By Marni Jameson
My husband, DC, comes home from work late to a family room littered with chew toys, a sleep deprived wife with uncombed hair, and a disappointingly empty refrigerator.
Good sense keeps him from asking how my day’s been. Instead he asks if he should go get us take out.
Though all our kids have left the nest, our new puppy, Pippin, has awakened my dormant maternal instincts, throwing me back to those days when a shower was a big accomplishment, and my deepest conversations revolved around potty training, feeding schedules and naps.
Since Pippin joined the family three weeks ago, our once calm, well-ordered home has turned into a gated community that revolves around crate times, potty walks, and detailed reports of what went in and came out when.
I burn through more paper towels in an hour than I usually do in a month. A spray bottle of pet-scent neutralizer is never far from hand. The floor is a mine field of squeaky objects. The mommy antennae on the back of my head have stirred, and are tuned to the many sounds of puppy mischief. And every time I put my hand in my pocket, I hit cubes of freeze-dried beef liver.
“Get your chew!” I say, pulling Pippin’s needle teeth off the rubber-tipped doorstop. He dives for my foot. “Not shoe! Chew!”
I turn to find his toy, and he goes for the bathmat. Meanwhile, DC is showering attention on our older dog, Peapod, who’s suffering a severe case of sibling rivalry. Her worried brow knits the question: “When’s he leaving?”
I reclaim the bathmat, and Pippin goes for Peapod’s water bowl. “She’s kidding, right?” says the look on Peapod’s face as Pippin plunges both front paws in the bowl.
Finally, after a busy hour, Pippin falls angelically asleep in his crate. And, like parents of a newborn, DC and I sigh, looking on with adoring, exhausted relief, knowing, that just like toddlers, they grow up fast.
Ahh, puppy love.
If you want a pristine, immaculate, well-ordered home, don’t have kids or pets. (In fact, having a spouse might be pushing it.) But that is not the life for me. My life wouldn’t feel complete without my pets. However, I also don’t want my house to look as if it’s gone to the dogs. For some more insights, I spoke with Dr. Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian, animal behaviorist and author, from Berkeley, Calif., who has not only brought home many pups, but who also manages to live beautifully. (You can download Dunbar’s books for free at www.Dogstardaily.com .)
“How do you get there from here?” I ask. Here are some tips.
- Puppy proof the place. Whenever Dunbar brings home a puppy, he rolls up all the area rugs and puts them in a closet. He puts toilet paper rolls on the back of the toilet, and ties up long drapery. The key: Look at your house from the dog’s level, then avert disaster and remove temptation. Take fragile items off low coffee tables and other surfaces at muzzle and tail-wagging height. Place x-pens in front of off-limit areas, like computer cords and your shelf of antique books.
- Make a doggie room. Don’t give a puppy more space than he can handle. “If you start a puppy with free run of the home and yard, you’re heading for disaster,” Dunbar said. (I can attest to this.) Use crates for short-term confinement and for giving pups a chance to chill out between potty breaks while you’re at home or out on a short errand. For longer periods, create a doggie area. I use my laundry room. Put the pup’s crate on one end with the door open, a non-spillable supply of water, and chew toys stuffed with puppy food. At the opposite end put a toilet area. Some trainers use piddle pads. Dunbar recommends a plastic litter box with a piece of sod. (This was a muddy mess at my house.) “Let your pup earn his freedom room by room. In a year, if all goes well, he can have free run of the house and yard.”
- Use dog-friendly fabrics. When furnishing a home with a pet, opt for sturdy, forgiving, stain resistant fabrics. Leather is one of the best furniture coverings for homes with animals. Many great indoor-outdoor fabrics also work well inside. Crypton fabrics are especially durable and stain resistant. Prints are more forgiving than solids, and washable slipcovers allow for easy cleaning. Whatever furniture fabric you use, get extra.
- Find flooring for Fido. Hard flooring, such as wood, stone or tile, is far easier to clean than carpet. Many of today’s outdoor area rugs are beautiful enough for indoor use, and can be hosed off. When choosing area rugs pick ones in patterns that include the color of your pet’s fur.
- Binge on bowls and bins. Splurge on fun pet accessories. Since your pet’s food bowl and bed will be in plain sight, find good looking ones that coordinate with your interior. Don’t grab treats out of a bag, put pet toys in a heap, or toss the leash on the floor. That’s not gracious living. I got a gorgeous, kitchen-counter worthy cookie jar for treats with a ceramic bone handle, a handsome leash that I put in an iron dog tray by the door, and our pups’ toys get corralled in a beautiful basket. If pets are part of your home life, design with them in mind.
A note to the readers who scolded me after my last column for getting a puppy from a breeder after an unsuccessful search for a rescue dog. Many said I had set rescue efforts back as a result. For the record: I am not anti-rescue. I have a wonderful rescue dog (Peapod), which I mentioned in the column, and I have had others. I just did not have success this time finding the right dog after four-months of daily searching. (I did not try only three animals. I considered many. One bit my face and sent me to urgent care to repair my nose and get a tetanus shot.) Yes, I know rescue dogs can be terrific dogs. (Remember, I have one.) One rescue turned me down for a dog I wanted because I said we took our current dog on three long walks a day; they felt our home was “too active.” I wound up with the puppy I did after calling a breeder looking for a dog that needed rehoming, and learned they had a puppy born with a broken tail that had to be docked. Thus, the pup “wasn’t up to their clientele’s standards.” So, in a sense, I did rescue him. Bottom line: All shelter dogs were once puppies, and all puppies deserve good homes and a good education. Let’s stop playing who’s better.
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of three home and lifestyle books, including House of Havoc: How to make – and Keep – a Beautiful Home Despite Cheap Spouses, Messy Kids and Other Difficult Roommates (DaCapo), and Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go (Sterling Publishing). You may reach her at www.marnijameson.com.