Often our clients and friends ask about our travels and our house and pet sitting experiences and we thought that a blog would be a good way to share our stories both past and present.

We have met and made friends with some lovely humans, canines and felines over the past 5 years and we hope that you enjoy reading about our pet sitting and house sitting experiences as much as we enjoy regaling our "tails"!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Wishing our clients Past, Present and Future

a Very Merry Christmas

and a Happy and Peaceful New Year

from Tracy and Della at Chez Vous

click on the link below to see the show

Instead of sending out Christmas Cards this year we have sponsored a puppy. Click on site below to see what the clever dogs do.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Shropshire Good Life

October saw us in the rural surrounds of Shropshire, looking after a small holding with horses, sheep, chickens and cats.

Where space allows, folk seem to be coming back to the idea of self-sufficiency, even if it is just to keep a few hens for eggs.

This lifestyle was recently relived in the BBC2 programme 'Giles and Sue live the good life.' In this series they recreated the efforts that Tom and Barbara Good went to to be self sufficient. It turned out to be a lot more labour intensive and time consuming than they thought.

Their set up was perhaps a bit too self sufficient for most people. On our sits we do find that elements of self sufficiency, whether it be a veggie plot or just some hens, do feature.

The work and dedication involved in looking after animals and tending veggies, in our opinion, is well worth the effort. We always get a kick out of the fact that we are eating food just picked from the garden. We find looking after and tending to animals very relaxing and rewarding, even if it is pouring with rain, and freezing cold when the horses need bringing in and the hens need shutting in their house for the night.

At the end of the day, with flora and fauna, you reap far more than you sew.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Ass you like it... Donkey days in France

A number of our clients have pets that have come from rescue centres. Sophie, a lady who we sit regularly for, has 6 cats, two dogs and two chickens, as well as two donkeys. They all have their issues brought from previous lives, but are now comfortable together, being given a second chance to be loved.

Here in South West France there are a lot of donkeys. They are good for keeping down the courser vegetation, like brambles and thistles. They will eat bark from the trees though, which is not good for the trees.

They require a shelter as they don't like to get too wet. Their coat takes a long time to dry out if they are without shelter.

These donkeys are very tidy and have a particular area for their bathroom. There is always plenty of 'help' with all the chores around the grounds.

They need the same care and attention as horses, daily brushing, picking out their feet, summer and winter routines.

They are very mischievous, nosey and playful, and are great fun to look after. They are a great alarm call if you happen to be late getting up.

They need company and make great companions for other animals.

Links to Donkey sanctuarys in France and UK:

Friday, 11 June 2010

RIP Maxwell & Serioja

We had sad news back in the summer that two of the pets, we looked after the previous year, had passed away, in Keri Keri, North Island, New Zealand.

Max the dog, was a very sweet boy, although he had trouble getting about he always found his inner-puppy on a daily basis, when he knew we were going to take him for a walk or play with the ball. The energy didn't last for long, but he enjoyed himself.

If he disappeared for a short time we always knew that he would be off visiting his friend George, for a dog with mobility issues, we were always amazed at just how fast he got to George's house.

Whilst he was in our care we were charged with the task of putting him on a strict diet, which slowly, but surely began to show in his physique. We had the whole neighbourhood behind our cause, noting the progress Max was making on his daily walks.

We progressed from a slow amble to an almost sprightly jaunt! Hopefully this all helped to make his last days on Earth more comfortable.

We will always remember this big imposing-looking dog hiding under the study desk as the 'low battery' warning sound on the fire alarm went off. For days after he looked warily at the ceiling.

Serioja the cat was also very loving and very close to Max. The two were never very far apart from each other.

As with all of our 'foster pets' they both have a special place in our hearts and minds.

We know Max will be enjoying his new found freedom with Serioja by his side.

Friday, 30 April 2010

African Grey Parrots - South of France

Having got caught up in the flight disruptions caused by the Icelandic volcano, we are glad to be back in France on our current house sit.Align Centre

We are in a small village just north of Carcassonne, looking after two small dogs, an elderly cat, an aged Camargue pony, 7 chickens and 3 African Gray parrots.

