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
It’s “National Dress Up Your Pet Day.”
And — with apologies to any advertisers or potential advertisers we might offend, to the founder of the day, and to dog dresser-uppers everywhere — we hate it.
We abide it, when it’s just done once in a while; when it’s done for purposes of warmth with dogs of the tiny, short coated, shivering variety; and, to some extent, on Halloween.
But overall, we’re every bit as tired of it as most of the dogs who get dressed up probably are.
For all those who will respond saying how much their dogs love being dressed up, I’d submit that it’s the attention, not the attire, that they are appreciating. (Though I will admit Ace does seem to love it when I change his bandana — generally when it gets crusty and/or stinky, or about every three months.)
While we’re at it, we’re tired, too, of all these “national days” being proclaimed — at least those that aren’t for a good cause, but are instead marketing gimmicks.
It’s got to stop somewhere. What’s next? National Clone Your Dog Day?
And one more note of concern: If we keep humanizing dogs, through dressing them up and such, might the day come that they get so like us that they start proclaiming “national days?”
National Rawhide Chew Day, National Pet Your Dog All Day Long Day, National Don’t Forget the Belly Day, National Double Up The Dinner Serving Day, National Dig A Hole Day, National Fetch And Then Fetch Some More And Perhaps A Little More Fetch Day.
It could get totally out of control.
I’m pretty sure President Obama didn’t declare Jan. 14 “National Dress Up Your Pet Day,” I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an act of Congress. Instead, it seems National Dress Up Your Pet Day was founded in 2009 by Colleen Paige, a “celebrity pet lifestyle expert and animal behaviorist,” who has proclaimed several dog-related national days (though I don’t begin to understand what gives her the authority to proclaim days).
It is sponsored by the Animal Miracle Network “as a fun way to celebrate our beloved pets and to support the pet fashion community.”
“It’s important to remember though,” notes Paige, “that it’s not … a day to disrespect our pets with uncomfortable, vulgar and/or seasonally inappropriate costumes for the sake of a laugh or photo shoot.”
“Have fun with your pets by dressing them in cute outfits and safe costumes – but keep your pet’s comfort level in mind when involving him/her in this fun novelty day. Make sure that your pet can see and hear properly and that they aren’t wearing something that might overheat them or incorporate any parts that they may chew off and swallow.”
Dogs are too smart to fall for “National Dress Up Your Pet Day,” but at least some of us humans seem to buy into it.
Here’s a snippet from a recent article that appeared on Petstyle.com:
“With the big day just around the corner, now is the time to coordinate some fabulous outfits so your pet can celebrate in style! This is your chance to make Fido fit for the runway. But remember, there is more involved than just pulling your pet’s favorite frock out of her wardrobe. As a pet owner, there are a few things to consider as you prepare for the main event …
“Think about your pet’s personality. Your regal Doberman will not appreciate being dressed in a pink sweater with maribou trim. He is more likely to appreciate a fashionable camo fleece or a suitable biker hat … Then again, your Bichon Frise might love the pink sweater. Or put some prep in your pet with this yuppie puppy attire …
“If rain is expected in your location, opt for a totally ‘in’ rain coat and possibly even a matching set of boots. After all, being hip doesn’t mean being impractical. And you don’t want your pet to catch a cold as he shows off his fabulous fashion sense.”
Geesh. We’ve made this point before, unpopular as it may be with a large segment of dog people. If a dog requires protection from the elements, fine. If once a year, on Halloween, you want to decorate your dog, safely and comfortably, fine.
But if dressing your dog, merely for decoration’s sake, is a daily, or even weekly diversion, if you’re constantly putting him or her in outfits, if you have more than, say, two dozen of them, perhaps you might want to consider a doll instead.
