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Lessons on how to rehome a dog

Lessons on how to rehome a dog

Before Cooper and I set off on this house and pet sitting adventure, our intention was to be surrounded by dogs. Humbled by our experiences along the way, we have learnt eye-opening facts on how to properly rehome a dog. Our biggest lessons came in Malta, and we want to share with you here.

 

A family of rehomed dogs

In Malta we cared for nine dogs on our house sit. Geoff and Theresa initiated us into their family as Cooper and I each took hold of our own set of pooches. We got to understand their routines and personalities, and a highlight of each day was, of course, walk time!

Each morning in a flurry of excitement, fur babies of all shapes and sizes danced around the kitchen. Collars and leads were attached, although I can’t say patience is a strength of these cheeky dogs.

I took 12 year old Smudge – food lover, Dalmatian cross, big personality. In my other hand I had little Spike, the dog with nine lives, and old soul Eliza, mum to the fox terriers Cooper was handling, Christa and Giselle.

Geoff and Theresa showed us the ropes before they went away. Fearful giant Zula went with Geoff. We likened her to the lion who had lost courage. He also had ‘the Queen’, Amy, a type of woolly Sicilian sheep dog.

Our ‘dog whisperer’ Theresa, would wait behind and bring her two special rescued dogs. Rusty is just a pup, simply terrified; and Percy, a Dachshund mix, won’t look at anyone but Theresa.

We’d need to get to understand their characters before tackling these walks on our own. I’m pleased to say we did master it.

Smudge and Sarah on our Malta house sit

 

Navigating ‘Cat Alley’

Geoff and Theresa led the charge on the first few days we were all together. Determined to learn, we followed their instructions. Each day our dogs would go to the field behind their home, to play together and with other rehomed dogs.

Getting to the field meant navigating Cat Alley. Now that’s an adventure.

 

We’d all leave the house, one set of pups at a time, keeping an eye out for cars coming past the front door on the narrow road outside.

Spike doesn’t like motorbikes – he tries to attack them.

I had to learn quickly:

  • That a dog on a lead chasing motorbikes means all dogs I am holding onto will get tangled up!
  • If you’ve got a strong pup you need to be careful they don’t get away and run in front of a car. Use your good arm 👍
  • I also learned the hard way that my finger kept slipping on the ‘release’ button on the lead. This meant my leads would extend at exactly the time I didn’t want my dogs running away from me! Rookie errors.

👉Read: 6 lessons learnt as pet sitters, and things YOU need to know

 

Out the door: under 20 seconds ’til we’d turn the corner.

The Malta sun blazed upon us, even at this early hour. I’d see Cooper and Geoff ahead, core strength at work as they held onto their sets for dear life.

Welcome to Cat Alley, where the dogs go crazy. Christa and Giselle especially, their little frames finding tiger-like strength each day, as they dragged forth, onward towards their nemesis.

Cats on car tops glaring down, or scaling trees, scoffing at our spectacle. Then we’d spot them on the road ahead, taunting the dogs! Cat Alley. A dog’s worst nightmare? Or dog owner’s?

 

The strategy for getting through here was to be quick and strong. As a team, we’d managing our yelping, excited pack, quietly hoping a lead wouldn’t snap, and doing our utmost to prevent the dogs from tangling and running into each other.

Old Smudge would always stop at the most inconvenient time to do his business here too. Honestly if he wasn’t so damn cute… !

Sarah Blinco and Cooper Dawson on house sit with 9 dogs in Malta

 

Field of dreams

After undoubtedly the most active four minutes of the day, our double-gate entry to the field is in sight!

There’s two gates here for a special reason. Many of the dogs are anxious or hyper-sensitive. So, we bring them into a holding area and shut the outside gate so no-one disappears down Cat Alley and onto the street. Second gate opens, and our group flies into their freedom field.

Theresa, Geoff, Cooper and I put down our leads, fill up water bowls and lead the dogs around the field to play.

A friend of the field, Caroline, gave us a tip:

Always keep walking, don’t let a group of dogs congregate while owners chat and gossip – it can lead to ‘too much excitement’ (or a brawl).

 

The field, rented by Theresa and Geoff, is an important space that helps dogs socialise and get into a happier frame of mind.

Sicily is about two hours’ ferry ride from Malta, and there’s a terrible homeless dog problem there.

