adventures of beck

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Love in Buckets

Nine towels, 8 rags, 2 buckets, dog shampoo, one bathtub, half a bottle of Lysol, half a roll of paper towels, one sponge, one laundry basket, a cup of detergent and a dabble of bleach.

Yes. I have now cleaned up the most disgusting mess that any of my furry kids has ever made. Sure, Tibbs barfs at least a couple times a week. Genghis hurls routinely. The litter box is a gross thing. Both the dogs have yacked in the house, and I DID potty-train Sonar. She of course screwed up a couple few times. There was even the time that Kayak laid a perfectly formed turd on the kitchen floor. All the animals shed constantly, and Sonar puts everything in her mouth. Mud is an ever-present threat to the flooring, with salt being an added bonus in the winter months.

But all of this cannot compare to coming home to a 9 month old puppy who has spent the day having diarrhea in her crate.

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, it's everything you can imagine, right down to the smell the second you open the door.

For my dear readers who have raised both human and/or canine children: I understand your affection for Lysol. Throughout the 90 or so minutes I spent cleaning the mess, I had plenty of time to reflect on the finer points of canine motherhood.

First: I used to think that the parts of parenthood that parents appreciate most are the times when you get to be proud. Teaching Sonar all of her tricks and words was very fun. I always beam with pride when she manages to sit instead of jumping up on people. But today I got the chance to help my puppy feel better. My little girl was miserable, with her poop all over the blanket, and on her ears and feet. She'd tried so hard to not get it on her, but it was impossible to escape. I scooped her up straight away and let her outside to go potty. Then I carried her upstairs and gave her a warm bath. She seemed to appreciate it so much, and she burrowed her head into my chest while I rubbed the sticky spots out of her fur. Her relief at being clean and warm and dry again was obvious in the way she looked at me. I've gotten that look a few times before; the first time I hosed down Kayak the morning after I found him, the fleas flew up in a cloud off of his back. The second time was when Sonar was a very sick puppy at the clinic and she pooped in her cage. I cleaned her cage and then I picked her up and rocked her in my arms for a little while. The third time was when Sonar was "jumped" by three big dogs at the dog park when she was only six or seven months old. She ran to me, frightened, and and I scooped her up, holding her above the other dogs, tightly against my chest, and turning to use my body to block the other dogs from jumping up at her. The dogs did not challenge me in the least, but they were definitely being way too rough with Sonar, and they were ganging up on her in a rather malicious way.

The second thing I learned is that nothing is too clean for your baby. I did not even consider a cursory wipe-down (not that it would have been possible with the amount of poop.) Rather, I armed myself for a full scale invasion. I gated the dogs in the living room with their beds and space heater, and I scrubbed the floor. I carried her heavy crate upstairs to the bathtub and disinfected it several times over with Lysol, glorious Lysol. Then I washed her blankets on HOT/WARM/NUCLEAR DEATH TO GERMS cycle in the washer, adding a dollop of bleach for good measure. As I waged this chemical warfare, I took a scratch-and-sniff trip to my not-so-distant-past. The vast quantities of Lysol reminded me of two distinct situations. Remarkably, the memory depended on the dilution level. Diluted Lysol reminded me of the halls of my elementary school, which my mom frequently pointed out, absolutely REEKED of Kill-the-Children's-Lice-Lysol. On the other hand, full strength Lysol smelled like our sick bucket from when we were kids. My stomach actually turned when I caught the scent of it, and I was transported back to a towel-covered pillow, staring into the Manila colored cylindrical bucket next to my bed, waiting anxiously for the next wave of nausea that was only seconds away.

The splash of bleach was a totally unexpected memory. I was instantly reminded of my Grama. THIS was what Grama's laundry room always smelled like. Oh! Bleach! I suddenly was aware of the heritage that was being passed to me: the penchant for disinfecting. My Grama's chemical of choice was bleach; my mother's is Lysol. And here I was, using them both, horrified at THE POOP. IN MY HOUSE. Oh. So that's where I get it from.

When it was all said and done, and the hot-water heater was gasping desperately for reinforcements, I was satisfied. Sonar was curled up on the couch, Kayak on his bed. The floor was clean, the poop smell mostly dissipated. The crate was drip drying. But most importantly, Sonar knew that she could depend on me, that I was there for her, willing to do the dirty work when she needed it most. And her I came to my final realization: anyone who thinks that a relationship with a dog can be described as "ownership" is sorely lacking in their understanding of their role concerning a dog's well being. "Parent" is the only word that measures up to the amount of research, patience, and responsibility that sharing your home with a dog requires.