Even on National Dress Up Your Dog Day, which, come to think of it, might be a good time to change Ace’s bandana.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 14th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animal miracle network, animals, anthropomorphic, bandana, behavior, clothing, colleen paige, costumes, days, decorating, decoration, dog, dogs, dress, dress up, fashion, gimmicks, halloween, human, humanizing, marketing, national days, national dress up your pet day, outfits, owners, pet fashion, pets, proclaimed, proclamation
Acrylic on canvas
By John Woestendiek/2011
Depicting man’s dogged uphill climb – the abysses he must cross, the spillage that inevitably occurs, and above all the Sisyphean, never-give-up perseverance that is at his emotional core (know what I’m sayin’?) — “Copperseverance” is the first in John Woestendiek’s “Copper” series.
A one of its kind artwork, it is currently is on display in the artist’s home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but available for purchase (shipping and handling not included) because he can always just make another one and, because it was kinda fun, probably will.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 20th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: acrylic, art, artist, artwork, blue, canvas, color schemes, contemporary, copper, copperseverance, decorating, do-it-yourself, home, masterpice, modern art, painting, palette, travels with ace
I believe there is an interior decorator within all of us.
I would like the one within me to leave now.
That’s because he’s an annoying little twit who’s spending too much of my time and money in his attempt to make everything “just so,” insisting on “color schemes” and “balance” and “flow,” and of course “bold accessories that really make things pop.”
I like to think that I’ve always had some taste, that I’m a notch above those uncivilized brutes who – having never watched HGTV, having kept the interior decorator within them buried — are content with soft reclining seating (built-in cupholder optional), a wall-mounted flat screen TV the size of your average billboard, and nothing in between to obstruct the view.
For one, Ace and I have just completed a year on the road, most of which was spent hopping from pet-friendly motel room to pet-friendly motel room every day or two. Remember the Motel 6 bedspread? We do. In those places we stayed longer – a friend’s sailboat, a trailer in the desert, an empty house and the basement of a mansion – we weren’t afforded much opportunity to make them “our own.” After all that flitting about, I think I developed a zest to nest.
For another, while staying in the basement of a mansion in North Carolina for the past month (with free cable TV provided), I became briefly addicted to Home & Garden Television (HGTV) – and all those shows that showed people moving to new homes, or renovating and redecorating their old ones. I despised many of those househunters and homeowners – because they were whiny and spoiled – but I also, for reasons I can’t pinpoint, or don’t want to, envied them.
On top of all that, the place we’ve moved into is special – to me at least. It’s the very apartment unit my parents lived in when I was born and, while dozens of people and families have moved in and out of it since then, I hoped to make it mine again, tip my hat to its heritage and make it presentable.
So join me now for the reveal, keeping in mind that — unlike those HGTV programs — we had virtually no budget to work with. Nevertheless, I’d appreciate it if you say “ohmigod!” a lot on our walk-through, because that’s what they do on all those home makeover shows.
We’ll start in the living room.
Among its featured pieces are my mother’s old couch, an old family desk, an old rocking chair, a wingback chair that once belonged to my father’s parents, my cousin’s coffee table and my mother’s old footstool featuring the needlepoint of great aunt Tan, seen here (in the lower right corner) before I stripped off the old cover and discovered the prize beneath.
I chose copper-colored faux silk drapes from Target for the living room — one of my first, and one of my few, purchases. I just thought they looked cool, and that I could build my color scheme around them.
That gave me copper, burgundy and gold (in the big chair) and blue (the couch). Fortunately, I found a cheap area rug at Wal Mart that bespoke them all, and which, in my non-expert opinion, really ties thing together. I describe my color palette — yes, palette — as being based on elements of the earth: copper, silver, gold, water, wine (I consider wine an element) and silver.
While the living room, through its furniture, bows to tradition, its more modern artworks, I think, make for an eclectic mix – eclectic mixes, such as my dog Ace, being the best kind.
At first I had some concerns that the piece — its inspiration, Lance says, being a silver, Airstream-like trailer — would disappear on my grey walls. To the contrary, I think it works well … subtly, as if to say, yes, I am here, but I am not going to shout about it, even though I am silver.