Sarah and my family of pups in Malta

 

Rescue dogs and their families

Cooper and I have met many beautiful rescue pups over the past year. Their families shared with us meticulous details on any anxiety or behaviour to care for in their rehomed dogs. It’s a privilege to have been able to get to know so many beautiful personalities. In Malta, we were followed around, up and down stairs; The dogs snuggled with us in the lounge at TV time, demanded cheese at meal time, and lapped up love at bedtime. We love them!

Parents of all of the rescue dogs we’ve met care deeply about their fur family, and have been matched with their furever pups. But there are heartbreaking stories of terribly high ‘return’ rates to shelters that we have heard of too.

 

How to rehome a dog – things we can learn

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a dog person and/or you are looking to rehome a dog too. All dogs, like people, have unique personalities. To effectively place a dog in its furever home, a proper match needs to be made.

Theresa and Geoff explained more about this to us when we spent time with them, and in the video above ☝

The dogs they’ve rescued have been through TRAUMA: neglect, serious abuse, abandonment.

It’s why some of our babies on the house sit were reticent to be too near to us.

Theresa and Geoff have a really low ‘return’ rate. They put in the time to match families and dogs though, as you’ll see in the video above.

 

Adoption and rehoming tips

Details we garnered to help you find your perfect pooch:

  1. See what you can find out about the dog’s personality and background. Does he/she need to run around, are they best with a family, or a couple/single?
  2. Will the breed/personality be right for your circumstances – do you have young kids?
  3. How active is your dog going to need to be, and can you cater for this?
  4. Have you considered an older dog, not just a puppy? There are so many benefits to rehoming older dogs who have just been down on their luck. Puppies are NOT right for everyone.
  5. Are you willing to socialise your dog – take them to a dog park and to learn to play with others?
  6. A dog deserves love for life, and you should be able to pay for vet bills if required.

 

Theresa and Geoff are always on the lookout for good homes for dogs they rescue. Show your support and get in contact via their Facebook page, Adopt a Sicilian Stray.

 

 

Eight romantic breaks UK

Eight romantic breaks UK

We’re blessed with many options for romantic breaks UK, they’re not just confined to smart country house hotels. Our cities offer some of the best experiences and romantic weekend breaks. Read on for highlights and things to do 😍

Romantic breaks UK – 8 of our favourites

York

Historic York has more than a little magic. Once the English locus of Viking power, this riverside city still boasts many Viking treasures. Most of the city centre is pleasantly pedestrianised, so you can while away the day wandering the narrow, cobbled ways of York’s Tudor heart, the Shambles.

Today, the Shambles and the neighbouring streets are full of boutiques, souvenir shops and cafes. Meander along them from the impressive York Minster, via the Chocolate Museum to the Jorvik Centre. Find your bearings with a climb to the top of Clifford’s Tower, at the city centre’s southern edge. From here you can see York Castle museum, definitely worth a visit if you are a history buff, and the winding River Ouse.

Amble back up the riverbank through town to dine riverside at The Star Inn the City.  Set in the gardens of St Mary’s Abbey and the Yorkshire Museum, this brasserie is a restaurant with the most romantic view in York.

Ideas on where to stay:

To stay at a city centre location, follow in the footsteps of Kings and stay at the beautiful Grays Court Hotel, just a short step from the Minster. The Judges Lodging is another central option with a historic vibe. If you’re staying in the centre, Roots restaurant on the other side of St Mary’s gardens is a great choice for a Sunday lunch feast of sharing dishes. Follow this with a romantic river cruise before heading home.

If you’d prefer to see a little of the Yorkshire countryside, Aldwark Manor is just a short drive from York. Choose an elegant room in the historic manor house, then roll out of bed on the Sunday morning and amble across the hotel grounds to the local country pub. The Ardwark Arms serves up some of the best Yorkshire puddings in God’s own county.

For a post-prandial amble, you can stretch your legs in the grounds of Castle Howard or Fountains Abbey before the drive home.

romantic destinations in UK - try York

 

Bath

Beautiful Bath’s Georgian elegance can’t help but add a little romance to your weekend.

Start Saturday with a wander around the city. You can pick up a self-guided walking tour by the breath-taking Pulteney Bridge, one of only four bridges in the world to have shops on both sides across its span. From here, an easy stroll will take you past the city’s other landmarks: the Norman spires of the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and the city’s most famous landmark, its Roman Baths. Stop for lunch in the Bath’s pump room restaurant or kitchen, then continue your walk to take in Gravel Walk, the Royal Crescent and the Circus.

