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The Payoff for a Filthy Couch Is a Whole Lotta Dog Love

When we bought new couches, we decided the dogs wouldn't be allowed on them. Hah!

Kara Martinez Bachman  |  Mar 31st 2016


I vowed I’d never have another filthy couch. But our dogs — because they know us better than we know ourselves — weren’t fooled.

For years, I’d had boring, dark brown couches. Our family dogs would jump up on the cushions when they wanted to sit back and relax. Leo, our 2-year-old mixed breed (Amstaff? Pit? A bit of Boxer?), would occupy the far end, lazing between sleep and wakefulness while I typed on my laptop, binge-watched Homeland, or read the latest book with dog training advice that I surely wouldn’t have the energy nor gumption to follow.

Usually under my arm would be our little ball of terrier energy, Baby (yes, that’s her name, which is a whole other story). She would curl up in a blanket, her pointy little face peering out, seeking moments of love she’d get during commercial breaks or between the writing of sentences.

eo (left) and Baby (right) are both sad when they are asked to sit far away from where the dog/human snuggling happens. (Kara Martinez Bachman photo)

Leo and Baby, from left, are sad when asked to sit far away from where the dog/human snuggling usually happens. (Photo by Kara Martinez Bachman)

As a writer, I prefer working from the couch rather than a desk chair. My work is often fueled and relaxed by tiny moments, little minutes or seconds spent rubbing the space between Leo’s sweet eyes, or scratching the indentation behind Baby’s perky ears.

But then, one day, we’d had enough of the old brown couches; it was time for something new. And, dammit, it was not going to be drab, mud-colored seating; they’d be the couches of my dreams! Light, maybe a sort of seafoam green, like something from a beach house. Something to raise the mood.

The only way we could do this was is if the dogs were permanently banned from the couches. Banned from smearing innocent paw prints on the upholstery. Banned from snagging claws on the fabric. Banned from relishing momentary but heavenly pats while I waited for a page to load.

But as every deluded pet owner knows, things don’t always go according to plan.

We started out firmly. “No, go to your bed,” my husband, kids, and I would say, when they jumped up on the new sofa cushions.

Baby is an "all or nothing" dog. She spends her day either in bouts of hyped up wrestling or curled up motionless on the sofa. There's no middle ground with this young pup. (Kara Martinez Bachman photo)

Baby is an all-or-nothing dog. She spends her day either in bouts of hyped-up wrestling or curled up motionless on the sofa. There’s no middle ground with this young pup. (Photo by Kara Martinez)

They’d gaze back in confusion and puzzlement. Sometimes, they’d do that doggie glance at each other, that one where they were conferring, checking to see if everything is OK.

“What the hell is going on?” I’d imagine that glance to say, if only I spoke mutt.

They wouldn’t ever politely obey and move to the pet beds we’d just spent tons of money on. These were pretty little elevated mini-couches, almost the same color as my family’s new furniture. They were the kind of beds “spoiled” dogs get. Surely, I thought, they would love their new beds!

But no. They’d have nothing of it, even after we set little bits of hot dog there, to impart the irresistible scent of weenie. They’d bypass their quaint little divans and sit instead on the hardwood floor, dejected. Waiting. Wondering. Wanting to curl up in that sofa blanket and feel appreciated. Every single time we left the room, they’d go back to the human furniture, where they’d eventually leave a dingy gray taint on the fabric and their claws would pull threads loose. It was a daily battle.

Yes, this is my brand new couch; it's covered with dog hair and pulled threads. Not as all as I would like it to look, but sometimes It's difficult to say no to those we love. (Kara Martinez Bachman photo)

Yes, this is my brand new couch; it’s covered with dog hair and pulled threads. Not at all as I would like it to look, but sometimes it’s difficult to say no to those we love. (Photo by Kara Martinez Bachman)

We could cover the cushions, but … darnit, there was simply no way I was going to live that way. I always thought about my elderly in-laws and a running joke my husband and I had about their couches. They didn’t have those clear plastic furniture covers that were so popular back in the day, but they’d toss random items over parts of the couch to protect it. They’d grab blankets, towels, whatever. At one point, there was a giant, worn, faded beach towel from the 1970s that sat on the back of their basement couch. It said “Six Million Dollar Man” on it.

No — that would not happen to me. There would be no Six Million Dollar Man foolishness in our home. There would be no ugly covers, no throws. Our dogs would just have to learn to obey. I’d just have to do the training described in books.

The experts had explained it all. I’m sure they were right, and that consistency of message would eventually result in occupied doggie divans and sparkling, perfect couches for the humans. If we kept at it — if we made our wishes clear and ignored the confused looks of loneliness and canine commiserating, we might win, and my living room might look as I’d always hoped.

But we, the humans, lost. Several months in, I’ve now traded the ill-conceived House Beautiful-notions for puppy kisses, which really are the raison d’etre for having dogs in the first place. After a few months of my furry kiddos staring at me from the floor, I thought: “What’s the point of having dogs if I isolate their love?”

Baby, participating in a moment of guilty couch-ruining. Some of her damage is visible on the back cushions. (Kara Martinez Bachman photo)

Baby, participating in a moment of guilty couch-ruining. Some of her damage is visible on the back cushions. (Photo by Kara Martinez Bachman)

I might be a terrible pet parent. Some of you are rolling your eyes, thinking we’re letting them take advantage. Some are laughing at how we’ve lost, now that our couches are, indeed, covered with ugly throws we need to adjust several times a day (it’s a pain in the butt). You can see the faint tint of grime overlaying the seafoam in the places where Leo and Baby sit. The beach green is starting to seem like a silty sea, more like Myrtle Beach than the Caribbean.

And those of you judging me would be absolutely right. When it comes to these two sweet animals, I have no will. In the battle of dog kisses versus aesthetics, at least for me, the relaxed breathing of a sleeping dog, or a warm cuddle, is more valuable than the deluded thought that a box of upholstery and wood could mean anything at all.

I have accepted defeat, and Leo has assumed the relaxed, but confident demeanor of a lazy victor. (Kara Martinez Bachman photo)

I have accepted defeat, and Leo has assumed the relaxed but confident demeanor of a lazy victor. (Photo by Kara Martinez Bachman)

My couches are filthy and already embarrassing. As I write about it now, Leo is looking at me as if I were a god, as if I just discovered the cure to cancer or moved a mountain. And now that I have solved this most important sofa dilemma, I feel as if I actually have.

What about you? Have you ever let a nice sofa or chair go to the dogs? Let us know in the comments.