You can learn more about Lance and his art — his father played major league baseball, and younger Lance once bartended at Baltimore’s Idle Hour, a bar in which Ace spent his formative years — at his website.
But back to my place. On the living room’s opposite wall, I – believing there is an artist in all of us, too — have commissioned myself to paint my own piece of modern art, of copper and blue and maybe some red, further establishing our color scheme.
The goals I was trying to achieve in the living room were comfort, simplicity and a rustic elegance that says “come in, sit a spell, OK you can leave now.”
Moving on to the dining room, I found some discounted copper-ish drapes with swirly things on them to echo, somewhat, those in the living room. The dining table was a Craigslist find and the featured artwork is a portrait of Ace resting by a waterfall in Montana, painted by my friend Tamara Granger, Ace’s godmother.
Again, I was striving for simplicity, making sure not to use too much or too-large furniture, since that prohibits Ace from easily navigating the house.
Decorating around your dog (don’t laugh, a lot of people do it) is crucial, especially when he’s 130 pounds. That’s probably why he doesn’t — as much as he’d like to – go in the kitchen, which, in terms of floor space, measures about the same size as his crate.
In it, one can accomplish all kitchen duties without walking — a simple pivot step is all that is required, or permitted. The kitchen features another of Tamara’s artworks, a big black bird, hung over the stove, where it echoes the greys and silvers elsewhere.
Behind the kitchen and dining room is an added on room — not part of the house when I first lived in it — that will serve as a laundry area, once I figure out where to put all the junk now stored there and get a washer and dryer.
In my sole bathroom, I have put up a shower curtain of turquoise, and hung towels to match. So it is white and turquoise. I think it needs another color.
My bedroom is simply decorated with a box spring and mattress that sit on the floor, the better for Ace, until his back problems improve, to climb in. There are two end tables, and a dresser whose origins I don’t remember, and another TV. With cable television starting at $60-something a month, I have opted for the far cheaper, totally undependable and highly unsightly digital TV antenna.
As we enter the guest room/home office, we pass two old editorial cartoons in the hallway — a preview of a bigger collection ahead which pays homage, if you will, to those talented and artistic souls who were once able — and in some cases still are able – to make a career at newspapers out of hoisting the rich and powerful on their own petards.
Amazingly, they were able to do this even though hardly anybody knew what a petard is. While, in modern day slang, some use it as a derogatory term for members of PETA, a petard is actually an explosive device. The phrase ”hoist by one’s own petard” means to be undone by one’s own devices.
Editorial cartoonists are becoming an endangered species, but I was always a huge admirer of them — for they were people whose jobs seemed more like playtime, who were allowed to be goofy, and who had the power to makes us laugh, think and feel, sometimes all at once.
They could, and some still do, bring attenton to an injustice, afflict the overly comfortable, and point out that the emperor isn’t wearing anything — all with just a sketch and a punchline. It’s a shame many newspapers have opted not to have their own, anymore, because I think we have more naked emperors walking around on earth than ever before.
My collection — mostly from the 1950s and 1960s — includes the original works of Tom Darcy, Burges Green, Sandy Huffaker, Bill Sanders, Cliff Rogerson, Edmund Duffy, D.R. Fitzpatrick and C.P. Houston.
I lined their works up in two rows above my futon, AKA Ace’s bed, the arms of which still bear the scars of his gnawing on them as a pup.
They, too — those gnaw marks that angered me when I discovered them but now view as Ace’s childhood art – are part of the decor now, another little piece of history, or at least his history. I wouldn’t cover them up for anything.
Rounding out the home office furnishings are my old library table, two dinged up file cabinets, an office chair, an actual bed made for dogs, and four newly purchased, less than stalwart Wal Mart bookshelves, ordered over Internet.
