When our full time pet-sitting routine ground to a halt in March 2020, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we had no idea just how long we’d be without furry friends. Over the past two and a half years we’ve gotten used to having temporary pets while housesitting, whether walking dogs, feeding donkeys or simply curling up on the sofa with a cat in our laps. After four and a half months of no travel, no housesits, and no pets, we began to miss the strange familiarity of unfamiliarity – the new and exciting adventures we have on a regular basis with our nomadic lifestyle. This is how we found ourselves re-joining the website that started our pet-sitting journey: Borrow My Doggy.

Living in Brighton in 2017, the last time we had a place of our own, we joined Borrow My Doggy as a way to bring some fluffy joy into our lives. Chris was working 9-5, while Suze was having a difficult time managing her anxiety disorder and she struggled to leave the house each day. Meeting local dog owners not only gave her the opportunity to meet new people, but walking dogs gave her a reason to leave the house and get some fresh air (even if just for the dog to go for a wee!) and most of the time she didn’t realise she’d managed to get outside until she was halfway around the park. We looked after a variety of dogs, from a sleepy Greyhound to an energetic PugxStaff, and two rescue terriers who we still occasionally pet-sit three years after first meeting them!

Moving back to Suze’s parents’ house in Sevenoaks last month, we took some time to settle into life in a busy town. (We’d been at a remote workaway for the first three months of lockdown) After a few weeks of repeating all the local walks, we started to think about ways to have a little four-legged companion by our sides to give our wanderings some focus. In lieu of starting up our back-to-back housesitting before we felt ready, we re-activated our Borrow My Doggy profile.

Creating a profile on Borrow My Doggy is free – you can upload photos of yourself, write about why you want to borrow doggies, plus browse the dogs in your area! If you want to contact an owner to borrow their dog, however, you have to pay for an annual membership. By doing so you become a Premium member – owners and borrowers without Premium membership cannot use the messaging system, as only by becoming a Premium member are both parties covered by Borrow My Doggy’s insurance. Premium membership is marked with a little crown on your profile, which makes it easy to see which owners you can contact when looking for doggies to borrow. We paid £12.99 for a year of membership as dog borrowers, which we feel is worth every penny!

A current preview of our Borrow My Doggy profile

From our experience, both in Brighton and Sevenoaks, we’ve only come across one minor flaw with Borrow My Doggy. In our opinion, there should be a tick box on an owner’s profile to indicate whether they’re actually in need of someone to borrow their dog at the time. Which leads us to our biggest piece of advice when using BMD: Message more than one person! When contacting owners in Sevenoaks we quickly remembered this strategy, as upon checking our inbox we realised we’d only received replies from 50% of the owners we’d messaged in Brighton – even though they all had premium membership. BMD currently doesn’t offer monthly membership, leading to lots of owners who, we suppose, have needed borrowers earlier in the year but are no longer looking. In Sevenoaks, we’ve so far contacted five owners: One of whom we’ve met (more on that below!), another who messaged to arrange a meeting but has since gone quiet, another who said they didn’t need anyone right now, and the other two haven’t got back to us at all. You might have your heart set on borrowing a cute Pug but it doesn’t always work out that way, and you’re better off going into the process with an open mind – being willing to look after any breed as long as you’re comfortable with the dog and their availability.

A handful of the doggies in our area on Borrow My Doggy!

Onto the positive: Our first walkies in over four months! Less than a week after we contacted Nina to borrow her dog, we met for a socially-distanced introduction with three-year-old rescue Spike. We talked about his behaviour, his likes and dislikes, our experience, their availability – making sure that we were all comfortable. We arranged a day for our first walkies with Spike, and a few days later we picked him up and took him to a lovely grassy spot close to Suze’s parents’ house. We spent some time sitting with him while keeping him on the lead – just getting him used to us and enjoying lots of cuddles! We went for walks down quiet residential streets and through our local park, before dropping Spike back home. His owner text us later in the evening to say he was knackered, and we could borrow him again whenever we like!

It’s worth mentioning that every Borrow My Doggy situation is different. When we lived in Brighton, two of the owners we were in contact with would drop their dogs to us on their way to work, or an event, when arranged. Another dog we borrowed lived just around the corner from us, and the owner gave us a key to her flat so we could easily pop round (with permission!) to take Bella for walkies if they would be out for the day.

Overall it’s a brilliant mutually-beneficial exchange for all, much like house- and pet-sitting. Owners can find free dog care from experienced pet-lovers, Borrowers get to make new four-legged friends and satisfy cravings for furry cuddles (as we did!), and doggies get more playtime and walkies! We’re so grateful BMD exists, especially at this time when the pandemic has put a stop to our full time pet-sitting. We’re looking forward to another playdate with Spike, and finding more doggo pals to hang out with while we’re here in Sevenoaks!

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