Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Why I Don't Want a Dog

A few have you have been asking me what happened next in the story with Zeus, and boy do I have a story for you--only I don't have time to tell it tonight.... But I'm going to tell you anyway. I'll try to be brief, but you know me, so no promises. 

On Tuesday 12/30, I swung by my friend Nicole's house after Celebrate Recovery to pick up Zeus; I'd agreed to pet-sit for a week while they visited her family. From her quick update, I learned that her kids absolutely adore Zeus, just like my kids. But the difference is that they brush him for hours and take him for walks every day, no matter how cold it is. I felt rather guilty to take him back to his sedentary life at our house, but he seemed happy to be here.

Zeus and Allyson, during his first stay

Ethan gladly welcomed Zeus back into his room that evening, and everyone was happy. Until the next afternoon.

At his original home, Zeus was used to being confined to the master bathroom when Elizabeth's family was gone. His bed and food were in there, and he never seemed to mind--even when he spent a whole week in there when they were on vacation. I'd put him outside twice a day, let him run around a bit, and give him a dutiful pat after I'd filled his bowl, and then he'd wag his tail and settle contentedly on his bed.

Remembering the horrible mess he'd made on Elizabeth's carpet the time I simultaneously poisoned him with cat food and also left the bathroom door slightly ajar, I figured it would be wise not to give Zeus the run of our house when we're gone. And since his bed and food are in Ethan's room, that seemed the logical place to lock him up, despite the carpet.

So before I went out clothes shopping on New Year's Eve, I told Ethan to pick up anything in his room that Zeus shouldn't get into and to confine him there if he went anywhere. "I will," he muttered, turning back to his video game. I glanced dubiously at the dirty dishes and fast food bags littering his floor and went on my way.

An hour or two later, my cell phone rang while I was agonizing between two cute shirts at Target.

"Mom? When are you coming home?" Ethan asked, his voice rather urgent.

"I'm at Target, so it might be a while. Why?"

"Zeus found my box of chocolates and ate a bunch of them and now-"

"He ate chocolates?! That could kill him! Why did you-"

"He's going to be fine. He puked it all up on my carpet. It's the biggest pile of puke I've ever seen from a human or an animal."

I pictured the giant Whitman's Sampler box that Ethan had brought home from his dad's house. It was literally over two feet wide, and had about 50 chocolates with a variety of fillings.

"How many did he eat? Were they milk chocolate or dark chocolate?"

"I don't know. I think it was still half full. He ate at least half of what was left. Some of them were dark chocolate, I guess."

"So ten? Twenty? We probably should take him to the vet."

"I don't know, Mom. But I'm telling you, he's fine. He got it all out and he's running around like nothing happened. But my room reeks. Please clean it up as soon as you can. I'm leaving to see The Hobbit with Bryce."

What's probably crossing your mind right now also crossed mine. Ethan was the one who left out a giant box of chocolates, so why should I be the one to clean up after Zeus while he went off to the movies? Well, you'd have to know Ethan. There was no way he was cleaning up that mess. To even suggest it would be laughable.

I sighed heavily. "I'll get checked out and come deal with it. I have no idea how to clean up a mess like that, but..."

"Great, Mom. See you later."

I phoned my own mom straightaway, but she didn't have any ideas for me. Tears gathered in my eyes as I pictured what waited for me, and imagined the smell. In the past, Bill had always dealt with stuff like this. Now, I was on my own.

On the way home, I prayed for God's mercy. "Please help me find a way to do this," I pleaded. "Please help me be strong." I thought back to the time God helped me down a whole gallon of Go-Lytely solution for my last colonoscopy prep. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength," I said.

Back at home, I filled my diffuser with water and added ten drops of Purify essential oil blend, which is purported to be the best oil for neutralizing odor. I cracked Ethan's door and set the diffuser on his messy floor, plugging it into the socket next to the door. Whew!

While the diffuser did its work, I consulted Google. The second link down in the search results had the most sensible solution, way easier than I could have hoped for:

  1. Pour a ton of baking soda on the wet stain, covering it with at least an inch of powder. 
  2. Pour on a few drops of fragrant essential oils. 
  3. Cover with a towel and wait 24-48 hours. The baking soda will soak up the odor and absorb all the moisture. 
  4. Scoop  the hunks of baking soda into the trash and vacuum up the remaining clumps of dry, crackly baking soda vomit. 

