In our last episode, we introduced Rodent the Shih Tzu (Shih Tzu being Chinese for What The Little Dog Will Do On Your Rug) and how she came to stay at our house despite the Curmudgeon's best efforts....
Today we must begin with a description of the Curmudgeon home. No doubt you picture a spacious McMansion, but the truth is, as it often is, far less grand. The first part of our home was built sometime before World War II -- which, in Chicago at least, usually means before the Great Depression. I won't say that no homes were built in Chicago during the 1930's -- someone would surely contradict me -- but I believe I'm on firm ground in asserting that very few homes were built in our area during that unhappy decade. I don't know exactly when the original structure was built, and I'm not certain about the original floorplan, but I'm pretty sure it was small, a tiny square, two-bedroom Georgian with a single bathroom at the top of the stairs.
At some later time, a kitchen was added off the west end of the house. The kitchen is behind an attached one-car garage. My guess is that the garage was attached at this same time; I'm guessing that this is so because there is no direct access from the garage to the house.
Two more bedrooms were added at this time, too, over the kitchen and the garage. And the original kitchen was reconfigured into a powder room. I'm hoping that some walls were moved at this time because the powder room is just as small as you'd expect; I'm hoping the original kitchen was larger than that.
It may have been at this time, too, that a porch was built off the north end of the house behind the dining room. At some point in the history of the Curmudgeon manse this porch was allegedly converted into a year-round room, with glass sliding doors at the north end. I say allegedly because this room was -- and is -- almost unbearably cold in the winter and stifling in the summer. And we ran heating and cooling vents in there.
But this gets ahead of the story.
If you've followed along so far, in your mind's eye you can see a roughly "L"-shaped house, built in classic Future Tear Down Style, the long part of the "L" being two stories tall and the porch forming the short end.
This was the layout of the house when we acquired it in 1996.
But my wife wanted more room for the kitchen and it occurred to me that we could put a room up behind the kitchen and accomplish this. I suggested another powder room behind the existing. Another designer might have envisioned a wider opening between the existing porch/den and the new room but I figured that the floor might not line up exactly. This turned out to be a very good guess. We put a long closet on the other side of the powder room to make the communication between the new and old additions as narrow as we could; it turned out to be a chore to make even this narrow hallway level where the new and old structures met. The other reason I wanted another powder room was that I was learning, while trying to sell my first house, an unexpanded two-bedroom Georgian into which a third bedroom had been shoehorned, that the lack of a second toilet would cost me something like $50,000 in resale value. My original concept for the addition, therefore, had rows of toilets along both walls, like an airport or movie theater bathroom -- but Long Suffering Spouse talked me out of that.
Our misadventures in building the addition will stretch to multiple chapters in the memoir, and I'm testing your patience, even in this slow, inter-holiday week, by larding in so much description. On with your story! you say and I can only bow my head in acknowledgment of your legitimate demand.
All this description really was to set up the placement of our Christmas visitors. Older Daughter and her husband Hank had the futon in the new addition (for more about how Hank and Older Daughter got the futon, click here) and Rodent, the allegedly paper-trained Shih Tzu, was supposed to sleep in the adjacent new bathroom. Her "puppy pad" was there. Her water dish was there. Her little bed would have been there too, had not Oldest Son and his wife forgotten to bring it. (On St. Stephen's Day, Younger Daughter went out and acquired a puppy bed of our very own. Long Suffering Spouse went with -- and paid for it with our credit card. Oh joy.)
Rodent did sleep in the new bathroom on Thanksgiving night. On the day after Thanksgiving, when Oldest Son and Abby got up at the crack of dawn to leave for Southern California (they had the sleeper sofa in the old den on the other side of the new bathroom), their faithful hound heard them and started whining. And scratching.
This apparently continued the entire time while I was taking Oldest Son and his bride to O'Hare. On the futon in the new addition, Hank found it impossible, for some reason, to sleep through this.
Hank was definitely not pleased to see that the dog had returned for Christmas.
And Rodent had become increasingly insistent about not being cooped up in the new bathroom at night. Rodent does not bark -- not really. It makes an occasional noise that could be likened to the bark of a real dog, though shorter and higher-pitched. But it can make a fair amount of skittering noises on a vinyl-tile floor, and it could bang its head against the bathroom door trying to bounce it open. (She's succeeded more than once.) Although she's a dog who is alone most days in Oldest Son's apartment, Rodent has apparently decided that, in our house, with so many people, she must never be alone. Thus, she protested mightily at all efforts to contain her in the new bathroom. This was alright as long as no one was trying to sleep in the next room; we could, and did, barricade her in the room successfully on the night of the 24th.
But Hank and his wife arrived on the afternoon of the 25th.
Thus, it came to pass that, at about 4:00 a.m. on St. Stephen's Day, Hank dispatched his wife upstairs to get her sister. Older Daughter was more than willing to undertake this mission; the mutt was driving her nuts too. Younger Daughter says her big sister came tromping up the stairs like all three Billy Goats Gruff, shaking her awake and screaming at her to do something about that d*mn dog. Older Daughter says she was very quiet, although insistent that her little sister remove the dog. Since Long Suffering Spouse and I slept through this entire incident, I'm inclined toward Older Daughter's version of events.
Either way, the dog was brought upstairs. Hank went back to sleep.
But Hank may have had his revenge.
I mentioned yesterday that Hank was running a fever. It hit him Sunday afternoon. Like most dogs, Rodent is instinctively drawn to a sick person. She was as attentive to Hank as she could be (trying to make peace as well?), licking his fingers and so forth.
This morning Rodent threw up.
In Younger Daughter's bed.
Oldest Son and Abby come home tonight. Happy Holidays to me!
they should have gotten a cat!
I've had a couple of Shih Tzus. Love your translation of the meaning of their name. Bingo!
Found you from your comment on ByKenLevine.
Brilliant translation of Shih Tzu. I love dog stories. Our dogs have passed away and we have not gotten another dog - for exactly the reasons you describe in your "Rodent" stories. We, me actually, talk about getting another dog all the time. Then someone does a blog post that reminds me about the less attractive aspects of dog ownership. Thanks for saving me.
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