses, Kay’s key and remote and out we went. One important rule for being a responsible house sitter is to lock the door and any other entry on the property, regardless if the owners do it themselves. But for a house sitter, I really think there’ no question about it that one has to lock the house every time you leave. It’s a habit which I am so used to, that I don’t even think about it anymore. Every morning and evening we were doing our walk, always a different direction, so that Sir Bentley was getting to know its new neighbourhood and automatically create a map in his mind. Walking Bentley was a bless and I really enjoyed having this tiny little bundle of black fur running next to me, with his Sir-like posture. Especially after the experience with Po, Ty, Lo and Mo from Goa, this was again something totally different and I liked being a house sitter even more. I had the feeling that Sir Bentley liked our daily walks as much as I did, too but noticed that he didn’t really understood the meaning of it doing his business, the big business I mean. I remembered that one of the sons had told me that Bentley was used to stay home. The property where they had lived before had been bigger and Bentley did go in and out as he liked. And although the new home did provide enough space as well to just let him out in the garden. I pretty much liked the idea to show him around, so that he knew where he was home now. It also was interesting for me to test out if he maybe can learn by practise to do his big business outside. Wouldn’t it be great if he – by the time his family would be back – understood, what “going for a walk” was basically meant for? And of course for me the advantage was that I didn’t had to clean the garden every 2nd day from his muck. With this in mind I was very motivated and every time we walked I’d say: “Sir Bentley, you know why we are doing this you have to do your big thing, right? Or “I haven’t seen you doing your big business yet. O.k. we walk another 10 minutes so you still have a chance, go for it.” As funny as it may sounds I know for sure that he – like every other animal – did understand what I was trying to accomplish. But nothing really changed the first week and after, so I kept on my good intention and said to myself persistence is the key.
That same morning I also had in mind to shower and wash him for the first time. Kay had told me that she usually use shower gel, but I only use olive soap to wash myself. The day before I had been to the mall and had bought a small bottle of dog shampoo, so today was the day to try that out. I lured him into the bathroom downstairs, what was normally foremost used by their eldest son. Not knowing what to expect, he walked after me in the shower cabin. The moment I turned on the water he realised that he was going to be cleaned, but too late, the adequate temperature water already wetted his fur. You could see that he was use to the procedure and because I had closed the cabin door he shaked his coat frequently but it didn’t matter at all. All went well and after he’s well dried – so I thought at least – I opened the bathroom door.
I hadn’t really opened the door yet as Bentley all over sudden spurted out and started to run as if his life would depend on it. In accelerated his speed he first ran to the living room, took a sharp turn into the kitchen and dining area, again a sharp turn into the living room, through the hall up the stairs. I stood there laughing and flabbergasted watch him ran passed me with his ears blowing in the wind. But he wasn’t finish yet, some seconds later – still in high speed mode – he ran down the stairs almost fell over his own feet, took another left turn to the terrace and out he was, running all through the garden up direction lawn. I was stunned by the speed and endurance he showed and followed him into the garden, only to find him rolling wildly in the grass. I shook my head and wondered if the shower had made any sense at all, if he immediately rolls himself in the grass afterwards? It then gloomed to me that this was probably his way to dry, kind of natural hair dryer system. So smart these animals I thought and we started playing a bit outside. After we had played “catch me if you can” for a while he was happy and his fur had dried completely. I, in the opposite started to sweat and headed back inside for a glass of water.
Days went by and we just got along great. My attempts to teach him a routine also seemed to be fruitful because after two weeks he really did his business every time we went for a walk.
