30 Days in the California Desert

Palm Desert Sign on large rock

A cool sign, right!

Palm Desert That is!

House sits are usually planned around firm dates; this one was scheduled to accommodate the due dates of two expected grandchildren. That meant the dates were open, and we agreed to be on call.

As one might expect, the births were early and so was the call. That’s why I left Jim at the beach house in Malibu and sped out to this house. The homeowners flew back to their home in Denver to be with the new moms and grandchildren.

The community club house

The club house

Our Visit and Tour 

We had visited the home before, spent time with the owners, the dog, and gone over all the instructions, so it was okay to hit the ground running. Jim came a few days later and stayed for our longest house sit by far, a month.

While talking with the hosts during that first visit, (after the RV escapade) we discovered one of their closest friends in Denver was Jim’s college advisor at the University of Denver.

Though he hadn’t stayed in touch, even years later his impression was strong. He was a great fellow in many ways, and we shared some funny stories about him. What a small world!

palm trees on a golf course

There’s the golf course, right out the back door

The hosts prepared a delicious dinner for us and then took us on a tour of the neighborhood inside a huge golf course community.

We also had a car tour around town. All the stores and houses seemed new and upscale, with golf courses everywhere, with all the trappings. Huge blocks surround the courses, nearly a mile on each side and houses lining each hole.

wide street

The roads have four-to-six lanes

Keep Going East Young Man

We had visited Palm Springs on a few occasions but hadn’t driven beyond it. It turns out it is smaller and older than the towns further east. Palm Desert is a popular retreat for “snowbirds.” People from colder climates (like this homeowner) swell the population by about 30,000 each winter.

The surrounding geography of high mountain ranges on three sides and a south-sloping valley floor all contribute to its unique and year-round warm climate. It has the warmest winters anywhere in the western United States!

We had one ferocious wind storm which lasted several hours; otherwise sunny and quite warm. It’s no wonder people come here during the winter and flee during the summer!

photo of Coachella Valley from a mountain

This photo is also looking north at the Palm Springs area

Our Friendly Fellow

What can you say about Aster (his pseudonym) a four-year-old male Goldendoodle; big, fun-loving, energetic and rambunctious. He loved affection, toys and hanging out with the humans. We both had a lot of fun with him during the day. It sometimes worked to let him sleep with us, but it was a bit difficult given his size. 

It took a few days to learn how to walk him without being walked by him. Talk about an active dog – that was this guy! 

He was easily distracted by squirrels, rabbits and especially other dogs, which had him bolting down to the end of the leash with us trying to hang on for dear life. He was a strong dog and kept us on our toes. 

Goldendoodle and man on couch looking at each other

A meeting of the minds

A Big Night For All

On a quiet Saturday evening, Astor was suddenly very still, which was unusual. Looking closer, Jim could see his eyes dilated, his back arched, legs stiff, tongue hanging out, and panting wildly. It was scary to see and came on fast.

The homeowners had explained that Aster had a history of seizures and told us what to do should one occur.

We hadn’t personally experienced a dog having a seizure, but we were as ready as we could be. The advice given by the homeowners included a description of the dog’s experience: scared stiff. 

large dog with his face in a sprinkler

He loved those sprinklers

Jim tried to help him relax and feel secure, sat by him, stroked him, and talked to him. After nearly half an hour, the symptoms decreased, he rolled over and pushed up on his haunches, but couldn’t move much.

Later still, he pushed up on all fours though still wobbly, and then he was back to normal. Jim took him outside for a bit, and all was well.

We sent a full description to the homeowners who responded that it sounded like what they had seen before. A bit of research showed us how common seizures are in dogs and how often veterinarians prescribe medication for this condition.

large dog sitting and looking back towards the camera

I’m looking for golf balls

You Never Know Who You Will Meet on the Road 

Since the house was on a golf course, (where dogs weren’t allowed) and there wasn’t space for the dog to run at home, walks were critical. One morning, we were out walking earlier than usual. Aster had moved behind some bushes and got his leash tangled and was not inclined to back his way out. 

Jim was trying to sort it all out, his back to the street, and he heard someone walking by quickly. He glanced over his shoulder and saw a man walking past. He saw him only from the side and for half a second.

weather worn tree branch

We found this in the mountains above the valley

Still, there was something familiar, a flip of hair, like Spanky (from Our Gang). It made him wonder; he knew who he thought it was, but hadn’t seen him in a decade and couldn’t imagine seeing him there, 150 miles from home.

Yes: it was true. He and his wife, my colleague, owned a home a couple of blocks over in the same development. Our sons had been classmates for years. It just goes to show; you never know who you’ll meet on the road!

palm trees against a pink and purple sunset

Great sunsets in the desert

A Smart Move to Smart Phones 

We made a great leap forward in our communication capacity during this house sit. Our technological equipment up to that point consisted of an old laptop, an iPad, an iPhone 4 and a Samsung flip-top phone.

I needed to check the house sitting websites continuously, but my phone didn’t have Wi-Fi ability. We knew by then that a slow response to new listings meant losing out on potential house sits.

Surely there must be a better way. We hadn’t anticipated how much of a challenge it would be finding internet connections. It meant we had to go to coffee shops and restaurants all the time just to get an internet connection.

Goldendoodle close up

No, that’s not the Apple Store guy

We finally decided to take up Verizon on their “free” updates. First, we explored some cheaper alternatives trying to avoid another two-year contract. However, those didn’t meet our needs. So, we took the plunge, walked into an Apple store and walked out with an iPhone 6.

While at the Apple store we asked them to help us set up the shared calendar. While friendly enough, the fellow at the store wondered why Jim still used an iPhone 4 when he had an update available. But Jim liked his phone and saw little reason for a change. 

After a few weeks of cajoling him, Jim relented and bought an iPhone 5. We spent more than planned, of course, but these phones have been very helpful in our nomadic life, especially for me. I love that thing! It’s a real boon to finding house sits without having to find a Starbucks first.

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