The horse's pasture to the East...

Monday, August 29, 2011


I have a Pavlovian reaction to vacuum cleaners. (Intrigued, aren't you?) After spending the past fifteen or so years living with a half coyote/half dog, I've become an expert on vacuum cleaners. Newman made more hair than any other animal I've ever had the privilege of living with. I sometimes think he was so thin, not because of his coyote heritage, but because he spent most of his energy making a hair coat.

Most dogs shed out their hair in the Spring and grow a thick coat for the Winter. Hair in the Spring is normal. You brush and groom, brush and groom and, in a few weeks, it's over. "Hair Anxiety" drops to a more manageable level and you move on with your year. But Newman did what I called The Big Blow Out every year. That's when he would make his nests for Gypsy too. Was it a coyote thing? I never knew since I had no way to compare his behaviors to a wild coyote.

But that wasn't where it stopped. He would make hair...and make hair...and make hair...and make hair. Over the years we had at least eight vacuum cleaners that his hair blew out. That averages out to a new vacuum cleaner every two years. Expensive vacuums, cheap vacuums, made for picking up pet hair vacuums, industrial vacuums...nothing made it through the "Newman Test". I even resorted to using a wet/dry vac to clean my house. Blew that out too. And that's why I have a Pavlovian Response to a new vacuum cleaner.

Every time I bought a new one (by the way, I was really, really good at disassembling vacuums, replacing belts and parts...anything it took to keep the newest vacuum going as long as possible.) I would clean and clean and clean. I'd vacuum everything! The carpets were always first, of course. But then came the furniture, walls, blinds, fan blades, pillows, backs of paintings...EVERYTHING! I knew the vacuum was going to die sooner rather than later so I wanted to get my licks in as much as possible before the changing of the belts and cleaning of the parts began. It was very rewarding!

I loved the three or four months of unimpaired vacuuming. Aaaahhhhh, the clean air and carpets, the clean furniture and was heaven! Over those years I learned to love BEGINNINGS. I found out it was fun to work with a good tool that, even though it was doomed to an unusual demise, was going to make me very happy in the beginning and then was going to stretch my patience and force me into that place outside my comfort zone where I had to learn. I didn't really want to learn about vacuums. It was a forced issue that became part of the journey we had with Newman living with us. After a while it was a running family joke with bets taken on the side about how long it would be before I had to start taking it apart to keep it going. I have no doubt at all that, if I am given Grandchildren, I will have some really funny stories to tell them about how I learned to be a vacuum cleaner expert!

Mind you, I've always been one of those people who loved to start something ; school, a painting, a new garden, most anything. So having this Pavlovian response to a new vacuum cleaner probably wasn't all that unexpected. But it also taught me patience, made me even more creative in how I stretched my dollars for parts, forced me to learn more about how machines run...something I'm not easily drawn to. The operative word in that sentence was PATIENCE. It was either let myself get angry (which I admit to doing a lot of until we got to our fourth vacuum cleaner.) or make myself look at it as a game.

I have Newman to thank for setting me up for more fun while I learn how to be a better horseman! His hair coat and all of those vacuum cleaners that didn't pass the "coyote tough test" set me up for success further down the road.

Whenever things get intense, and things DO get intense sometimes with horses, I remind myself of the vacuum cleaners that I've learned how to repair over the years, the negotiating skills that I've built when dealing with vacuum cleaner companies and the stores that sell the machines, the patience and the laughter that comes from beginning to see it as a game. I smile, things lighten up and off we go together to play instead of to work.

So, in a convoluted way, I guess you could say that I now have a translated Pavlovian response to Parelli and Natural Horse-Man-Ship. I get to keep practicing my sends, my allows, my bring backs and it's all a game that, hopefully, when it gets "broken", I can call or write or read or watch a video that will help me to find the "parts" to fix the game. Now the bets being taken are about when I will have a breakthrough or when I will reach a new level.

Just one more thing. After Newman left this world and moved on to the next, he took one more vacuum cleaner with him. I thought about burying it with him as sort of a monument for archaeologists to find thousands of years from now. Think of the stories it would generate while they tried to understand why an early 21st century vacuum cleaner was buried with petrified coyote bones! But he wasn't happy when I ran the vacuum. It was time to exit to the world of grasses and fields when I went on one of my "vacuuming benders." So I opted to throw it out.

And now I have a new vacuum cleaner and very clean floors. Anyone want to take any bets how long this one will last?

I am, ever yours, Nancy, laughing out loud at the way things go!


Janine said...

Awhh, great story and you write sooo well! Thanks!!

Nancy, smiling! said...

Thank you Janine! How's Enzo doing?