May 2011: Rental Rescue & Toolbox


Rental Rescue

New leash on life
In 2008, I went to the Barracks Road Harris Teeter on a mission to buy some milk and fabric softener, and instead, came home with a 4-month-old puppy. Congratulations to whoever developed the pet-adoption marketing strategy of placing cages of cuteness between people and their Saturday morning errands—it works. As we prepare to celebrate the third birthday of Bodie, the beagle mix with the sad eyes I couldn’t live without, it has me thinking about how much our four-legged friends change our lives and our homes. Whether your dog has been a family fixture for years, or you’re making room for puppy, a few easy solutions can help you create a pet-friendly abode without sacrificing style or banishing Bodie to the backyard.

Floor plan
Dogs can put some serious wear and tear on a home (hence the reason many rentals that allow dogs require pet deposits). The floor is your dog’s main domain, so work from the ground up. Much like preparing for children or party guests, select floor coverings that can stand up to playing, paws, and the occasional accident.

If you’re house- or apartment-hunting with a dog, seek out those with easy-to-clean surfaces like hardwoods and ceramic tiles. Choose dark and patterned area rugs with a low pile to not only conceal messes, but minimize everyday damage to your floors. Consider modular carpet tiles to create a fun floor covering. Not only can you continually change your design, but if one tile gets damaged, you can simply swap it out. Try a vinyl mat or durable door mat under your dog’s food and water bowls.

Welcome waggin’
A comfortable and safe place for your dog to rest is a cornerstone of a pet-friendly pad. Place your dog’s bed in an area where it won’t need to be moved. Avoid high-traffic areas and hazardous rooms like the kitchen. A cozy corner of your living room or bedroom is a great spot, or if you have a smaller dog, place a bed under a desk or end table to conserve space.

With myriad stylish options available, your dog can be mod. Consider an affordable, eco-friendly dog duvet from Molly Mutt ( Or make or recover your own dog bed with fabric that matches your décor from Les Fabriques (29N). I stuffed Bodie’s dog bed with old t-shirts, socks, and clothes of mine, so he’d pick up my scent and not fight me for my bed every night. Keeping your dog comfortable and close will keep you both happy.

Doggie décor
Prepare for daily life with a dog. Consider attractive slipcovers for your sofas and chairs. Slipcovers are not only durable but washable. If slipcovers aren’t in your budget and you’re worried about your sofa, canvas painter’s drop cloths can substitute. Run these neutral cloths through the washer and dryer, cover your sofa, and tuck the cloth into all of the creases and cushions for a nice, taut look. Rolled-up magazines tucked in will help hold the cover in place.

Invest in an attractive basket to hold all of your dog’s toys. As toys and bones start to wear out, replace them. Leaving chewed-up dog bones lying around can actually damage your floors and furniture. Keep some attractive canisters or tins for treats, readily available but away from temptation.

Placing a hook for collars and leashes by the door will keep you organized and help create a routine for your dog. An antique sailboat cleat from Artifacts did the trick for us.—Ed Warwick


Get a grip
If your toolbox consists of only one tool, make it a pair of locking pliers. These heavy-duty, multi-purpose pliers grip, clamp, bend, loosen, tighten and generally own whatever job you set out to accomplish with them. Originally branded as Vise-Grip pliers in 1924, their styles (and uses) have only expanded since their invention. Locking pliers have the gripping jaws of standard pliers with the feature of easily locking, thus maintaining pressure without sustained squeezing from the user.

For example, let’s say you have a bolt that is rusted onto your bicycle’s axle and no amount of WD-40 or wrench action is getting that sucker off. It’s time to get out the locking pliers. Clamp onto the bolt with the pliers parallel to the wheel spokes. If the pliers are not firmly locked around the bolt, remove the pliers and tighten the screw at the end of the handle and retry. The pliers should lock once you’ve squeezed the handle as far as it will go and the teeth should remain attached to the bolt, hands free.

Now, rotate those pliers clockwise (Remember, “righty, tighty; lefty, loosey”) and the bolt should come loose without a lot of strain. Once the bolt is loose enough to unscrew by hand, you are ready to remove your pliers.

Hold the handles gently and simply press a finger, or the palm of your hand, onto the end that sticks out of the third “handle” (it’s between the two outside handles). This should instantly release the locking mechanism and simultaneously lock in your amazement at this incredible tool.—Christy Baker