Thursday, March 30, 2006

Milk Bones for Algernon

Some choose to celebrate holidays by quietly spending time with friends and family. Some choose to observe any religious obligations associated with said holiday. Some, on the other hand, have their own special way of observing these holidays. Take Trudy, my trusted canine companion, for instance.

She celebrates holidays by pooping in the house.

Trudy has always been a little shaky on the whole house training thing, but most of the time she gets it. Inside = bad; outside = okay. Sure we’ve had incidents over the last couple of years, but what relationship doesn’t have its ups and downs.

So this year, my dog celebrated Valentines’ Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Ash Wednesday by relieving herself in various rooms of my home. She also chose to do so for several days afterwards. She’s also been behaving more erratically, staring into corners, sleeping more frequently and generally acting more confused than normal.

I hit my limits after one particular post-Ash Wednesday session, where I spent an hour with some industrial strength cleaner on the rug in my sunroom upstairs. After a phone call to the vet, we determined that either Trudy is suffering from CCD (canine cognitive dysfunction – basically senility for dogs, or dumb dog syndrome as someone I know refers to it) or she’s losing control of herself.

So at the vet’s prompting, I started giving her some pills (smart dog pills!) that might alleviate the CCD. So far, no real changes, except that last night she pointed out that I forgot to carry the two in some calculus problems I was working out. It was a nice catch - that could have caused some trouble down the road.

If the pills don’t actually work, then it may be Trudy’s time. I can’t keep cleaning up after her, especially if I want to sell the house this year.

Trudy is a sweet dog, but she’s a difficult dog as well. She’s not particularly affectionate; she never plays and only acts happy to see me when I come home in the afternoons. She's also flatulent like you wouldn't believe. She can clear a room in six seconds. I’ve spent more money on inconclusive vet visits and kennel trips than I like to think about.

However, I also hate giving up on someone – even if she is a dog. I agreed to take care of her, and so it’s my responsibility to do so, even if she becomes an inconvenience. And, most importantly, she's still my friend.

Inconvenience or not, though, she may drive me to ulcers, especially if we have another argument like we did last night. I mean, come on, who really believes that given a little more time, McClellan could have revitalized the Army of the Potomac and beaten Lee? Smart dog pills, indeed.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Blue and the Green

“Brian, there’s green and blue stuff all over your dryer!” Darcy’s disembodied voice floated up from the basement.

Coffee. That’s where my mind was. Needed to finish making coffee. Before bed, I set up the coffee pot, and at that moment, my head was buried in the pantry, trying to find more coffee.

“It’s all over my clothes. It looks like there was a crayon in there . . . oh. I might have had a crayon or two in one of my pockets,” her voice floated up at me again.

Found it. Mixed the grounds and sugar. Poured in the water. Set the timer. There. Now the counter needed wiping up. Clean kitchens are good.

“There’s a big glob of green crayon stuck to the side!”

Apparently, my plan to bury myself in kitchen cleaning and coffee making wasn’t going to pay off. I was going to have to face cold, hard reality – something that I haven’t wanted to do much lately. I’d like to sell my house this year, but I’m not sure it’s going to happen.

There’s a big hole in my kitchen ceiling, which I can’t fix until I get the corroded water line for the toilet replaced. I have a broken ceiling fan in the kitchen. The grass in the backyard is dead, but at least the weeds give some appearance of life. Once the weather turns warm, I’m going to replace most of the deck. But to keep things interesting, my house has decided that it could use a new roof as well.

As the roofer said, it probably won’t leak due to the inch of rotted crud under the shingles, but anytime there’s a good windstorm, my house sheds shingles like a Labrador sheds in the spring. I’m thinking this won’t encourage a potential buyer.

Needless to say, for me, the joy of homeownership was long ago replaced by a sort of bunker mentality: what’s going to blow up next? When I purchased the house, a friend said to me, “Congratulations on the best purchase you’ll ever make. And in getting the biggest pain in the ass you’ll ever have.” I laughed at him, charmingly na├»ve. Now I’m laughing at myself, cynicism fully restored.

But you learn from these tempests in teacups. Six months after I moved in, my roof started shedding shingles. I was convinced the whole house was broken; the next rainstorm would sweep the roof off the house and ruin everything. I found someone to fix it; he patched them up and no problem. (Until now, but I still needed to learn about finding competent contractors).

When I discovered my gutters had developed a new trick: they were pouring water into the house, as opposed to away from the house (there’s nothing more fun than seeing water trickling from an exterior wall), instead of losing my mind and pacing around like I’d forgotten my meds and the voices were getting a little too loud, I had them replaced along with the fascia.

Had it happened a few months ago, discovering that my dryer is now producing aqua-hued clothing would have caused me to pull out clumps of hair as I paced around fretting about it. Now, after deciding that ignoring/avoidance isn’t going to pay off, I needed to take a look. Hell, I might even be able to fix it. Right.

You learn; you adapt. Heck, I might even be growing up a little. But I’d still prefer to be playing a video game. Or sleeping. Or reading. Or just about anything else.

So I steeled my nerve and made my way to the basement, and sure enough – my dryer drum was looking rather cyanotic. Annoying? Yes. Insurmountable? Not really. Many bottles of cleaner, WD40 (it works! God bless the Internet – source of all knowledge), several rags and a roll of paper towels later, the drum only has a light blue tint. I’ll test-run it on an old towel tonight. The slightly blue-tinted drum adds character to an otherwise bland appliance.

Before I owned a house, I believed that outside of mowing the lawn once a week, I’d be living on easy street. Building equity, watching the house appreciate in value, collecting fat income tax returns. Easy living!

It’s not easy. Sometimes, it is a complete pain in the ass, but name one thing that’s important, fun and worthwhile that isn’t a pain in the ass occasionally. What’s that? You can’t? I know, because everything worth having is going to make you work for it.

So even though I sometimes consider dousing the first floor in gasoline, grabbing the dog and lighting a match, I fix the old place up, forgive it its faults and look forward to the day I can step into a new home . . . and deal with all of its daily catastrophes.