“Would you please stop losing?” I beg Luke, our 55-pound dog mix (Great Pyrenees, German Shepherd, Chow, Basset Hound, and a few other breeds that shed, according to Wisdom Panel). “Please keep your stupendous fur to yourself.”
Luke and I often have this conversation as I deal daily with the apricot puffy balls of fur that swell around the house, gathering like hamster ghosts under chairs and in corners. As I plead, he looks at me with emotion with those basset hound eyes. “I know you can’t help it,” I add, “but shit!”
I am furious.
Anyone who has lost pets knows fur patrol is a second career.
“He only blows on his coat twice a year,” my husband says, trying to put a positive spin on the situation, which bothers me a lot more than it bothers him.
“Yeah,” I said, “Once from January to June, and again from July to December.”
“How do you handle this?” I asked my friend Paula recently while visiting her home. Paula has two shedding dogs and somehow a spotless, furless home.
“With Marvin the Martian,” she said, referring to her Roomba robot vacuum.
I knew about these high-tech vacuum cleaners, but I never wanted one. The idea of a robot wandering randomly around the house sounds even less appealing than having dog fur everywhere. “Do you mind having a computerized hubcap running around your lovely house?” I asked.
“He only cleans when I tell him to,” she said. “I schedule his activity times from my phone. When he’s finished or needs a break, he returns to his little dock, empties his bin and reloads.
“I wish they had kids like that,” I said, only half-joking.
Back home, I tell my husband about Marvin. The next day, he calls me from Costco, where he sees a display of Roombas for sale. “Which model do you want? ” he asks.
That afternoon our new Roomba, Rosie, named after the maid in “The Jetsons”, is connected to the house Wi-Fi and ready to work. “Run,” I say and happily press my phone’s touchpad where it says “Vacuum Everywhere.” Rosie makes a cheerful wake-up sound, disengages from her dock and soon moves across the floor and goes under chairs, beds and sofas where no vacuum has gone before, blowing away the hairballs with my furstration. Suddenly, I feel like I’ve finally entered the 21st century.
Fur management is just one of many household issues that pet owners must deal with when bringing furry friends into the fold. And studies show that the number of homes doing just that is on the rise. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 1 in 5 American households have adopted a pet during the pandemic. Today, 53% of U.S. households have a dog and 36% have a cat, according to a report released last month by Spots.com.
That’s a lot of fur theft. But in addition to repelling fluff, here’s what pet owners should consider when finding or creating a permanent home for Fido or Fluffy:
• Get the HOA OK. Not all communities allow pets. Some home and landlord associations limit the number and size of pets a landlord or renter can have, and in some cases exclude certain breeds. Ask about pet policies before buying or renting. Some HOAs also have fence restrictions, which may limit the type and height of fences, or prohibit adding a visible fence at all.
• Choose floors suitable for pets. Hard floors, especially tile, stone, vinyl, or wood (provided you wipe up spills promptly), are best for pets because they’re easier to clean. Carpeting, while cozy, can trap pet odors, fur, fleas and dander, and is more prone to damage from chewing, claws and stains.
• Add an escape hatch. Pet doors allow those who aren’t home all day to let their pets out. Now that more workers are returning to the office after the pandemic, sales of pet doors are on the rise, according to industry insiders. The gates are available in a variety of sizes, standard or electronic (triggered by the pet’s collar), and can fit through any wall or door leading outside. Although pet doors sell for as little as $50, consider paying more before drilling a hole in your wall.
Inexpensive pet doors often need to have their flaps replaced and can offer poor temperature control. According to Maria Lewis, spokesperson for PlexiDor, which has been manufacturing high-end dog doors in America since 1985, and whose doors sell for between $298 and $1,985 plus installation.
• Install a secure fence. If your house has a yard, make sure your dog can enjoy it safely. Install a good fence that your pooch can’t jump or dig under. Electric fences work well for keeping pets in the yard, but they won’t keep other animals out.
• Survey the neighborhood. A house or apartment with easy access to walking trails or a dog park is a real plus for dogs and their owners.
• Find dog care. If you work outside the home or travel, find a friend or service that can care for your pet while you’re away and can provide tours, walks, or boarding. You can find pre-screened dog walkers and sitters in your area through online services like Wag! and Rover. Younger, athletic dogs can also benefit from the socialization and exercise available through play care programs.
• Build pet care into the budget. Pets can give love freely, but they are far from free. The food, treats, toys, vet care, grooming and dog sitting all add up, and that’s not counting the robot vacuum.
Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books, including “What to Do With Everything You Own to Leave the Legacy You Want”, “Downsizing the Family Home–What to Save, What to Let Go” and “Downsizing the Blended Home – When Two Households Become One. Join her at marnijameson.com.