All went well until one morning as I decided to take the other key set Kay had given to me. I never had used that set before but this morning – I honestly don’t know why – I thought different and left the car key and my phone back in the house. I closed the door and gate behind me as usual and started walking. Nothing out of the ordinary so far, only when I came back the drama started. It got a bit warm already as we came back. Bentley and I were standing in front of the door and I put the key into the lock, but nothing happened, the key wouldn’t turn. Strange I thought and tried again with the same result, the door didn’t open. I looked down at Bentley and said: “That’s strange, isn’t?” With his tongue slightly hanging out he looked up to me and probably had no clue what I was talking about and just waited to go in. I did try a third time, just to be sure and really couldn’t believe what was going on here. “I cannot believe that”, I muttered in disbelief, “that cannot be true”. Why does that key not fit? I had been sure that this was the only second set I had and there was no other, so what’s wrong here I questioned myself. An uncertain feeling overcame me while I slowly realized that I just had managed to lock myself and Bentley out of the house. How stupid can one be I said to myself, why did I not just took the same key as I had done over the past two weeks? What the “f-word” was I thinking? Or was it just the opposite? I came to the conclusion that my brains hadn’t worked that morning quite well at all? After a few moments of blaming myself about my stupidity, I started thinking about the consequences and what I could do now? As usual I had locked up the terrace and had closed all windows downstairs. The only open window was on the second floor bedroom, but how could I come there? But quickly dismissed that thought, because first of all I had to get back inside. Once inside the garden and terrace area, I could think about the next step. Here I was, desperately searching for anything what would help to stimulate my brains to find a solution. My phone inside the house, so no chance to call any of the emergency numbers I had saved in there. It also seemed a bit odd to me walking over to the neighbours and explain to them that I am the house sitter and had locked myself out because of a lack of brain activity early that morning. I also assumed that the family yet hadn’t introduced themself to their new neighbours, since they just had moved in. Chances where really realistic that they became suspicious of me, maybe thinking I am a burglar or some kind of weirdo, because so far I had not ran into any of the neighbours on my daily walks. Good I thought, while thinking hard how I could get back into the house.
And then my eyes catch something, there that old tiny garden table in the right corner. Was he high and strong enough to jump on and climb over the fence? I got excited, kneeled down to Bentley and while fixing his leash around the pillar I said: “Bentley honey, I have to find a way to let us in again, you wait here. Just stay in the shadow so that you don’t become overheated.” I guess that he wondered why I tied him to the pillar. Although I had closed the gate, but I needed to be sure that he won’t slip through the bars. That really would be the last thing I needed at that moment. Beside that I had one thing less in mind to take care of and could bring my full attention to the task. I walked to the other side and climbed on that table, looking over the fence into the backyard. But the fence was too high. No way that I could lift up myself so much and at the same time squeeze through the tiny gap between roof and bar. Ok, I thought, let’s try the other side and carried the table to the other side of the property. That wooden gate provided the exit and entrance to put the garbage bins out and had no top. He was shorter and with all my strength I pulled myself up and climbed over it. Very carefully because there was no table on the other side and if I would fall I probably would hurt myself. But I managed by putting one foot on the door handle to support my arms. Back down on the ground – this time on the inside – I took a deep, relieving breathe because this really was physical work. Immediately I blame myself for being lazy with my sports routine. Good, I said to myself, if I ever find a way back into the house, I do start running again tomorrow, period. So far so good and I felt a slight sign of hope, maybe I – accidentally – had left open the terrace or a downstairs window, or maybe the garage door? It is really true, hope dies last. My hope quickly got diminished after I tried the terrace door and it was locked of course, same for the windows and garage door. I looked up and saw that the bedroom window was a bit open, but how could I get there? Now that I’ve come that far, I didn’t want to climb back outside. There must be a way, I motivated myself. Again I walked around the house, looking closely on every window and then – oh wonder – there I found it. The bedroom window of the eldest son downstairs, it seemed that he had just left open a tiny gap of his window for ventilation. And because I never had no reason to walk in there, I hadn’t see it right away, excited I started singing and jumping. It really just was a tiny gap, so my finger where way too big to reach the handle. “Think, think!” I forced my brain again to give me some useful ideas