Sharon Payne, 57 from Milton Keynes has been home and pet sitting through Homesitters Ltd since April 2018 after taking early retirement from a busy career working for a food packaging company.
Before retiring at the age of 55 Sharon talked to a financial adviser who advised her it would be wise to continue earning some money for a while, and friends she spoke to were concerned she would get fed up without a job.
Unwilling to take another 9 to 5 office job, Sharon looked for alternatives and came across Homesitters. It sounded like the ideal role for her, she would enjoy the travel and spending time with pets whilst earning a modest remuneration.
After attending an interview at Homesitters’ offices she was offered the role.
She says, “I was impressed with the level of detail Homesitters went into in the interview. Home and pet sitting may sound like a low key job but you’re looking after the most important things in people’s lives, apart from their children. Looking after animals with different needs and people’s homes is a responsible job so I appreciated the process I went through to get the job.
“The company is very professional and caring. They carefully match clients and homesitters so the right people are assigned to the right assignments. They arrange preliminary meetings for homesitters and clients so they can meet and discuss the brief and they also call homesitters while they are on assignment to check everything is running smoothly. As I home sit alone, I was very reassured by these processes.”
One of the things Sharon enjoys about the role is the interesting people she meets. Talking about one of her most memorable assignments she explains, “I stayed in a beautiful old house in a small village where I looked after two dogs – and 35 tortoises! The owner had had a few pet tortoises and someone wanting to rehome a tortoise heard she liked them and took it to her and it snowballed from there!
“I really enjoyed looking after them, although I had to keep going to the local shop for more salad as they eat a kilo of salad every day between them! They are quite low maintenance and mostly put themselves to bed at night although I did have to check they were all in their beds and look for any stragglers!”
Other memorable home sits for Sharon included staying in a gorgeous Tudor mansion in Cambridgeshire with landscaped gardens and a swimming pool, and looking after an extremely well behaved dog on assignment near Chelmsford who, when he got muddy, would sit by the door and lift his paws one by one for Sharon to wash and wait to be towel dried off before venturing into the house!
Having always considered herself to be a ‘cat person’ Sharon has been surprised to discover she is something of a dog whisperer.
She says, “The dogs are all lovely, they tend to follow me everywhere and they all have their own funny ways about them. Last year I looked after a miniature schnauzer puppy, she was very cute and I had so much fun with her – and when I went back to look after her again this year she remembered me. Her owners are completely besotted with her so while they were away I sent them pictures of her and told them what we’d been up to each day, which they really appreciated.”
Sharon also appreciates the income she receives through the company and has noticed that the job is actually saving her money. She explains, “It’s not so much about what I earn but what I don’t spend. I’ve noticed that since I started home sitting my gas, electric and water bills are significantly lower – my water company keeps reducing my monthly payment! I also get a food allowance so I eat for free while I’m on assignment.”
A keen golfer, Sharon always takes her golf clubs with her to play a few holes if there’s a golf course nearby, and on one assignment the grounds were so large that she was able to practice her swing without leaving the property – and the dog collected all the balls!
Sharon is also a keen photographer and enjoys taking her camera out on walks with the dogs, there’s always something new for her to photograph. She says the day just flies by while she’s on assignment – her friends certainly don’t need to worry about Sharon find her retirement boring!