What with the surgery (singular) I thought I was facing, I hired a neighbor's cleaning lady to help with the house, since I knew I wouldn't be able to do the usual amount of physical labor needed to keep the Funny Farm running. Now that "one" surgery has morphed into an endless series of surgeries, it looks like Liz (as we'll call her) is officially a semipermanent employee.

{sigh} The trouble with cleaning ladies -- even the best of them, as Liz happens to be -- is that you can NEVER second-guess what they're going to do. Every couple of weeks (she surfaces semiweekly), I stumble onto some creative housekeeping that I would never have imagined possible. This week's antic damn near killed Ruby the Corgi Pup.

Today Liz did a great job of cleaning every accessible surface. Very nice.

This evening I'm sitting here and hear, coming from the next room, munch munch smack smack munch...

WHAT? Did Ruby find another delicious envelope to turn into confetti? 

Call Ruby. She strolls into the room, smacking lips. I get up and remove a bit of fluff from her mouth. Walk into the bedroom: she's  been chewing on a small rug that sits next to the bed. But she hasn't managed to pull much of it apart.

Puppy is still smacking diligently. Grab pup, prize jaws apart, and find... the end of a piece of dental floss, which she's struggling to swallow!

Holeee mackerel!

Grasp the end, gently pull it out of her gullet. It was eleven inches long!

Few things are more dangerous to a dog than swallowing a lengthy piece of thread or string. The stuff can wind around in the intestines and slice them up. At best, you're looking at expensive, painful surgery. At worst: a dead dog.

So how did she get ahold of a foot-long strip of dental floss?

Well, with no male companion of the human sort around this place, I keep the dental floss in the nightstand and finish cleaning my teeth right before turning off the lamp. I always put the used floss in the trash can, which is kept under the nightstand specifically so that a certain puppy can't flip it over. Trash basket is made of straw; the floss catches in it.

So I always empty that basket into the largest of the household trashbaskets (along with the contents of all the other baskets) and then carry it out to the trash can to empty it, so as not to scatter strings of floss around. But what Liz does is get a plastic bag, carry it around the house and empty the trash cans, the vacuum cleaner, the floor sweepings and whatnot into it. This she ties up and drops in the trash.

 Hm. Evidently when you try to empty a straw basket into a plastic bag, stuff is going to fly around.

I hope only one piece of floss fell on the floor. Liz is very fastidious; if she spotted anything like that she'd pick it up.

Turns out that dental floss is a serious nuisance for dogs, and it can pose a significant danger. After this, I'm keeping a Ziplock bag in the drawer so any used pieces can be sealed inside.

Reminds me of the time Anna the German Shepherd ate a sewing needle. A half-grown pup, she was tall enough to reach the shelf where I kept my sewing box. Caught her in the act just as the needle was sliding down her throat. Of course, it was 9 or 10 o'clock at night.

Expensively called the emergency vet. Just the cover charge is a hundred bucks. Then the meter starts to run...

The vet was much more concerned about the possibility that the needle was threaded than about her having gulped down a size 7 sharp. And I had no idea. She'd kiped the needle out of a pincushion -- it might or might not have been threaded. He proposed to perform surgery on her.

I certainly couldn't afford any such thing.

Then he proposed to have a high-powered specialized imaging machine trucked over from the other side of the Valley, in the middle of the night!!!

I said I couldn't pay for either of those, and if the dog was going to die, the dog was just going to die.

At that point he allowed that the dog probably wasn't going to die...but it was a possibility. If the needle wasn't threaded, nothing would happen: a dog's digestive juices are strong enough to dissolve a sewing needle. And even if she had swallowed a bit of thread, there was a good chance it would pass through without harm.

Luckily, no ill effects ensued. I watched for both thread and for an ejected needle. Neither ever materialized.

Presumably the needle dematerialized.

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Comment by Vicky Hay on September 14, 2014 at 12:00pm

@ Chris: Of course. She's very eager to please and very gracious.

The lady who could translate, my neighbor Maria, was forced by circumstances stemming from the Great Recession and the illness of her recently deceased parents to sell her home at a huge discount and move. As we scribble, she's sleeping on friends' sofas and, when she can get them, doing  house-sitting gigs. My other Spanish-speaking pal is going up for full professor, a difficult steeplechase that occupies her every waking moment. Our conversations revolve around my company's editing & consulting for the journal she just brought to her university and for the book she and a colleague are trying to persuade UC Press to publish. When exactly she would have time or patience to come over here and tutor the wonderful Liz -- who is only here once every two weeks and whose arrival time is unpredictable -- escapes me. And with surgery after surgery after surgery (a new one slated for the crack of tomorrow's dawn), I also cannot imagine how I would have time or energy to track down someone who would like to do translation work gratis. 

LOL! Apparently indeed isn't a dog owner. She had to quit bringing her 12- or 13-year-old daughter because the child is terrified of dogs...especially of the puppy.

