How I co-exist with mud season and four dogs

Some days, I think I could grow a root crop garden on the kitchen floor of my old farmhouse. I have four dogs, and it’s the beginning of mud season. I come into this time of year with happiness and dread, just as every dog owner does I imagine.

It’s the beginning of the end of winter but mud season brings a whole new level of work to my daily chores.

This time of year, the mop is propped next to the back door or in a corner of the kitchen, and there’s always a “dog towel” at the ready. And it feels like the bathroom rug is constantly in the washer.

I don’t begrudge my canine charges their outdoor fun. My Brittany dogs Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy need lots of exercise to be happy. They are dog sports athletes and hunting dogs. And if they don’t get enough exercise, they tend to create “indoor” games and my house ends up with more problems than mud — like dog toys destuffed, dismantled and strewn everywhere or too much help sorting my laundry or the general relocation of many of my possessions.

Quincy on a local walking trail in 2016.

Quincy on a local walking trail in 2016.

I have tried different things over the years to stem the seasonal mud flow into the house.

There are certain areas inside the dog fence that tend to be muddier than others, like along the various paths the dogs have established, and where the water runs off the garage roof. I purchase straw from my local hardware store, and strew it along the paths and in the wettest areas.

That helps cut down some of the mud that tracks into the house, but the straw tends to stick to the dogs’ coats and the hair on their legs, and comes inside with them. There are 16 legs that have the potential of bringing in debris. At least it’s cleaner than mud.

There are strategically placed rugs at the back door, and decorative rocks at the point of the dogs’ most frequent entrance/egress for the fenced area. The problem with rocks is that they tend to get into the areas that will be grass as mud season progresses to spring and then to summer, and then I hit them with the lawn mower.

Or Quincy thinks the rocks are part of his toy cache and he digs in them or carts them around, depositing them wherever the next object attracts his interest. That boy should go into a career of creating obstacle courses.

The other issue with straw is that Thistle and Quincy — my champion diggers — want to know what’s underneath the straw, so they dig through it and sometimes end up muddier than they would have been by simply traveling the paths to and from the house.

But my dogs are easily conditioned to certain routines, and they have learned when there’s mud on their bodies, they need to head directly to the bathtub, especially Thistle and Quincy. Sassy somehow walks from one end of the fence to the other and comes in clean as can be, most of the time. It’s a crap shoot with Bullet.

Bullet in 2016

Bullet in 2016

But with the guarantee that at least two of my four dogs will need some mud control, I leave the handheld wand hooked into the showerhead in the bathroom during rain storms and mud season in order to rinse them off before they run around the house and mix mud with the ever persistent dog hair.

It doesn’t solve the mud problem, but minimizes its coverage area.

I have tried catching each dog as he or she comes through the door and wiping down legs and feet, and for Thistle — the shortest dog — belly too. But that can be challenging when there are four dogs ready to come in at the same time.

They will take turns coming in if I insist, but it’s a wrangling operation I don’t relish.

I know that cleanliness is next to Godliness, according to the old adage, but I long ago accepted that my house is not a pristine showplace — it’s a place where I live. I have four dogs, by my choice; and I have forced hot air heating, not by my choice, that sucks in and blows out dust generated by dogs, a main road in front of the house and an old house — and dog hair.

I also have mud in spring.

Thus far, spring has been fairly kind to me, but I know the time is coming when I will dread having to let the dogs outside because of the work they will bring back in with them.

JULIE HARRIS

About JULIE HARRIS

As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy, who keep me busy in various dog sports. I was widowed at age 51 when my husband, Jim, died of pancreatic cancer.