Sisyphean Housecleaning With Dogs

My stepdaughter and her son are coming to town for a visit. Hurray for vaccinations! They live in New Jersey, and haven’t been to this coast since her son was a newborn, five years ago. We moved into a “new” house three years ago, and they haven’t seen it yet! So my husband and I have been doing an extra-good job of mowing and our usual spring yard work outside and a deep clean inside – to try to restore a little of that new-house luster. (It was built in the 1950s, but even so, it’s the newest house we’ve ever lived in, and it had been professionally cleaned and painted before we moved in.)

Here’s the thing: In Northern California springtime, the grass grows a few inches a week. We’ve been mowing and weed-whipping and weed-pulling. The mornings are dewy. Add those things together and throw in a dog, and you have grass clippings and muddy feet getting tracked into the house all day. So you think, ok, the floors are the LAST thing we’ll clean.

I’m accustomed to a few red-dirt paw marks on the outside doors, down low. But when foster dog Kiki learned to open this door by jumping up and pawing the handle, the red stains got a lot higher on the door. 

I noticed that the doors are still muddy outside from where my little foster dog (still happily ensconced in her new home, hurray!) was in the habit of pawing at them to get let inside. Or let herself inside, once she discovered that the kitchen door has one of those handles that you just have to paw at to open. I wiped all the doors down, noticing with some dismay that our local red dirt has stained the white paint – but the wiping took the mud down a notch, anyway! That is, until Otto got scared by the backfire of a neighbor’s lawn mower and frantically pawed at the same door to get let into the house. No problem – wiping it down again!

In the living room, where the dogs spend most of their time when they are in the house, there is another problem of order. The room needs a really good vacuuming, aaaallll the way into the corners and under the couches, and the book shelves really need to be dusted, too. You should vacuum before you dust – because vacuuming tends to make more dust – but the last thing that needs to be done is vacuuming again, because it’s spring and the hair coming off the dogs is just relentless! The couches, especially, need this. If someone could please invent a self-vacuuming couch, I’ll put in an order now. 

This has been going on for days now! I wiped all the windowsills –and turned around to see water drops all over the kitchen windowsill; Woody is in the habit of drinking and then meditatively gazing out the window as the last of the water dribbles from his lips. Washed the floor mats inside the doors – and found a big grassy vomit all over the one inside the kitchen door (the dogs have been eating the spring grass like they were grazing cattle). Back into the wash it has to go. I swear, the dogs have never been so dirty!

Woody has a habit of carrying his last mouthful of water away from the bowl and letting it leak out of his mouth (all over the floor and windowsill) as he gazes out the kitchen window.

Cleaning my car took more time than anything in the house. Usually, I’m the only one driving it; my husband prefers our pickup, even just for errands. And I drive my dogs to our favorite walking spots, at least several times a week – and when I have adolescent foster dogs, daily! So I do tend to let the dog hair and dirt build up in the car; it’s too hard to keep it even kind of clean. After I pulled out all the sheets and blankets that usually cover the seats, it still took me about four hours with a Shop-Vac and towels and hair-rollers to get the car about 90% dog-hair free. And I will NOT allow the dogs back inside the car until our guests leave. We’re doing home-based recreation and exercise for the duration, because that was just way too much work.

Of course, the truth is, I don’t usually notice every single bit of dirt and grass and hair shed by my dogs – and especially after a year of virtually no visitors, I haven’t worried about it too much. Don’t get me wrong, our home is usually quite neat and fairly clean, but there is nothing like having a non-dog-owning guest, especially a non-frequent visitor, for giving you the incentive to do a nice deep clean. I just wish I could put the dogs in little hermetically sealed space suits until the guests arrive.

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