Genius! Thank you, Jesus!

After a quick trip to Wal-Mart Market to buy a pet stain solution and two large boxes of baking soda--they were out of the giant bags they usually keep in the pool section--I opened Ethan's door and surveyed the mess. Hoo-boy. The spot was roughly the size of the chocolate box, about two feet across. Indeed, I'd never seen such a pile of puke.

But I have to say, as far as vomit goes, this wasn't that smelly. It was very chocolaty, which was somehow revolting, but I've smelled far worse.

Still, I wrinkled my nose and my forehead too. "This is why I didn't want a dog," I whined to God.

Holding my breath, I edged over to ground zero and quickly dumped nearly two pounds of baking soda over the goopy brown mess.

That's a rolling desk chair in the pile, and a practice drum pad on the edge.
Next, I poured about 15 drops of eucalyptus oil over the powder and then draped an old yellow bath towel over the mess. Done!

Over the course of the evening, Zeus made four smaller piles around the house, thankfully all on the hard flooring surfaces. They were mostly water, but still very disgusting. I remembered again why I am so not a dog person.

By the next day, Zeus was fully recovered, and Ethan's room smelled faintly of citronella and eucalyptus oil.

The following evening, I couldn't put off the worst part of the job any longer. While Ethan and his friend Bryce looked on, I pried up hunks of solidified, brownish powder with the edge of an old dust pan. It wasn't nearly so easy as it had sounded on the Internet, probably because a lot of those chocolates had caramel fillings. Ugh.

"How did Zeus get into the chocolates, anyway?" I asked. "I thought you said you were going to put away everything he shouldn't get into."

"I did. I hid them, but he found them."

"Where did you hide them?" I asked, as I pried up a stubborn hunk of caramel-y baking soda.

"I put the box way back under my bed."

"Under your bed?" I repeated. "You really thought he wouldn't find them there? He's a dog. They can sniff out anything"

He shrugged.

"Well, now you know," I said with a sigh.

I vacuumed up the last crackly bits, revealing a huge brown stain. "I think you're going to need new carpet," I said. "But I don't know how quickly that will happen."

"Maybe you can buy me a rug to put over it," Ethan suggested.

After searching Google again, I poured all of my rubbing alcohol on the stain and then blotted up lots and lots of chocolate using all my old towels. Ick.

The carpet was still brown, and so were my towels.

I spent the next hour scrubbing that stain with Bissel Pet Spot Lifter foam, blotting it up, and scrubbing it again. Guess what? In the end, there was only the faintest hint of a circle. If you didn't know it was there, you wouldn't even notice it. But we're still going to get new carpet as soon as I get around to it.

Another Calamity
Over the course of that next week, I had more reasons to miss having a helpful husband with an iron stomach.

On Sunday the 4th, around bedtime, my garbage disposal quit... right after I had thrown down some week-old veggie lasagna. I flipped the switch several times and also pushed the red reset button on the bottom of the motor, all to no avail. All it did was hum.

There was about an inch of water in the sink with bits of broccoli and corn floating around aimlessly, so I knew I couldn't leave it for the next day.

I called Bill for advice. "I'll handle it," I quickly assured him, so that he wouldn't think I was hinting for him to come over. "Could you just give me some pointers?"

He told me to push the reset button.

"Did that."

"You'll need to put your hand down there and try to spin the blades. Probably something is blocking it. If you can get the blades to turn, it will probably come back on."


I hung up the phone and pulled out several handfuls of soggy lasagna noodles,  broccoli florets, and squishy mashed sweet potato.

With the drain mostly empty, I gingerly touched each of six blades, trying to block out a horrible scene in one of the Final Destination movies. All the blades seemed to turn freely.

Crossing my fingers, I turned on the water and flipped the switch again. Hmmmmm.

Now the sink had two inches of water. I got the toilet plunger (ewww!) out of the garage and plunged the drain. The water went down. I rinsed out the sink and went to bed.

First thing next morning, I turned on the disposal, and it was working fine! I had fixed it all by myself!

A few days later, I found the source of the problem when I reached into the disposal to retrieve a measuring spoon I'd dropped. It was one of those two-inch plastic scrapers from Pampered Chef, now well chewed on all four sides. "So that's where that was," I thought. It had been missing for weeks. It must have been lying flat under the blades, and then somehow it got lodged between the blades. Mystery solved.

...And Another Calamity
My last yucky task was the worst by far.