Our current house is a converted windmill on top of a mountain with 360 degree views over the surrounding countryside, giving us superb sunrises and sunsets.

This is our first time looking after African Gray parrots. We have been looking forward to getting to know this beautiful bird.

We are looking after 3 African Parrots.

Cookie is a male bird caught in the wild. He was initially very shy with us, and stayed in his nesting box just poking out his head. Gradually, day by day, he has got braver, sings us a lovely tune and bobs his head up and down. By the end of the week he was staying out on his perch when we entered the aviary.

Sugar is a female bird and was raised in captivity. She is much braver with us, and from day one she had stayed out on the perch, gradually coming up to us to take a peanut from us.

Baby is the offspring of Cookie and Sugar, this is a rare occurance, and was not expected by the owners. He/she is now about 6 months old and the gender is not yet known. He was very shy of us to start with, growling when you approached his nesting box. At the end of the first week, he was getting braver, staying out on the perch and singing to us.

We sat in with the birds to start with, just chatting to them. We had a pet owner's manual to give us some background information and what to look out for in terms of behaviour and what it means.

These birds are extremely intellegent and we wanted to learn how to communicate with the birds, in order to build their trust. The first thing we learnt was not to look at them directly to be less intimidating, and we sat down in the aviary to make ourselves smaller.

Our first breakthrough was reading that when a parrot wants to gesture to another parrot that he wants peaceful contact he rubs his bill (whetting) against a branch, by rubbing our fingernails againgst a branch or on wood, this sends the same signal. The first time we tried it Sugar came right up towards us and started whetting his bill, mirroring our gesture.

We were also told that parrots may try and peck your hand, but this does not necessarily mean it is being nasty, we were told not to flinch away from the peck, or scream "ouch!" as this will shake the bird's confidence! Sugar has pecked Della a couple of times, and she managed not to react or pull away each time.

More info on African Gray Parrots

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Aloha Hawaii

We have left colder climes for the sunny and warm island of Hawaii. Land of volcano, waterfalls and lush rain forests. The flowers and birds here are very colourful and the sea is blue.

Our latest assignment is looking after two rescue dogs called Freda and Sadie. Both dogs are female and 12 years old.

Freda a mixed breed.
She is a very sweet girl, a bit arthritic but loves playing with a frisby. Is a bit of a sun worshiper as well, a good pass time in Hawaii.

Sadie an Australian cattle dog.
Sadie loves to herd anything that is moving, and will nudge you along on your ankles with her nose. She is very active and follows us everywhere, offering her help. The link below gives some more background information on the breed.


Monday, 22 March 2010

Vancouver Island

We are in our final week of house sitting in Qualicum Beach,Vancouver Island. The time has passed very quickly, and we making sure we catch up with everyone before we leave.

This time of year brings the Brant geese, in their hundreds to the area. They are migrating from Mexico on their way to Alaska to mate. They stop off in our neighbourhood to feed and restore some of the weight they have lost on their journey so far.

Their migration co-insides with the herring spawn. There has been a great deal of activity all along the coast with sea lions, harbour seals, fishermen and tonnes of sea gulls. They are all waiting to have their fill of the herring, which spawn in their thousands before heading back out to deeper waters.

The water colour is black at first with the number of fish, and then it goes a turquoise colour when the eggs have been laid. The sea lions can be heard barking all night and they compete for the fish with the gulls in a feeding frenzy.

Where we are house sitting we have had a ring side seat throughout all of these proceedings. Since the first day of Spring, the weather is gradually getting warmer, the frogs are croaking in the pond and the ducks are beginning to pair off. The Bald Eagles, having finished nest building back in February, are now staying closer to the nest, perhaps the young won't be long arriving.

The cherry trees are in blossom and the daffodils and crocus are blooming. We arrived as the trees were losing their leaves back in November, and we will be leaving with signs of new life all around us.

On this house sit we have made many new friends and we will keep in touch with them from now on, via the Internet. We have had some marvelous experiences with the SPCA and ETRA, and helping out at local charity events around Christmas. We have met many of the neighbours in our street, everyone making us very welcome, and part of the community. We feel like locals.

