97: Everyone’s a Decorator

97: Everyone’s a Decorator

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Everyone’s a Decorator

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

In high school, I considered a career in architecture and design. I loved math, science and art. Throughout childhood, while other kids had posters, unmade beds and general chaos in their rooms, mine was always magazine-photo-ready. But I lacked self-confidence. When selecting colleges, I elected to study finance and economics. It was safer.

Therefore, when I purchased my first home in my mid-twenties, I was excited at the prospect of buying furniture, selecting accessories, painting walls and hanging wallpaper. My one-bedroom condo was a first-floor unit with a covered patio and small, enclosed garden. To my upper floor neighbors’ delight, I had inherited my mom’s green thumb. The walled area was jammed full of bougainvillea, mandevilla, allamanda, hibiscus, begonias, bromeliads, coleus and caladiums.

With all that life growing just feet away, I felt alone. My solution involved falling in love with the sweetest eight-week-old Cairn Terrier. I named him Rascal T. Ragamuffin. Who knew that dark, chubby, sweet-smelling bundle would end up with long flowing brindled locks crowned by a shock of blond on his head? He was easy to spot in my green jungle.

From the books I had read on Cairns, my little terrier should have excavated the entire garden, along with those of my neighbors, before his first birthday. His apparent failed DNA was my win. His interest in the back yard consisted of chasing lizards and butterflies, not digging.

He did have an opinion, though, about one particular houseplant. One day, after I had dared to relocate it, I came home to a canine crime scene. The helpless victim had been dug up, dragged across the carpet, and left for dead near the sliding glass door. I assumed if he had been equipped with opposable thumbs and more height, Rascal would have tossed the offender into the garden, where he undoubtedly felt it belonged.

In a household of one dog and one fish, my little terrier was not only my primary suspect, he was my only suspect. Actually, he rolled over the minute I laid eyes on him. After performing an emergency replanting and thorough cleansing of the evidence, I came home to the same carnage the next afternoon. I decided it was in the best interest of both the victim and repeat offender to permanently relocate the plant back to its original spot. Rascal never touched it again. I speculated his uprooting spree was less a breed characteristic and more a comment on my decorating decision.

This incident seemed to have awakened Rascal’s inner interior designer. At the time, my home was fully decorated except for some minor tweaks here and there. A consuming business career left little time for me to do everything I wanted. Yes, I had plans, big plans involving a tiled foyer and kitchen along with a little wallpaper sprinkled about. But they remained just that, plans. With spare time a luxury, I talked a good game but procrastinated an even better one and Rascal apparently got tired of listening.

At just over a year old, Rascal was good but still not trustworthy enough for complete run of my home all day. Upon advice from my dad, he graduated from his cage to being baby-gated in the roomy eat-in kitchen. It had two walls of cabinets in an L shape, a pass-through to the dining room, a round wood table with four wooden chairs near the outside wall, and three bifold wooden doors enclosing a pantry and separate washer/dryer closet. All sat on top of builder-grade, one-piece linoleum flooring.

Arriving home from work one day, I dropped my purse and briefcase, then rounded the corner from the foyer and headed to the kitchen. I chatted in response to Rascal’s barks of happiness that I, his beloved mistress, had returned to him. At the doorway, I automatically reached for the gate latch, focusing on nothing but my happy precious boy. As I chattered, something caught my eye. I looked up and stopped in midsentence. I blinked to clear my contact lenses but the vision before me remained constant.

Everywhere, and I mean everywhere, was nothing but bare concrete. That not-so-gorgeous linoleum flooring had been reduced to pieces of varying size and scattered about like autumn leaves. Still by the gate, wagging and barking his cheerful welcome was my little Rascal. Oh, so aptly named.

My little guy, my industrious little terrier, had found the one tiny section of flooring popping out from under the baseboard. With nothing to do and nothing to lose, he gripped the linoleum and gave it a little tug. To his surprise, it gave way. With laser focus and time on his side, Rascal ripped up every bit of that nasty linoleum and put an end to my ranting and procrastinating about that floor. Rascal worked long and hard until he had pulled up every single bit of flooring that wasn’t under an appliance, behind a bifold door or actually glued down.

Without a choice, doggy-proof tile was installed within a month. Unless he rented a jackhammer, I felt safe from my twelve-pound hairy demolition team. I still remember the day the tile installers came to start the job. They took one look at the floor and thanked me for helping them with the demo. I smiled as I held up Rascal and told them it was him they needed to thank. Their laughter still rings in my ears all these years later.

~Debbie Kalata

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