My friend Rita used to keep a page from an old calendar in her desk, the date marking the occasion I foolishly said, "I'll never have more than two dogs."
She thought the statement amusing, since I've rarely had fewer than two dogs for any great length of time.
With the rather unexpected arrival of a third dog the day after Christmas, I'm thinking of making a new rule: Never have more dogs than you can fit on the bed.
Since the new dog, Heather, is my second full-grown retriever, I may have to get a bigger bed soon. In the short run, though, the challenge is dirt and fur. With two big dogs (the retrievers Benjamin and Heather) and a medium-sized long-haired dog (the Sheltie, Andy), I have plenty of both.
Domesticity has never been my strong suit, but I cope as best I can. I cling to my dog-eared copy of Don Aslett's sadly out-of-print "Pet Clean-up Made Easy" for advice. (Aslett's other cleaning books are also valuable to pet lovers, although the advice is more general.)
Here are a few of his suggestions -- all of which have earned Gina's Bad Housekeeping Seal of Approval -- for those who like not only a moderately clean house, but also pets:
-- When choosing new carpets, forget wool and cotton and go for all-synthetic fibers. Natural fibers absorb everything, and that, says Aslett, guarantees stains and odors. Better still are all-synthetic carpets with stain repellents built in. Aslett suggest a textured or multilevel loop, not a deep shag, which is hardest to clean and provides the snuggest home for fleas. Varied hues of the same color hide dirt and stains the best, he says, and even better is matching the carpet color to your pet.
-- Opt for tightly woven, smooth-surfaced upholstery. Such fabrics will resist a few claw marks and will not encourage a furniture-scratching cat. Steer clear of highly textured, nubby fabrics and wicker. "Anything with a loose or open weave invites cats and dogs to pull at it, fiddle with it, claw or scratch it," he writes. (Providing your cat with a cat tree and teaching him to use it is the second half of the no-scratch equation.)
-- Make use of mats everywhere. Rubber-backed mats of synthetic pile collect dirt and moisture and clean up easily. Aslett suggests using them just outside and inside the doors, under food dishes and in sleeping areas. (They make great beds for older pets who "leak.") A great suggestion from a reader: Car mats work just as well.
It's a good idea to keep a towel handy and teach your dog to wait on whatever mats you use until you wipe off his dirty paws. Sounds like too much effort? Consider this: Would you rather spend a few minutes teaching your dog to wait for a wipe-off, or the rest of your life cleaning up muddy foot prints?
-- Clean up spills and messes immediately. "You can't let a pet mess go until it's convenient," writes Aslett, "because if you leave it, the mess will spread, stain, smell, attract pests and encourage repeat offenses." Look for cleaners with enzymes at your pet-supply store; I've found they do the best job. A serious no-no: Never use an ammonia product to clean up, especially if the mess is urine. Ammonia smells like urine to your pet and will invite a new mess on the same spot.
My own tip to add is grooming, which is good for your pet, good for your relationship with your pet, and good for the general cleanliness of your home. Not only will your pet be more attractive and happier for the extra attention, but every piece of fur you snare you'll spare from a future home on your floor or sofa.
Pets on the Web: Rabbit-lover Beth Mammini has pulled together a delightful collection of links on her Bunny Home Pages site (http://www.alumni.caltech.edu/(tilde)meanie/petbunny.html). The Web site features the pages of more than 100 individual rabbits in the United States and around the world. Of more practical use is the information on Etherbun, the electronic mailing list devoted to the care, behavior, health and biology of companion rabbits.
Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies" and "Cats for Dummies," and is the editorial director of the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or e-mail to Giori(at)aol.com.
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