For the ultimate romantic experience, book yourselves the twilight package at the Bath Thermae Spa, where you can enjoy a blissful view across the city rooftops while you relax in the healing waters.

Ideas on where to stay:

From there, you’ll want to retire to your hotel for a little R&R. The Abbey Hotel enjoys a fantastic central location. Plus, you can simply roll downstairs to enjoy pre-dinner cocktails at the ArtBar, followed by dinner in one of the city’s best restaurants, Koffman and Mr Whites – all without leaving your hotel. After a lazy Sunday breakfast, head out of the city to the National Trust’s Prior Park Landscape Garden where you can blow away the cobwebs with wander around these beautiful, historic parkland.

If you prefer a country location, Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa is just a short hop from Bath. Here, you can indulge in an award-winning spa and wellness centre, the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant and beautiful grounds across the sprawling 500-acre estate – perfect for a lazy Sunday of relaxation before heading home.

Bath is the ultimate romantic break destination in England

 

Brighton

It’s hard to think of a more eclectic seaside resort than Brighton. It has everything you could ask for in a romantic weekend away. In addition to the seaside location, you can choose from cool cocktail bars, great restaurants, cosy pubs, fantastic clubs and the odd left-field option, such as the arcades and casino at Pier 9 or the brewery tour at Unbarred.

 

Begin your Saturday meandering by the cafes and boutiques that cluster along Brighton’s Lanes. Here, you can treat yourself to one-off gifts, antiques or handmade jewellery.  Enticing lunch stops abound along these narrow alleyways but dead wax social is a fab option for wood-fired pizza and craft beer. Why not wander back along the seafront for a stroll along Brighton Pier before spending the afternoon touring one of Brighton’s most outré landmarks, the Regency era Royal Pavilion, the seaside pleasure palace of King George IV.

For a seaside pleasure palace of your own, check in to the Artist Residence hotel; ask for a room with a free-standing bath and sea view. Then head back to the seafront for dinner at Brighton’s best seafood restaurant, the Salt Room (the view’s not bad either).

On Sunday, if the seafront is still calling to you, you can head to a Brighton institution, the Red Roaster café where you can enjoy the view, the ambience and a lazy brunch.

Brighton is great for a romantic break away

 

Whitstable

Whitstable enjoys a very different pace to Brighton but very much fits into the ‘romantic breaks UK’ category. This is an old-fashioned fishing village turned seaside resort on Kent’s north coast. It’s most famous for its oyster beds, so you have every excuse to indulge in this traditional aphrodisiac!

Head to the seafront and harbour to take your fill of bracing sea air. The little high street is worth a wander too; you can browse the galleries and craft shops. The Whitstable Oyster Company is located in an old oyster shed in the middle of town, so it’s an ideal lunch stop. As well as the fresh seafood, you can enjoy the view to the beach.

Later, you can spend the afternoon wandering around the gardens of the eighteenth-century Whitstable castle, just a short walk away.

 

Accommodation options are limited, but one is a deluxe sea-view room at the Hotel Continental on the seafront. This hotel also operates some of the old fishman huts by the seashore; their sea views add a little extra romance to the proposition.

It’s just a short stumble from there to the Whitstable Oyster shack on the harbour’s east quay. Hopefully, you haven’t had your fill of seafood, because the location is really wonderful.

If you are staying at the fisherman’s huts, you’ll want to head back into town for Sunday brunch at the Farm and Harper or, further afield, at JoJo’s meze restaurant. If you have time to spare on the Sunday, why not rent a bike in town?  From here you can cycle the Crab and Winkle Way; a pleasingly short six-mile ride through the Kentish countryside to Canterbury.

Whitstable is a gorgeous fishing village and very romantic for a break away in the UK

 

Lake District

There’s a reason the Lake District was such an inspiration to the Romantic poets. Its shimmering lakes and lofty hills will bring a song to even the most frozen of hearts. It’s one of the best spots for a romantic UK break away.

People come here to walk, mainly, and there are plenty of activities of the outdoor adventure kind on offer throughout the national park. But there are also plenty of more sedate options around the tourist hot spots of Windemere and Grasmere or the busy town of Keswick.

Book a suite at the Brimstone hotel in Langdale and you may never want to leave its luxurious rooms and spa. There are a myriad of walks on your doorstep; a slow meander up Langdale will take you to the National Trust Sticklebarn pub for lunch. Or follow the rise over to Grasmere where you can visit Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage, take a row boat out on the water and try some of the town’s famous gingerbread.

