What Makes a Happy Home

What Makes a Happy Home

Grace Shu
Mar 30, 2010

This was supposed to be the week where I was going to replace the water filter for my house--turn off the water supply, throw out the mucky filter and swap out the container with a brand new one--but instead, I'll be heading up north to say goodbye to a friend who died unexpectedly. I wasn't exactly looking forward to lumbering through the front flower bed, fumbling between the garden hose and the overgrown jasmine vine...But when I heard the news that my friend had died very tragically and quite suddenly--well. I'm thinking about her, and my home, and wondering what I should say.

You see, my friend Grelia played a rather important part in my present home life. It began this way: When I first moved to San Francisco, Herbie was still a puppy, around five months old. And those of you who have dogs--particularly high-energy, difficult ones like huskies--can attest to the fact that dogs can be a major pain at that age. What worked in West Hollywood (great neighborhood, a small dog park across the street, and a home office) just didn't transfer over when we moved 380 miles north. Our apartment was located in the concrete jungle of SOMA--not to mention that my work commute was at least an hour each way. Needless to say, no one was too happy about these changes, least of all Herbie, who expressed his frustrations by destroying anything he could lay his paws on.

After weeks of bad behavior and mounting frustration, I started to think that maybe...maybe Herbie was better off with another family? I lost my confidence in my ability to take care of him. But it was Grelia--an animal lover who spent her free time rescuing, fostering, and finding homes for dogs--who told me to tough it out. "Don't give up when you haven't even tried to solve the problem," she said. "Socialize him at doggy day care--it'll be good for both you and Herbie because he'll be tired and happy when you pick him up on your way home from work, and you don't have to worry about him during the day. He needs to be around other dogs, and he'll have less separation anxiety."

It worked. From that point on, whenever I was having any kind of dog issue, I immediately turned to her. She helped me through nearly every dog-related crisis we had, from Herbie's grumpiness when another dog joined our pack ("Take them each out for a walk separately, spend some quality time with each of them") to Nan eating chocolate just last week ("She'll puke for about 3-4 days, but since she only ate a little bit, don't worry. She just needs to get it out of her system"). There is a saying that there are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners. If that's true, then Grelia helped me become a better dog owner, which made my dogs infinitely happier, which in turn made my home...well, complete.

When I get back to Pasadena, I'll be picking my way gingerly through the flowerbed, cursing under my breath as I attempt to find the water shut-off valve hiding somewhere along the back wall. Herbie will be supervising the whole operation through the window with Nan by his side, as they normally do when I'm in the front yard. They smirk a lot, those smug huskies. And when I look up to see them peering at me, fogging up the window with their smelly doggy breath, maybe what I should say is this: Thank you, Grelia, for helping me make my home a happy one.

For those of you who live in the Bay Area, please be careful at Pacifica Beach.

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