I know the moment I fell in love with Marcus. I was housesitting in Kent and caring for two terriers. On an early date, I suggested we take the pups for a long walk through the winding country roads in “my” neighborhood. Secretly, it was a test: How canine-compatible were we?
We were so engrossed in our conversation, we walked farther than intended. The younger terrier was in Heaven, exploring off-lead and getting a great workout. The older girl, however, was lagging and getting weary. Before I knew it, Marcus had scooped up all fifteen pounds of her wriggling weight and tucked her muddy little body into his coat. He carried her the whole way home! That was it: I was a smitten kitten.
Our relationship bloomed through each succeeding housesit. Since I live in Los Angeles and housesit in Mexico six months/year while I rent out my house to vacationers, and he lives in London caring for his mum while he rents out his home in rural Wales, housesitting provided us the opportunity to be in the same postal code.
First, we housesat together for two weeks in Cardiff for two lively whippets. We explored the docks, the canals and each other during our marathon dog walks and chats. (We’re looking forward to returning to this magical home this summer!) Next, we spent a month together in Twickenham, a stone’s throw from the Thames, where Marcus charmed a feisty calico – and me. We dined in riverside restaurants, played Scrabble in the local pub and competed over whose lap the cat would choose while we cuddled on the couch watching movies.
That fall, he flew to Mexico to join me in my recurring housesit for ChaCha, the rambunctious, smart pit/lab rescue I care for every spring and fall. Within moments he had ChaCha eating out of his hand – both literally and figuratively. She reveled in the double-dose of playmates and I reveled in sharing the stunning views of Lake Chapala with my new British beau.
I just returned from a quick trip to the U.K. for his daughter’s wedding and spent an extra week housesitting in Sussex where Marcus joined me every night after work. We romped in London and revisited Richmond, hitting old haunts that were now “our” places. And we’re conspiring for him join me this summer in Kuala Lumpur at the tail end of a two-week housesit so we can explore Borneo together!
But, honestly, I knew from the beginning Marcus was The One. On our first date, back when I first arrived at my housesit in Kent, we decided to meet at a Polish restaurant in South Kensington, giving each other a half-hour window because we were both coming from outside the city. While we were on the phone, he researched which train I’d catch; it would take an hour.
Date morning dawned bright and crisp. I left two hours early, just in case. Delays started immediately: I couldn’t figure out how to lock the front door. (What is it with British locks?) Finally tamed tricky lock; twenty minutes wasted. Took wrong turn driving to the train station; thirty minutes shot. Missed my train; another fifteen minutes until the next one. Cellphone died en route and I couldn’t access Marcus’ number. Tube into South Ken was running behind. I burst into the restaurant, an hour and a half late, disheveled, flushed from hot flashes; all heads turned toward me.
And there was Marcus, calmly sipping a glass of wine. “I’m so, so sorry,” I gushed slipping into the chair opposite him. He ordered me a glass of wine. “I’m really sorry,” I started to relay my saga.
He looked at me and quietly interrupted, “I knew you’d come.”
I breathed deeply and smiled. “And I knew you’d still be here.”
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While writing a book about her experiences in the Middle East with Iraqi refugees, Kelly Hayes-Raitt has been housesitting fulltime since 2009, enjoying editorial assistance from a variety of felines and canines. She’s just written How to Become a Housesitter: Insider Tips from the HouseSit Diva and blogs at www.HouseSitDiva.com