In the Battle of Dogs Versus Couch, Our Lazy Mutts Won
I vowed I’d never have another filthy couch. But our dogs–because they know us better than we know ourselves–weren’t fooled.
For years, I’d had boring, neutral dark brown couches, perfect for children and pets. Our family dogs would bound up to the cushions when they wanted to sit back and relax. Leo, our two-yearold 50-pound mixed breed would occupy the far end, lazing between sleep and wakefulness while I typed on my laptop or watched TV or read the latest book with dog training advice I surely wouldn’t have the energy nor gumption to follow.
Usually under my arm would be our little ball of terrier energy, Baby. She’d curl up in a blanket, her pointy little face peering out, seeking moments of love she’d get during commercial breaks or between the writing of sentences.
I prefer working from the couch than from a desk chair. My work is often fueled and relaxed by tiny moments, little minutes or seconds spent rubbing the space between Leo’s sweet eyes, or scratching the indentation behind Baby’s perky ears.
But then, one day, we’d had enough of the old brown couches; it was time for something new. And dangit, it was not going to be drab mud-colored seating; they’d be the couches of my dreams! Light, maybe a sort of seafoam green, like something from a beach house. Something to raise the mood.
The only way we could do it is if the dogs were permanently banned from the couches. Banned from smearing innocent pawprints on the upholstery. Banned from snagging claws on the fabric. Banned from relishing momentary, but heavenly pats while I wait for a page to load.
But as every deluded pet owner knows, things don’t always go according to plan.
We started out firmly: “No, go to your bed,” my husband, kids and I would say, when they jumped up on the new sofa cushions.
They’d gaze back in confusion and puzzlement. Sometimes, they’d do that doggie glance at each other, that one where they were conferring, checking to see if everything is okay.
“What the heck is going on?” I’d imagine that glance to say, if only I spoke mutt.
They wouldn’t ever politely obey and move to the pet beds we’d just spent tons of money on. These were pretty little elevated mini-couches, almost the same color as my family’s new furniture. They were the kind of beds “spoiled” dogs get. Surely, I’d thought, they’ll love their new beds!
But no. They’d have nothing of it, even after we set little bits of hot dog there, to impart the irresistible scent of weenie. They’d bypass their quaint little divans and sit instead on the hard floor, dejected. Waiting. Wondering. Wanting to curl up in that sofa blanket and feel appreciated. Every single time we left the room, they’d secret themselves back to the human furniture, where they’d eventually leave a dingy gray tint on the fabric and their claws would pull thread loose. It was a daily battle.
We could cover the cushions, but … darnit, there was simply no way I was going to live that way. I always thought about my elderly in-laws. They didn’t have those clear plastic furniture covers that were so popular back in the day, but they’d toss random items over parts of the couch to protect it. They’d grab blankets, towels, whatever. At one point, there was a giant, worn, faded beach towel from the 1970s that sat on the back of their basement couch. It said “Six Million Dollar Man” on it.
No–that would not happen to me. There would be no Six Million Dollar Man foolishness in our home. There would be no ugly covers, no throws. Our dogs would just have to learn to obey. I’d just have to do the training described in books.
The experts had explained it all. I’m sure they were right, and that consistency of message would eventually result in occupied doggie beds and sparkling, perfect couches for the humans. If we kept at it–if we made our wishes clear and ignored the confused looks of loneliness we might win, and my living room might look as I’d always hoped.
The humans, however, lost. Several months in, I’ve now traded the ill-conceived “House Beautiful” notions for puppy kisses that really are the reason for having dogs in the first place.
After a few months of my furry kiddos staring at me from the floor, I thought: “What’sthe point of having dogs if I isolate their love?”
I might be a terrible dog owner. Some of you are rolling your eyes, thinking we’re letting them take advantage. Some are laughing at how we’ve lost, now that our couches are, indeed, covered with ugly throws we need to adjust several times a day (it’s a pain). You can see the grime overlaying the seafoam in the places where Leo and Baby sit. The beach green is starting to seem like a silty sea, more like Bay St. Louis than the Caribbean.
And those of you judging me would be absolutely right. When it comes to these two sweet animals, my husband, kids and I have no will. In the battle of dog kisses versus clean couches, at least for me, the relaxed breathing of a sleeping dog, or a warm cuddle, is more valuable than the deluded thought that a box of upholstery and wood could mean anything at all.
My couches are filthy, and already embarrassing. As I write about it now, Leo is looking at me as if I were superhuman, as if I just discovered the cure to cancer or moved a mountain. And now that I have “solved” this most important sofa dilemma, I feel as if I actually have.
Kara Martinez Bachman is author of the new women’s humor essay collection, “Kissing the Crisis: Field Notes on Foul-Mouthed Babies, Disenchanted Women and Careening into Middle Age.” She is a married mom to two teens and parent to two incorrigible rescue mutts.