A brief (yet disgusting) interlude

For Christmas this past year, sometime in October Otto and I gazed lovingly into one another’s eyes and decided to forego traditional gift buying for each other to instead embark upon the most romantic of journeys… replacing our family room furniture. Truly, we are an inspirational model of “keeping the flame alive” to couples everywhere.

Although we have worked through our home bit by bit, making it OURS (as opposed to THEIRS—in the case of layers of wallpaper and paint left us by the previous owners—or MINE and HIS as begat by various legacies of our pre-marriage artifacts), the family room—the main hanging-out room in our house—remained a mish-mash of blended family remnants. Otto brought The Man Couch into our marriage, and although it is brown and ugly, it is very comfortable. I, in turn, brought the Other Furniture in this room, a pretty love seat and easy chair/ottoman combo (from a former rarely-used living room) which aren’t uncomfortable, really, but are showing signs of wear now that they host energetic non-adults and small dogs with too-long nails on the regular.

So: Furniture for Christmas. Which really meant, furniture when we could get around to it.

We didn’t get around to it until mid-January, which was earlier than I’d planned, honestly. First we had to negotiate the Furniture Reorganization Treaty of ’14, figuring out all the ways in which the current room setup of the last 6+ years was displeasing and what our options were for moving things around. A settlement was finally reached and predicated on my brave husband going underneath the house to rewire where the television cable enters the room, because everyone knows you should never design a room around a television, and yet, we are totally designing that room around the fireplace television. Anyway. Once we knew where we’d be putting things, Otto took measurements, and then we went furniture shopping.

A long afternoon of playing tag-team Goldilocks through a series of furniture stores (this couch is too soft! this one is too hard! this one costs WHAT??) came to end MAYBE because we found a nice seating group that was on sale, or MAYBE just because we were tired and hungry and didn’t want to shop anymore. It’s hard to know. The final hour was spent combing through a wall of fabric samples, and then signing away our children’s lives on a promissory note to swear that whenever the 0% interest term ended, we would go ahead and pay for the furniture. The nice woman who’d helped us to pick everything out told us it would be 6-12 weeks until our purchase was ready.

Excellent. We left and promptly forgot all about it. (Go ahead; ask me if the cable is rewired, yet.)

About a month after picking out the new furniture, Otto and I sat down on The Man Couch one evening. Otto made a face, and got back up again. He began sniffing around the couch. I said something understanding and brilliant, like, “…????”

“Something smells,” Otto told me. “Don’t you smell it?”

I didn’t smell anything… at first. But he was right, something smelled. In the general vicinity of his end of the couch.

Here is perhaps a good time to pause and explain to people who don’t own small dogs that they are somewhat notorious for being stealth-messers. I have no idea why this is, truly, but a lot of people don’t like little dogs because they’re known to be harder to house train, and often just figure that trotting off and pooping in a far corner is no biggie. I can tell you for sure that Licorice is the only dog I’ve ever owned who seems to feel the urge to vomit and then immediately thinks, “I should FOR SURE get myself up onto a bed or a piece or furniture before I do this.” Duncan throws up on the kitchen floor a couple of times a week, and I have to tell you that after years of Licorice’s I-don’t-feel-so-good-which-piece-of-furniture-haven’t-I-defiled-yet method I practically CLAP when he yaks on the vinyl. (So easy to clean up!) On the other hand, Duncan has snuck off and taken a dump where he damn well knows he shouldn’t on more than one occasion.

Small dogs are adorable. Also: gross.

So there we were, with the couch smelling… not lovely.

We glared at the dogs. They were busy… being dogs, and both of them feigned innocence. Otto and I had no choice but to locate the source of the aroma. We both suspected a stealth-puke, but combing the general vicinity turned up nothing. Nor could we find any evidence ON the couch. But it definitely smelled, and Otto determined that it was his end of the couch where some Unspeakable Event had taken place.

We got out the Pet Stain Cleaner and the Febreze and scrubbed down half the couch and then drenched it in deodorizer. Otto had to spend that evening cuddled up with me down at my end (score!) and I made a joke about how it was really no big deal if we couldn’t get the smell out, because after all, we have new furniture coming… sometime!

The next day the couch smelled mostly like Febreze… and a little bit like puke. Weird. Febreze has always worked in the past, but then again, we had no idea of the true source of the odor, so we had to do the best we could.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that at a certain point I think we just kind of… tuned out the smell, somehow. It wasn’t AWFUL (I mean, it wasn’t good, but you know), just an occasional whiff of unpleasantness.

This week I came home one day to discover that Otto had completely dismantled the couch, sure that he would find a tell-tale sign of defilement in its innards. He did not. He did, however, find three missing dog toys, Chickadee’s wristwatch, the remote controller for the Blu-ray player, and about a pound of popcorn. And the couch still smelled a little.

I started really looking forward to our new furniture showing up. Phantom smell in a room can really make you feel a little crazy, it turns out.

