Once again, I’m watching too many of those HGTV and DIY network home improvement shows — mostly, of late, the ones in which a homeowner’s backyard is “crashed” and transformed from a barren expanse into a Spa-Like Retreat, or a Tropical Paradise, or Awesome Party Area so they can invite over the numerous photogenic friends they always have.
It’s one way I pass the time when it’s too hot to go outside. I stay inside and watch shows about people who are getting makeovers for their yards, which are probably also too hot to invite friends over, unless, of course, a swimming pool is being added.
Watching those programs inspired me enough to go outside and attempt my own poor man’s version of a makeover – of a neighbor’s backyard, or at least the grassy area behind her apartment that I’m not sure who actually owns, probably the homeowner’s association.
I’ve told you before about where Ace and I ended our travels and where I’m staying for now — renting the very unit my parents lived when I was born, at a former apartment complex called College Village, since turned condo. It’s a modest development of one and two-story brick buildings that serve as an oasis of affordability in a neighborhood that otherwise consists of fine and expensive homes, with big trees and country clubs in every direction. College Village is mostly, as the name might imply, college students, along with people just starting their careers, and people on fixed incomes, or, as in my case, broken incomes. (There should be a TV show where personable, good-looking and enthusiastic experts come to your house and fix your income.)
I’ve also told you before about my neighbor dachschunds, short and chunky Frank and long and slim Bogey. Most days, Ace and I walk around the block with them. (Frank’s trying to shed a few pounds.)
Several times on those walks, their owner, Faren, has mentioned how she’d like to get a kiddie pool for the dogs to cool off in during the summer. It was taking her far too long to get this accomplished, though.
So I decided to “crash” her yard and transform that simple patch of grass from drab to fab, from bland to grand, from blah to something that rhymes with blah — oh yeah, “ahhhhh” — to, as they say in the parlance of these shows, “trick it out.”
While Faren was at work Friday, I made my move. I had but a few hours to complete the surprise transformation (all these shows have a beat-the-clock element to make them more exciting).
I decided to set a budget of $50. (That — staying within budget — is another dramatic element designed to make these shows more suspenseful than hammering and painting would otherwise be.)
First, I headed to K Mart, where I purchased a blue kiddie pool for $15. On an aisle nearby, I picked up some accessories — vital in any makeover. I couldn’t find any pink flamingos, but I bought two tiki torches for $5, and a bottle of bug repelling oil to fuel them, for $8.
Then I bought myself some sandals, because there was a half price sale on them, for $12.
That brought me in, even counting the sandals, at $10 under budget.
I gave myself a high five and, back home, assembled the team members — me and Ace. I found a flat place for the pool, borrowed a neighbor’s hose and filled it up. I stuck the two torches into the ground, but just barely because the ground was really hard and dry.
I proclaimed Ace lifeguard and myself facilities manager, as well as a charter member of the country club’s membership selection committee. I am also thinking about being editor of the country club newsletter.
Then I put on my new sandals and waited for the reveal, which I figured would take place when Faren got home. In the interim, I watched more home improvement shows and lots of advertisements for Glidden paint.
Faren and her boyfriend, Richard, pulled up without me seeing. So I can only imagine that, before I got there, they both said “ohmigod!” and “this is AWEsome!” numerous times.
When I saw they were home, I went over and walked Faren through the tropical paradise I had created, pointing out its many features, including her white plastic chair, which I had moved closer to the pool area. It took about four seconds.
Ace traipsed through the pool a few times, deciding, while it was perfect for getting a drink, it wasn’t big enough for him to lie down in.
Nevertheless, I foresee countless hours of enjoyment ahead as Faren, Frank and Bogey, and probably lots of mosquitos, make the most of their brand new, totally tricked out, awesome tropical paradise.