Another fabulous option is the Lodore Falls hotel on the banks of Derwentwater.  Book a spa suite for full access to the hotel’s Falls spa and the mesmerising views across the lake. From here, you can take your pick of the walks through the Borrowdale valley. The Langstrath Arms in nearby Stonethwaite is a traditional country pub within walking distance. Or the hotel can arrange paddle-boarding out on the water.

On Sunday, stop in at Windemere on the way home for a walk around the shops (mostly outdoor clothing brands), a trip on the paddle steamer or a stroll around the grounds of Wray castle.

Windermere and the Lakes District - perfect options for romantic breaks UK

 

Edinburgh

It’s not hard to fall in love with the hardy but graceful Scottish capital. Edinburgh has historic sites galore and a thriving food scene, so it’s perfect as one of your romantic breaks UK options.

If you’re new to the city, you’ll want to start with a stroll down Princes Street Gardens from the Scott Monument. This Victorian gothic edifice celebrating the writer Sir Walter Scott is a great place to start; climb its winding internal staircase for striking views over the city, including down Princes Street to St Johns church. Art lovers can take a detour to the Scottish National Gallery, which houses one of the best collections of art in the world. Then stop for some lunch along colourful Victoria Street or the Grassmarket, before heading up to check out the view from the castle.

Back down the hill, you can check into the ‘unmitigated pleasure palace’ that is the Witchery, which claims to be Edinburgh’s most romantic bolt-hole. Close by, the suites at Old Town Chambers luxury serviced apartments are equally well-appointed, minus the gothic drama. Stay at either location and, on Sunday morning, you can take a wander over to Dean Village and Stockbridge. Stockbridge is choc-full of independent cafes and places for brunch, plus on Sunday mornings it hosts a local market, making it ideal for a romantic Sunday morning stroll.

Edinburgh in Scotland is endlessly romantic for a break away

 

Cardiff

The capital of Wales is a dreamy destination to add to your romantic breaks UK hit-list. The centre of Cardiff is immensely walkable, so you can treat yourself to a shopping marathon (don’t miss browsing the stalls at the Victorian central market) or simply take in the sights. Make time to explore the splendid castle; even if you aren’t wowed by history, the view from the ramparts is worth the visit. If you have time, follow the Bute Park sculpture trail in what was once the castle grounds.

Later, wander across town to the marina and Norwegian church. Close by, the St David’s Bay hotel on the waterfront is a great choice, especially if you can squeeze in a few hours to laze in its spa or splurge on a few treatments. It’s also ideally placed if you have tickets to an event at the Millennium Centre. The view from the pool across the sparkling waters of Cardiff Bay adds to the appeal.

If you prefer something a little more intimate, head out of town to Holm House in Penarth. It sits on a bluff overlooking the bay, and you can wander down in the evening to enjoy dinner at  the Michelin-starred Restaurant James Sommerin, Cardiff’s only Michelin-starred restaurant.

If you are staying in Penarth, wandering down to the seafront can occupy some of your Sunday morning too. Or, if you have time, head up towards the valleys and explore the atmospheric Castell Coch followed by Sunday lunch at a traditional country pub like the Pantmawr Inn.

Cardiff is a cool city and perfect for a romantic break

 

London city break

Any romantic breaks UK list will include London, because it’s spectacular! The best way to appreciate London as a romantic weekend destination is to accept you can’t do everything; decide what you want to do and work from there.

If you want to take in a theatre show, pick a boutique hotel like Batty Langley‘s near Liverpool Street.

 

You can spend Saturday wandering around Soho or shopping on Oxford Street, then meander around Covent Garden on the Sunday.

Alternatively, if you fancy seeing some of the main tourist sights, a hotel such as St Ermins or the Shangri La at the Shard might be a better choice. From here, you can walk up the riverside from the London Eye up to the Tower of London. Make a day of it by stopping off at a variety of cafes and bars en route. Cross Tower Bridge to take a tour of the tower and then you can catch the Thames Clipper back to your starting point.

Next morning, the walk from Buckingham Palace  to Horseguards Parade and the Houses of Parliament is a relaxing way to start your Sunday. It includes a romantic meander through St James Park. Then head for lunch at Borough Market before heading home.

there's so much to do in London - it's a perfect break with plenty of romance

 

Each of these cities has something truly special and unique to offer. Whichever you choose for your romantic breaks UK destinations, you can create a wonderfully romantic itinerary for a weekend away that creates memories you’ll both treasure forever.

