Living with Pets

Living with Pets

Our family is full of animal lovers. We share our home with a dog, two cats and a white snake named David Coverdale.  We’ve also served as a foster family for Operation Kindness, a no-kill animal shelter and have temporarily hosted around 50 dogs, cats, puppies and kittens. In fact right now we’re on call to pick up a Hurricane Harvey animal victim that needs a temporary home.

As much as I love animals, I also really appreciate a clean welcoming home that smells good.  That can be a tall order.  Here are a few of the ways we’ve set up our home to help make pet ownership easier and some of tricks we use to address the inevitable challenges.

 

Wash and brush your dog regularly – This is my number one tip to help your house smell good. It’s easier to clean your pet than your rugs and furniture and will go a long way towards keeping your home clean and with less fur. Regular grooming and a ‘summer cut’ is a good idea for fluffier breeds. 

oriental rug
Photo credit Bunny Williams

Flooring – Wall to wall carpet soaks up inevitable pet-related stains. If at all possible, opt for other hard flooring options. On hardwoods, use an electrostatic mop.  They are faster and more efficient than a vacuum.  Area rugs with a pattern hide pet fur & stains are less noticeable. Bunny Williams suggests buying rugs with the same color background as the soil where you live.  

Couple Of Dogs

Furniture – If you’re fine with your dog being on the couch, buy her a throw blanket to put where she lounges.  Dogs naturally love to burrow in blankets and it’s easy to throw them in the wash when needed.  Textured Rubber gloves are also great to remove fur quickly from your furniture. 

Consider furniture upholstered with leather, outdoor fabrics or slipcovers that are easily thrown into the wash. And you might use your pet’s coloring as ‘inspiration’ when you choosing furniture or flooring.  If you put in a black floor and have a fluffy white dog you’ll forever be dealing with white tumbleweeds of fur.

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photo credit Stephanie Sterjovski

But if it’s important to you that your dog not get on the furniture, prioritize training that behavior. Have a dog bed near where you’re family hangs out, so they can have their own spot in the middle of their people and reward obedience with lots of love and treats. If you don’t want cats on the furniture — don’t get a cat…

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Decorating – Pets, like children, can tump thinks over with reckless abandon.  One way to reduce the odds is with Museum Mounting Putty.  A dime size piece under your vase and it will take a lot more effort for it to be knocked over.  One $4 package can secure items throughout your whole house.

Stains – Clean up stains as soon as you notice them with an enzyme cleaner. This one is my favorite and from the reviews I’m not alone. The enzymatic bacteria in the spray feed on ammonia crystals and organic matter until the smell and stain are eliminated. This reduces the chance that they will go in the same spot again. 

Pests – Even with regular preventative medicine you can still have an issue with fleas & ticks. This year in Texas it was especially bad since we did not have a freeze last winter.  Often our fosters arrive dealing with pests and we’ve had several issues with fleas in our home.  I really like Vet’s Best Flea + Tick Home Spray.  It’s plant based made with peppermint oil and it smells great – and it works.   I’ve sprayed it on carpets and upholstery and have and no issues with staining. Spray everything and vacuum; then repeat the next day. I also have a supply of Capstar on hand to give my pets as soon as I find a flea. It’s much cheaper to buy a box from Amazon than one at a time from your vet.

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Outsmart vs Training – Thinking through your pets personality and how to create a home that addresses their needs is time well spent.  Each pet is different and sometimes it’s a compromise between training the pet and adjusting your home. 

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For example, we had issue with our dog eating the cat’s food.  In this case we had to outsmart our dog. We installed a cat door from our pantry into a bottom cabinet where we made a cat food station. Problem solved. 

Exercise & entertainment: Different breeds need different amounts of exercise,  but they all need a stimulating life. Keeping pets happy helps prevent unwanted behaviors. In addition to regular walks and a rotation of entertaining foster friends, we bring our dog along with us when we can.  A well behaved dog is a joy to have along.  Many shelters offer free or low cost training classes that will teach you the owner as much as your pet.  You’re going to have your pet a long time hopefully, and it’s worth the time and effort to invest.

mudroom dog crate
picture from Your Dog Supplies Store

A Pet Room – While our dog alternates sleeping with our daughters every night, when we foster animals they stay in our mudroom with a crate.  We’ve set this room up to be as impervious as possible with easy to clean floors and walls. It’s a safe place for pets to hang out and not cause mischief while we’re out.  Shiplap, wainscoting or bead-board are great options for easy clean up on walls.  Scrubbable wall paint is a good idea in general, but especially here.

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Benefits of having pets – While they are a lot of work, I honestly believe we receive more affection than we give to our pets and our fosters.  My daughters learn responsibility and have the opportunity to get their head out of their own troubles by helping others.  It’s a reason to take a walk & put down their screens.  Studies show that owning a pet can decrease depression, stress and anxiety. Simply patting a cat or dog lowers blood pressure. And I think an animal-friendly house is more comfortable for humans, too.

If you’re interested in fostering here in DFW area consider Operation Kindness, a wonderful no kill shelter in Carrolton, Texas. The could use help especially now as they start to deal with dog and cats dislocated from Hurricane Harvey.   

Wabi-Sabi

Wabi-Sabi

Have you heard of the Japanese term wabi-sabi?  Wabi-sabi is about finding beauty in the acceptance of imperfection and temporality.  For example, it’s being comfortable with a little peeling paint, worn wood or the wear marks in an old oriental rug.

Some of this comes from the deep-rooted culture of frugality. In Japan there is great virtue in simplicity and economy.  In the west sometimes this idea gets interpreted into a sort of trendy minimalism. While I’m very attracted to the concept of having less ‘stuff,’ the faux-spiritualization of minimalism is off-putting. But wabi sabi is different than minimalism. It encourages repurposing, recycling and taking care of the things you already have.  It can’t be mass produced.

bakohan

I just got back from a trip to Tokyo.  There I found a perfect example of wabi-sabi at the Tokyo National Museum.  It is a glazed tea bowl that has been named “Bakohan.”  And it’s broken.  What makes this little tea bowl so special to the Japanese, a national treasure even?  In great part, it’s the beauty of the intricate and loving repair made when the bowl cracked centuries ago.  Appropriately, a Japanese word for “beautiful” utsukushii evolved from an original meaning of “being loved.” 

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Photo credit – @myrimi

I love the concept of wabi-sabi and find it very freeing, especially when thinking of my home.  There is a commercial version of perfection in the home can feel cold and unwelcoming.  It’s also unattainable or at the least unsustainable.  Living, being loved, and having a purpose — these things leave marks.  Wabi-sabi is about embracing those marks.

This approach isn’t an excuse to not clean your house or see something inadequate through rose-colored glasses. But it is a concept that makes peace with the natural processes of time and age. It’s accepting weather and wear and change. It’s a perspective that finds grace for life’s imperfections. It’s the opposite of what the commercial world is selling us, but I think that’s ok. 

Photo credit @myrimi  for the feature image of handmade Japanese pottery by Babaghuri. One of my favorite people to follow on Instagram.