New Year, New Dog, New Furniture

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Buckley the house-trained dog. Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb. Check back on Monday when he writes about what's playing on his iPod.
For the last 10 years, my wife and I have dreamed and schemed and saved to remodel our 83 year-old Germanic Tudor house in Seattle. While yes, I did buy this house back in 1994 before I had a real prospect of a wife and kids, my hope was in fact that one day it would happen. It did.

The house was a fine size when both the girls were tiny, but as they grew, the walls just seemed to get a little closer and the ceilings not quite as high as I once thought. My first thought and hope was to put a new master bedroom where our massive attic is, extending the staircase up a floor and adding a master bathroom and huge windows to an even bigger view that we'd now have.

After shopping around, we found a great architect who instantly saw our vision and enhanced our dream with structural ideas that we neophytes had no idea could exist. Our next step was city permits and getting bids from able contractors, which went along smoothly until we saw how much it would cost just for the structural support we would have to fortify from the foundation of the house. As they say in this business, it was cost-prohibitive. Yeah, expensive like nobody's business, in fact. The structural engineer barked out a price something like $450K. I drooped in my chair; my contractor saw that he was losing a client; and my architect apologized profusely. Four hundred and fifty thousand dollars before I was to add even one square foot?! A third-floor master was now definitely out of the question.

My contractor called me a few days after we had met with the structural engineer and got the bad news. He told us that he had an idea of just simply raising our ceilings, updating our second floor, and moving a few doorways. All this, he claimed, would really make things feel a lot bigger and roomier. We could put in new carpet and refinish our beautiful and original hardwood floors and walnut doors and trim. We could paint the house and restore some of the original ornate light sconces that had been just sitting in the basement, update our heating system, and even add air conditioning (our house gets sun all day in the summer). The price was right, and I knew from what I had seen of some of his other jobs that this contractor could work miracles on old Tudors. I agreed . . . let's move ahead!

For you who may read my column, you will certainly know that we McKagans have a little dog named Buckley. He is a great young lad, but as all dog owners do, we went through the hell of house-training a puppy. Buckley really didn't get the message for an exorbitantly long time. Finally he got it, and we can take him with us without having to worry that our little buddy will do his business in the house or hotel room.

Santa Claus brought our dog Buckley three years ago when our oldest daughter turned 9. Our younger daughter therefore has been pining for a dog of her own when she turned 9. Her logic was sound, and I am after all a sucker for my girls. She wanted a pug puppy, and last fall my wife and I started searching for a puppy that would be the perfect age at Christmastime. No small feat for a person who travels for a living. Checking out different litters of pugs from breeders in the Northwest while trying to tour is a royal pain in the ass! Ah, the things we do for our kids. But, back to the house.

The work began on our second floor this past fall, and would be done by December 15, in time for us to come back to Seattle for Christmas. We came up a few times while the work was getting done; my wife picked out great carpeting and floor-stain colors, and we placed all the new wall-sconce lighting. The quality of work was second to none, and when we arrived for Christmas break, the house looked like a damn Four Seasons.

Stunning and pristine, all the wood and door hardware and light fixtures were buffed and shined. My daughters were elated over their new bedrooms. For the first time in our lives, they even started making their beds every morning and picking up their clothes off the floors without us telling them to do it. Buckley is of course housetrained, so we didn't have to worry about him. Wow, maybe we could have a house and lifestyle like you see in movies or Esquire magazine, where everything is perfect and clean, no one's hair is messy, and no one leaves their underwear on the floor or a dirty dish on the countertop. The house even smelled amazing!

The next step was to finally get some new furniture. The stuff we have has been worn hard and totally used and abused after 12 years with kids and a dog. Anyone who has kids knows it's a fool's dream to get new furniture when you have small children. Macaroni and cheese mixed with carpet and grape juice is a stain that will not come out, trust me.

Now that the house is clean and new ... we found a girl pug puppy a ferry-ride away that would be the perfect age by Christmas. Susan and I checked her out during Thanksgiving, and I made plans with the breeder to pick up the dog on Christmas Eve. My oldest brother kept the puppy for us on Christmas Eve night, and I picked her up early Christmas morning so that it would appear that Santa brought the pup (I did all this BEFORE the girls woke up). All of this went off without a hitch.

We have a rough idea of how to house-train a puppy from the Buckley debacle. But he is a mellow dog from a breed bred to be foot-warmers for the elite back in the 1600s. They were trained to just sort of sit around. Pugs, on the other hand, are quite the opposite. And we were all so excited to have a new dog that we sort of forgot that little puppies have to go to the bathroom ALL THE TIME and anywhere they please! Puppies are sneaky and quick, and little human girls will hide the fact that a new puppy pooped on the brand-new carpet in their room on numerous occasions because they don't want Pup to get in trouble or not be able sleep in their room. Little human girls will do anything so that the new dog can hang out in their rooms or on the couch with them for as long as possible. When a new dog pees in the house, the old dog will urinate right on top of it to mark its territory.

We just remodeled. We just started living in a clean house with potty-trained residents. And we go ahead bring home a baby pug. I guess the new furniture can wait.

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