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The Old Tenant House

Kira Nerys Hillman

Read Part 2

Part 3 - A Dog's View

Nothing is more entertaining for a dog than a house undergoing renovation! Sure, the life of a farm dog is never boring, but it's a job, just like every job. Every morning it's the same old routine: perimeter patrol duty to check out who's crossed the property during the night, mandatory barking at the cats next door, supervision of the humans as they do their chores.

Then, like any job, we have to sit around and wait on high alert for hours for something to happen, like the UPS truck pulling into our driveway. Now it's not the barking that's hard, but the long hours in between, waiting for something to happen to bark at, that takes its toll on us.

So when Neilex and I heard that the house was going to be renovated, we gave each other high paws. Finally, a break in the ho-hum daily routine! Helping move the furniture out of the house was a lot of fun. The door was blocked open allowing us to go in and out at leisure. It's something all dogs dream of, but few actually get to experience. While our people were constantly complaining about the flies that were coming in, we had high hopes that a revolving door might be a permanent feature.

The cats of course were not happy at all about all the activity, but then again, have you ever met a cat happy about anything? With each piece of furniture taken out, the cats found it harder and harder to find someplace to hide, so playing chase the cat got a lot more invigorating.

According to our people, everything but the bare essentials had to get moved into the barn. Which was fine with us, but when our beds were deemed non-essential, we put down our paws. Did they really expect us to sleep on the floor? Neilex refused to move off of his bed when they tried to take it out, and given everyone knows not to mess with a pissed off Jack Russell, he won and our beds got to stay.

Cracker Six and his favorite person Cora May Six Cool

Once the house was empty, the real fun began. For years the dogs of the house have passed down legends from one generation to another of the monsters that live behind the walls. Supposedly, Cracker Six, who oversaw the house and its occupants in the early 1950s, saw one of the creatures, but didn't have anyone handy for independent confirmation.

So Neilex and I waited with bated breath as the first holes were punched into the walls. After years of doggie speculation, we were going to finally learn the truth behind what really was causing those sounds in the walls at night and confirm Cracker's story.

As each wall came down, one hundred and twenty years of smells were released. Try as our people might, nothing was going to stop Neilex and me from inspecting each and every piece of plaster as it hit the floor, even if that meant putting ourselves in harm's way. Add in the hundreds, if not thousands of mice that had freely roamed the walls over the years, and it was doggie smell heaven!

Renovation by its very nature is a dirty job. Try as you might, you can't pull plaster down without creating a dust cloud. No matter how many pieces of plastic you hang to contain the dust, it's going to escape. At times, the dust in the sections of the house undergoing demolition was so thick that it poured out the window like smoke from a house on fire.

Having served in the shipyard during an overhaul to remove asbestos on the submarine, our human set up a "clean room" between where demolition was taking place and the rest of the house. In principle, that should have contained the dust and debris to a limited area. However, he failed to take into account that unlike the shipyard crew who religiously followed the "clean room rules," dogs completely disregard them.

Lowering the directions on vacuuming oneself off before leaving the renovation area to dog eye height had no impact on our behavior. Let face it, we'll never admit we can read! Replacing the written instructions with pictures on proper vacuuming techniques likewise had no impact. We're not cats, we don't clean ourselves; to the contrary, the dirtier we are, the happier we are!

Even disciplinary conferences brought no results. No matter what our human did, we insisted on walking into the demolition areas, and when sufficiently covered with dust, would leave and shake ourselves off in another section of the house, and then return. It seemed to keep the female busy, and while she was busy, we could chase the cats.

We had a couple near misses while monitoring the plaster removal. The humans seemed to make a sport of seeing how much plaster they could take down with each swing of the hammer. Which was ok when they were tearing down walls, but when they started to tear down the ceilings, watch out! One whole section which had been sagging for years came down en masse nearly right on top of me. Thankfully, I have twice the number of feet that my owner does, and so while he got covered with plaster, I escaped.

The only downside of the renovation was with all that hammering, sawing, walking in and out of the house, etc., there was no time to get any good quality naps. So we were exhausted when the call to start clean-up finally came.

Clean-up, of course, meant only one thing to us - a ride in the truck! Plaster was collected it into small buckets. Once full, the buckets were carried down the stairs, out the door, and over to the truck where they were emptied into the bed of the truck. Then back to the house, in the door, and up the stairs again. Of course, we had to follow our people to make sure they didn't cut any corners - humans have been known to do that when not properly supervised, you know.

Once the truck was full, the "Truck" call was sounded and we assumed our positions in the front seat to supervise the drive to Tess' house (Joe Wivell Jr.). Once in her back field, it's was Neilex's and my responsibility to inspect the grounds where the plaster was to be spread. We didn't have much time before they started to spread the plaster, so we had to start running around fast. It was a lot of work, but someone had to do it!

The drive back was always the best. On the way down we had to sit in the front seat because the bed was full of plaster, but on the way back, we got to stand in the bed, which can't be beat! Standing in the bed is way too cool! It's the difference between being a sissy city dog and a "real" country dog. The last trip of the day was always the bestest as we always got to stop at Toms Creek to wash off the grime from our hard day's work, and occasionally catch a few crawdaddies.

Unlike our people, who got to relax in the evening, Neilex and I were expected to pull double shifts. We would no sooner get home, woof down our dinner, when Tony Orndorf would show up, and our second shift began. While installing insulation drywall seemed to be something Tess' person (Joe Wivell Jr.) and our person liked to do, they drew the line at something called 'taping and mudding.'

Tony Orndorff & Neilex

Being regular visitors to Zurgable Brothers, we knew Tony Orndorff , he's always good for a long scratch under the chin. So when he was recommend as the best drywall finisher in the area, we knew we were in for a good time. We waged our tails in approval when he showed up to look over the project the first time, and jumped for joy when our owner told Tony he wasn't interested in getting an estimate. "I've known you for years," He said, "and would rather give the work to a friend then to someone I don't know. Besides I want it done right the first time, and everyone says you're the man. So the job's yours."

The best part about having Tony come every night was he always brought us dog chews, not that we were lacking our own mind you, but a dog can never have enough chews. Tony worked fast, sometime too fast. Neilex and I would no sooner settled down into our monitoring positions then Tony would pack up his things and head out. Other times, Tony would work late into the night and our chews were a distant memory by the time he left.

Try as we might, Neilex and I never did figure out where Tony got that white mud from. All the mud we've ever seen was dark. This was great for me, as you can't see it on me, but mud on Neilex always resulted in a bath. White mud was the Holy Grail for Neilex, but in spite of all of Neilex's winning, Tony refused to reveal his source.

Just when Neilex and I thought things couldn't get any better, the permits for that addition thing everyone kept taking about finally got issued, and before we knew it, one whole side of the house was being torn down! For a dog, life doesn't get much better than a good tear 'em down and build 'em up renovation!

Part 4: "You'll need to move your house back 45 feet..."

Read other humor stories by Michael Hillman