and indeed, my scout and survivor skills kicked in. I need something small like a branch or other kind of stick. Then I can push that security handle inside of the window aside and open it fully, yeah that’s a good plan, go look. It had to be a fork branch, which I could put between the handle and that piece of the frame to lift it up. Meanwhile the sun really got hot, I hadn’t had breakfast before we left and got thirsty and hungry, not to mention little Sir Bentley. I locked around for a tool box to no success all tools were inside the garage. Mmh? maybe a bicycle repair kit anywhere and my eyes quickly scanned the area, none. Next I ran up to BBQ area where the most trees where and looked for a small stick, because the gap really wasn’t that big. No small stick here so next I checked the lawn for any but also no success. My desperation grew by the minute, nowhere a small fork stick in sight! There must be a tiny fork stick, where are you? I mean this was a big place with plenty of bushes and trees. “Where are you little forking stick”, I called out while searching the bushes and then – O wonder – I found one. He seemed small enough, but also strong enough for the task he had to fulfil. Uff, that’s that and a minute later I were standing in front of the window figuring out how to approach best, fearing that the stick could easily break. With only one fork stick at my disposal I had to be very careful, could not afford to mess this up, no way. To open the window a bit more and not put too much pressure on the wooden stick, I took a kind of flat metal rod and pressed it between the window and the frame. Very gentle I slightly nipped the fork stick to the window handle inside and carefully started pushing. I held in my breath while my eyes were focused on the stick. Could he take the pressure or would it break? In slow motion I increased the pressure on the stick and at the same time moved the handle piece by piece up. It must have been close to 11 am, the sweat ran down my temples and my head must have been red like a tomato. Just a little more and then the handle came out of the frame. Yeah, I cheered inwardly and quickly opened the window. I hardly can describe that sensation of feelings, which flooded trough my whole body and mind. Excitement, satisfaction, happiness, relief as if I’d had participated in a challenging game and won the first price, really. By the time I opened the main door, Sir Bentley was standing in the shadow watching his surroundings. He turned his head looked at me with the expression on his face: “What’ve you been up too? How come you open the door and leave me outside, I was waiting here?” I guess he felt my great relief and smelled that I’ve been through a phase of frustration, determination and finally success. But of course, being a dog includes the lightness of living in the here and now unfamiliar with human error and resulting stress situations. That’s why – after I untangled him from the pillar – he directly ran through the house to the terrace chasing birds. It was then that I discovered his most favourable play and I loved watching little Sir Bentley running around the trees bark his head held up high. Although I have to say that while cleaning the yard I had found a dead bird on the ground. There by the trees where I’d seen Sir Bentley running around the day before. But couldn’t really believe that he would catch a bird and killed it, but who knows?
That bird really was definitely dead!
That day I just was happy to stay home hanging out in the shadow doing nothing. And of course as life is a journey and we are here to learn, I certainly had learned my lesson that day. I know now and have a much better understanding, why Kiwis do not lock their house necessarily. Ever since that day I stopped locking the terrace door while walking Sir Bentley. I only closed the slide door to make it look like as if it were locked. So – in case – I’d have an option left.
Two weeks had past and the holiday season started. Time for me to take out the Christmas tree, decorated it and create a cosy atmosphere in the living room. I figured that Bentley would probably like that, because usually they were five people. Now – with only me as companion – this might would give him a bit of a more homely feeling.
He watched me carrying all decorations and lights into the living room. As I unpacked and start caught up decorating he seated himself on the sofa and watched my doings closely with his “Sir-like” posture and curious gaze.
On Christmas day we first went out to
“Cockle beach”, a huge beach full of tiny eatable cockles. Much to my surprise many people really just came there to collect and take them home as lunch or dinner. Not something you see in Europe, I thought, while I carefully walked our path over the prick cockles, with Bentley on the long leash. Kay had warned me that the cockles are quite sharp and you can easily hurt your feet – or Bentleys little paws – on them. But that just was the challenge and fun for me, walking so mindful that I won’t get hurt. We walked slightly along the beach and I explained Bentley that he as well had to be careful. Near the end of the beach we stood in front of a huge rock or small cliff and had a break, then walked all the way back to the car, no injuries. Later that evening we sat together in our cosy Christmas area, I had bought a toy for him as present and we made a video which I sent to the family.