On Tuesday the 6th, we woke up to a mysterious puddle of water in Ethan's bathroom. When he alerted me to the problem, he insisted that he had not made the toilet overflow.

I sopped up the mess with some beach towels and went back to making Allyson breakfast. A few minutes later, I saw that more water had gathered between the toilet and the sink cabinet. On my hands and knees, I examined the toilet thoroughly but could find no sign of a leak.

I soaked up the water again and finally realized that the water was seeping up through the grout that bordered the sink cabinet. What on earth?

Just then, an ugly realization dawned on me. We'd had a cold snap the last few days, and the temperature had dipped below freezing. Probably there was a broken pipe under the floor. My stomach tightened as I wondered how a plumber would fix that. Would he have to bust up the tile and cut into the floor? Surely that would cost me thousands!

I laid more towels down and dropped both kids at school. I then spent an hour or more calling plumbers. I think there must have been some broken pipes in our area because the soonest anyone could come out was Thursday--two days later!

I cried, prayed, and cried some more. And then I sent a text to my sister and my brother. Rick's wife Diane quickly replied with the contact information of a really awesome plumber. Yay!

But even after I gave him Rick and Diane's name, he said he couldn't possibly come out that day. He was booked solid.

Tears filled my eyes again.

"I can give you the name of a colleague closer out your way, though," he said. "Mike's a great guy and very reasonable."

Thankfully, I was able to schedule an appointment for noon. Disaster averted.

But then I did something stupid. I was totally out of towels, and water was still seeping. I really needed some dry towels, but I didn't want to put dirty towels in my dryer. So I decided to run them through a short wash. The moment the idea occurred to me, the voice of reason cautioned me against it. I had a plumbing problem. I probably shouldn't be running any water.

But the problem's in the bathroom, I argued. The laundry room's on the other end of the house. And I really, really need more towels. 

So I threw in that load of towels, ignoring the rock in the pit of my stomach.

At last, I sat down at my desk to work while I waited for the plumber. About 15 minutes later, I heard the familiar sound of the washer emptying. Right on the tail of that sound came an unfamiliar, peculiar sound, issuing from my bathroom, right next to me.

I cautiously stepped in to investigate. The bubbling was coming from my toilet, whose water looked like it was at a slow boil. What on earth?

All three drains in my bathroom were making bubbling sounds. I walked to the tub, afraid to look. Ugh, there was a small puddle of brown water around the drain.

But that was nothing next to what I found in my shower: about an inch of raw sewage! Yes, there was POOP in my shower. I covered my mouth and ran out of there, my blood running cold.

At that point, I hurried to Bill's house to borrow a shop vac, but I couldn't bring myself to use it. Sucking up that... crap... wouldn't be so bad, but then what would I do with it? I was pretty sure you're not supposed to pour sewage on the lawn.

For the second time in a week, I plugged in my diffuser with some Purify blend.

The good news of the day is that Mike was able to find the problem almost immediately, and he did not have to dig as he had initially feared. There's an outlet pipe right under my shower, and he was able to snake the pipes through there. Thirty minutes later, the clog was clear, and all the drains were emptying freely. And the bill? Only $110!! Who ever heard of a $110 plumbing bill?

Thank you, Jesus! And thank you, Mike. Those of you who are local, contact me if you want the name of an honest, reasonable plumber.

After Mike left, my joy and relief deflated. Now it was time to tackle something even worse that chocolate caramel dog puke. I headed to Wal-Mart Market for some Clorox bleach spray, some Comet scouring powder, and a really good pair of latex gloves.

And then I put on my big-girl panties, thanked God that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, and cleaned up that mess. I cleaned the tub and the shower three times, mopped both bathroom floors twice, and called it a day. That evening, I had Ethan clean his own bathtub, which had been stopped up but did not have sewage in it.

I hope I never have another week like that one, but it's good to know I really can do all things through Christ.

About Zeus
Okay, so you're wondering whether we're keeping Zeus, aren't you? Short answer: I'm not sure. Nicole says she thinks she wants him, but her son was injured last week and now needs surgery. She said once he's recovered from his surgery, I can bring him over. [Pray for him, please. His name is Micah.]

Zeus has been with us for two weeks now. Aside from the chocolate incident, which wasn't his fault, he's been such a good boy. I have lots of stories about him and the cats, but I'll have to save them for another day. Stay tuned.

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