Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Of pups and plumbing, the never-ending saga

Nothing would ever get done without incessant barking

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I'm one of those fussy writers who finds it impossible to work when it's too quiet.

Fortunately, that's not a big problem when I'm working out of the home office, which consists of an aging computer that becomes hot enough to cook on if you leave it plugged in too long, myself and our two dogs -- both of whom have the same hobby, namely barking at invisible things outside our living room window.

The dogs, who are barely larger than loaves of bread, spend most of their day with their drooling little faces pressed up against the window, barking non-stop in a high-pitched yap that can easily bore through the steel plates on a battleship, to say nothing of the damage it can cause to an unprotected human brain.

Anyway, to ensure our dogs have enough things to bark at while I'm trying to write, my wife, She Who Must Not Be Named, will sometimes hires highly trained tradespeople to physically come to our home and try to fix things we keep inside of it.

For instance, last week, my wife hired a plumber to come to our house and repair a toilet that, in my view, worked perfectly fine other than it couldn't flush anything more substantial than a toothpick and took at least a week to refill its tank.

Right now, you veteran homeowners are laughing yourselves silly, because you know, deep in your hearts, it is impossible to fix a modern toilet. Toilets are a lot like those discounted diesel-electric submarines Canada bought from the British in the sense that, if anything goes wrong with them -- such as catching fire, which you would think is impossible, but apparently is not -- the repair bill will be at least 10 times what you paid for the submarine in the first place and it will still be unable to launch a torpedo or flush anything larger than a marshmallow, if you catch our drift.

The thing is, even though plumbers know it is impossible to fix a broken toilet, they still spend a great deal of time frowning at them, because they know this makes homeowners nervous.

When the plumber arrived at our house, the dogs immediately began yapping at his ankles to convey the concept that BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK he was going to charge us a lot more money than we could afford. It turns out the dogs were right.

"This toilet can't be saved," is what the plumber advised us in the tone of voice you would use to tell someone their house had been destroyed by a meteor.

"The guts have rotted away. I'm going to have to replace it."

Which meant I personally was expected to leave the house and go to a store that sells toilets and pick out a commode that would match our stylish bathroom decor, which is not something, as a guy, I am qualified to do.

"That's not the right shade," my wife complained when we pulled the new toilet out of the cardboard box, which the dogs immediately began barking at because, as you have already deduced, the box was evil.

"It's beige," I grunted in reply.

"I was hoping for California Sunset, possibly Aloha Aquamarine or Yankee Doodle Dandelion," my wife sniffed, visibly upset to be married to someone with such a sub-par colour palette.

With the dogs shrieking helpful suggestions from the sidelines, the plumber managed to install the new state-of-the-art toilet, then began frowning at our leaky tap. It is a known scientific fact the longer a plumber frowns at your fixtures, the more it is going to cost you to fix them.

That is a joke, of course. Like toilets and submarines, bathroom taps can't be fixed because -- and prepare to slap yourself on the forehead for being so incompetent -- they no longer make replacement parts for the model you bought.

It turned out that, even though just one tap was leaking, we had to replace BOTH taps in the bathroom, because otherwise -- prepare for another shock -- we would have been left with mismatched taps and the plumber would have been forced to alert the Home and Garden Police, who would immediately have thrown my wife into Interior Decorating Prison, where she would have been forced to engage in morally objectionable acts, such as drying her hands on the guest towels.

So we now have a swell new toilet and two new taps and a new shower and, as soon the invoice arrives, we will also have a plumbing bill the size of the national debt of Bolivia.

Which will make the dogs happy, because it will give them a chance to BARK BARK BARK at the mailman, which is fine with me because I know they're just trying to help me write.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 19, 2014 A2

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