How Did My Dogs Become My Decorators? | Kanebridge News
Kanebridge News
Share Button

How Did My Dogs Become My Decorators?

Dog-food bowls and chew toys always underfoot? Leashes hung like nooses to greet guests at the front door? Columnist Michelle Slatalla wonders if there’s a cure for her problem.

Wed, Jan 18, 2023 7:52amGrey Clock 4 min

AT A DINNER recently, my friends were ticking off their home-décor-related New Year’s resolutions. I was feeling pretty smug. After all, I’ve spent years repainting, reupholstering, rearranging and refinancing my house to make it comfortable.

Later that night as I was lying in bed, my little papillon Pigeon gently pawed at me. Then with his adorable, black dog lips he gave me a quick kiss on my nose. This is one of our many, many sick bedtime routines, but I love him so much. So I crawled out from under the covers to help him make his evening bone selection.

Suddenly, I saw my bedroom through a stranger’s eyes—someone who perhaps doesn’t love Meester Smeedge-Smeedge or Larry (my other papillon) as much as I do.

Specifically, in the corner of the room, next to a beautiful forest-green mohair sofa where I sometimes work, was a squalid, dank, metal dog crate which no dog has slept in ever. Inside it was a bigger pile of bones than you’d find in Dr. Lecter’s backyard. It also contained a dozen, greying, chewed-up chew toys, including the disemboweled remnants of a squeaky stuffed squirrel. Splayed on top of the crate—where no dog could ever reach—was, inexplicably, a pet mattress (fleece, unused).

The whole scene looked disgusting.

Then I started to notice other pet-related décor problems in my house. An assortment of water bowls and food bowls had transformed the kitchen into an obstacle course of spilled kibble. A dozen tiny rubber balls created a tripping hazard in the living room. A tangle of leashes hung like nooses in the foyer to welcome guests to our home.

“I can’t pinpoint exactly when this happened, but somehow my dogs have become my decorators,” I complained to Peter Scott, chief executive of the American Pet Products Association in Stamford, Conn.

“Don’t worry, you’re not the only one living like this,” said Mr. Scott, pointing out that 70% of U.S. households own pets, a figure that has been increasing steadily since 1988, when his trade group began surveying pet owners annually.

Over those 35 years, pet owners’ relationships with their animals also have evolved. Nowadays, animals are likely to be treated like full-fledged family members, Mr. Scott said: “It’s the humanization of pets. We’re seeing more young people who may not be ready for a kid, but they are ready to come home after work and take care of a dog or a cat.”

Along with more pets come greater decorating challenges. Last year, in fact, pet owners spent nearly $100 million on toys for dogs and cats, Mr. Scott said.

“That’s a lot of slobbery rubber balls to litter living room floors across America,” I said.

“Yeah, I’m tripping over them everywhere at my house,” admitted Mr. Scott, who it turns out has an adorable mini goldendoodle named Tucker.

What’s the solution? “We’ve started having conversations about whether we should be doing educational programs for architects and designers about how to create seamless, pet-friendly environments that go beyond having a doggie door,” Mr. Scott said.

Actually, many design professionals already are coming up with innovative solutions for clients who have pets.

Dog-washing stations in mudrooms, pullout drawers for food bowls in kitchens and “dog caves” built into nooks under staircases are becoming common, said Laura Sockrider, a designer at Martha O’Hara Interiors in Austin, Texas.

For a client who has two beagles, Ms. Sockrider recently designed a foyer that can be closed off with a waist-high pocket door—“it’s like a disappearing metal dog gate,” she said—to prevent the dogs from rushing the front door when visitors arrive.

“Another thing I like to do in an entryway is accessorise a console table with boxes and bins that have lids,” she said. “Your dog’s super-duper-slobbered ball might not be the first thing you want to see when you come in the front door, so it’s good to have a place to stash toys and leashes.”

Andrew Hill, co-founder and an architectural designer at Studio for Architecture & Collaboration in Toronto, recently designed a built-in dog nook—complete with a peaked roof like a traditional backyard doghouse—to take advantage of an awkward space in an L-shaped kitchen-cabinet unit. “This kind of design is very functional because otherwise that dog’s bed would have been thrown in the corner of the room, and that would have been unfortunate in such a small space,” he said.

