Our First House Sit – Goleta, CA

green hills and valley

Our new neighborhood

How Exciting!

We responded to a posting on one of the house sitting websites; spoke to the family by phone, and just like that we had our first house sit. We would be spending a week on the coast north of Los Angeles just passed Santa Barbara in Goleta. 

We did not meet the homeowners, or see the house before our time there began and were so happy when we pulled up to a charming house in a superb setting! 

rocks, sand, ocean, and sky

Southern California living at its best!

All the introductions and house tour took place in the thirty minutes before the homeowner’s departure. They gave us a clear, detailed document with everything we needed to know, and off they went!

Goleta is a small city (by our standards) which meant no pollution, no clogged freeways, and the Pacific Ocean ten minutes away! What could be better? It would be a welcomed break from all the packing and sorting we’d been doing for weeks. 

hills and valleys

The view from the hill

Such a Peaceful Place!

Since it was during winter break, I did not have to work or do any commuting, yeah! We were about 15 minutes from Santa Barbara and a big university, so we had our choice of funky restaurants and health food stores, and we visited a few. We also found a local farmer around the corner from the house who sold fresh veggies every Wednesday!

The house was in a small neighborhood nestled in a valley west of the town with no shopping malls in sight, no stores, not even traffic lights! We did have neighbors, but it was quiet and peaceful, just perfect.

The sky was so dark at night we could see more stars than we’d seen in a long time! Coming from the ‘big city,’ it was such a treat. Jim even saw a couple of shooting stars: we took it as a good omen. 

a cat sitting

Looking longingly out the front door

Pet Sitting a Cat and Five Chickens

What a sweetie! He was affectionate and gentle with humans. However, he had made such a bad reputation for himself in the neighborhood that his owners had very recently confined him to the house and backyard.

They put up miles of ‘mesh’ on top of the existing fences to keep him from getting out. They informed us that he didn’t like the new situation and had escaped a few times, but they didn’t know how. Oh, dear, hope it doesn’t happen while we’re here.

a cat lying down

He was sweet and gentle with us

The poor cat did not like this new arrangement one bit; he liked to roam the neighborhood. We watched him scouting out the yard looking for escape routes. Within a day, he found a chink in the armor and escaped! We couldn’t find him, we called and called all the rest of the day and into the evening but no luck.

We imagined the horror of informing the owners we had lost him. How would we live with ourselves? How would we ever get another pet sitting assignment? Our first would be our last! We were very upset, to put it mildly.

Off limits to unauthorized personnel sign


Our First House Sit and We Lost the Cat!

How do you find a cat that’s determined to wander the neighborhood? Right, food! He showed up on the front porch in the morning just in time for breakfast. What a relief! 

We watched him like a hawk when he was out in the backyard that day. We searched every square inch of the fencing for a hole and at one point noticed him getting ready to jump up to the fence.

There it was – a gap in the netting up in a tree. Jim patched it up as best he could and to our great relief it worked! He didn’t get out again. Despite his unhappiness with the situation, he acclimated to us quite well and eventually stopped meowing at the front door.

a cat and a chicken

Good day, my friend

“Breakfast and Dinner, and Once Each.”

One thing he did love – his food, he gobbled it right up. Ten minutes later, however, he would start wailing as if he hadn’t eaten in a week. His owners had warned us not to fall for his shenanigans, and we held firm. What a funny guy, so crafty and cuddly.

He spent a fair bit of time watching the chickens, and of course, all the birds! Since he was such a hunter, his owners had bestowed upon him the gift of a ‘Catbib.’ It is a real product meant to prevent cats from catching birds; they wear it around their neck. He had to wear it when he was out in the backyard; fascinating the products people invent!

Five chickens on a patio

What good girls!

Love Those Chickens

I grew up with chickens and knew how terrific fresh eggs look and taste. It was winter, so they weren’t laying every day, but we ate every egg they did lay.

Of course, we also fed them and let them out every morning to scrounge through the backyard for all the yummy stuff chickens love. They spent the day scratching through leaves and soil for the best juicy bugs and seeds and depositing chicken manure all over the yard and patio.

woman holding and petting a chicken

What a sweetie she was

There was a nice table out in the backyard where we spent a lot of time. Those hungry girls would often come to see what we had to share. They jumped or flew right up on the chairs and then the table and tried to get any food up there. They even pecked at the freckles on my hands. It was quite comical. 

When we emptied the kitchen compost bin in the yard – oh, did they love that! They devoured it all in a couple of hours, and we had a great time watching which items were the favorites and which were left until the end.

By Charlotte Dukich

Vegetables did not make it high on the list; they loved the carbs. Since they had a free reign in the backyard, we had daily poop patrol on the patio, Jim’s favorite task. 

Every afternoon right before dark they would march into their house to roost for the night – such bright girls. We did have to lock the door behind them as we heard tell that a skunk had once found its way into their pen! We made sure that didn’t happen on our watch.

the ocean, green grass, and a picnic table

This beach was ten minutes from the house!

Lots of Fun and Chores

We spent a lot of our time taking walks, sitting on the beach, relaxing, and caring for the animals and the yard. The winter weather was perfect, a little chilly in the morning and then sunny the rest of the day.

On returning home one afternoon, it hit us how much is involved in house sitting, how much more it is than being a responsible guest. We talked this over for a while, and one of us mentioned house cleaning as an example. Of course, we kept things clean and tidy all along.

old fashioned painting of a girl and a colorful bird above her


But there you are in someone else’s house while they’re gone: that puts a different spin on things. We want homeowners to return to a sparkling clean house. Right then we got busy; grabbed the cleaning supplies washed the windows, swept under the sofas, and cleaned the corners. That’s a routine we’ve kept up ever since.

Before our stay was over, we put Jim on a train to Los Angeles. He spent Christmas Day with family, one last night in our empty apartment and then started our second house sit. I came a couple of days later after doing the last-minute cleaning, packing the car, and meeting the owners upon their return.

We were officially house sitters! If it was to be like this – great pets, home, neighborhood, and weather – we were lucky ducks. 

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