What’s now the home office was 57 years ago my bedroom. From birth to the age of one, I shared it with my older sister.
The futon — long Ace’s favorite place to rest, and from which he watched me write my book — is one of five soft sleeping areas he now has to choose from. He also sleeps on my bed, the living room sofa, actually a loveseat, the actual dog bed, passed down from his Baltimore friend Fanny, and the Wal Mart rug that bespeaks the colors of my decor, and, come to think of it, of Ace as well.
This is where we’ll end our reveal, and we apologize if it was overly revealing.
(Next week: A look at the family that lived in the house that’s gone from being my crib to being my crib.)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 11th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animal, apartment, art, artist, baltimore, birthplace, cable, cartoonists, cartoons, color scheme, copper, crib, decorating, dogs, eclectic, editorial cartoons, end of the road, furnishings, furniture, hgtv, hoisted, home, house, idle hour, journalism, lance rauthzan, mixes, nest, nesting, newspapers, north carolina, petard, pets, reveal, revealing, road trip, settled, settling, silver, tamara granger, target, television, travel, travels with ace, walmart, winston-salem
About three weeks into my stay in the mansion basement, I realized I had access to more than just the handful of channels I was getting on my small TV – that simply by reprogramming the remote I could get more than 100. Three weeks after that new horizon opened up, there is only on channel number I have memorized, the one for HGTV. (It’s 69 on my dial.)
When I’m eating lunch, when there’s a lull in my day, when I need to step away from the keyboard and let my carpal tunnels reopen, I tune in Home and Garden Television and watch designers upgrade homeowner’s kitchens, or install a media-filled “man cave” in the basement, or turn a bedroom — from blah to ahhhh, from drab to fab – into a serene and spa-like paradise.
At the end, the homeowners get to see the transformation and say “ohmigod” a lot.
In other HGTV programming, shows follow people — young couples usually — as they search for a new home altogether, viewing three homes and then making their choice.
The part of it I like, when it comes to the design shows, is watching a project from conception to fruition, with, of course, the final touch of colorful accessories that really make the whole thing “pop.” It appeals to the Virgo, or something, in me. With the househunting shows, I like guessing which house the couple will pick (I get it right every single time), and predicting how long the marriage is going to last.
(When you can’t agree — or at least rationally discuss – something as simple as hardwood floors versus Mexican tile, your union’s days are numbered.)
Each episode of “Househunters” ends with a visit, a few months later, to the couple in their new home, into which they have comfortably settled and fixed those things they found most intolerable — whether it be wallpaper that is “too busy” or the devastating lack (it’s a cruel, cruel world) of granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.
Then – and this explains a lot of why I’m hooked – as soon as one episode ends, another begins, with no commercial break … “Tom and Nancy have outgrown their modest home in Modesto, and, with another baby on the way, need someplace larger, with a large master bedroom, an en-suite bathroom and a fenced yard for their dachschund, Scooter.”
That’s all it takes. Based on that simple plot introduction — and my need to see the tidy outcome – I’m in for another 30 minutes.
Why every station doesn’t do the no-commercials-between-episodes thing – it’s sort of the TV viewer equivalent of chain smoking — is beyond me.
I think another part of the HGTV addiction – in addition to having crushes on at least two of the designers (Howyadoin’, Genevieve?) — is that the urge to nest is growing stronger in me, after nearly a year traveling the country with my dog, living out of suitcases and staying in too many Motel 6′s.
I don’t know if urge to nest is making me watch HGTV, or if HGTV is adding to my urge to nest, but I definitely have an increasing desire to have a box of my own, put my stuff in it, make it functional and decorate it with some colorful accessories that really make it pop.
There is a third factor, I think, to the addiction. Watching HGTV makes me mad, and we, for some reason, like to watch people who make us mad — hence the success of shows like Survivor, and The Apprentice, and all those “real” housewives with artificial parts, not to mention sensitive bachelors willing to probe the souls of multiple women in search of their true lifemate.