“Catification” is always an emerging design trend. “Cat owners also are doing some cool things, like putting in kitchen shelves at heights that create levels for cats to climb,” said Molly Sumridge, an assistant professor of anthrozoology at Carroll College in Helena, Mont. “Having high spaces to hang out in is something cats intrinsically need as a species and it’s also a design that works well for humans—it keeps cats off the counters.”

This reminded me why I am not a cat person.

So, getting back to Pigeon—as I type, he is sleeping next to his bone collection, with one paw pressing against my foot as if a nap overtook him when he was in the process of giving me a nudge.

“He’s so cute, I wish you could see him,” I said to Prof. Maggie O’Haire, an associate dean of veterinary medicine at the University of Arizona. “But it would have been great if I thought of all these clever design ideas when I was remodelling my house a decade ago. Then I could have hidden all physical evidence of him and Larry in my house.”

“But is the mess really a problem? After all, pets themselves are almost a design element in a house,” Prof. O’Haire said. She pointed out that studies show that seeing your pet—or even your pet’s stuff—can improve your mood. “The sight of your dog resting on a chair can change your emotions,” she said.

Similarly, the sight of a dog crate “is like seeing a crib for a baby—it can bring back memories of when you first brought home that pet,” Prof. O’Haire said.

“Oh, yes, he was eight weeks old, and so little and fluffy, with huge ears,” I said, making a note to email her a photo after we got off the phone.

“On the other hand, people like to have some sense of order in their homes,” she said, steering me back on topic. The idea was to take back control. “So maybe you could get a basket for the toys,” she said.

“And bones,” I reminded her.

At that, Pigeon (whose English isn’t perfect), jumped up and brought me one of his squeaky balls.

“Sorry, got to go,” I said, and hung up.


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

Related Stories
Italy, Land of Uncollected Garbage, Combines Running With Trash Pickup
By ERIC SYLVERS 04/10/2023
Jean Arnault Has New Goals for Louis Vuitton Watches. Profit Isn’t One of Them.
By NICK KOSTOV 03/10/2023
Love Patterns? Try This Design Trick to Pull Any Room Together
By KATE MORGAN 02/10/2023
Italy, Land of Uncollected Garbage, Combines Running With Trash Pickup

At the World Plogging Championship, contestants have lugged in tires, TVs and at least one Neapolitan coffee maker

Wed, Oct 4, 2023 4 min

GENOA, Italy—Renato Zanelli crossed the finish line with a rusty iron hanging from his neck while pulling 140 pounds of trash on an improvised sled fashioned from a slab of plastic waste.

Zanelli, a retired IT specialist, flashed a tired smile, but he suspected his garbage haul wouldn’t be enough to defend his title as world champion of plogging—a sport that combines running with trash collecting.

A rival had just finished the race with a chair around his neck and dragging three tires, a television and four sacks of trash. Another crossed the line with muscles bulging, towing a large refrigerator. But the strongest challenger was Manuel Jesus Ortega Garcia, a Spanish plumber who arrived at the finish pulling a fridge, a dishwasher, a propane gas tank, a fire extinguisher and a host of other odds and ends.

“The competition is intense this year,” said Zanelli. Now 71, he used his fitness and knack for finding trash to compete against athletes half his age. “I’m here to help the environment, but I also want to win.”

Italy, a land of beauty, is also a land of uncollected trash. The country struggles with chronic littering, inefficient garbage collection in many cities, and illegal dumping in the countryside of everything from washing machines to construction waste. Rome has become an emblem of Italy’s inability to fix its trash problem.

So it was fitting that at the recent World Plogging Championship more than 70 athletes from 16 countries tested their talents in this northern Italian city. During the six hours of the race, contestants collect points by racking up miles and vertical distance, and by carrying as much trash across the finish line as they can. Trash gets scored based on its weight and environmental impact. Batteries and electronic equipment earn the most points.

A mobile app ensures runners stay within the race’s permitted area, approximately 12 square miles. Athletes have to pass through checkpoints in the rugged, hilly park. They are issued gloves and four plastic bags to fill with garbage, and are also allowed to carry up to three bulky finds, such as tires or TVs.

Genoa, a gritty industrial port city in the country’s mountainous northwest, has a trash problem that gets worse the further one gets away from its relatively clean historic core. The park that hosted the plogging championship has long been plagued by garbage big and small.