We will be leaving Angus in the capable hands of his owners. He has been a pleasure to look after, and we will miss him. We have loads of photos to remind us of the fun the three of us have had.

Monday, 22 February 2010

SPCA - Class of 2010

We had the last session with the puppies today. They are old enough to be spayed or neutered and be put up for adoption.

They are all proficient in sitting, lying down and coming towards us. They have all had walkies training on the lead, and are fully socialised with humans.

They have grown and learnt so much in their short time with us.

We have all got our favorites. Here is Della with Bernard, he is a favorite of many. He is very placid, and serves as a lovely pillow for the other puppies.

Tracy's favorite is Buffy. She is the most intellegent of the litter, she picks up everything she is taught very quickly.

It was a bitter sweet day, knowing that we will see them all go soon, but knowing they are going to have a family to love them.

We feel we have all played a part in giving them the best start in life. Puppies learn the so much, right or wrong, from when they are very young, and what they learn, makes them the dogs they become.

We have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a dog trainer and these puppies, the opportunity doesn't present itself very often. We have learnt a great deal, and will continue to seek out further reading in the future.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sidewalking at ETRA

I have completed a couple of sessions now at the riding centre.

The same clients come each week. The first session was taken up with getting every one's stirrups to the correct level, the right person on the right horse, and so on.

We did manage to go on a trek outside, along the bridle path, which was very pleasant, out in the fresh air. It was necessary to stop a few times, to get some riders comfortable, and used to their horses, but in the main it went very well.

The clients on the Tuesday session that I help at don't need to be held whilst they are riding along, so this makes it easier for the side walkers, who are able to avoid the puddles and obstacles on the ground. We just have to hold them when going in and out of the barn, (going from light to dark environments can sometimes spook the horses), we have to be prepared for this eventuality.

I have had a different client each week, and each one has thoroughly enjoyed their time, in their own unique way. One client is blind, and sings a tune to themselves, and smiles the whole way round, There are children and adults and each get something from their experience.

The ponies/horses are very placid and take all the noises and sudden movements in their stride.

Our little troop of 4 horses being led by a pony handler, with one rider and two side walkers either side, and the instructor behind with a megaphone, is a merry little parade, chatting and squealing and laughing and singing.

The hour session is over very quickly, after we have finished the trek, we come back into the arena and have a little trot, depending on ability. All too quickly the clients are led up to the dismounting block where they reluctantly bid farewell to their pony/horse, until next week.

The helpers have a 15 minute break before the next clients arrive. Someone has usually made cakes or cookies, and there is tea or coffee to drink.

I leave each week, feeling that I have helped to put a smile on some one's face, and that thought puts a smile on mine !

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Puppy Training

Our weekly training sessions have proved very effective with the puppies at the shelter.
Align Centre
The group has progressed steadily, they all sit when given the hand signal, they will then lie down and then stand up when they are given the signal.

We are varying the task slightly and have begun to increase the time between when the dog sits to when he gets his reward for sitting. Also we have let him sit, them moved one step to the side and then back in front of the dog before giving him the treat if he is still sitting.

They have been getting used to wearing a collar. The collar has been put on when they first come into the training room and are chasing about, not paying attention to the collar. Another good time to try the collar is when they are very sleepy, and about to go to sleep.

We have been getting them used to being picked up, being grabbed by their tails, from behind, by their ears etc, making it a fun thing to be handled by humans.

They are very quick learners, and when they are old enough, they will be very adoptable.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Volunteering with Theraputic Riding Centre, BC

Della recently saw an ad in the local paper asking for 'sidewalker' volunteers at the Therapeutic Riding Association.

This is a local group, which initially started as a back yard pleasure riding session for three challenged high school students. Over the years the group of dedicated volunteers built up the association, and became a registered society in 1989.

They are members of CanTRA, Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association, and BCTRA, British Columbia Therapeutic Riding Association.

I have been involved with Driving for the Disabled, affiliated to the RDA, Riding for the disabled, in the UK, and was keen to help out here if possible.

