Paw prints on my heart

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hasn’t this past week been exquisite? The foothills, cloaked in white, sparkling beneath the winter sun, the open fields under a soft, becoming mantle of snow…how lovely it has been to watch the trees bow down, heavily laden, the cardinals darting to and from the bird feeders. Honestly, I could stand out there all day long and never go inside.

Because my house is a pigsty.

Here’s what only took me 18 winters to learn at The Funny Farm: do not even try to keep your house clean when snow is on the ground. Not with dogs and cats and people stomping in and out. It’s an exercise in futility. I had to make a decision during the three days it remained on the ground: do I actually eat a meal at some time during the day, or shall I just unroll a sleeping bag in the mudroom so that I can hastily mop up the clay-tinged snow being tracked across it, and then into the rest of the house?

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Oh, I hear you, “Well, Pam, you doorknob, why don’t you just leave your boots outside the door?” Because they then became perilously cold within minutes, and when you’re having to check on your livestock several times a day, it’s not pleasant to stick your feet into frozen drain pipes.

“OK, well, then, why don’t you have a mat just inside the door where the boots go?” Done. And once I’ve knitted boots for the critters, that’ll help, too. I even put down a towel, right in front of the door so that when they go in and out, their paws have to track over the towel, first, which worked most effectively for 20 minutes until one of the cats peed on it. Oh, yes, they did: at least two cats walked through the pee, tracked it through the mudroom and up the hall. And there I was, rushing behind them, looking just like that cartoon image of Carol Burnett, at the end of her show, mopping away.

Resigned to live like a slob until the snow was gone, I gave one last halfhearted wash over the entire downstairs, thinking how smart it was for early settlers to have dirt floors. How nice would that be?

“Oh, Helen, how ever do you keep your floors so shiny?”

 “Well, Ruth, I had Ezekiel add mica.”

 “It looks wonderful! And you’re so lucky to have wall-to-wall dirt. Abe says it’s too expensive, so I just have an oval of area dirt in front of the fireplace.” 

“I hear ‘Dirt Liquidators’ is having a sale this Friday, you could try there.”

“Good idea! If nothing else, at least we should be able to afford to put down click dirt.”

As I passed my ‘Star Glider’ (comes with three fabric strips that pick up dust, even pet fur, like magic! But wait, that’s not all, order Star Glider today, and receive a second Star Glider, for free! That’s right! Two Star Gliders for $19.95! Order now!) under the couch and in front of one of the windows, I stopped in my tracks.

Because there, just under the little oaken pub table that serves as, oddly enough, Paul’s favorite place to set his beer while watching television, was a single paw print of our beloved Bonnie, whom we lost six months ago. Her prints, owing to her faulty conformation,  were unmistakable: round and flat, not with the tear shaped form of Rosie, but more like a cat’s. Sometime, before her death, she must have had damp paws and stepped beneath that end table and, clearly, in the past six months, I couldn’t have been bothered to actually pull that table out to clean beneath, just stick the vacuum nozzle between its legs to suck up tumbleweeds of cat hair and not wash the pine floorboards beneath it. 

I backed up and noticed that unless the sun is shining through the window, at a particular time, at a specific spot beneath the table, her print doesn’t show. I just happened to be crouching in front of it at the opportune moment, not unlike viewing the summer solstice through the keystone at Stonehenge. OK, perhaps not that archaeologically significant, because we’re talking about a dog print on a pine floor in South Carolina, but it still made me giddy. And I didn’t have to pay admission to see it, either. 

Guess what? I ain’t wiping it away. How can I? What’s one, little dog print that looks as if she had just stepped in out of the snow and, by mistake, began to walk under the table? And you know what? Maybe she did.