I’ve now cared for pets — dogs, cats, chickens, and a turtle — in five countries: Canada, the US, Spain, the Dominican Republic, and Vanuatu. I’ve highlighted some of the animals and places below. If you live in a warm climate and need a pet sitter between November and March, contact me for my rates and references.
Paradise Cove, Vanuatu
I lived on Paradise Cove, in Vanuatu, from November, 2019, through March, 2020. Coco the dog was my main charge, though I was also responsible for two unnamed chickens and 23 named humans while managing these three beach properties.
Vanuatu is an archipelago of 83 islands. It’s located between Australia and Fiji in the South Pacific. Getting there from Toronto involved three flights over 28 hours: Toronto > Los Angeles > Fiji > Vanuatu. It was my longest journey since visiting Australia in 1995.
The locals, called Ni-Vanuatu or Ni-Vans colloquially, are extremely welcoming. Most are bilingual or trilingual, speaking French, English, or both, along with Bislama, the country’s official tongue.Listen to a Ni-Van Speaking Bislama
Amazingly, there are 112 other native languages.
Though I first heard of Vanuatu while researching a 1989 trip to Fiji that fell through, I’ve found most North Americans I’ve spoken to have never heard of the country, and those that have only know it because Season 9 of Survivor was filmed there.
I’m happy to tell you Vanuatu is an absolutely dream. The people, the climate, the geography, the marine life… all are fantastic. Living there, it was easy to understand how Vanuatu continually places at the top of the Happy Planet Index (Canada placed 105th).
But for the time I spent in the water, I never left the island of Efate, which, though not the largest of the country’s islands, does have the country’s main port, Port Vila, where cruise ships would arrive every few days with tourists from around the world.
Most of my days and nights were spent on the property I was managing in the village of Pango. When not socializing with the neighbors, staff (I became fast friends with housekeepers Marie and Rose), and the guests (mostly Kiwis and Aussies, though a few Europeans as well), I explored Efate by bus, foot, and Ute. Thanks to the kindness of vacationing guests and new friends from Pango, I managed to make my way around the island’s perimeter.
On the map below, you can pinch to zoom out or repeatedly use the “—” button to zoom out and get perspective on Vanuatu’s place on the planet. I was responsible for the marked strip in green, known as “Sal’s Lakatoro”.
The island is full of stray dogs, and I was taken with one ginger bitch in particular. I named her Flowers and, along with my host, set about getting her and her pups to the island’s only vet to be re-homed. I often think of Flowers and regret not finding a way to get her back to Canada. She was a special one, for sure, and we connected instantly, just as I did in 2013 with my current dog, Shakedown.
If you have the opportunity to visit Vanuatu, I’d highly recommend making the journey. I’ve posted some of my favorite photos from my trip below. I’d go back in a heartbeat and in a perfect world would be happy to spend the rest of my days there.
Cabarete, Dominican Republic
Cabarete, in the Dominican Republican, is wonderful — as long as you like it h-o-t! I was there in September and October of 2019. Some days the temperature got as high as 42 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit). The wind was also extreme.
Oddly, it is the second beach I’ve lived on known for world-class kite surfing.
There, I was responsible for Lucky, an indoor cat, and Oh No and Outside, two outdoor cats. This gig included a chauffeur and maid/cook, who were wonderful people. Like when I lived in Spain, I took advantage of the cook by getting her to teach me how to make one of my favorite dishes: Spanish Tortilla. The Dominicans do it quite differently than the Spanish, giving the meal a more “home cooked” and simple vibe. Delicious either way.
Playa Oliva, Spain
I’d been hired to look after Blanche the cat in Playa Oliva, Spain. Playa means beach in Spanish, so essentially I was going to spend three months with a cat in a house on the Spanish Mediterranean. It was the first extended gig I’d accepted after the stroke which caused me to sell my former record store, Good Music, and it sounded pretty relaxing to me.
Three weeks into it, when Blanche’s owner decided to return early from her holiday due to reasons that had nothing to do with me or Blanche, my trip turned into something quite unexpected that involved multiple British expats, a lovable crooked cop, a turtle-as-roommate, a deranged, thirsty fan of Arthur Lee, and had me living in Oliva, proper, with a retired baker-turned-gangster cactus thief who fed fingernails to his dog, Cookie.
Los Angeles County
I first visited Los Angeles County in 2010 when a director read a screenplay of mine and suggested I come visit him in Venice. Though nothing came of that project, I loved the weather, the architecture, the food, and the people, and ended up spending almost 4 years there over the next decade, most of it pet sitting in 3 months stints. I’ve lived in:
Marina del Rey
Marina del Rey
For a time I considered moving to LA permanently. One of my clients is an immigration lawyer and offered to do the paperwork for me. But things just started going sideways.
I was pet sitting in Beverly Glen in December of 2017 during the Skirball fire, which was insanely scary. My client’s home was two houses away from the street that was the dividing line for the mandatory evacuation zone. Smoke was everywhere and soot was falling from the sky. (Incidentally it was a referral from this client that led directly to me being hired to dog sit in Vanuatu during cyclone season. I was now the Pet Sitter for Danger Zones.)
The following year I was in Santa Monica when the Woolsey Fire was spreading in Malibu. I was completely safe, this time, but I was starting to sour on the place. In January, 2019, I tripped on the sidewalk and took a header into a fence, badly cutting my arm, breaking my nose, and fracturing my right knee and left wrist. Though I always have insurance when I travel, I experienced the worst healthcare of my life. Absolutely dreadful. I haven’t been back to America since and am not eager to return.
Eventually I’ll post a bunch of my LA architecture photos to the Projects section, but for now here are some of my favorite clients from Los Angeles County.
My only “not overnight” client and my only Toronto client, Oslick is a Devon Rex crossed with a Shushkin Munchkin. Yes, those are breeds of cats. He’s tiny, affectionate, and a good friend.