tree frog

Merry Menagerie

TrustedHousesitters is the answer Linda Silva found for leaving her unusual cast of pets at home while she was away — and it cost her nothing.

Carl Schoemig Current Digital, Home & Design, Pets, Real Estate

tree frog

Desert resident Linda Silva rescued this tree frog and now it's one of the pets she leaves in the care of a house sitter using the app, Trusted Housesitters.

Linda Silva’s list of pets she owns goes beyond the traditional dog or cat. Her desert home is also where her pet tree frog, a 60-year-old tortoise, and blue and gold Macaw parrot reside. So imagine when she wants to take a vacation what it could take to find someone to babysit all of them.

“It was almost impossible to find a person who would stay overnight,” Silva recalls.

She initially enlisted the help of neighbors, but then during a search for Airbnbs she saw an ad for TrustedHousesitters. The online platform, launched in 2010 and active in 130 countries, connects pet-lovers to solve a common two-sided dilemma: pet care and cost-effective travel. The website offers a network of pet sitters who sit for free in exchange for a place to stay.

“We like to think of TrustedHousesitters as Airbnb for the pet-obsessed – minus the price tag, plus the added bonus of a furry friend to keep you company during your travels,” says the TrustedHousesitters Team.

Linda Silva says her 60-year-old tortoise requires the most maintenance while she is away.

Silva says her first experience with TrustedHousesitters was so good that she has used the service for the last eight years.

“I have not had a bad experience,” Silva says. “Obviously I'm in the desert, I have a gal in Canada, and she always wants to be the first on my list. Once you establish people, then you can always get the same people that like to come and stay in your place. That's nice. You don't always have to start with somebody new.”

According to TristedHouseitters, they put all sitters through a verification process which includes a background check, an ID check, references, and confirmation of a working email address and phone number. “Beside that each sitter (and homeowner) is user-reviewed by others on the platform -- much like Airbnb,” says the Trusted Housesitters Team. “Owners can see whether or not the sitter has completed an identity check on their profile.”

In addition to using the service, Silva also pet sits for others. One connection took her to Monterey, California, where the owners wanted her to come the night before. “They had a chance to get to know me and feel comfortable with me taking care of their cat,” Silva says. “The place was absolutely gorgeous. I had to take care of one cat. I brushed him, and I took pictures which I sent them. It was spectacular. They have since asked me back.”

Palm Springs Life chatted more with Silva about her experiences with the pet/house-sitting platform.

Linda Silva with her pet Macaw.

What was it about the TrustedHousesitters that convinced you to use it and stay with it?

I studied the reviews. I could look up everybody; see what everybody had to say about their experience. The app is so simple to use, and you get a real good idea. I wanted to make sure that this was really legit. It did seem like it could be that people would actually house sit and love your pets and be part of your world for nothing.There is no payment involved between the two parties.  It is unbelievable because you get nothing for free, but that's not how this was at all. Like I had a couple that lost their West Highland terrier a year ago to cancer. They saw that I have a Westie, they were like, "Oh, we just really want to be with a dog that's like our dog." Knowing that these people would come and just love my dog for free, you can't get it any better than that. My dogs get to stay in their own home and have people love them every day.

What are the advantages of using this app versus boarding your pet or using other alternatives?

Probably the biggest plus is no stress on the pet at all, because they're home. It's cheap. It's free. You have somebody who's sitting in your home, so you don't have to worry about theft or burglary. I am having the comfort of knowing that there are people here who want to be here. Almost every pet sitter that's ever sat for me, sends me pictures every night. I have all the texts. It's nice to get a picture and see that your dog is laying on the lap of somebody while they're watching TV. You don't get that in a kennel. You don't get that with any other service.

Did you find people were open to taking care of a variety of pets versus just a dog or cat?

Yes. I think that's the beauty of the app. I ask people, "You said you've taken care of reptiles. Exactly what reptiles have you taken care of?" The communication is right on the site, and it's very quick. People get right back to you, whether you're the sitter or the sittee.  People fall in love with the desert tortoise. He's actually the most work. Feeding the dogs is easy, but you have to constantly be chopping up lettuce and vegetables for the tortoise.

What was your most unusual house or pet sitting experience?

It was probably in England. They had  two big dogs that weren’t that unusual, but I wasn't used to driving on the other side of the road. I didn't do it very well. So I decided it was best for me to walk everywhere.

• READ NEXT: Influencer Krys Melo Restores Her 1958 Rancho Mirage Home.