As anyone who’s gone through the adoption process will tell you, the day of your home study is the cleanest your house will ever look. It reminds me of Laurie’s and my engagement, when people told us, “The day of your wedding is the best you’ll ever look.” At the time, I think they were encouraging us that the stressful preparation of the wedding was worth it or they were getting us revved up for the honeymoon night. But now, seven years later, I can’t think of any thought more macabre…
Anyway, where was I? Right, our home study. Laurie spent the days leading up to Cathy’s visit cleaning the house. She paced herself, spreading out the deep cleaning into one or two difficult tasks per day. So when the big day rolled around, there was nothing left to do except keep the kids from trashing it, which is more difficult than it sounds. I’d see a toy somewhere on the ground that hadn’t been there a minute earlier and jump on the kids’ cases like they’d pulled up the carpet. “Mom did not pick up and organize your toys in the playroom, then steam vacuum the floor, then pour scented powder over the carpet and vacuum again just so you can leave your Batmobile lying in the middle of it.” Even when we parked them in front of the TV, they still managed make random little messes throughout the house.
Finally, Laurie set the kids’ breakfast on the table and they started eating while I ran from room to room picking up all the toys they’d dropped on the floor. As I sat down and poured a bowl of cereal, one of the kids let out a fierce fart. Laurie and I laughed as both kids blamed the other. “Vivi needs to say excuse me.” “No, Isaac, you Stinky Pete.”
Coincidentally, right about this time, Laurie opened the back door to let the dogs in. After shutting the door, she scrunched her nose and said, “Why does it smell like diarrhea in here? One of the dogs must have stepped in poop!”
I sniffed the air but didn’t smell what she smelled. “I’m sure it was just the kids,” I said, returning to my breakfast.
Then she pinched her nose. “No, Honey, I really think it is one of the dogs.”
I sniffed the air again and immediately knew she was right. I turned around and called Lucy to me. She put her head down, which is her way of communicating, “I have committed a great sin.” I called her to me again and she slowly approached. I looked down and saw that her black hair was covered with a pale brown substance. “Ugh! She rolled on it!” I shouted.
“Lucy!” Laurie shouted. “I just cleaned the bathrooms.”
In the days leading up to the home study, I daydreamed countless worst-case-scenarios like the cost has now tripled or the house explodes. Never did I fear that the bigger and smarter of my two dogs would roll in feces thirty minutes before the caseworker shows up.
Our previous homes had two bathrooms, each with a shower/tub combo. But our current house is older than both Laurie and me, and the back bathroom is a shower-only. Which means I bathe the dogs in the same bathroom the kids and guests use.
I scrubbed and dried Lucy, but the hard part was masking the lingering smell of a condemned kennel, which, although the entire incident took all of half a minute, seemed to completely void all the work Laurie had done all week. So while I sanitized the bathroom, Laurie scurried throughout the house, lighting candles and dousing each room in deodorizer spray.
Cathy finally arrived and we showed her around the house. Normally when we give guests the grand tour, they make comments like, “What a lovely house” or “It’s so clean and spacious.” For those brief moments, I see my house through their eyes and allow myself to believe, as they must, that our home is always this clean. This feeling is quickly followed by a slight twinge of guilt and want to admit that our home rarely looks this good. Now, I could barely contain my conscience. With each of Cathy’s compliments, I bit my tongue harder, certain that our secret would eventually be discovered.
Nevertheless, the home study went off without a hitch. I worried one of the kids might blurt out what Lucy had done. But even when Cathy asked the kids if they liked the dogs, they said nothing of the incident. To this day, I don’t think Cathy noticed that the house had even a faint smell of wet dog. Either she did and was gracious not to say anything. Or she didn’t notice and never knew, at least until she reads this.