March 11, 2011 Alex Newman Special to the Star
Fantasy: Your home is on the cover of a national shelter magazine, a beautiful haven of rest, a palace of fun for family and friends. Even your pets — well behaved and beautifully groomed — love and respect it.
Reality: Two days ago Molly Maid had the house spotless but already fur balls have glommed onto every vent, the sofa is once again draped with quilts and muddy paw prints all over the floor are your first real sign of spring.
Welcome to life with pets. As much as we love our four legged companions, it’s hard to imagine stylish living while sharing digs with one.
I know of what I speak. Emma is my 42 kilogram “pound puppy,” a lab who has proven untrainable when it comes to food and sofa surfing. The good news is a food fetish ensures clean floors; the bad news is no upholstered surface is safe. She sheds more than a pregnant woolly mammoth. Her coat is a mud magnet. She steps inside the front door to shake off the rain.
In spring, when everyone else’s thoughts turn to love, mine dwells on mud, wet dog smell and furniture vigilantism. So I did a little asking around.
Christine Kenyon, who owns Metro Hound in the Beaches ( www.metrohound.com), says there are ways to reconcile design and Bowser.
“First off, you’re the human, and you’re in control,” she gently scolds, meaning I should be able to train the dog. Kenyon’s own pup is a terrier mix who likes the comfort of a quality sofa but has been trained to leave one of the two in the living room for guests to use. The secret, Kenyon admits, is having an alternative nest. Once she introduced the donut style Bowser brand bed, all it took was a couple of firm nos. (Canadian made, www.bowsers.com)
“The dog bed is an aid. A dog always prefers the sofa, and it’s impossible to get them off without a comfortable alternative,” she says. The really good dog beds can be pricey — the ones at Metro Hound range up to $200, but think of the savings on your nice furniture. And thanks to the memory foam construction and bolster back, your dog will think it’s the real deal. There are also dog sofas for the really design-oriented pooch — they even come in different decor styles. See www.bigdogbeds.com or www.petstrends.com.
A cheaper alternative is the Molly Mutt bed. At $50 for large, it’s basically a “duvet” cover you stuff with old comforters, sweaters, blankets, etc.
The problem with hair is better managed by getting to the source. I know a guy who vacuums the dog when he does the floors — the dog loves it, but it’s not all that effective. Better to bathe and brush the dog regularly, Kenyon says.
She suggests either a rake (looks like it sounds), or a Fur Fiend (aka Furminator or Fur Buster, www.furminator.com) that combines the rake with a cutting blade. What you use depends on what kind of coat the dog has, she adds.
And for those of us hopelessly inept at training and neglectful when it comes to grooming, there are still ways to minimize the effects of pets.
First step, especially in spring, is to create a mudroom at the front entry with space for equipment — hooks for leashes, a long mat with rubber backing to absorb your pooch’s inevitable shake-down, and towels stowed in the umbrella stand for drying off. (Check out Norwex’s Pet Set with two super absorbent Antibac mitts and towel, Google for suppliers.) You might also want to consider a similar set up on the front porch for really muddy days.
• Go boho: kilims, and distressed leather chairs are not only trendy but fantastic at concealing pet hair and easy to clean.
• Cover up: If you don’t love the layered quilt look, even for its obvious French charms, go with slipcovers. Cotton twill or gabardine is durable, hair doesn’t stick and as a cat scratch pad it doesn’t pass muster. While microfibre and velvets resist shredding from cat claws, they are hair magnets. Heavily patterned fabrics like tapestry and jacquard are durable and don’t show dirt. Finer materials like silk are out of the question. The Livable Home Store manufactures furniture specifically designed with pet owners in mind (www.thelivablehomestore.com).
• Bare it: Hardwood or tile floors are better than odour retaining carpets. If you’re installing new floors, though, go with hickory, maple or hard oak rather than the more easily scratched soft woods. But if you must have carpet, Persians, kilims or seagrass are durable, conceal dirt and easy to maintain.
• Clean: Nature’s Miracle eliminates smells and stains of all kinds (from puke to poop) and doesn’t damage delicate materials. For hardwood floors, a damp mop is most efficient for hair removal. Sticky Sheets, adhesive coated large sheets that stick to fabric, effectively remove lint and hair from furniture (www.stickysheets.com).
• A word on cats: Ever witnessed a pair of kittens shred a curtain in 10 minutes? Soft Paws ( www.softpaws.com), vinyl nail caps that glue easily to the cat’s claws, are easily tolerated and come in several fun colours. Cats, like dogs, need an alternative to keep them off furniture. Janet, an employee of Shoppers World Pet Valu, recommends cat condos, but make sure the holes are large enough. There’s also the scratching post you can buy or make — simple or elaborate, the carpet cover makes them irresistible. You can also try spraying your furniture with strong scents like lemon or cinnamon, which she says are unpleasant for cats, but not humans. With her own cats, Janet has used double sided tape on furniture to deter them from scratching, because “they really hate the feel of it and will avoid anything with it on.” Another product Janet says works well is Shush Cat, a bottle outfitted with a motion detector so that when Kitty walks by it gives out a hissing blast of air that scares.
• Lastly, your clothing: lint brush them before washing, then use a specially designed laundry soap, like Le Chien et Le Chat, that breaks down hair and lint. After washing and drying, use the lint brush again. (Go to www.thelaundress.com for Toronto store locations.)
Alex Newman writes a weekly column for www.yourhome.ca on design and decor. You can contact her through her website www.integritycommunications.ca.