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Live Wire Dalmation gets Plastered!!!

House sitting, dog siting and cat sitting in Colchester

You would think working from home, while your husband commutes daily from Colchester to London, overseeing the conversion of a former City Centre B&B back to a family home while continuing to live in it, as well as bringing up three young boys, aged 3, 6 and 9 and looking after a cat, would be sufficient challenge for any woman. However, this particular multi-tasking lady homeowner, decided what she needed to complete the family was an amazingly high-energy, mischievous, indefatigable Dalmation puppy called Arlo. We were called in for house sitting duties at the partially converted house, cat sitting a stunning tiger of a cat called Tabs and dog sitting a 'daft as a brush' Dalmation who was a few days short of his 1st. birthday. The boys were very concerned to be missing his birthday, so we promised to have a party for him in their absence (see below).

With the homeowners needing a comparatively early departure to catch the ferry, we arrived before 8.00am to be sucked into a maelstrom of activity with the husband frantically trying to shoehorn his luggage, his wife's luggage and the luggage for each of the three boys into the car while trying to retain sufficient space for five human beings.

Multi-tasking Mum was trying to brief us, feed breakfast to herself, husband, three boys, dog and cat, whilst simultaneously preparing sufficient provisions to see three hungry boys through a lengthy journey to deepest Provence. The prospect of going on holiday and having their own pool had the three boys in such an excited state they were 'climbing the walls' and they had, not deliberately, but not very helpfully, managed to communicate the same state of excitement to the dog. Dad was trying manfully to load up the car and keep the front door closed at the same time, succeeding in the former but not the latter, resulting in a number of dog retrieval expeditions down the road. The tour of the house tested our nimbleness of foot as the stairs leading to the two upper floors were populated by a madly rushing, seemingly neverending stream of young boys with assorted bags and gadgets continually charging up and down the stairs, accompanied by a large crazy dog.

Thankfully, the parents resorted to the time honoured and only effective method of settling down young children by switching on the telly and screening the favourite programme of the two youngest. In the ensuing peace and quiet we checked out those house sitting neccessities, the location of the stop cocks and fuseboards and, with the dog being remarkably quiet, we checked out our guest quarters. At this point, the eldest boy arrived in our room and solemnly announced 'Arlo is trying to be sick'. We tried to rush Arlo down two flights of stairs and into the garden but he paused on the middle landing to barf up what looked like a pint of milk of magnesia. Some new wiring had been installed from floor to ceiling on the landing, the old plaster chiselled out, new wiring 'chased' up the wall and finally the whole thing replastered. Not only had Arlo been 'climbing the walls' but he had clearly been eating them and had chewed out and swallowed a metre or more strip of the new plastering leaving the cable once again exposed, prior to fetching it up on the middle landing carpet. This seemed an opportune moment for me to make myself scarce and go help the chap load the car. Unfazed by me regaling him with the tale of his plaster-eating dog, he responded with an impressively long and varied list of items consumed by the dog during his short life which included hats, shoes, gloves, scarves, mobile phones and prescription spectacles. The last of which cost a small fortune to replace and a larger fortune to have surgically removed from the dog. 'Do not ever leave any food unattended, he will steal it', he warned me.

Once the family had departed we headed out to Friday Woods, a nearby Army training facility with huge woods, streams, ponds and heathland, and spent a couple of hours letting him burn off his excess energy. At the end of the two hours, we were pretty worn out while Arlo looked much the same as when we set off. Lunchtime, we made our sandwiches, me a proper sandwich and Lynn a 'Thin' which, for the uninitiated, is an unappetising and unfilling dietary replacement for bread which, so far, despite the premium price, is singularly failing to achieve the desired effect. I sit in the living room to eat mine and Lynn is on the verge of joining me when the doorbell goes. 'I'll get it', she shouts and scurries off to shoo away a Jehovah's Witness or two, returning to the kitchen moments later to be confronted by an empty plate and a Dalmation puppy looking inordinately pleased with itself. Next day, dog paying us rapt attention, she guards her 'Thin' more carefully as we sit down to lunch, takes a small bite, puts her 'Thin' on the side table beside her and reaches forward to take her cup-a-soup from the coffee table, settles back in her chair to find the dog with her 'Thin' hanging out of his mouth about to wolf it down again. Lightning fast, she grabs the 'Thin' from the dog's mouth and, astonishingly, despite the dog having had hold of it, hungrily devours it with a venom that leaves the dog looking somewhat bemused and more than a little afraid. End of problem! Arlo, bless him, didn't steal another item of food throughout our stay.

One of the big plusses of house sitting, dog sitting and cat sitting is getting the chance to explore parts of the country you don't know that well, as well as having the chance to enjoy other people's pets. Tabs, the cat, was a stunning looker who prowled the neighbourhood begging food from easily seduced nearby residents but still came home for an extra dinner and the occasional fuss but otherwise we rarely saw her.

Arlo, on the hand, was ever-present and having a dog with hugely high energy levels who needed copious amounts of exercise meant we explored the local coastline, woods and heath like never before. The Gosbecks Achaeological Park was a superb nearby walking area with 65 hectares of dog walking and running, plus loads of other dogs for Arlo to play with. He had such a great time running with dog-friends here, we made it a once-daily visit and then explored elsewhere for the second walk.

Ignorantly, I had no idea Mersea Island even existed, let along had a regular ferry service to Brightlingsea but we had a fabulous afternoon walking miles and miles of the coastal path of East Mersea Island. The following day we had even better weather and headed to Point Clear for the day where we parked on the headland and walked alongside Brightlingsea Creek and then St Osyth Creek to have a cuppa in the Mill Tea Rooms returning in time to have a fish & chip lunch and pint in the pub. As you will have gathered from our previous house sitting blogs, Lynn likes her post-lunch nap, so once she was settled on her sunbed, Arlo and I headed off the other way up the coast towards Clacton on Sea returning just as the skies started clouding over.

Further exploration took us to Frinton on Sea when the Clacton Air Show was on, so we had a wonderful view of the show while walking Arlo from Frinton to Clacton and back. There is no doubt Arlo was the most high-energy dog we've looked after so far but he was so full of life, it made it a great fun, incredibly rewarding house sitting and dog sitting experience for us. It seems the owners weren't too unhappy with our efforts as they've asked us back for another spell of house sitting, dog sitting and cat sitting in December, though we are hoping we will see a little more of Tabs, the cat, this time and that Lynn isn't going to have to fight for her food!

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