New Year came quickly closer and by then I had decided to come back again, to figure out if there’s a way for me to make a living on that wonderful island. Still looking for a publisher, I had no plans and did not much thought about going out that last night of the year. Beside I didn’t want to leave Sir Bentley home alone. Better to stay home and write a piece for a contest I wanted to participate in and which was to be closed on first of January. I went to work on that story and didn’t hear much firework. Not during the day or the evenings before – this is kind of standard in Europe, although prohibited – and sat all evening writing. Sir Bentley was lying next to my feet and for the first time in my life I did not welcome the New Year at all. By the time I had finished my short story and looked on the watch it was around 2 in the morning. Surprised I looked down to Bentley who was deeply sleeping and thought to myself, “This is so cool, I didn’t hear any fireworks or was there one at all? Another positively and remarkable difference which I really like in New Zealand is indeed the less people. The first night of the year was as same clear and silent as all the other nights before. Happy and satisfied with my job done, I stood up invited myself to a beer and cigarette and walked out on the terrace. The dark sky with shining stars, no smoke residue from tons of fireworks as I was used to in Europe or any other place I’ve had celebrated before. With a deep sigh I looked into the full blue moon. Generally the moon and stars are more visible here anyways.
But this was a special so called “Blue Moon” and the first in a row of extraordinary moons this year. I felt deeply touched and blessed that moment I faced the moon and sipping on my beer. Filled with certain positivity and looking forward to a great year ahead. I did had a long sleep the next morning and – as usual – as soon as Sir Bentley felt that I woke up, he shifted up to my face and kissed me good morning. Ayeh, I really liked him but this “every morning tongue all over my face” ritual again ended up with me trying to protect my face, and Sir Bentley who cheerfully jumped around and was all fun. That’s that.
In the last week of my stay I started to search for a house sit and looked up the emigration website, to see what my options were. I tend to believe that if a decision is supported by the universe you’ll get offered what you need exactly when the time is right. And so I relatively quickly found and new assigned for a long term house sit in Wellington, start in March. That already made me feel optimistic and I was sure that I would be able to find a way to make my living here. It seemed as there were plenty of options for a good educated adult. Although I’ve to admit, that I didn’t feel much for going back into the rat race. But then, if it will do the job, be flexible, I said to myself and with a house sit for 9 months I surely had a good start. In the meantime I’d go back to Europe doing some short term house sit assignments and look around for options to publish my book. My thoughts at that moment in time were going direction self-publishing and/or audio book, maybe that could be a solution.
By the end of my four week stay Sir Bentley and I were pretty attached to each other. He indeed had understood the meaning of doing a walk and had even lost some weight. The last day, as I started to pack and move back into the temporary bedroom he already sensed that change was in the air again.
The family was expected to arrive back home in the middle of the night, so I left the door to my bedroom open so that Sir Bentley could greet them back home. I thought I wouldn’t get up to say hello as it was in the middle of the night and I assumed the family was tired. Of course I woke up anyways and as I heard them all talking, sounding pretty much awake, even having a midnight snack, I spontaneously decided to walk down and say “Hello”. After a warm welcome and a little present I received, we talked about their vacation. They had wine and I had a beer and they shared some videos from the day trips they had participated in. That last night I also learned that Sir Bentley belongs to the Maltese breed and is a “Bichon Frise”. This special breed is hypoallergenic, perfect for families and those who have dog air allergy. It was so interesting to talk to Kay and Mic and we were sitting until the early wee hours. And during everybody finally got ready for bed, Sir Bentley now got a bit confused about the situation. He several times walked back and forth from the master bedroom to my bedroom, before he decided to stay with me for the last night. It was so sweet to watch and I couldn’t help taking a picture of that fluffy, little Sir Bentley cuddled up between my clothes and stuff. Kay told me the next morning that he – as they first opened the door last night – even defended the house and me. Later the eldest son drove me back to the airport as it was good practice form him. I was positively impressed about the system New Zealand uses to let young people learn how to drive, as explained by Kay during our drive. Because I knew that I’d come back in three months, I left a bunch of summer shoes behind. During the four weeks I had bought about 5 pair of new shoes and they just would not fit into my suitcase anymore. As a matter of fact months later – I wasn’t so sure anymore if I could come back at all – Kay was so kind to send them by mail. Which is not just a great gesture, rather describes a bit how generous and really wonderful this whole family is.
By far this was the most impressive house sit I had. Not only because Kay and her family trusted and I had the great luck to finally travel to the other side of the planet, but much more so, that I was able to experience real Kiwi lifestyle. The warm and open welcome, a fully functional and loveable family, all that and much more let me understand that New Zealand and its inhabitants are as unique as is his geographical position.
Thank you all for sharing that with me.