Two nights ago, we were sitting on our (stinky) couch one evening, as per usual, eating popcorn, petting dogs, and watching television. It was a little chilly and my feet were cold, so rather than fetching my slippers (two whole rooms away!), I pulled down the neatly-folded throw blanket we keep draped over the middle cushion on the couch. I put it over my feet; problem solved. When I got up to take the dogs out before bed, I left the blanket in a heap on my seat, and then once the dogs were secure up in the kids’ rooms for the night, I returned to the couch to fold the blanket and put it back in its customary spot.

I picked up the blanket and got a huge whiff of STANK. Because I’m not very bright, I commenced sniffing the entire blanket. “Hey, Otto?” I called (he was already back in our bedroom). “I FOUND THE STEALTH STINK!”

Know who uses that blanket more than anyone else in our family? Chickie. She is always cold, and she hardly ever remembers to put the blanket away when she’s done with it. That means the blanket spends a fair amount of time lying atop furniture in a tangled mess, just right for a dog looking for someplace to cuddle up… or vomit, I guess.

Two mysteries remain, of course. First: at what point did a dog defile that blanket in such a way that no one noticed, but then one of us (CHICKADEE) just picked it up and folded it and put it away without noticing its ripeness? And second: I freely admit that a section of the blanket stunk to high heaven, but there was no… er… physical traces to suggest its defilement. This must’ve been one of those bile-puke events, because as dog puke goes, usually there’s plenty of (chunky) evidence. There was no stain, no crunchy fabric, nothing. Just a putrid stench.

[I know. I’m sorry! I hate me, too, right now.]

I washed the blanket in detergent and vinegar and gave the couch another dousing in Febreze. Everything smells great, now.

The very next day (yesterday)—as I was putting the freshly-washed blanket back in the family room—the furniture store called to say they’ll be delivering the new sectional on Monday. I’m thinking of declaring that anyone under 18 isn’t allowed to sit on it (or puke on it). That seems fair, right?


  1. Nelson's Mama

    One of our cats, PeeJoe (formally known as Peter Joseph), has decided that his territory is being threatened; I spent a good portion of last night trying to locate the last spot he’d sprayed ON MY COUCH.

    I feel like a beagle all of the time…

    • Lori N

      I have nick-named our 2nd dog Sir Pees-a-lot. I’m hoping, no praying he outgrows the nickname.

  2. Brigitte

    I’m sure the dogs will be VERY excited to have new furniture to defile!

  3. Kira

    Your child folded a blanket? Unobserved? HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

  4. Aimee

    I don’t know how well a no-vomiting ban will work, but I think it’s worth a shot. Also: gross.

    • Aimee

      The vomit, not the ban.

  5. Eliza Beth

    My cat throws up about twice a week on the floor or carpeting. I count myself lucky on the days she just throws up in her cat dish. Nature’s Miracle gets used A LOT in our house!

    Sounds to me like Chcikadee needs to be more observant and take some responsibility when something is awry — like putting said stank article in the washing machine instead of folding it up and figuring her Mama would deal with it.
    Or at the very least immediately come TELL you about it.

    Enjoy your new furniture! Maybe put up a child or dog gate so the furry ones can’t get into your newly decorated room?
    And I totally deigned my family room around the television, so am in agreement with you on this one. Might as well do what’s comfortable for how you live in that space:)

    • Mir

      Oh, I don’t think she noticed and figured I’d deal with it. I think probably the blanket got left in a pile for a long time before it was attended to and at that point it was a 2.5-second fold-n-fling where the stink went unnoticed. Though as soon as I figure out how to make either of my kids be more observant, I’ll be all over that!

      • Rasselas

        I thought maybe if she had a cold, her nose was stopped and she didn’t smell it! …I think about stuff way too much. >.<

        (that there is a free-of-charge excuse for Chickie to use)

  6. kapgaf

    Be careful – if you count in doggy years, you may have more sitters than you would like!

  7. Asha Dornfest {Parent Hacks}

    You’re such a good writer I read al the way to the end of a stealth dog puke story and wish it weren’t over. The story, I mean! I’m glad the stink is over. Enjoy your new furniture.

  8. Chris G

    I love your stories as I can see that happening to me trying to find the smell etc. Write whenever you can here….I love your voice…it makes me laugh… the funniest stories we have here are poop stories and they involve humans and our adventures…..I have two boys and drove them and a couple friends to middle school every day. They would get into the car and pass gas…..I would nearly gasp for air…..they claimed they held it all day….I would think they would pass it before getting into the car but I guess thats where they felt no one cool would smell it…..I’m not that cool because on occasions I have been known to…..but not without warning to roll the windows down….I have smelled many things in my life to have learned my lesson but continue to do it….Somehow we get into conversations every now and then where we discuss poop and the times we tried to hold it back when driving or because someone was using our one toilet in the house and the lowly times we can’t totally hold it back….but thats humans. I have a miniature schnauzer and she doesn’t vomit or poop places…is it because she is a girl or because she is a minority…..love you keep writing….

  9. Jess

    I have an older cat who vomits not infrequently, and I have been known to shove him off the bed while he’s in the pre-vomit stage, just so I don’t have to wash the covers. I only feel a little guilty.

    • jwg

      I thought I was the only one to do that. And then I try and make sure I’m the second one out of bed in the morning.