On “Househunters,” there can be a perfectly cute and loveable young couple — the kind I could be friends with — that I instantly start hating the moment one of them turns up their nose at a laminate wood floor, or a stove and refrigerator that are, gasp, white. They seem convinced they can’t find true happiness without granite countertops.
The wealthier and pickier they are, the more I hate them, and want to send them to go work for the Peace Corps for a couple of years.
I find myself getting infuriated even more by “Househunters International” where homebuyers, usually seeking a second home, say, in the south of France, are forced to confront the bitter reality that there is only one walk-in closet, or that the ocean view from the Mexican villa they are looking at is slightly blocked by a palm tree.
Part of it, I’m sure, is jealousy — the fact that my financial situation for the moment precludes stainless steel appliances, the fact that a commodities broker, whatever the heck that is, can afford a $2.3 million second home while I can barely afford a commode.
Then again, maybe these people aren’t so greedy, and this is just another stereotype that HGTV, by taking things out of context, is reinforcing — that of the spoiled rotten gimme generation.
For sure, HGTV reinforces gender stereotypes. With every househunting couple, the woman demands walk-in closets and, generally, jokes about maybe giving her husband a little space in it. Just as the female needs closet space, the male needs a man cave, where he can watch sports on a large flat screen TV, play video games, have the boys over for poker and otherwise avoid the wife, who’s probably out buying shoes anyway.
Just once I’d like to see a man who wants a space to work on his scrapbooking, or a woman who’s interested in a barbecue pit.
It’s the use of the term “price point.”
I don’t know if HGTV invented this term, or if it’s something real estate agents came up with to make their jobs seem multi-faceted and complex, as opposed to something a monkey could do. For centuries, the word “price” worked just fine. Now, we have “price point,” as in ”You’re not going to find anything else like this at this price point.” Or, “granite countertops are rare at this price point.”
I don’t think just cutting back on HGTV will work for me. I think the only solution is clean and total break (sorry, Genevieve) — a moratorium on HGTV. Like onion dip and coffee, it seems I can’t be happy with just a little of it. Instead, it makes me — much like the stainless-steel-appliance-seeking homebuyers — want more: More episodes, more closet space, more upscale home furnishings, and of course more colorful accessories that will really make things pop.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 11th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accessories, addict, addicted, addiction, buying, couples, decorating, designers, families, furnishings, genevieve, gimme, granite countertops, greed, hgtv, home, home and garden television, homebuying, house, houses, nest, price point, pricepoint, property, real estate, renovation, spaces, stainless steel appliances, television, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, tv, view
Folks in China may be going overboard decorating their dogs as wild animals, but leave it to America to take the bizarre practice of decorating dogs and turn it into a TV series.
“Extreme Poodles” will air on TLC, premiering this Sunday at 9 p.m.
The Today Show aired a segment on the new program today, featuring three highly defensive dog decorators who maybe need to get a new hobby.
According to them, the dog’s just love it — soaking up the attention while soaking up the dyes.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 9th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, decorate, decorating, dog, dogs, dye, dyeing, extreme poodles, news, ohmidog!, pets, television, tlc, today show, video
It’s as easy as buying a pumpkin, going on line, downloading a stencil of your dog’s breed, transferring the stencil onto the pumpkin, hollowing out the pumpkin, and then spending an hour or so, I’d guess, delicately carving out your dog’s likeness.
It looks like something that crafty Martha Stewart would come up with and, for all I know, maybe she has. But the stencil used to carve this dog came from Good Housekeeping, which offers about a dozen breed stencils for free downloading
You can also vote for your favorite one, or learn how to create your own stencil.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 28th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: activities, breeds, carving, crafts, decorating, decorations, dog, dog-o-lantern, dogs, golden retriever, good housekeeping, halloween, likeness, pumpkin, pumpkins, stencils