 

Nomad lifestyle: 7 tips for an effective work/life travel routine

Nomad lifestyle: 7 tips for an effective work/life travel routine

‘Digital nomad lifestyle’, for most of us who resonate with the term, means travelling + working. It sounds fun, and yeah it is. But it’s easy to fall into ‘holiday mode’, which means no income! Cooper and I have discovered that routine is critical when trying to maintain a healthy nomad lifestyle. Falling out of a routine means you can quite easily become demotivated. Hence, ‘holiday mode’, which doesn’t pay for this way of life consistently.

A few weeks back we realised our routine (or lack thereof) was letting us down. Over the past few months we’ve been refining a digital nomad routine that fits with our lifestyle, so we re-implemented the plan.

Maybe some of these tips will resonate with you too.

 

Nomad lifestyle: 7 tips for an effective work/life travel routine

Plan daily, keep a diary

When you’re travelling and working on the road you need to be super organised. Use a diary! We plan our days in advance and share a Google calendar which tracks the work Cooper and I do together as well as individual workloads. We plan it all in, can see when it’s coming up, and try to stick to the times we’ve set. Quite often we will also plan time in for daily exercise or getting out and about.

Depending on where you are, your daily routines can fluctuate. A group of full time digital nomads have shared insight into how they manage their routine, on the Becoming a Digital Nomad blog.

Project plan within your week

We don’t just plan our days in advance, but our weeks too. Blocks of time are planned into our diary for project work. For example, we might have a three hour period marked as ‘website development’. We break that down into sections, so within that time frame we might want to achieve finding a new theme for the website and editing the copy on the home page. If we get those tasks completed in that time frame, we’ve achieved our goal for that day.

It’s very easy to plan a chunk of time for ‘a project’ but get distracted and overwhelmed on where to start, then not to anything of any real substance! But, if you plan smaller tasks into a larger section of time, you’re more likely to complete the priorities you’ve set for yourself.

Cooper and I catch up each morning to see where we’re up to and to reschedule anything that didn’t get done the day before. There’s obviously the need to be flexible if something more urgent needs to be prioritised.

 

Nomad lifestyle requires planning around disruption

Travelling between house sits or new locations means we lose work time. That’s totally fine, but we have come to accept that we need to give time to cleaning, packing, moving.

We used to plan work into our travel time (e.g. work on the train or plane), but it never gets done between being tired or having no space/internet/power. We now look ahead at what’s coming up and don’t schedule real chunks of work into that time.

Consequently, if Wednesday becomes our Saturday for the week, or we need to work on the weekend because we had some ‘days off’ during the week, so be it. But it’s in our diary. See points one and two.

Be accountable to someone else

We’ve made a deal to keep each other accountable. Diary alerts, alarms, nagging each other works. I’m pretty good at organising things, but Cooper’s better and making us stick to time. So, we work as a team to make our routine work to time.

If you don’t have a partner to do this, find other ways. You can appoint an accountability buddy who also runs their own business or freelances; connect on social media to prompt and encourage each other. Find meetups with other intrepid solo travellers, work at a coworking space or visit coworking cafes so there’s others with the same mindset around you.

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day

To stay out of holiday mode, stick to a sleep routine too. Science says that it’s far better for our health and wellbeing to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even if it’s your ‘day off’.

Find out more in this piece I wrote for Get it Magazine in October 2019.

Take breaks and make time for play

It’s important to step away from work. Maintain your work/life balance. We hear about this in the corporate world but it’s just as important when you’re working for yourself. And don’t mistake ‘travel’ for ‘holidays’.

There is a huge difference between being on a holiday, and travelling while we’re working.

Don’t get me wrong – we love that our office landscape changes frequently, and that we can explore new cultures and make new friends along the way. That’s fantastic! But we are trying to run a business and as anyone who works for themselves knows, that’s a seven days a week gig, and rarely 9am to 5pm.

It’s for this reason we do have to make sure we exercise, do Yoga, meditate. House and pet sitting keeps us in check though, because there’s always a dog who needs attention, walkies, ball time and love.

Keep in mind too, that if your body is telling you to take a break – re-prioritise – and do so! You’ve got the control over your time. The Morning Maryjolaine blog makes some nice points on this. See FOMO vs JOMO.

Switch off each night

For your mental health and wellbeing – switch your devices off at least an hour before bed. No social, no emails – step away from the machine, my digital nomad friends!

Got any other tips or questions? Let us know in the comments.