An orientation session was organised for Tuesday 26th January. 18 new volunteers turned up for the session, which was a really good turn out. We were shown the routine, from when a client enters the barn, whilst they are riding and then to facilitate them leaving the arena.

It was very interesting, and everyone was very friendly.

Safety is paramount.

I learnt that the horse's movement provides the same sensory input as the movement of a normal human gait.

The act of riding improves strength in muscles, especially posture, and this improves balance and co-ordination.

Self - esteem is improved as well as confidence.

The rider can also feel a sense of independence with this exercise in the form of fun.

we learnt what our responsibilities would be as a volunteer and what to do when we met the rider.

Safety and barn rules were explained to us.

I left the barn looking forward to the coming week when I would be able to meet the riders.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Helping with weight loss

Putting Your Dog On A Diet for Weight Loss

We sat for a lovely dog in New Zealand who had become overweight due to his age, and too many treats. He was very much loved, but the vet had put him on a strict diet and had banned all treats. This was very hard for his owners and we arrived at just the right time to kick start his regime.

We were sitting for 6 weeks, so we had a good amount of time get him into a new routine.

He was a Cattle dog cross, and in his 10th year. He was very sweet natured.

To get your dog started on a lifestyle change and diet that is needed to help an already overweight dog start to get in shape, consider the following:

Reduce food intake - We started by cutting out all snacks, treats and food items other than the actual dog food. This meant no high carb or sugary treats, no extra little scraps from the table or even any dog cookies. High quality treats can be reintroduced to the diet on a very limited amount once the weight has been lost.

The vet had prescribed a very low calorie dry food. Most dogs will lose weight even on regular kibble provided all the other aspects of the plan are followed. Ask your vet for recommendations for foods that would be beneficial to your particular dog. We switched the food gradually from meat to dry food to avoid digestive problems. Don’t worry if the dog refuses to eat the dry, especially if it is a picky eater, it will eat when it gets hungry. He resisted for a day, but soon got stuck in when he realised nothing else was coming. The vet advised us that if your dog does not eat for two days and you are exercising the dog as outlined contact your vet before proceeding with the food selection.

Increase exercise - and this involved our participation. Max simply did not exercise himself. Putting them outside in the yard for an extra hour doesn’t count since they will likely take a leisurely stroll around the yard, find a comfortable spot and rest. You must make them keep moving. Take them on a leash for a walk around the block at least twice a day. Once they can do one block, increase to two and keep increasing the distance and the pace of the exercise. Start slow and gradually increase to avoid stressing both the dog and yourself! Max could not walk very far, we started on a short walk and increased it every day.

Increase play times. We threw max a ball or a stick, or played a game of tag or chase. Start slow, even just rolling the ball to get the dog involved. Lots of praise and attention during the game will help keep them motivated and engaged. We timed it to when he was feeling a bit more lively, like when he was due for a walk.

Max had a 'friend' just a few houses away, and would take himself off for a wander to go see George, another dog. It is good for dogs to play with other dogs, this is a great form of exercise for them.

We checked the yard and house for hidden food items. Many dogs have learned to get into the garbage, get into cupboards and raid the treat boxes or even get into candy dishes left on the coffee table. Remove all sources of food from where the dog can access.

We took the dog to the vet at the beginning of our stay to weigh him, and introduce ourselves. We then returned every 2 weeks to see if any progress was being made. The weight reduced very slowly, partly because Max couldn't exercise very much, but gradually it started to show, around his neck, and hips.

Keep on the plan for two weeks, decreasing each meal by one quarter and doubling a reasonable level of exercise. You should notice a slight weight loss in this period. You can either weigh the dog by using a standard bath scale or, for large breeds, simply use a measuring tape around the widest part of the their body. If you have followed the plan and are decreasing food, increasing exercise and cutting out all treats and do not notice even a slight decrease in weight after two weeks see your veterinarian immediately to rule out any medical problems.

We had great support from the neighbours who saw us out every day, everyone asked us his weight and encouraged us along the way. He lost 40kg in the 6 weeks we looked after him, so we were very pleased.