“It’s ironic to have the World Plogging Championship in a country that’s not always as clean as it could be. But maybe it will help bring awareness and things will improve,” said Francesco Carcioffo, chief executive of Acea Pinerolese Industriale, an energy and recycling company that’s been involved in sponsoring and organizing the race since its first edition in 2021. All three world championships so far have been held in Italy.

Events that combine running and trash-collecting go back to at least 2010. The sport gained traction about seven years ago when a Swede, Erik Ahlström, coined the name plogging, a mashup of plocka upp, Swedish for “pick up,” and jogging.

“If you don’t have a catchy name you might as well not exist,” said Roberto Cavallo, an Italian environmental consultant and longtime plogger, who is on the world championship organizing committee together with Ahlström.

Saturday’s event brought together a mix of wiry trail runners and environmental activists, some of whom looked less like elite athletes.

“We like plogging because it makes us feel a little less guilty about the way things are going with the environment,” said Elena Canuto, 29, as she warmed up before the start. She came in first in the women’s ranking two years ago. “This year I’m taking it a bit easier because I’m three months pregnant.”

Around two-thirds of the contestants were Italians. The rest came from other European countries, as well as Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

“I hope to win so people in Senegal get enthusiastic about plogging,” said Issa Ba, a 30-year-old Senegalese-born factory worker who has lived in Italy for eight years.

“Three, two, one, go,” Cavallo shouted over a loudspeaker, and the athletes sprinted off in different directions. Some stopped 20 yards from the starting line to collect their first trash. Others took off to be the first to exploit richer pickings on wooded hilltops, where batteries and home appliances lay waiting.

As the hours went by, the athletes crisscrossed trails and roads, their bags became heavier. They tagged their bulky items and left them at roadsides for later collection. Contestants gathered at refreshment points, discussing what they had found as they fueled up on cookies and juice. Some contestants had brought their own reusable cups.

With 30 minutes left in the race, athletes were gathering so much trash that the organisers decided to tweak the rules: in addition to their four plastic bags, contestants could carry six bulky objects over the finish line rather than three.

“I know it’s like changing the rules halfway through a game of Monopoly, but I know I can rely on your comprehension,” Cavallo announced over the PA as the athletes braced for their final push to the finish line.

The rule change meant some contestants could almost double the weight of their trash, but others smelled a rat.

“That’s fantastic that people found so much stuff, but it’s not really fair to change the rules at the last minute,” said Paul Waye, a Dutch plogging evangelist who had passed up on some bulky trash because of the three-item rule.

Senegal will have to wait at least a year to have a plogging champion. Two hours after the end of Saturday’s race, Ba still hadn’t arrived at the finish line.

“My phone ran out of battery and I got lost,” Ba said later at the awards ceremony. “I’ll be back next year, but with a better phone.”

The race went better for Canuto. She used an abandoned shopping cart to wheel in her loot. It included a baby stroller, which the mother-to-be took as a good omen. Her total haul weighed a relatively modest 100 pounds, but was heavy on electronic equipment, which was enough for her to score her second triumph.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back next year to defend my title. The baby will be six or seven months old,” she said.

In the men’s ranking, Ortega, the Spanish plumber, brought in 310 pounds of waste, racked up more than 16 miles and climbed 7,300 feet to run away with the title.

Zanelli, the defending champion, didn’t make it onto the podium. He said he would take solace from the nearly new Neapolitan coffee maker he found during the first championship two years ago. “I’ll always have my victory and the coffee maker, which I polished and now display in my home,” he said.

Contestants collected more than 6,600 pounds of trash. The haul included fridges, bikes, dozens of tires, baby seats, mattresses, lead pipes, stoves, chairs, TVs, 1980s-era boomboxes with cassettes still inside, motorcycle helmets, electric fans, traffic cones, air rifles, a toilet and a soccer goal.

“This park hasn’t been this clean since the 15 century,” said Genoa’s ambassador for sport, Roberto Giordano.


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

Related Stories
Western Sydney’s hottest place to cool down opens
Claude Monet Water Lily Painting, Never Shown Publicly, Could Fetch at Least $65 Million
By ABBY SCHULTZ 01/10/2023
How Candid Can You Really Be With Your Boss?
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop