King of Stain

My dream for the house had always been new wall-to-wall carpet. This seemed luxurious, yet essential to me. I’ve spent a good deal of my life on the floor - writing, drawing, playing guitar, sleeping off a bender –and quality carpeting had padded my cheeks through these low-level adventures in my youth. So I was spoiled. Forget fixing the faulty plumbing, the gas leak, or the refrigerator that sometimes catches fire. I wanted new carpet.

The problem was Petey, the miscellaneous dachshund/terrier the wife and I had inherited from her parents. Petey, a squat, nervous mutt, was not the sort of dog who could retrieve the newspaper, catch a Frisbee, or do anything a dog owner might consider useful or sporting. What Petey could do, with the expert craftsmanship of a true professional, was throw up on the floor. It wouldn’t necessarily indicate any serious illness or even minor stomach flu. There was just a 50/50 chance any given day that breakfast or dinner might make a return engagement. A floor show, if you will. And since we spent so much time toweling up after Precious Pete, I was certain that no amount of Stainmastering could stand up against the onslaught of this hairy little firehose. I decided my new carpet was a dream deferred. I’d have to wait until Petey’s demise.

But Petey, true to his disobedient nature, would not die. Even after going blind and deaf, even after losing much of his mobility to arthritis, he staggered on. Even after developing liver cancer and thyroid dysfunction, which caused regular seizures that might take down a racehorse, Petey would merely shake off the disorientation, lose his lunch, and blindly stumble on with his day. We thought for sure his advanced wobbliness would do him in at age 14. By age 19, it seemed the dog would live to be drinking age. He already had the stagger and spew for it.

The irony in his longevity was that, at one point or another, everyone wanted to kill this dog. In his younger days, frisky and full of manic anxiety, Petey whined incessantly. Not only whined, but yowled in terror and anticipation at nearly anything out of the ordinary, no matter how ordinary. He flipped out when the car made a left turn, he spazzed when someone walked out the door, he freaked if someone on the right side of the room moved slightly to the left. He yelped as if being waterboarded during a bath and, had he been able to speak (he certainly tried), he would have given up the secret location of the guerrilla freedom fighters at the first threat of a nail trimming. He was, by far, the most nerve-wracking dog I have ever encountered.

Petey got by on his looks. He had a furry little terrier face, with what Melissa referred to as his “60 Minutes” eyebrows. He had shaggy ears like a spaniel and, protruding from the center of his skull, a perfect, natural Mohawk of blond hair. He was, by all accounts, adorable. And this is why we did not kill him. This is why he was allowed to mature into a mellow, stumbling old age. We effectively rewarded Petey for nearly 20 years of daily aggravation by scrubbing his spills, keeping him clean, trimmed, free of ticks and stickers, medicating his ailments, and feeding him the preferred dog food, treats, and occasional French fries that we’d see again later. And we did all this because, in spite of our sandblasted nerves, we loved Petey.

It’s easy to love an adorable puppy who licks your face, snuggles peacefully in your lap, and brings nothing but joy. It’s no trick to show kindness to the infinitely cute (well, unless it’s ZooeyDeschanel). But our real humanity is revealed when we love and care for those we’d much rather bludgeon with a nine iron (like ZooeyDeschanel). When we refrain from killing those who constantly whine and complain and stink up our homes, and instead, provide them with the affection that allows their annoyances to thrive, this is how we know we are civilized people.

And so, in this spirit of tolerance, after giving up the idea that this 19-year-old irritant was ever going to go to Doggie Heaven, I purchased my wall-to-wall dream carpet for the little mongrel to stain persistently.  And stain he did, for nearly a year, until the day came when the spews outnumbered the meals, and we knew the indestructible little heaver would finally wobble no more. Just a few days ago, Petey went to that great padded, cut pile flooring in the sky.

I have my carpet all to myself now. It’s held up well under the constant scrubbing. I like to sit on the well-cushioned floor, sketching, eating, picking at scabs, enjoying the comforts of a hurl-free environment. But I sit very still, as is my conditioning, so as not to upset Petey. 


Pinkhamster said...

Great essay, Ashley. Sorry the day came you had to write it. I can relate as we have a blind cat who howls like she is dying several times a day (whenever she isn't getting enough attention), waking people up and driving us crazy. Just the other day she was on the rug and starting to throw up and I gently moved her off of it but she actually struggled to get back on the rug -- for some reason she really wanted to throw up on that rather than the easier to clean bare floor. Thanks for sharing your story.

Amy W. said...

"60 Minutes eyebrows" is absolutely perfect. I don't think I ever heard that one! But hey, you forgot to mention his occasional crippling gas problems that would also cripple anyone who had to breathe that stuff in. And yet I, too, loved Petey. Such was the strength of his charm.

Henry Gay said...

Aww, I nearly cried! My condolences about Petey. I’m sure he enjoyed the new carpet (in his own way) before he passed away. How did you clean your carpet, though? I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy sometimes. Bleach isn’t always a good idea on carpets, but water, soap and a brush would be a quick remedy.