June 15, 2012

Toward the end, last winter, our poor elderly dog, Susi, became less discriminating about where and when she relieved herself. Every once in a while, we’d let her out and she’d pee in the yard, but most often, she preferred to drag herself out of her corner and go right in the middle of the living room area rug, sometimes as we watched in horror.

Rudy, being a typical male dog, did as he always has done - he finds where Susi has gone to the bathroom and covers it with his own pee. Since Susi has died he has pretty much stopped peeing on the rug. But on occasion, when we don't react quickly enough to his begging, he will have an "accident". We can't really blame him because he is also an old dog - nearly 17 - and he will let us know when he has to go. He will even wake us in the middle of the night to go for a walk (by "us" I mean Lady Laura and she wakes me to walk him).

All winter, I kept the rug cleaning machine in the corner of the living room and at least once a week would shampoo the carpet. After we took Susi to the vet for the final time, I wiped a tear, came home, shampooed the rug and thought that was that.

That was pretty much that, until spring came and with it, warm humid weather. Suddenly, all that dormant dog pee reanimated itself, and our living room started smelling like the New York City subway system during a heat wave. I got out the trusty rug machine, hit the power scrub button and cleaned the rug again.

Two days later, the smell was back. It would hit at odd times. We’d be sitting on the sofa watching TV and suddenly an odor would waft past that would make my eyes roll back in my head.

Memorial Day weekend, we had a three-day heat wave with no rain in sight. I carried the carpet out onto the driveway, soaked it with a hose and used the rug machine to suck all the water out. Then I did it again, using vinegar and water. Then, I cleaned the rug a third and fourth time with carpet shampoo. When we got it back in the house, everything was fine, until the first humid day, then ... bam, it was back with a smelly vengeance.

Any sensible person would, of course, throw the rug out and start fresh. We spent a lot of money on this particular rug, though, something we don’t usually (ever) do, and my wife liked the way it looked, so her solution was to move it out of the living room into my bedroom room. We really only use the bedroom room once a day, she argued, so it wouldn’t be so noticeable. Sure ... not to her, she doesn't sleep in my bedroom.

The problem is that I actually do my writing, including this column, in my bedroom room - which is where my computer is located. Because I was spending so much time soaking up the atmosphere, I started to read up on dog pee on the Internet. Turns out when a dog goes on a carpet and it dries, it leaves behind urea crystals. Urea crystals are tough customers, clinging to the carpet fibers, and every time they get wet, even from humidity, they come back to life and emit a foul odor. If you could find the actual pee spot, though, you can buy an enzyme spray that neutralizes urea. (We find that Febreze Pet Odor spray works very well.) The way to find the pee spot, the Internet said, was with a black light.

I was intrigued. I assumed black lights were solely for use by awkward teenagers who want to look rebellious without actually being rebellious. But black lights are also, it turns out, what CSI types use at crime scenes to make biological evidence (don’t ask — I mean it) glow.

This sounded cool. My wife and I drove to the store and bought a black light bulb. When we got home, it was too bright out for the bulb to make anything show up, so I ran to the back room and grabbed a comforter from the closet. We put the black light bulb into a desk lamp and we got on our hands and knees under the comforter, and crawled around the room looking for pee spots.

We discovered two things. First, a black light doesn’t work as well as the Internet says it does. Nothing glowed under there except, strangely enough, my wife’s glasses frame. Second, if a peed-upon rug smells bad when you’re walking through the room, if you crawl down close to the rug, with a comforter over your head, on a warm day, with a light heating the whole thing, it’s overwhelming. At one point, Lady Laura got a little dizzy, and I thought she’d topple over on her side in a faint. It would be embarrassing to explain to the EMTs what happened to her. We gave up.

The carpet’s too expensive to toss, so I’m guessing the pee wins out. I’ll keep writing the column at my old spot, somewhere near the pee spot, in my bedroom, but on humid days, I might be a little late getting Castle Bisset mailed out. It’s hard to type with one hand while holding my nose with the other.