Comment by Chris Payerl on September 14, 2014 at 9:52am
I think if you shared your concerns nicely, your cleaning lady most likely would not take offense. Start with what a good job she does and how much you appreciate her work. I know you don't speak her language, but do you know anyone who does? Do they teach that language in your local high school or university where you might be able to find someone to translate a message? Even Google Translate does a fairly decent job with Spanish anyhow (not perfect, but gets the point across) if you would type out what you want to say and run it through that.
If she is not a dog owner, she probably doesn't know how careful you have to be with certain everyday items. I know I was surprised at all the things our first dog got into as a pup, and even what Sophie did as an adolescent. I even forgot how sneaky a young dog can be when we got Sophie; I had grown accustomed to my well-mannered "lady of a certain age" Asta after she settled down and I didn't have to put away every little thing. Thank goodness they both grew out of their high jinks!
Comment by Yuki & Ellie on September 11, 2014 at 8:54am

Perhaps September is the official Corgi Mischief Month?  My own little Ellie, who rarely creates mischief that is not the result of human carelessness, was found on top of our dining table the other night.  Having no idea how she even managed to get up there, I actually watched her the following night after I left the dining room.  The little booger has figured out how to push out the chairs and jump up!  And as I rounded the corner, I wasn't sure which to be more horrified at:  the fact that she suddenly decided that our leftover supper was the perfect evening snack or the fact that, at realizing she had been caught in the act, she jumped clear off of a 30" high table.

Certainly, if nothing else, a lesson has been learned in this household.  All food must be cleared from the table immediately following a meal!  Sometimes I swear that corgis are more creative in their mischief because they need to make up for their lack of legs.  Those little stubbin' legs will only get them so far before they have to improvise!

Comment by Vicky Hay on September 11, 2014 at 8:32am

@ Holly: Wow! That's some mischief-making!!!

I can't imagine it would harm the dog for you to express your displeasure if you caught her in the act or very close to the act. I personally doubt that dogs make no connection between Act A and Event B if the two occur within a few minutes of each other. So she managed to unzip the bag? That's quite a trick!  If its zippers  are the kind that have two zips that go back and forth to meet each other wherever, you might be able to  pass a diaper pin through the little holes in them and snap its latch down, so as to hold the zippers in place.

Can you bring her into the room where you are and close her IN with you, rather than running around closing doors to keep her OUT of other rooms? It might be useful to keep her on a leash all the time, leading her into a given room and tying her to a doorknob wherever you happen to be. I did that with an amazingly destructive German shepherd (affectionately known as "the thousand-dollar-a-day dog"). When I was in the kitchen, I'd tie her to the doorknob; when I was sitting at a desk I'd slip the leash over the chair arm or  put a chair leg through the leash handle. The only time that dog was off the leash was when she was in the backyard.

This wasn't a "forever" thing. Many dogs go thru' a destructive phase, but they do come out on the other end.

Another strategy is to get a nice comfortable crate for the dog. Place the dog in the crate when you have to leave the house. That will obviate your having to lock up the cupboards (to your great inconvenience) and secure everything that's not red-hot or nailed down.

Comment by Holly on September 11, 2014 at 1:30am

It is a coincidence that I read this tonight. Sully is probably the least active dog on the planet, but she is also very curious and has those dangerous corgi smarts. I just woke late tonight and thought a quick bathroom break for my self would be non-eventful. Wrong!

In the two minutes I was in the bathroom Sully managed to pull some muscle heat packs. a few sanitary pads, a bottle of medicine, some tissues, a toothbrush, and a ziplock bag of crackers from my ZIPPED back pack. I was wondering how to handle it but I guess I am really the one to blame. That didn't stop me from trying to shame the dog, I am sorry to say. I used my shaming voice, and my face of disappointment, but who knows how much, if any of that was even vaguely understood by the poor dog. I know I have been spoiled by Sully's general lack of misbehavior, but this new mischievousness is alarming since it can be so dangerous, even fatal as you noted. I am amazed at what she will get into, much like a two-year-old. I have resorted to baby-proofing everything so she cannot accidently swallow something. She ignores all doggy toys, but she would I am quite certain, totally attack a package of dental floss. I have found the best solution is to keep the doors shut in all rooms unless I am in the room with my dog. That means she is confined to the kitchen and living room when I am out, and I move all plants, wires, bags, small items... you get the picture, from reach whenever I go out. Tonight I learned I need to do the same thing whenever I leave the room! Not sure why she is beginning to get into things, but it really surprised me. I can imagine anyone that is not used to dogs would probably need a checklist (in their preferred language) to help remember what to check for before leaving the house. When I go out I have to move my very heavy bar stools in front of the lower cabinets to be sure Sully doesn't get into them and possibly choke on a torn of piece of a can label or container. If I had to rely on outside visitors I think I would install child-safe locks for my own piece of mind. Good luck with the surgeries and doggy care!

Comment by Vicky Hay on September 10, 2014 at 7:18pm

 Thanks, Katy. It is a bit of a problem that she doesn't speak English.

And also a testimonial to her: She is SO good at what she is and such a nice person to have around that it doesn't seem to matter that she doesn't speak English...

In some ways I hesitate to say anything that might offend or make her feel I'm unhappy with her, because I would be very sad to lose her.

Comment by Katy on September 10, 2014 at 5:52pm
I clean for a living currently. Perhaps voicing your concerns to your employee would help. It's a good idea that you have, about putting the used bits into a ziplock bag, hopefully it would keep from another possibly incident.

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