Throughout 2010, we travelled extensively from one French Department to another, from one Region to another, pet/house sitting for existing friends, and making new friends as we were recommended to strangers who became friends. People, generally, really don’t realise how much responsibility pet/house sitting carries, many also don’t know just how rewarding it can be, either. I’m not talking in terms of financial reward, there isn’t any. But, rescued animals can often be extremely wary of human beings, with very good reason; one of the best feelings I experience is when a previously nervous pet arrives at the point when she or he voluntarily comes to me and sits on my foot! That’s when I know that animal knows she or he can trust me. I cherish the moments when that has happened, as it invariably does within a few days of the ‘sitting’ period starting. Family and I have loved all the pets we have cared for, without exception.
I wish I could say the same about some of the people we have met during our travels! On one occasion during 2010, we had not long finished a ‘sit’ for Sue and Rick, and I was approached through the forum, where I was a moderator, by a woman who was desperate to visit Hampshire in the UK to resolve various issues in her life. She couldn’t afford to put her pets into kennels and catteries, and hiring one of the sitters who charge was also beyond her means. So, I booked her into our ‘sitting diary’ for later that year.
Thank goodness we had the normality of ‘sitting’ for Diane and Brian, then moving on for a brief visit to Janet and Mark at their peaceful, friendly camping site, before we travelled east to cover the sit where there were several cats and dogs, plus live-stock. I can only describe the animals’ conditions as the worst we have seen, although, to be fair, the animals looked healthy, despite all but one dog being kept in a windowless shed in a muddy field.
Family and I couldn’t sleep in the beds provided, all the mattresses were soiled with cats’ urine, still wet! We coped, for the sake of the animals, and we scrubbed and cleaned. One of the cats was obviously ill with an infection, we paid for a vet appointment and appropriate medical treatment. But, every day, somebody from the village came to the door to complain about the conditions in which the animals had obviously been kept for quite a long time. On the morning before we were due to leave, the Assistant Mayor came to see us, he asked when the owner would be returning and Tom told him.
The following day, we waited for the text message to say the owner was on the French side of the Channel, packed up the car, handed the door keys to a neighbour who had offered to take over from us, and we left. The neighbour had advised us that the Mayor would be arriving with a deputation as soon as the neighbour advised him that the owner had returned. We were assured that the animals would be cared for properly after we left. The neighbour sent me a text message later that day to say the house-holder had returned
Several weeks later, I received an email from a vet who thanked us for ‘improving the conditions for the animals’. Within hours, I also received a bitter, nasty email from the house-holder who blamed us for the animals having been removed from her care. I didn’t respond, there was no point to justifying the actions of the people who truly cared for those animals; family and I had not been involved with that aspect, but folks will believe what they want to believe, no matter what they’re told.
Three weeks later, just before midnight, I received a telephone call from a police officer stationed with the Hampshire Constabulary, he asked me if my grandson was safe or did I require police or Social Services intervention. I was stunned. I asked the officer to which grandson he was referring as I have several grandchildren, he didn’t have a name. During the rest of that conversation, it emerged that he had received an urgent call from the house-holder, story above, who told him my grandson was in “dire danger” because he was living in a tent.
It was ascertained that family and I do not come under the jurisdiction of the Hampshire Constabulary, that I was not concerned for the safety of any of my grandchildren, and that the call had been malicious and a waste of police time. It was also another extremely bad incident in 2010 for family and me!
People have recently asked me why we have not previously made our situation more widely, publicly known, the reason has been divulged here today.