gates and nails and puppy dog jails

I had been telling myself that I was taking a day off since I started feeling old after Zack and I spent hours hunched over painting our living room. I swear, he thrives on all the taping and meticulous edging and could spend weeks painting each room of our house. Let’s just say I’m not so patient and Zack isn’t shy about cracking the whip and getting my tired little butt painting. “Just think about how good it’ll look when it’s done, and we only have one more coat. Let’s do it. Come on. Girlfriend, we’re painting.”


Marathon painting coupled with a crazy few weeks at work, and I was feeling like a creaky old woman. Good thing I’m still young and all it takes is a hot bath and a bottle of wine to cure most ills. So a few weeks ago when I woke up feeling 26 again, I thought hey, why not spackle some of those holes in the dining room to get painting by the weekend. Wouldn’t boyfriend be so proud? 

After pulling out flathead nails from curtain rod mounts-a real treat, let me tell you- I applied my spackle and immediately started thinking about the next step. Since I left home, that next step has been satisfying my need to have a puppy. And by puppy, I mean ANY DOG that will let me love it. We spent some time courting different rescue dogs on the web, watching video after video of cute pups playing and hamming it up for the camera, and finally set our sights on an unfortunately named, Sweetie Pie. I began filling out the multi-form application for an independent rescue and cringed when it asked about the yard and its fence and gate security. 

We have a fence. It’s not a bad fence, but it’s seen better days. It’s also not been kept up on and the all-consuming vines are weighing it down. I saw my spackle drying time as the perfect opportunity to do a little yard work. The two areas of the fence that need the most love are some corner sections that got crushed by huge pine limbs and the gateways that have been choked by about 10 years of decaying yard waste. 

There wasn’t much little ol’ me could do about the sagging sections of the fence, so I set out to remove the vineage and get those gates to close. 

There are moments in my life when I feel like I need the Zelda “discovery” tone, like I’m opening a gigantic chest to find a cool ass spear gun or piece of heart or more likely, a concrete paver… 


I went weak in the knees when I saw that delicious, square paver peeking out from underneath the damp and decomposing pine shit. I had set out to get the gate to shut, but I was hooked on seeing if there were more pavers and what a completed path might look like. I spent all afternoon cutting vines and scraping years of sludge away.

It was so worth it. 


It runs right to the driveway. Add some solar powered LED path lights and I see many, many summer parties starting with a walk up that path. Satisfied and crazy exhausted, I returned to my back and forth emailing with the foster mom of my potential new pup. 

A meeting was set and we were off to get what we imagined to be big kisses and immediate love from a strange dog. Yes, we were idealistic, yes we were dreaming a year into the relationship, but we were hopeful and not prepared for the awkwardness that was about to unfold. We were greeted on the edge of the foster mom Dana’s small fenced in yard by her two very excited and social dogs. She invited us in to be alone with Sweetie and left the very playful and mischievous mutts outside. Dana cooked hot dogs for us to feed Sweetie while Zack and I sat down on the floor to be less imposing to the nervously pacing dog.

Sweetie didn’t want any hot dogs. Sweetie didn’t want any cuddles. Sweetie sure as shit didn’t want us on the couch with her and mom. We got as far as touching her quivering paws in the half hour we were there. It was a little difficult and awkward for us love mongers, but we were willing to put more time in and come back for more meetings. Then Zack started to ask the tough questions about chewing and potty training and other quirks. We found out she didn’t pull on a leash, had few accidents, and ate everything in sight when left alone. She had lived outside her whole life and never knew life inside a home with a family. Having full time jobs and a new house in our lives, we weren’t exactly comforted when she assured us Sweetie could grow out of it as her other dog had after he “ate through two walls”. My heart sank. As we left, we both felt this was not the right dog for us. We didn’t have the experience or the time to transition overly-timid Sweetie into our social lives. 

We went to the Durham shelter the next day to try our luck with a large population of different kinds of dogs. We imagined a long line of sad sack pups whimpering for our love from their cages. Take us home, their doleful and watery eyes would plead. 

The puppies pressed their noses through the gates and the older ones barked at every scared dog being shuttled from visiting room to kennel. As we arrived, a strong armed young man was pulling some frightened collie mix over the narrow green tinged path. She paused at our feet and relieved herself in a stream that rolled into what seemed to be an aqueduct of piss and bleach running along each side of the kennel. It wasn’t the kind of place you could spend hours in, fawning over this and that puppy. It was jail for puppies and we were just fresh meat.  

