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Vacuuming Vignettes (More Dog Tales)

February 22, 2017


Vacuuming Vignette


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



I could be vacuuming the carpet.  I should be vacuuming, but I am more in the mood to write about vacuuming.


When I was growing up in the era of leave It to Beaver and I Love Lucy, both of my parents worked.  Thus, my mother had a way of ruining a perfectly good Saturday by declaring that Saturday was “cleaning day.”  I always thought that reading was a much better way to spend a Saturday morning.


Almost all of my pet dogs and later guide dogs tolerated vacuum cleaners with an eye of suspicion.  I felt the same about most cleaning endeavors; nevertheless, I have always preferred to live in a clean abode and have never liked the idea of anyone else’s cleaning my room or dwelling.  For decades, I have been confident of my own cleaning skills and have put them to use on whatever day of the week (when necessary).


The way I most like to clean is with a full measure of creativity.  Creative cleaning is re-arranging furniture and/or other items, decorating for whatever season or holiday, re-configuring storage areas, or developing a new color and design scheme for a room–as I am cleaning (with only memory of vision).  Having creative cleaning goals in mind, I can grasp the worthiness of cleaning–and I can listen to an interesting audio book while I am completing tasks.


On the other hand, vacuuming is really only an adjunct to the Creative Cleaning Department.  I just use geometric designs–yes, those basic, common-sense patterns from geometry class!  Perhaps, what I am doing is creating an abstract, geometric design in the carpet.  (Oh, to have a shag rug in avocado green, again!)  Plugging into the electrical outlet is easy enough once I have carefully located the open spots of the plate; holding the excess cord in my left hand while I am vacuuming with my right hand provides for a clean canvas for my vacuuming the geometric patterns.  Well, actually, from time to time, when I am keeping the cord away from my path of cleaning, I do remember one vacuum cleaner salesman who did not want to sell me a vacuum cleaner.  About 24 years ago, having been settled in Milwaukee with a good job for a couple of years, I decided that the time had come for my purchasing a very good and lightweight vacuum cleaner that would last for quite a number of years.  Unfortunately, to my surprise, the salesman thought that he should not sell me a vacuum cleaner because he was concerned that I would vacuum over the electrical cord.  Standing there in his store, with my guide dog Keller (a golden retriever, with very long, beautiful hair), my three educational degrees, and over thirty years of vacuuming experience in varying degrees of diminishing vision–I convinced the salesman to sell me the high-end vacuum cleaner.  With that vacuum cleaner, any prior one, or one newer model, I have never had the problem that the salesman envisioned.


As chairperson and sole member of my own Creative Cleaning Committee, all went relatively well for me.  During the next few years when I returned to the store for an annual tune-up of the vacuum cleaner or for bags, the salesman never said another word about my ability to vacuum safely my own carpet.  Then, the next time I went to the store, it was closed.  After a little research, I had to change from the store on the north side to a store on the west side of the city.  Eventually, I learned that the salesman, whom I first encountered, had a massive heart attack and died at a much-too-young age.  Periodically, I cannot help but think of him when I am using my vacuum.  I wonder if he knows that my only real challenge is not dealing with the electrical cord, but is being certain that I have picked up all the plush and squeaky toys of my guide dog before I delve into the geometric patterns of vacuuming.


My fondest memory of vacuuming is from the marvelous thirteen months when I actually had two guide dogs–one retired and one new Leader Dog.  Just before I was ready to vacuum a room, I had my older yellow lab and my younger black lab/golden retriever mix go into another room; they readily and happily obliged.  As soon as I finished vacuuming, I told my two dogs that I was done.  Zoe, the two-year-old, immediately came running toward me; and amazingly, my thirteen-year-old Heather did her best to trail behind her new, young buddy.  Within a few seconds, both of my Leader Dogs were joyfully greeting me and relishing pets.  Were they congratulating me for a job well done, or were they accepting their praise for their own job well done?  No matter–never was vacuuming so enjoyable.


Now, I am somewhat in the mood to vacuum the eighteen carpeted stairs in my townhouse while Willow supervises from a respectable distance.  Of all my pet dogs and guide dogs, Willow, my current Leader Dog, is the only one who would actually prefer to stay right beside me and the vacuum; nevertheless, I encourage this very calm Black Labrador to stay in the nearby room while the vacuum cleaner and I are at work designing our geometric patterns.  Then, with a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat, I wish my former Leader Dog Zoe were still here to lie beside Willow.  As I had called Zoe and Heather to come after I had finished vacuuming in 2009-2010, how I do wish I could just once call Willow and Zoe together to come to me when I finish vacuuming.  Oh, yes, even with my sweet Willow, I do still so very much miss my Zoe.



WEATHER NOTE:  Mother Nature gave Milwaukee another record-setting day!  On this February 22, 2017, the high temperature was 71 degrees!  The prior record high of 62 degrees was from 1984.  (I should note that all of this unusually warm weather also inspired me to take down all of my Christmas decorations before the end of February.)  Although we will return to a Wisconsin reality of weather conditions tomorrow, experiencing Florida-like weather without ever traveling past our Milwaukee borders has been delightful for walks with my Leader Dog Willow during the past several days.  Some people may call our recent weather “global warming.”  I call it a “gift from God,” and I give thanks.


Hoping you have been enjoying lovely weather,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


February 22, 2017, Wednesday



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  1. Fran Rayce permalink

    Your charming tale about creative vacuuming almost made me want to take that chore back from Jack. You’ll notice I said, almost. For now I’ll continue to enjoy raising my feet while he vacuums under them.

  2. Alice, I’m just the opposite. I hate cleaning, especially vacuuming, with a passion. Thank goodness for our senior center’s help at home program. Once a week, an aide comes to my house and cleans. She’s polite, reliable, and trustworthy as are all the senior center employees. I just sit back, relax, and enjoy a clean home without lifting a finger except to write a check to pay their monthly bill, which is reasonable since the payments are determined by how much income I earn.

  3. mfanyo permalink

    Dear Sister,
    You can find so many venues for your creativity–even the task of vacuuming! Now I have a better understanding of why you seldom allow me to vacuum when I am visiting you and Willow. Little did I realize that you are the artist in residence!
    Love, Mary

  4. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–I’m not surprised by this post since as long as I have known you, it seems your sense of order and tidiness has been evident in our former workplace as well as your lovely townhouse. Little did I realize this was another expression of your creativity and independence! And of course you still miss Zoe as we still grieve for some of our pets long gone–Sue

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