As for the lifeguard and facilities manager, they’ll probably be staying in the air conditioning.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 9th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, back yard, bogey, college village, crashers, dachshund, diy, dogs, frank, heat, hgtv, home improvement, kiddie pool, make over, neighbors, north carolina, pets, pool, summer, swimming, transformation, winston-salem, yard crashers
A full year has passed since Ace and I — after a year on the road — called a temporary halt to our wandering ways and moved into the apartment of my birth in Winston-Salem, N.C.
During that time I’ve reclaimed my stuff, and gotten things organized to my liking, but I’ve done little to improve the outside appearances of my new abode — a one-story brick unit that looks just like all the others in the former 1950′s-era apartment complex turned condo.
Shortly after I moved in, the homeowner’s association here in what’s called College Village, began sprucing things up, landscaping the barren front of the buildings with azaleas and gardenias and the mulch of choice in these parts, pine needles.
But my front steps, especially after that, were pretty bland.
So, getting hit with an urge to build, make home a little homier, or maybe just put my mark on the place, the front stoop seemed a good place for a home improvement project — as silly as that may be to do in a rental property where, though I don’t have it entirely figured out yet, I probably won’t be staying for any great length of time.
Last week, after a good two years of avoiding Home Depot, I headed there to get what I needed for the project. I wanted to build a flower box for each side of the steps, to sit atop the brick ledges, and plant something flowery that would climb up the wrought iron rails.
Gardening, maybe, was something I missed during our year of travel, staying with friends, family, in the car, at campsites, in a boat, in a trailer and at a lot of Motel 6′s. (You can read more about those travels here, and buy the awesome commemorative Travels with Ace calendar here.) Since deciding to stay put for a bit, and moving here, all I’d done, gardening-wise, was stuff some pansies in some pots and put them on the front step’s brick ledges.
That was in honor of a pending visit from my sister and her husband. She lived here as a toddler, and had told me about how, before she had a brother to pester, she would sit on the front porch and talk to the pansies planted there, because it looked like they had faces, and she’d found they wouldn’t interrupt her.
Last week, with measurements in hand, and my son along — he’s visiting for the summer — I headed to Home Depot, determined to make not just some plain wooden flower boxes, but some that would securely fit over those brick ledges on the side, so as not to be knocked over by any big dogs, and I was intent on doing so as inexpensively as possible.
We bought some cedar fence planks, and two pine furring strips, some nails, some dirt, some white impatiens for the front of the boxes and, for the back, two clematis — clemati? — that would, according to the plan, wind their way up the black railings. Total cost: About $60.
Through a lot of trial and error, miscuts and boo-boos, we managed to put together two boxes, with slatted, recessed bottoms for drainage that perfectly fit over the ledges, with a little encouragement from a rubber mallet.
Once they were in place and secure, I realized that, in addition to being about the right size for what I was planting, they were also the perfect size for a couple of my neighbors — Frank and Bogey, both dachshunds.
So we invited Faren and her dogs over.
With the dogs in place, my modest apartment was transformed — into something close to one of those mansions that have pretentious lion statues at their entrance. Well, maybe not that close.
Bogey, that’s him on the left, was patient enough to stay in place while I took the picture. Frank, on the right, seemed mesmerized by being in the box. Frank, who has some weight issues, barely fit in, but he seemed to like that. Maybe he found it reassuring, like one of those Temple Grandin hugging machines.
He seemed willing to stay there all afternoon. Frank, we should point out, is in the midst of a weight loss regimen — and doing great. Not real active when I first met him, prone to giving up and laying down whenever his owner took him for a walk, we found that, with Ace along, he was inspired to keep up.
He has lost almost five pounds, has far more pep in his step, and almost every day, with Ace along, he’s logging a good half mile, with plans to increase that incrementally.
His brother (though not by birth) Bogey, is an active sort, prone to chasing squirrels if given the slightest opportunity. He’s much slimmer, and a bit longer than Frank. Between that and wanting to see outside, he chose to keep his front paws on the edge of the box.
Bogey’s the kind of dog that doesn’t want to miss anything.