When Max's family returned they were very pleased with the progress and have continued with the food and exercise regime. He is much more mobile now.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Puppy Training - Playing Doctor

Once the puppies were comfortably exploring their new environment we were asked to pick them up and hold them.

We were told that if a puppy is physically comfortable, he will be mentally comfortable. So we had to make sure we were holding them correctly. If they started to struggle, we had to hold them until they relaxed and then put them down.

We were told if we put them down when they are struggling, this will lead to the wrong message being taught them.

We did not call the puppies to us to be picked up, but just picked them up without them coming to us.

We then settled them down on our laps, comforting them and allowing them to relax. We then lifted the flap of their ear and if they let us do this we said "yes" and gave them a little treat. The "yes" has to come at the right time, and only when they are relaxed and you are lifting the ear. Otherwise the message is misunderstood.

We progressed on from the ears to the eyes, spreading each side of the eye with two fingers. Then we concentrated on a spot of their backs, separating the fur, as if looking for ticks. We separated each claw, front and back paws. Lifted their tails and checked their bums.

Every time the action was allowed in a calm accepting way, we said "yes" and gave them a small treat.

Different dogs will have different tolerance levels. Tracy's puppy fell asleep in her arms whilst she was performing the different tasks, where as mine was squirming, wanting to get down and play. Perhaps my puppy wasn't so comfortable on my lap. I am going to us a towel on my lap next time, to pad out my lap a bit more.

Puppy Training - The Sit

We have started a course of lessons at the SPCA to learn how to train and socialise puppies.

A bitch has been brought in very under-nourished, with 9 puppies. They are now 5-6weeks old. They all had a large worm burden, and have big fat tummies.

The worming programme has been completed now and so they will not be so pot-bellied for much longer.

We were shown today how to show a puppy how to sit.
  1. Grab a handful of soft, chewy treats, or whatever your new pup likes best.
  2. Get your puppy's attention.
  3. When he comes closer, hold one of the treats to his nose, use as a nose magnet.
  4. Push your hand forward towards his back. He'll have to sit down to reach it.
  5. Don't hold the treat too high.
  6. As soon as his bottom hits the floor, say "yes."
  7. Repeat often, always say the word "yes" as he starts to sit down.
  8. Remember to say "Yes" everytime he sits.
  9. When they have grasped this, start moving around and calling the puppy to you, repeat the process until he sits, then move again and call the dog.
  10. It did not take long before when they heard the word "Yes" they were looking for food.


  • Keep training lessons short, and repeat often. Five minute sessions, four or five times daily will keep the knowledge fresh in his mind, but will also keep him from being bored.

  • We were amazed how quickly the puppies responded. The word "sit" has not been introduced yet, this will come later.

    Over the next few sessions we will work through a list of tasks to get the puppies used to human company and make them as adoptable as possible.me
    Many short, fun sessions are best, and ending on dog wants to please you.

    Thursday, 7 January 2010

    Training puppies - Handling

    Today we learnt how to get the puppies used to being handled. If they feel comfortable being held and handled at an early age, this will help them in later life.

    We were first shown how to hold a puppy. If you want to carry your puppy you will need to hold the dog to your chest by placing your hand in between the puppy's front legs and the crook of your arm supporting his back end. The length of your arm is supporting him under his tummy. For bigger puppies two hands will be needed.

    Don't attempt to grab him by the coat on his neck the way his mother used to do. Remember that female dogs are intentionally supposed to hold their puppies this way and they know how to and puppies do not resist their mothers when they do; another factor is that they only hold them a few inches away from the ground. Don't attempt to pick up a dog of any age from under their front legs, like a baby, This will cause injury.

    We wrapped the puppies in a towel for their first pick up, just to give them some more security.

    We took 4 puppies into a quiet space where they could explore without any danger. We sat on the floor still holding them and giving them encouraging noises. We then opened the towels and let the dogs decide whether they wanted to get down or stay in our laps. Some were quicker to explore that others.

    To put your puppy back down on the floor, gently place him back on the ground; don't just let him jump out of your arms as the puppy could end up getting hurt.