Decorating for the Dogs

Walking into our living room, I sighed in smug satisfaction. A few weeks ago, I’d purchased an antique Oushak carpet to layer over— ever so chicly, of course—the larger seagrass rug. At last, the room looked polished. The rug seemed to be the missing link, tying together the colorful abstract painting and ivory Belgian linen sofa and chairs. Looking around, I felt impelled to hum a little Etta James. “At last, my rug, er, my love, has come along…”

Maybe I’ll snap a pic, I thought, convincing myself the room was finally Insta-worthy.

But my oohs and ahhhs quickly changed to eww and ugh when I sniffed that telltale scent. And then I spotted the sunny circle on the rug and Jackson Pollock-esque yellow splatters on the corner of the chair. Dog urine.

Nothing like a little dog pee to knock you to your senses, curing the quest for perfection with one leg lift. Think of it as a variation on smelling salts.

It’s as if one of our three Labs, waltzed into our living room, dog tags jingling, ears flapping, and declared: Dudes, this place is way too neutral, let’s add a touch of yellow. Instagram this, mother-you-know-what-er.

Shock and awe ensued, as I tried to assess the damages and assign blame.

“Angus!,” I yelled from the living room. “Moses! Buddy!” They trotted in, spinning in circles, most likely thinking a treat was on the way.

“Which one of you did this?” I said in my sternest voice, pointing an index finger at their shiny black noses. They know this voice. It’s not the one that asks if they want a “treat-treat.”

Suddenly, with ears pinned back, they looked up at me with saucer eyes that could melt even the coldest of hearts. Think Susie Lou Who when she looks up at The Grinch. “We are all innocent. And even when we aren’t, look how adorable we are.”

Unless I submitted the urine to a DNA test, there was no way to find the culprit. And what could I do anyway? Cry over spilled urine? In the grand scheme of things, what did it matter? Did I want to be like that neighbor I once saw yell at a man whose Golden Retriever peed on a leggy Camellia bush in front of her house? Hey, at least the dog went outside.

The world is filled with dog people and non-dog people. I often tell friends and family, if you’re not a dog person, you’re not my person. I am a dog person, which I was reminded of while pouring soda water on the stained rug and chair.

Despite the shedding (I could start a business selling Lab fur-filled pillows), slobber, and occasional mishaps, I wouldn’t trade a thing. Because with that, you also get tail wagging, licks, loyalty, companionship, unconditional love—and laughter. For children and adults alike, dogs teach them how to care for another being, and how another being can care for them. Sometimes it can seem like our dogs are our only friends. They sense our sadness, our anxiety, our joy. They keep us present, while reminding us, again and again, that life is messy. And not always Insta-worthy.

The house may have gone to the dogs, but the living room probably did need a dash of yellow—along with a dose of humility and humor.

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