Currently residing in my Kansas City shirtwaist are one adult, three boys (though two are adult-sized) and two large boxer dogs. There is no doubt, though it sometimes seems nonsensical, that the two dogs are responsible for double the wear and tear than the humans are. At least.
We love Rosie and Dexter. I would go as far as to say that we are besotted. Without a doubt, there have been times for each boy, that he would say they love one or both of our dogs more than anyone else in the house. They are lovable beasts. Rosie, who is 8 years old, is petite for a boxer. I don’t think anyone would mistake her for a male; she looks and walks like a girl. She doesn’t like to get wet and can wait until mid-morning to go outside if it is raining hard.
Dexter is a dope. He pushes his food bowl around with his nose to hide it from we don’t know whom, as no one has ever eaten from his bowl but him. He won’t go through a door that isn’t already open wide enough for him to pass. Still, he’s gorgeous, his brindle coat gleaming like polished tortoiseshell. I say that he is a galoot but that someday he will be a noble beast. The boys think I’m delusional. He’s three, which means twenty-one in dog years, but there is nothing about him that hints at noble beast.
The problem is, with over one hundred pounds between them, they are wrecking our house. When we moved here they began getting on the furniture, while they had never gotten on the furniture before. Suddenly, we would come home to find them curled up in a chair or on the sofa. It wasn’t unusual to walk in to find Dexter stretched out on one of the boys’ beds. As I would come into the room ranting and shooing, he would lift an eyebrow, but not his head.
Rosie, who is as high maintenance as any diva, has allergies. Beyond her own scratching and ear-flapping, she rubs against the edges of the chairs and the sofa to try and remedy the itch, leaving a gray residue at the corners. I was the one who chose the Cowtan & Tout linen, so I have no one to blame but myself. Dogs will be dogs.
I’ve explained at length to both my pups that with a little consideration on their parts, they would not have to suffer my furrowed brow or raised voice. My middle son has witnessed a few of these conversations, and he looks from the dogs to me and says, “You realize that they can’t understand you, right?”
I do. I know reasoning with them is futile. I’ve bought new and fluffier beds. I’ve thrown a cover over the one spot that bothers me the least that they haunt. I could not bring myself to the shock of scat mats for the upholstery, so instead purchased squares of thick plastic with pointy nubs to place upon the furniture. But as I come downstairs in the morning, these unpleasant protectors remind me of the spikes on the windowsills in New York that keep away the pigeons, and I grimace. They work, but I don’t want to live like this. And as the dogs look up at from their sheepskin beds, I can’t help but think that they do understand my diatribes and that they are winning.
Never, never, never give up.
For all my fret and worry, I doubt I’ll ever be without a dog. They bring me joy and comfort, and just the noise of them in the house is reassuring somehow. With a little planning, your home and your pets can happily coexist.
Be smart in your selection. Fourteen hundred square feet might not be the best environment for two large dogs. Consider your space and the demeanor and attributes of the breeds. Labradors are water dogs, and their coats are oily for a reason. If hair bothers you, look into breeds, like poodles and all their combinations, which don’t shed. You should not be frustrated that an animal cannot change its nature.
The best place to start with animals is good training at the beginning. Consistent rules from the time they are puppies and kittens are in everyone’s best interest. It is easy (and adorable) to let a puppy snuggle up beside you on the sofa or in bed. (The first few nights of whining are such a nightmare.) But a furry 60-pound beast with mud between his nails is not a great bedmate. Setting boundaries takes time and energy, but far less than trying to correct or redirect unwelcome behavior later.
Outdoor rugs can be great solutions for living with animals inside. As with outdoor fabrics, these smaller rugs can be tossed into the washing machine, while larger ones can be hosed off on the patio. I know that natural grass rugs, like sisal, can be disaster with pets. They are difficult to spot-clean and don’t always respond well to water. I’ve had huge luck with seagrass, which will accommodate spot cleaning pretty well and is inexpensive to replace if the cause is really lost. One friend demotes hers as they receive a little wear. They start in the living room before they move to the porch and then are let go altogether. It’s usually a good, long life.
There are loads of good options now when it comes to fabrics that help fight the war on hair and dirt. Fabrics designed for outdoors no longer feel like the stiff plastic of those old woven folding chairs. These materials feel as natural as cotton and linen. Synthetics not your thing? One of my favorite designers in town has simple cotton slipcovers on most of his upholstery. Wash, dry, repeat. Piece of cake.
Designer Advice on Living with Pets
“I recommend staying away from velvet and mohair, which easily attract hair. Leather is durable, but be careful about the finish as some scratch easily. If you opt for leather, make sure you are comfortable with a “well-worn” look. Also, hair collects on dark floors, so keep your Swiffer handy!”
“At the time when cats joined my life, my living space was rather petite. So, I had to think outside of the cat box. My dad, Lyle Schafer, and I worked together on a design that would be highly functional for the cats yet would completely conceal their business and could operate in the living space, all while looking like a furniture piece. The end result is so functional and aesthetically pleasing that it’s made way to bigger houses, spacious enough not to even really need it.”
“Stella steals her way onto furniture and beds, so I tend to buy white bedding that can be washed. I also like to re-cover dog beds in indoor/outdoor fabric that coordinates with my interiors.”
Annie Anderson Design
“Parker, our Standard Poodle and Akita mix, who is a giant furball with a personality to match, is so much fun to have around, he’s worth the effort it takes to keep the house clean. We placed a black commercial rubber-backed rug at the back door where he goes out. It actually works with the decor and is a safe place for him to have his paws toweled off when he comes in from wet weather.”
Jan Kyle Design
“Living with pets? There’s no downside. They’re better than a best friend. Who else crawls up on your lap and doesn’t ask questions, doesn’t need an answer, just wants play time, simple food, and treats you like a wonder? And, as of yet, they don’t have cell phones.”
Rufenacht Interior Design
Q: We want to crate train our puppy but cannot stand the idea of looking at the crate. Any suggestions?
— Leah Price
A: I’ve seen a few kennels in catalogs that take the form of chateaus and such. That’s not the way I’d go. My favorite solution is putting your kennel under a skirted table. Skirt up when the pup is in residence; skirt down when no one’s at home.
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