It’s the sort of thing no professional newspaper columnist wants to see.
When I pushed open the front door to my house last week after arriving home from the office, I discovered the floor was littered with mysterious balls of white fluff.
"What’s this fluff stuff all about?" I asked our two dogs, because, what with being a hardened newspaper columnist, I am trained to ask the difficult questions.
So I hung up my coat, kicked off my shoes and followed the trail of fluff through the living room and into our dining room, in the corner of which sits our home computer, on which I frequently write columns for this paper.
Which is when I glanced at my fancy computer chair, which is covered with a puffy cushion because the original faux leather seat was torn to shreds by our emergency backup dog, Juno, a scruffy, almost-toothless mutt that looks as if she’s auditioning for the part of "adorable street urchin" in a high school production of Oliver Twist.
Which is when I discovered the puffy cushion covering the torn-up chair seat had itself been shredded and most of its fluffy white stuffing had been torn out and flung onto the floor.
Scowling, I surveyed the mess — it looked as if the house had been caught in a fluff-based snowstorm — and then turned my gaze on the two dogs, who were sitting at my feet, both wearing expressions of angelic innocence.
"Which of you is responsible for this disaster?" I demanded, even though, in my heart of hearts, I already knew the answer.
Which is when I turned my stare on Juno, who sat there with her tongue dangling out the side of her mouth, because shortly after she came to live with us, we discovered most of her teeth were rotten and had to be removed.
"I have absolutely no idea what happened here. I’m pretty sure I was sleeping," is the message Juno conveyed to me via mental telepathy.
This, of course, was a lie. Every dog has to have a hobby and Juno’s hobby is shredding things. For example, the back of our expensive leather couch now looks as if it has been ravaged by a pack of hungry wolverines.
This is because Juno’s other hobby involves leaping up on the back of the couch, marching back and forth with the agility of a cat, and using her sharp nails to tear it into shreds while simultaneously howling at any passerby that dares to walk down our street.
My wife is not happy about what’s happened to the couch, but I am somewhat more sanguine, which is a word that I just looked up and means "optimistic or positive, especially in an apparently bad or difficult situation."
That said, I felt personally affronted that our newest dog had literally torn the stuffing out of the chair upon which I spend hour after hour sitting and trying to form professionally amusing thoughts in my sleep-deprived brain.
As a responsible dog owner, I should confess this is not the first time one of our trusted canine companions has wreaked havoc on our furnishings.
Many years ago, my wife and I returned home and discovered our floor was liberally coated with long strands of hair that made it appear as if several goats had exploded in the middle of the living room.
What had actually happened was that our beloved miniature wiener dog, Zoe, had taken an instant dislike to two goat-hair-covered sofa pillows that my mother had sent us as a Christmas gift. The evidence was incontrovertible, because the wiener dog still had some of the strands of goat hair dangling from her drooling mouth.
Not to forget our main dog, Bogey, a.k.a. "Mr. X," who refuses to jump up on furniture, which means that he is physically unable to rip apart pillows and the tops of chairs and chesterfields.
What Bogey does instead — and I have written about this problem before — is pee on things. And by "things," I mean everything. I cannot leave my laptop computer on the floor, because Bogey will hoist his leg and douse the keyboard.
My wife, She Who Must Not Be Named, once hit the roof because this fuzzy white mutt, the canine equivalent of a cotton swab, once peed all over her brand new pair of grey suede high-heeled shoes.
We have tried to break him of this habit, but every tactic we discovered on the internet has proven an abysmal failure. Speaking of the internet, that’s where I turned last week to seek the answer to why Juno insists on shredding household items, which can’t be easy considering she has roughly four teeth left in her tiny head.
Based on the pet websites I studied, dogs rip things up because they are, quote, "lonely and bored." Yes, the internet’s main point is that it is my fault that my dog tears the stuffing out of things when I am out of the house and engaged in professional journalism.
After doing some research on the web, I decided to have a serious conversation with Juno to explain that bad behaviour comes with serious consequences.
I petted her fuzzy little head, frowned at the fluff-covered floor, and, in my most serious tone of voice, told my tail-wagging friend: "Wow! You are really going to be in trouble when your mom gets home. She is not going to be happy cleaning up this mess."
Then I trundled into the den and flopped down on the comfy couch to watch TV, because that’s the kind of thing we responsible dog owners do in a time of crisis.
Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.