The cacophony was overwhelming and the number of dogs seemed dizzying. Was is 11, 36, or 42 that we wanted to meet? Our scrap paper had tiny scratches of numbers that we recorded as the other visitors and APS workers moved around us on that small path. We couldn’t hear one another anymore and the frantic pacing from one end to the other was taking its toll. We surfaced in the aqua colored waiting area and looked over the pups on our list. We settled on one 4 month old Lab/Pitt mix that we wanted to meet. She was a cute, rambunctious, furry ball of energy and my heart melted. It doesn’t take much for me to go all cray-cray over puppy eyes. She burrowed into our laps and tried playing with everything that she could. Zack looked confused and our meeting left both of us feeling overwhelmed by adorableness, but not really feeling like we had found “the one”.

"She’ll get adopted," Zack said as we went out to the car. I was pissed off. I knew she wasn’t our dog, but I left feeling full of guilt over having left without a leash in my hand. We drove home in a frantic discussion that teetered on argument over whether or not we should go back. Our lack of decisiveness told us to wait. So we did. Like an hour.

Once we got home, we couldn’t shake the feeling that we just wanted a pup and there had to be one waiting for us. We’re not good at patience, and if our tradition of giving each other Christmas and Birthday gifts the second we buy them instead of on the occasion says anything about us, once we had let in the thought of getting a dog, WE WERE GETTING A DOG.

We headed over to the Orange County animal shelter in Chapel Hill. In stark contrast to the squat, concrete building in Durham we arrived at a large, modern looking structure that seemed to belong on the campus of a high-priced Liberal Arts college. There was a large foyer that led to a glass hall of kittens, rabbits, and puppies and took us through to a large room where we couldn’t hear a single bark or cry.

The path of cages went around the perimeter in the room with two rows making up the center of the space. The dogs couldn’t see each other, nip at each other, or otherwise incite rioting. It was much less crowded, with animals and people, and we peacefully walked the circuit and took it all in. We came across a pup named Alfie that we recognized from their website. He was white with black spots and had the face of a pit with perked, floppy ears. He was lethargic like a sunbather as we approached and was in no rush to smear his wet nose against our hands through the glass.

We arranged to meet him in a small room where a volunteer chaperoned our visit. Alfie seemed obedient to the man who passively tossed a Kong around the small room while asking us how we planned to train him, what kind of lifestyle we had, and if we were ready to be the parents of a rowdy, adorable 6 month old “bullmation” (bulldog/dalmation). He was excited, but focused and returned the Kong to the thrower with little prompting. Puppy knew how to fetch. When the volunteer suggested that we give him a treat, Alfie sat as soon as the bag appeared in Zack’s hands. He took the treat gently and stayed put as he greedily gobbled it up. We knew we had found our dog. 

After a splurge on puppy bed and toys and food, he was home with us, the newest member of Pseudoburbia.


Oh yeah, we also renamed him Sputnik.

This cute little face is a great source of distraction and I find myself less and less concerned over the pink walls still left unpainted and content to just snuggle him all night. After a week with him, we’re feeling more motivated to get through some projects to have space and clear debris and supplies that puppies will find a way to get into. This led to last week’s clearing of the second room’s carpet and the establishment of our studio. 


It was hot, sweaty, disgusting work that included lots of pulling up flat head nails. Of varying sizes. In irregular patterns. (WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, JANA?) There was also an obscene amount of carpet cleaner that had settled through the carpet and pad and clung to the floor in damp clods. 


I couldn’t have done it without that blue-handled thingamajig in the bottom right corner that pulls nails and staples out. It was one of those beautiful tools my manfriend foresaw a need for and just happened to have on hand. The floor was in worse shape than the first room we tore carpet out of, having a great deal of staining and paint splatters from Jana’s Pollock-esque paint job. No matter. I’m bound to drip paint all over my BRAND NEW STUDIO. 


Zack won mega boyfriend bonus points this weekend when he put up shelving and unpacked all of our tools and supplies that had congested the other spare room. In a month’s time, we have practically reclaimed the useable spaces of the house (save our master bathroom, which is a hot mess we’ll address later) and can finally move more toward design and renovation. Between rounds of fetch with Sputnik and the many evenings of painting ahead of us, life on the ranch moves forward and the future is looking pretty hot. Stay tuned, kiddies, as next week we take on The Amorphous Study/Dining Room. (Spoiler alert: Zack and I bought some dreamy office furniture today! And did someone say “projector”?!?) 

Watch on

ATSUさんatomでDo It My Selfかけてくれたー! @djatsu @dali_tha_art #bullmatic