      • Lori N

        I managed to hustle my dog out the door once he started making pre-vomit noises and was so thrilled with myself I had to call my husband over to celebrate with me. There was dancing and much rejoicing by all.

        • JaneB

          I have a middle-aged cat and have got REALLY GOOD at grabbing kitchen roll and shoving it under her chin wherever she’s chosen to puke

  10. 12tequilas

    Must comment here because I get the whole idea of a smell-producing event that you don’t notice at first and then can’t find. My dogs are not small, and the older one sometimes has pee pee accidents when he gets excited about something, but beyond that they are fine.

    My “defiler” is my cat.

    My cat is ancient but has actually been peeing where he shouldn’t off and on all his life. Before we had kids, one of our bedrooms was used for storage. The cat was apparently going in there regularly to pee, and we DID NOT notice, until one day when we moved a large heavy object just a little bit. Then we smelled it and did not stop smelling it until we cleaned it up. This is just an example. You’d think that as soon as a cat pees somewhere not his litter box, you’d know, but somehow the smell hides until … it’s not hidden anymore. Magic, I guess! Glad you found your stink source!

  11. Mary K. in Rockport

    Ugh. I think you’re taking a HUGE risk getting new furniture! I mean, you’re just asking for it!

  12. Amy-Go

    What Kira said.

  13. ANNIE

    I am a new member of the mom to a furry friend club. Last night, the dog puked on the bed. We got out, changed the sheets, settled back down, and then the HORK, HORK, HORK started again. I stuck my cupped hand out AND CAUGHT THE PUKE, so iIwouldn’t have to change the sheets again……

  14. Jeanie

    And also, in case you haven’t heard, shih tzus are not the easiest dogs to house train. Believe me, I can attest to that. My girl will go to the back door and give a little bark if someone’s in the area, but if we’re not and she has to go, she goes on the carpet. Nice.

  15. elz

    Gross, never getting a small dog. Blech.

    True story- we had to rewire in the “bonus” room we are finally decorating & using after (cough) 6 years in our house because I had bought a piece of furniture (Craigslist, vintage, SCORE! so cheap) and I was he** bent on using it where it stood. Whatever, he got his ridiculously large TV, I get my mid-century chest in the place I wanted.

  16. aem2

    My cat pukes in motion. She will start the “hork hork,” puke a little, and then run someplace else, preferably some place with fabric, where she can puke a lot more. And then keep running. There’s never just one mess.

    She will leave the *tub* to go puke somewhere more inconvenient. At least I don’t have carpets.

    • A Different Kind of Zoe

      Yes. THIS. I come home from work, or worse, get up to pee in the night, and there is a string of puddles. Hacks me right off. No pun intended. :)

  17. Little Bird

    My cat (my moms cat in reality) is known for revenge puking. If we leave her alone for too long during the day (too long is determined by said cat and is subject to her general mood) she will puke. Most of the time it’s on the floor, which is tile throughout the apartment. If she’s really pissed it’s on moms bed. With the ivory duvet. We figure she’s due for a puking any time now.

    • Little Bird

      Not even thirty minutes later, she puked. On the living room rug. She’s lucky she’s cuddly.

  18. Daisy

    After browsing the comments, I am SO GLAD I have a pet rabbit.

  19. Celeste

    I’ve never considered myself a dog person, but I finally understand how they really are like having another child. I love my 13-year-old Cairn Terrier. Even when I (frequently) awaken at 3 a.m. to the sounds of horking. The weird thing is, sometimes I can’t find any trace of it in the morning. I know dogs often.. ahem.. self-clean… but no trace?? I don’t get it.

    He’s a gassy little guy, and is convinced that someone pinched him on the butt every time he farts. He literally runs away from it.

    That said, when he “crosses the rainbow bridge,” the house is going to feel really empty. But we’re not getting another dog.

  20. Stimey

    This is quite a vivid description of the stank. Thank you for that. :)

    We keep thinking we should get new living room furniture, but then we keep remembering how messy my family is and decide we can probably last another few years, “until they are not so messy.” Ha.

  21. tracyb


  22. Pip

    I am so happy you wrote this post.

    I was looking forward to lying in this morning, and have been talking about it all week. My fiance normally doesn’t sleep past seven, but this morning he chose to stay asleep, snore loudly, and occasionally flop over onto my side of the bed. Eventually I decided that I wasn’t sleeping anyway and the dog wasn’t getting any less hungry, so I got out of bed to feed him and let him out, then halfway down the stairs I heard a tremulous “Honey? Are you getting up? Can you make me a coffee?”

    And then I killed him.

    Actually I snapped at him then made him a coffee.

    Anyway, I was in an epically awful mood, and this post made me laugh, so thank you :-)

    (although, having written out the story I feel somewhat cross again. Oops)

  23. Lisa Kay

    Oh. My. I’m laughing at this because we had the SAME THING happen to our sofa! It wasn’t a stealth puke, though, because we saw the mess. It wasn’t on a blanket, though…it was RIGHT DOWN THE CRACK between sections of sofa! It smelled for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only several MONTHS. Oh, how I wanted to kill that dog. (A toy poodle. A pukey toy poodle. Who probably pukes about three times a week.)

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