The Ambivalence of Doggy Love

After M’hijito returned from his seaside vacation, he decided that Charley the Golden Retriever is now old enough to stay on his own all day, and so the dog-sitting gig has come to an end. Seems to be working out pretty well for him: he hasn’t complained about any furniture being eaten, and when I dropped by su casa over the weekend, I noted that Charley seems to have regained all the lost weight and looks great.

Funny thing about humans and dogs and their symbiotic relationship. Every time I lose a dog—and most of them will pass on to their furry fathers before we do, with any luck—I feel really bad and miss the dog a lot. It’s been four years since Anna departed and I still miss that dog. And yet weirdly, at the same time there’s this huge sense of relief. All that work comes to a stop.

It was reasonable to feel relieved when Anna passed. The cost of the meds and vet bills was well-nigh crippling, and the amount of work involved in taking care of a large, sick animal is substantial, indeed. When Anna got so blind she fell in the pool, the workload surpassed ridiculous—I built a jury-rigged fence around the Sink of Death to keep her away from it, but that kept me and the pool cleaning chemicals and gear away from it, too. Everything had to be hauled over the fence, several times a week.

Charley, except for the size of his dog mounds (cleaning up Cassie’s rabbit pellets is as nothing!) and his chronic gollywobbles, was far less of a burden than Anna. But…I’d resuscitated the old wire fencing (and bought a lot more of it!) to barricade my plants and the bubblers he loved to chew, barricading myself out of the flowerbeds, too. And pups, unlike older dogs, track in a phenomenal amount of dirt. I tend to get discouraged when faced with a lot of dirt in the house: often as not, I’ll just give up and ignore it. That makes me even more depressed, because I don’t like living in dirt. Then there was the frenzy generated by his pulling up and eating a half-dozen irrigation sprinklers and drippers, most of which I couldn’t then find and still haven’t found to repair. Half the irrigation system is now nonfunctional.

Hm.

Dog out, cleaning and yard repair in.

This weekend I spent most of Saturday and the entire morning Sunday scrubbing the filthy, filthy house. Finally got around to seriously vacuuming the floors, moving and sweeping under the furniture and sucking the dead insects out of the window casings and vacuuming the dust off the baseboards and on and on. Then the entire 1860 square feet of tile had to be dustmopped, especially under pieces that I can’t move, like the bed. Toward 9:00 p.m. I was running out of gas and so as a shortcut dragged out the Simple Green and the janitorial-sized mop and wet-mopped the sticky, stained kitchen, dining room, hall, and living room floors.

Mopping, though, really does nothing to clean the floor. It just moves the dirt around.

So, after a night’s sleep, it was time to haul out the good old floor steamer. This thing actually does pick up the dirt. Because dirt gets absorbed into the microfiber rag I clip to the steamer head, the rags usually have to be changed two or three times during a routine cleaning. Yesterday I went through seven rags, each of which turned black before a room was finished. Even then, in the dirtier rooms the floors finished smeary and streaky and had to be redone until they were closer to clean. Had to steam-clean the kitchen floor twice and the dining room three times to get them to the point where they look clean.

And truth be told, they really need to be steam-cleaned another couple of times. And I really need to get down on hands and knees and scrub the grout clean. Later.

All this was made so much the more pleasurable by the bout of sciatica I’ve cleverly inflicted upon myself. A week or two ago I spent altogether too many hours parked in front of the computer, sitting in my habitual contortionist’s position, feet propped on the desk and rear end resting on the sacroiliac. Must have pinched a nerve. Back and hip and right leg hurt like hell. This antic also caused the plantar fascitis and accompanying Achilles tendonitis to flare up. The right heel hurts so much I can barely walk.

Tough nougies, though. There’s nobody else to do all this work. So I just have to put up with it.

My pretty little flowerbed by the pool has turned into a weedbed, but in the extreme heat and endless goddamn drought, even the weeds out there are dead. Because the doggy fence made it too difficult to reach in there and dig out the weeds, I’ve  just let everything die.

The dried-out, weed-infested ground is so hard that I couldn’t pull the dead weeds out at all—they were just stuck in there. So last night I let the water run in there, to soften up the soil. Flooded the flowerbed after dark, went to bed, got up at 4:30 a.m., and started to work.

Mercifully, we’re having a brief cold snap. This morning we had a little cloud cover, and by 8:30 it was only 90 degrees out there. This provided several hours of clean-up time.

Pulled out the wire fencing, inflicting a nice hematoma on a finger when I had to force a section out of the solidly baked clay on the east side. Good riddance to that: now I can get water on the hopseed and orange jubilee I planted there to reconstitute a privacy shield, and do it without tripping and falling on my face. Now that I’m old, the leg doesn’t swing as high as it used to…I’ve gotten tangled in that stuff twice and both times fell to the ground. Fortunately, I fell in the dirt and not on the concrete; otherwise I would have hurt myself good. Now that little menace is gone.

The young hopseed plants that went in last winter are now almost up to the top of the wall. By  next summer, for sure, they’ll be tall enough to block curious neighbors and passers-by from peering into my yard. The orange jubilee has survived, by dint of extravagant watering—apparently Texas yellowbells and their cousins are not well adapted to Arizona’s extreme conditions. Looks like it probably will survive the summer, but I’m sure it will freeze back next winter. The vitex, shown here on the left in its winter nekkidness, has run amok in the absence of the sun-hogging Devil-pod Tree. It’s now a huge shrub. Next time the arborist is here, I’ll have to ask him to trim it up into a tree shape. It also will help a great deal as a privacy screen.

Back to work, though: shoveled, troweled, and pulled the weeds and as many rampant roots as I could grab out of the flowerbed. Filled a giant black bag with that stuff. Realized the reason the Lady Banks rose looks like it’s barely clinging to life by the tips of its roots is that the damn thing is barely clinging to life. It hasn’t been getting anything like enough water. The weeds that took over the little flower garden I put around its base also were dried out and dead, the ground hard as concrete. Soaked that area with water (understand: water has been running on the landscaping every day since the heat came up! but the drought has been so extreme—one day humidity was 2 percent!—that I’ve had to drag hoses every single day to keep plants and trees alive) and figured I’ll come back tomorrow to dig up and clean out that area.

Dragged hoses dragged hoses dragged hoses dragged hoses dragged hoses… The irrigation system came on. Spotted one dripper hose that Charley had nipped off below grade, now visible by the fountain it made. Dug the dirt out around it so I can come back in the cool of another morning and repair that. Think I’ll need to buy another package of sprinkler heads to fix it. Never did find where the other four or five chewed-up sprinklers and drippers came from.

Now I’m thinking I’ll go over to the Depot and buy a few flowers to brighten up the abandoned flowerbed, and while there pick up a couple of plants to replace the indoor plants that had to go when Charley came to stay. It would make sense, though, to wait until I’m in Scottsdale for the Thursday a.m. meeting and visit the HD out there, since Home Depot outlets, like most mass retailers, offer a better selection and higher-quality goods to more upscale demographics. Especially in the house-plant department, I’m likely to find nicer specimens in Scottsdale than I can up the road.

Most of the morning is now gone and I have not begun to address paying work. We planned to return nine chapters to the honored client today, and I see by the notices from Drop Box that Tina has been laboring assiduously on that project.

And so…to work.

 

 

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