Wednesday, January 10, 2007

On being a stick in the mud

You'd think, on a day when most of the clouds in the sky are manmade, that you wouldn't hear any complaints about the weather. This week has been mild and sunny. The fact is, though, that my personal outlook is partly cloudy because of last week's downpours.

If you've ever seen photos of Louisiana graveyards (by golly, there's one right here), you may have noticed that many of the dearly departed seem to be resting aboveground. The reason for that is that the water table lies much closer to the surface here than it does in most areas of the country. We can't dig too deep a hole without getting our shovels wet, and we don't want our dead to float away.

For that same water-table reason, when we have a few straight days of rain, as we did last week, the ground can't absorb all of it. In my front yard the excess rainwater simply rolls down the hill. In the back, though, it stands, invisible beneath the thick mat of dead, yellow grass and thriving winter weeds, waiting for an unsuspecting creature who'll attempt to bypass the cement and take a shortcut across the yard. One false step, and an errant foot is sucked below the grass and into mud deep enough to cover a shoe top.

If it's humanly possible, we humans stay off the grass when the ground is like this. The dogs, unfortunately, have business to tend to in the yard, business I'm glad they choose not to conduct on the stepping stones. They return from their forays into the yard with feet that look like these--or even worse.

Butch doesn't like the mud on his paws and tends to stay on the stepping stones except for urgent business. Kadi, on the other hand, is in her element. She races through the yard, her feet making slurping noises as she runs, splashing mud up onto her belly as she bares her teeth in her best canine grin. When I insist that it's time to come back inside, she barrels toward the door along a path of her own making, a muddy trail that lies about two feet to the right of and parallel to the perfectly good stepping stones.

I've calculated that I've been averaging an hour a day, broken up into multiple 5-10 minute segments, wiping mud off of dogs' legs with a series of wet towels. It's become so routine that when Kadi comes through the door, she immediately hits the floor, rolls over on her back, and sticks all four feet up into the air to be cleaned. She doesn't appear to enjoy it, but she knows it's gotta be done before she gets a treat. That's eight legs to be cleaned, twice in the morning before I can even go to work, once at lunchtime, twice again in the evening, and last night (I wanted to shoot them) in the middle of the night.

I clean their feet, then I mop up the floor with the damp towel. At the end of each day I have to wash a load of muddy towels. All this muddy water is taking a toll on my hands. Just look at the semi-permanently puckered prunes that try to pass themselves off as my fingers.

There's one more problem that's directly related to the wet ground, one you might not have considered: spiders. Every year, when the yard reverts to the swampland it must have been in a previous lifetime, these spiders move out of the yard and into the house. They're little (I zoomed in for the closeup), but they creep me out. They like to lurk in shadowed corners, and they seem to have a special fondness for hiding under piles of damp, muddy towels. Many of the spiders (most of them, I hope) aren't particularly adept at lurking, so (with apologies to Charlotte and Wilbur) I stomp two or three of them every day.

I don't know about you, but I'm hoping for another dry season soon.


  1. Spiders, wet doggies and muck, oh my!

    I love the image of Kadi on her back, feet up for your ministrations.

    I've got a plastic washpan on the back porch and make my dog stand in it for a minute and then I can dry off his feet before he comes inside. But I don't have the swamp you have, thank goodness.

  2. Hang in there. Spring is just around the corner! Really!


  4. That last photo creeps me out. Seriously, I have to leave your site now. :-) Yech!

  5. Hmmm, now making me rethink getting a dog! LOL

    We only have one side yard that is perpetually wet, due to an underground stream that comes from the pond at the top of the road. With my luck, that would be new dog's playground!

    i hope it dries out for you soon - although I did like Annie's idea of giving them a foot bath outside.

  6. I went to college in Kingsville, TX which is below sea level. The least little rain meant flooded streets so I know what you mean! Double UGH! on the spider...that's when I put the vacuum hose to good use. Carmon

  7. Velvet, I went throught that with Mabel over the holidays... both my Mom and sister have cream colored carpets! I felt like I spent the majority of the trip cleaning paws. It really made me miss my desert and dark carpet!

    Take care of those hands!

  8. Velvet, I like the photos...except for that spider...yuk! I didn't realize that the graves have to be partially above ground, makes sense, but I just never thought of it. Darn, I wish I'd known this when we went thru Louisiana in Oct. - I'd have stopped at a cemetary. You probably don't have basements, either! :-)

  9. Annie, I like the washpan idea. Unfortunately, as big as my dogs are, it would have to be a wading pool. Anything smaller and Kadi'd just drink it.

    Sister-Three, thanks for the reminder. (Soon...let it be soon!)

    Patsy, I think the New Orleans cemeteries affect a lot of people that way when they see them for the first time, but some of the graves and monuments are really beautiful.

    Alison, that's right, scurry away, just like the little spideys do.;)

    Sunflower, I hate to discourage you, but it's a consideration. Eleven months out of the year I can't imagine living without my dogs. The other month they're still safe, but I CAN imagine it.

    Carmon, I've seen you write about vacuuming up bugs before, but I have to wonder...If the vacuum suction doesn't kill them, could they be building little colonies inside your vacuum cleaner bag?

    Creekhiker, I'm glad someone understands my mud-related pain. I can imagine the problem with cream-colored carpets. The annual rain/mud/dog problem was a major factor when I replaced my flooring a year or two ago.

    Jackie, it's an even bigger issue in New Orleans, which is below sea level. (Maybe there should be mandatory cremation; we could sure use the topsoil.) And you're right: no basements anywhere around.

  10. I thought I posted a comment here last night!

    I just want to say that I have the same trouble here when it rains a lot or for a few days in a row. I use up a lot of (cheap) towels with Spot's paws, and I sometimes have to chase him-he doesn't care for having his paws wiped. Or any other part of him, come to think of it.

  11. Janet, we have a big stack of designated "dog towels," too. I don't think Butch and Kadi are any happier than I am about the paw-wiping, but we've all learned to deal with it.


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