Warning to unexpected visitors: this is a dog’s house

Published 9:57 am Friday, August 19, 2011

“Now, Pam,” warned my friend, Sue, sotto voce, placed a hand on my arm before I crossed the yard to her front door. “Remember, this is a dog’s house.”

“Oh, please,” I laughed, waving away her hand. “You’re preaching to the choir. Have you ever seen my place?”

I had swung by Sue’s house to pick up some nose drops (for my dog) from her husband, a much loved and retired veterinarian, and had enjoyed touring their property for the first time, gazing over the grassy fields and well constructed stable.

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It was now time to cross the threshold of their charming, turn-of-the-century cottage.

“It’s like living in a pub!” I exclaimed, taking in the beamed ceiling and rustic fireplace flanked between two over-stuffed chairs, covered, as was the sofa, with bed sheets and blankets, dotted liberally with bits of fur.

How well I know this scenario. Neither Sue nor I are slobs. Our homes may be untidy but never downright dirty.

Thus is the lot of those who accommodate animals into their lives. Paul and I have seen our new suite (purchased after our youngest cat, in a shocking fit of pique, wet all along the back of our former sofa) exactly three times. I loved that old sofa. Crafted in Hickory, N.C., it had been reupholstered three times in the past decade but remained sturdy and strong.

However, once a cat decides to mark an item no matter how many chemicals you apply or how much time passes, the unmistakable, acidic smell stubbornly clings.

I’ll wager when King Tut’s tomb was discovered and cracked open, the first comment may very well have been, “Do you smell cat pee?”

Our new sofa and loveseat lives hunched beneath the tackiest bedspreads imaginable. We had grabbed whatever was on sale at Fred’s and, from the cheap cardboard illustration on the outside of the plastic cover,

I thought the deep burgundy quilted design was rather nice. However, arriving home and appraising them, now draped over the graceful backs of our new furniture, I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

“They look awful,” Paul said, stepping back further and further, as if recoiling.

“Like Huggy Bear’s blazer,” I said, using an ancient reference from a 70s cop show.

“Like Liberace’s lampshade.” Paul said, becoming competitive.

“Like the walls of a Playboy Club in the 60s,” I countered.

“That,” he said, retreating to mix a martini. “I can live with.”

You can well imagine what a grand treat it is, then, to invite friends for dinner, remove the hated coverings and look lovingly upon our suite as if for the first time only to, within hours, have them cocooned again in gaudy splendor.

Even freshly washed, the bedspreads begin collecting the shedding, mostly white, hair of our terriers immediately and this is another problem. Honestly, if I don’t vacuum daily, tumbleweeds of fur roll down the hallway.

And I don’t mean the floors – both dogs thoroughly enjoy having the Hoover attachments run along their backs and bums.

The cats, naturally, look upon this scene with unmitigated horror not unlike Paul’s expression when he caught me using one of his Wusthofs to pop the top off a beer bottle.

So, as much as I fantasize about having a pristine living room appointed with elegant, cream colored furnishings as one sees in the glossy magazines featuring the spotless homes of people devoid of children, pets or personalities, the best I can hope for is relative tidiness and, hopefully, no overlooked ‘present’ on the stairs.

And that’s if you give me enough of a heads up.

Otherwise, gentle reader, be warned: it’s a dog’s house!