Monday, 9 March 2009

I live to launder . . . or, I wash therefore I am

I have lost count of the number of washing machines we have gone through. I remember that we bought the first one while living in Northern Ireland. The boiler which dealt with terry napkins and dish cloths and towels was not really adequate and I was finding it difficult to keep up with the laundering demands of a husband, toddler and new baby. The toddler was fascinated by the washing machine and delighted that her orders to it – 'Again, again' – were heard and the drum spun round obediently. We had no television at the time so the washing machine was a source of entertainment for her.

Through the ensuing years machines were purchased, given extended warranties, broke down irretrievably (frequently), caught fire (twice), flooded the kitchen (many times) as our family grew. Sports clothes of all descriptions tumbled round soapily, people complained when colours ran or garments shrank, and I continued to work full-time, chauffeur my children to their various sporting and social events, be chief cook and bottle-washer and, of course, laundry maid. The husband by then was working very long hours, often overseas and returning for brief periods to make contact with his children (and me).

When the children grew and flew I expected the washing piles to reduce but they didn't. I had overcome my near descent into OCD – at one time if one item of a load dropped to the floor I would wash the entire lot again – but still the floor next to the latest model was carpeted with things to be washed. The husband was working more reasonable hours, giving him more time to run cross-country with his canine companions.

We have always had dogs, even before we had children but when the children were living at home we had mostly owned small dogs – Jack Russells. Now as the JRs passed on we migrated to larger dogs. When dogs grow old they often experience arthritis and mobility problems and need warmth and soft bedding. With age comes, sometimes, a measure of incontinence so that their bedding needs to be washed more frequently. Inevitably, larger dogs require a greater acreage of bedding and less of this can be fitted into the machine at one time. Add to this the amounts of mud larger paws bring into the house and onto the (washable) rugs and the laundry question begins to answer itself.

We have four dogs at present, three Dalmatians and a working Labrador. The oldest, Dominie Dalmatian, will be fifteen later this month. She has a wonderful temperament and hates to be in trouble. Unfortunately, she had a bad attack of spondylitis late last year which has left her hind legs very weak. So, though she tries her very best to get up and out of her bed, she often falls down and has to be lifted. To this end she wears a special harness with a handle on it. She cannot get to the door to ask to go out and has to rely on one of us interpreting her vocalisations correctly. Sometimes she speaks to be helped to find a new position in bed but often she is telling us she needs to go outside to relieve herself ('go potty' - tee hee!) If we are not quick enough her bedding becomes soiled and needs washing.

The youngest Dalmatian is epileptic and is given a cocktail of anti-epileptic drugs each day in an effort to control his seizures. One of the side-effects of the drugs is that he often dribbles urine so if he isn't wearing a wrap (a doggy diaper) whatever he is lying on can become saturated. The involuntary urination is variable and unpredictable so on days when it doesn't seem to be happening, he goes Commando.

The working Labrador spends as much time as she can in water and so brings huge amounts of mud into the house in her coat which is then deposited on furniture, clothes, rugs, us!

Thus, our washing machine works as hard as it and its predecessors have ever done and to be honest, we wouldn't have it any other way for the dogs give us enormous pleasure and wonderful companionship. In any case, when 'the children' (what do you call your adult progeny??) come home to visit they invariably bring washing with them so I have to keep my hand in or I might forget how to do it!

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