Category Archives: Pets

The Green, Green Grass Of Home

I dislike gardening with a passion, I really, really do. When I was a kid, if I showed even a hint of boredom, my Dad would say “If you’ve got nothing better to do, you can come and help me in the garden”.  This would inevitably lead to several hours of torment and frustration, so naturally I would find something else to do at every opportunity, regardless of my interest, just to avoid spending my afternoon edging, pulling weeds or mowing.

This wasn’t so bad once I became a homeowner, but I never learned to truly love gardening. Thankfully, once I became a renter again, my only obligation was a daily watering of the lawn at one particular house.

New readers start here. My sweetheart’s home has no front garden and just a postage stamp of a back yard, most of which is taken up by a concrete patio. The edges were fringed with grass by the builder, so there was very little to manage, and all I needed was a string edger / trimmer to cut down the more unruly patches. You see, the garden is overlooked by several trees on the property behind us, leading to a very patchy distribution of sunlight. We didn’t really do much to help the situation by purchasing an offset umbrella, but it made the evenings much more pleasant. Add to this the typical winter of the PNW, and by the start of 2020 the lawn was in effect nothing more than an area of muddy dirt containing occasional patches of moss.

Obviously, we couldn’t leave the garden in such a condition, so after rejecting pea gravel and bark as options due to the fact that the dog does her business in the garden, we settled on artificial turf. This wasn’t ideal as far as I was concerned, but it made sense, offered the advantage of being maintenance free and at least would bring some green into the garden.

Our neighbour has artificial turf, and seeing as two of her three dogs are Dobermans, we agreed that it could handle our 20 pound mutt and her “output”. We asked her for the details of the company that installed her lawn and a few days later, two guys came out, took a look and gave us what was, actually, a pretty decent price estimate. We signed the deal and a few days later the owner and his employee arrived and laid the layer of gravel that would act as a base for the turf.

You know where this is going, don’t you? Yes, the lockdown put a kybosh on them finishing the job, so we endured, if that is the right word, a few weeks of staring at packed gravel while our dog did her best under the circumstances, pretty much confining her activities to the strip of dirt close to the rear fence containing our shrubs.

Recent changes meant that construction work was allowed to resume, so our contractor contacted us and asked if we’d like him to finish the job. Of course, we agreed eagerly, and about a week ago he undertook what I can only describe as an exercise in outdoor carpet fitting. I have admit that it looks pretty darn good. While not ideal, it at least does the job it’s supposed to do, and will last for many years. The recent rains mean that I still have to put the furniture and umbrella back in the garden, but I hope that this weekend will provide me with an opportunity.

It’s nice to know that there will be no maintenance issues for many years to come, and it will make it easier for my sweetheart when she undertakes what we euphemistically refer to as “minesweeping” duties.

I do have one question, though: does anyone want to buy a gently used string edger?

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Filed under Home maintenance, lifestyle, Pandemic, Pets


Let me be upfront about this. I am a cat person. I used to live in a household with four of them, and as benign dictatorships go, it was pretty reasonable as long as I remembered my place and didn’t cause a fuss. My former girlfriend had two sugar gliders, and then a tenrec. The gliders, tiny though they were, could make one hell of a noise when they wanted to, and being woken from a dead sleep by barking at three a.m. is not something I would wish on anyone. The tenrec was an improvement, although when anxious would sometimes relieve herself on whomever was holding her, but apart from that, was no bother at all.

I’ve always had a certain antipathy towards dogs, and especially towards their owners. I need not repeat the trope of owners who allow their dogs to  crap in public and then walk away as if the deposit had nothing to do with them, and we all know  that the most common statement after a dog has just bitten an innocent bystander is “Well, he’s never done that before!”

My friends have dogs, one couple have a Scottie and a Westie, the other couple three Border Collies and a Golden Retriever. The second pack are crazy but friendly, if you don’t mind being surrounded by a quartet of barking, jumping and extremely excited dogs for the first 20 minutes after you arrive. They will eventually calm down, sort of, and then you can get on with things, but it is a bit of a riot at first.

The thing is, while I don’t like dogs as a species, I’m quite willing to give each individual animal the benefit of the doubt until proven wrong. Usually they don’t pee on me or my rugs, nor bite me, so that all counts to the good. I could quite happily live my entire life without the presence of a canine, so how the hell did I end up living with someone who is an ardent dog lover and an active member of her local Humane Society?

Let’s face  it: potential partners and their  pets are a package deal, just as a potential partners and their kids are a package deal. If you can’t handle one, you may as well just walk away and go back to the website. I have to admit that in both departments I seem to have struck gold. My sweetheart’s dog, (or should I say our dog?)  is, of course, a rescue. She’s probably a Papillon/Border Collie/Spaniel mix of between four and six years old. She is very sweet natured and the fact that she almost never barks make me wonder if she doesn’t have some Basenji in her ancestry.  The fact that after some initial scepticism she took to me is a big plus. On of my ex wife’s cats never fully accepted that I was now sleeping in “his” bed and would lie at our feet scowling at me through the night, wondering when the hell I was going to go away. Not so Maggie. I will admit that she was a little unhappy at first, but seeing as we use my King size bed as opposed to my sweetheart’s Queen size, there is enough room to accommodate all three of us.

She has accepted me and will even follow my instructions when it comes to meals and toilet breaks. She will follow me downstairs in the morning when I call her to let her into the garden, although having grown up in 1980’s Britain, I find it very difficult to avoid chanting “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, out! out! out!” every time I open the sliding door for her. I’m quite happy to perform these tasks as it makes it easier for my sweetheart  to get ready for work and helps Maggie accept me as a permanent part of the household.

There is, however, one line I am not prepared to cross, and it’s the obvious one. We use a dog walking service from time to time due to our schedules, but when time and weather permit, we take her for a walk along the local trail system. Well, I say walk, but in reality any distance we cover is done three yards at a time as Maggie needs to stop and sniff absolutely everything she encounters. Being a dog, she naturally needs to take care of certain functions she can’t do in the house and it is solely down to my sweetheart to deal with the consequences.

I cleaned the litter boxes for four cats for 10 years, and the diapers on two children for a combined six years, so my cleaning up other people’s shit duties are well and truly fulfilled. At least with cats and kids the product goes into a bag and is then disposed of, with a dog on a public trail, said bag is carried for the remainder of the walk, the trail having only one bin, and that is in the parking lot. Maggie is not my dog, and much as I love her, I’m not going to carry a bag of her crap around with me like  some sort of  bizarre fashion accessory.  That remains the exclusive purview of my sweetheart.

I am however, the logistics carrier. I  have a great 1950’s French Army messenger bag that I used to use mainly when walking to work or when out shopping. Now it contains antiseptic wipes, hand sanitiser and spare bags. it seems that I have come full circle from the days when the backpack I toted was solely for diaper changing supplies.

On  a lighter note, I found life imitating art recently. On a recent trip to the dog trail I opened the door for my sweetheart only for Maggie to hop straight onto the front passenger seat and curl up. She refused to move, so my sweetheart had to sit in the back. As she got in, I removed the sunshade from the windscreen. The sunshade has a Star Wars theme, bearing as it does, a picture of Han, Chewbacca, Luke and Ben looking out of the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon towards the Death Star. I thought about the  situation, how I was now in a somewhat ageing vehicle with a furry copilot next to me, and all I could think was: “Laugh it up, fuzzball!”

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Filed under personal relationships, Pets