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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Off the Grid: Confessions of a house sitter

By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

Recently, I offered to house-sit for a friend of mine who lives in a normal house in a normal town with normal things.

For some reason, she seemed compelled to give me pretty extensive instructions on the workings of such a home. She even preset the heating system for me.

I promised my friend that the house would be cared for, all Amazon packages brought safely indoors, and the dogs kept to their diet and walked. I basically consider myself a dog whisperer, anyway. Her Costco bin of treats would make that easy.

Those are basically the only challenges of city life. The rest of the urban experience holds a sense of novelty for me. People have things I don’t have. Like frozen burritos and age-defying creams. And Hulu. And locks on their doors.

When in this new environment, I become overwhelmed with an urge to expose myself to all the modern delights from which I have been otherwise sheltered. Everything seems new and exciting, like when you go to Europe for the first time and all the cars seem so tiny and cute. For nearly a week, I satiated myself pretending to live a life that wasn’t mine and gawking at a UPS truck that comes all the way to the door. (I only see them on my road when they get lost.)

When I returned to my mountain oasis with my hippie shampoo and my whole-grain steel-cut oats, I left a letter for my friend to let her know everything had gone well enough.

Dear Shannon,

Welcome home! I hope your trip was relaxing and you are happy to return to your well-kept house! Here a few updates for you as you settle in:

I learned how to use your forced-air system. It maintains the indoor temperature even if you open all the windows all the time! Something seems to be wrong with your fridge though – instead of filling my glass with water it just puts ice in it.

The dogs might have gained a little weight. I tried to train them and they are definitely food-motivated but unwilling to learn anything new. They have met some of your neighbors for the first time. Most of them, actually, as they ran from house to house with threatening barks to demand treats, like some kind of rabid canine Halloween. I had no idea a corgi could be so fierce or fast. The local authorities know them on a first-name basis now, too.

If you smell fish, it’s because I accidentally blew up a salmon fillet in your microwave. Did you know that fish should be covered in there? But not with a metal lid, as I also now know.

I finished that puzzle you’ve been working on for a while. There is a piece missing – maybe check the yard this week. The dogs might have mistaken it for a snack.

Speaking of the dogs, they learned how to drink out of the toilet, which seems to never run out of water. Unlike their water bowl, which I just stopped filling eventually. This might make it easier to find that puzzle piece. Just water the lawn and look for something colorful.

I felt a little sick and used one of your rapid COVID tests. It was negative (which is good because I drank out of some containers in the fridge). I put everything back and stuck a Q-tip in the envelope so you can reuse it. Also, you might want to organize under your bathroom sink. The 5-S Process is really great for addressing chaos like that.

You’re almost out of shaving cream and conditioner. That menthol shaving cream needs a warning label – there are places you really should not shave with it.

There was a beautiful shirt in your closet that caught my eye. It fit so well I brought it home with me. I’ll try to find a replacement on eBay for you in a color that goes better with your skin tone. Which reminds me, you might be low on your night cream, too. That stuff is amazing. It feels expensive.

You are out of artisan chocolates. I saw those last time I was over and figured you didn’t like them . You’re welcome.

I wasn’t sure how much dish soap to put in the dishwasher because I didn’t have a full load, even with my running shoes in there (they had picked up some dog droppings in the back yard). You’re a little low on Dawn and the kitchen floor might still be a bit sticky from the suds leakage. You’d think they’d make those things seal better. So much for modern convenience.

I figured out how to use the Netflix. Maybe check the kids’ profiles as I used it to watch “Fight Club” and some reality TV. Now its recommending Chuck Palahniuk films and some new series on dancers from Vegas. I had no idea they could show so much on TV these days.

Oh, and if the vet calls, tell them I found the whole sponge and most of the ketchup lid. Maybe rake the yard before you mow again. I think some other things went missing from the counter.

Let me know next time you’re leaving town! I’m happy to house-sit any time.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted (for house-sitting gigs or otherwise) at

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