As a writer, I have learned that the best way to get me to write is to give myself a deadline.
In a similar light, as a homeowner, the best way to get me to clean my house is to invite people over. Without guests, the house will not get clean and will fall into a state of general grossness. Grossosity. Grossifity.
In my defense, I am not a complete sloth. I’ll vacuum the floors and rugs, sometimes even going behind the furniture. But as those of you with any pets know, it is an uphill battle. And in the winter time when windows must remain closed, there is a certain doggy smell that comes to overtake the house, not unsimilar to Stephen King’s Mist. It starts slowly, and when you think you’ve contained it, suddenly it appears in other rooms. It spreads without you noticing, embeds itself in the sofa, the carpet, the walls, and your clothing. You breathe it in. You exhale it. You are then a part of the contagion. Stinky dog smell has wrapped itself around you and by the time you realize its enormity, you are being strangled by its power.
Let’s back up a moment. Let’s go all the way back to May of 1968. It was the beginning of the Summer of Love. Eastern Europe had been overtaken by student protests. The world braced itself for upheaval and change and in that spirit my parents decided it was time to add to the family. Or maybe they just got tipsy on martinis and partied the night away only to realize a few weeks later that an addition was soon coming to the family. Whatever the case, I was born roughly nine months later in February of 1969. A winter baby.
Fast forward twenty-nine years and lots more years later, and you find me in this winter, determined to host a birthday party. The last birthday party I’d had for myself had been in Budapest in 1995 in my apartment I shared with my boyfriend that was two floors above a massage parlor called “Blue Love” – a party that began around 7pm on a Friday and ended around 6am the following Saturday. I woke up around 2 pm that Saturday only to fall asleep an hour later. Words such as “spectacular” or “epic” come to mind when remembering it.
This next party would not be of that magnitude but I was still determined to make it happen. I had put recent birthday celebrations on a side burner, letting myself tag along with someone else on their birthday or ignoring it altogether. That had to change.
The issue was getting the house clean enough that people would not report me to the city and have it condemned.
I also knew there were some projects that required tending to. Curtains had to be purchased. A room had to be painted. A faucet needed to be replaced. Furniture needed to be moved. Clutter had to be scooped up. And the dogginess had to be removed.
All of that happened. I cleaned. I scrubbed walls. I dusted ceiling light fixtures. I laundered pillow and seat covers. I went behind and under furniture to remove dog hair. I sprinkled baking soda and let it absorb the odors. And then I did it all again.
I had a schedule and a plan for all of this to happen smoothly. Then, on the morning of my birthday, very close to 1 am, Rufus decided humility was the best birthday present. He had diarrhea at the top of the stairs. Groggily, I got up, let him out, and cleaned it up. He did not look well. I put him in his crate unsure of what I might find a few hours later but knowing it would be contained.
At 6 am, Sophie wanted to go outside. I trudged down the stairs and found that Rufus not only still had the intestinal issue but had also vomited. Oh boy. I let him out, took out the crate bed and threw it in the washing machine. Then I scrubbed out his cage.
I fed Sophie and gave Rufus a little bit of food, which he then puked all over the living room rug in three places. This dog was sick.
He had to stay in his crate until he was better, but that meant making sure it was very clean. I had to scrub out the floor of the crate and used Clorox wipes to sanitize it. I cleaned the floor around it and the walls nearby. I put some clean towels in, and knew we might have to see the vet as well. I called and left a message – it was still early enough that nobody was there.
Oh yeah, and I would have to cook dinner and dessert for the party.
Rufus looked and acted much better in the afternoon. I had talked to the vet’s office and I agreed to bring him in if he got worse, but clearly he was improving. I still fed him rice and bland chicken but he had his energy back, fortunately. I couldn’t help think that this dog had decided to test me: You said you were going to clean, lady, so let’s see just how serious you are. I had people coming over in a few hours. This house had to be spit-spot.
The slow cooker cooked the chuck roast, the fridge chilled the cheesecake, the magic driveway removed the snow. Just kidding. Did I mention that we had also a blizzard that day? I went out and shoveled.
In the end, due to the weather, only half of the invited guests were able to make it. That left lots of extra food for everyone who braved the roads and excess booze for me.
Initially I kept the dogs in my bedroom, but Sophie’s barking (and subsequent vandalism of my doorjamb – more on that at later date) convinced me to let them out. They were excellent co-hosts. Rufus only barked once. He found my friend Elaine’s scarf a little intimidating. Fortunately he found his courage to approach her during dinner so he could steal food out of her napkin. Such a brave soul.
I was pretty much done after two glasses of wine. I am not twenty-six anymore. I cannot run on a few hours of sleep and cheap Hungarian Egri Bikaver – the red wine from Eger which literally means “bull’s blood.” Nevertheless, I still felt victorious over the multi-curveball day and moreover, the doggy mist that had finally been exorcised from the house. I must have earned at least ten Martha Stewart merit badges that day.
The moral of the story is this: when you try to recapture your youth, you will need to tap into every single one of your super powers, and create an awesome 90’s playlist. No wait, the moral of the story is that dogs are gross. But armed with nothing but a can-do spirit, plus every cleaning solution known to man, a working washing machine, a scrub brush, lots of cursing, and very little sleep, you can de-gross them just a little bit.
Cleaning a house with big dogs can be similar to Sisyphus’ experience of pushing the boulder up the hill only to watch it roll down again. You wash a floor only for it to be covered in muddy paw prints ten minutes later. The good thing is that I have enough booze left over from my party that I can now work on inventing a new cocktail called The Sisyphus for next year’s party. I’ll be ready with a clean house, shoveled driveway, tables of vodka, and plenty of 90’s music.