Frank’s the sort who doesn’t want to miss dinner.
I’d probably rather step outside to see Frank and Bogey in my boxes than flowers, but that’s not practical, so I let Faren take her dogs back, explained to the two of them, and Ace, the importance of not peeing on my custom-built, cedar flower boxes, planted my flowers and took the “after” picture that’s atop this post.
In the months ahead, I expect my clematis vines — already with about a dozen blooms — to grow and climb. I expect Ace to not jump over or through my boxes in his eagerness to get outside, usually to see Frank and Bogey. I expect Frank, homebody that he is, to shrink more as our walks continue. I expect Bogey, adventurer that he is, to pick up a scent and chase something.
It occurs to me that I’m equal parts Frank and Bogey, and I think Ace is, too, and maybe we all are – part of us wanting to stay put, part of us wanting to get out of the box and explore.
But sometimes staying inside the box — as long as it’s one in which you can still grow – isn’t too bad.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 8th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, bogey, cedar, clematis, dachshunds, decorating, dog boxes, dogs, dogs in boxes, flower boxes, frank, front steps, gardening, home, home depot, home improvement, impatiens, living in the box, living outside the box, nesting, pets, project, road trip, settling down, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace
But, being a big dog’s human, I’d have to agree with Joan Klucha, a British Columbia dog trainer: It’s not entirely right — emphasis on entirely — for big dogs, and their humans, to be held to a higher standard than small dogs.
Klucha, in a column for the North Shore News in Canada — one I’d guess she’s going to take some grief for, diplomatic though it is — points out that little dogs can get away with a lot more than big dogs can.
A case in point is poop, which is what she starts the discussion with, recalling a visit to a client who, once she saw the condition of her home, Klucha assumed wanted help with house training.
“Oh, we don’t care about that,” the client said. “They are little dogs. Their poop is so little we clean it up and it’s not a bother at all. It’s their barking; it’s driving us nuts.”
A little dog can jump up, drop a load, be yappy, be rambunctious, even attack, but it’s often not taken as seriously as when a big dog does those things. As Klucha notes:
“There is a general consensus among many people that the size of a dog determines its behaviour, meaning a small dog automatically means a good dog. Let me set the record straight: The size of a dog is never the issue that determines whether a dog is good or bad. It is always the owner.”
Klucha points to a recent case in Ontario in which a small dog bit a child and the dog’s owner argued her dog was too small to be vicious, and not a threat to anyone.
“If this was a large dog, the outrage over the incident would have demanded that the dog be euthanized,” Klucha says.
“When someone sees a small dog lunging, barking and snapping while pulling at the end of a leash, they chuckle to themselves or don’t give it much thought. If it was a large dog behaving like that, animal control would surely be called out to deal with the situation.
“Small dogs get away with many inappropriate behaviours simply because they are small … Large dogs live under a microscope and are scrutinized for every misdeed.”
When you have a big dog (and mine’s 130 pounds) you do have a heavy responsibility. But small dog owners have a responsibility, too, and while most live up to it, there are those — not you, of course — who think their precious little one can do no harm and let them get away with anything short of murder.
Where the double standard most offends me is when it’s in the form of rules – at motels, in apartment complexes or from other entities that set weight limits under the thinking that big dogs automatically cause bigger problems. That’s just wrong.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I’m going to go pet a little dog now. His name is Bogey. That’s him in the picture. He lives a few doors down, and he’s very well behaved. I will try to make sure my dog Ace doesn’t pee on him again. Even though Bogey likes to walk under Ace — perhaps for the shade, perhaps for the view, perhaps for the sake of sniffing – he doesn’t deserve a surprise shower.
Being a big dog owner, making sure that doesn’t happen is my responsibility.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 14th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, behavior, big dogs, bogey, discipline, dogs, double standard, joan klucha, manners, obedience, pee, perceptions, pets, poop, rules, small dogs, standards, train, trainer, training