One of the most fulfilling aspects of what I do is the development of relationships… not just with our clients, but with their pets. For my clients who don’t have two-legged children, four-legged ones often do just fine. If you’ve ever had a pet who became part of your family, you know what I mean. They can uplift even the roughest days, while losing them can sometimes hit you harder than the loss of a person.

My own family experienced this recently when we came home to find that our 12-year-old dog had suffered a stroke and died shortly thereafter. My mother-in-law passed the week before, and while I am deeply heartbroken over the loss of her, it was expected. I knew it was coming. But with Harvey Milk Bone, our beloved 100-pound Mastiff Boxer, I was not expecting it. Nothing could have prepared me for the deep grief his loss stirred up.

Harvey Milk Bone, may he rest in peace. Photo Credit: Laura Martin Bovard

For many of us with pets, we become used to the daily grime and hassle of keeping a home beautiful with daily wear and tear. It’s to be expected, and we forgive it when these furry friends have stolen our hearts. But what about when we’re exasperated by their bad behavior? Or, when they get sick on the hand-knotted Tibetan carpet you and your designer spent weeks selecting and 8 months to have made? How about the couple whose beloved cats took to the entire suite of furniture with their fierce little claws during a date night, just days after it was installed?

Huck in his custom dog kennel. Photo Credit: Eric Rorer

These incidents break my heart, and there was a time I’d be at a loss with what to do. But with age comes wisdom, and I’ve learned there are certain things you simply avoid – like suggesting a cream rug for a household with small children and a dog, even though the client is in LOVE with it. Sorry, Natalie.

My heart is empathetic to our clients who return home from work only to discover that Fido has ripped up a mohair chair, or Fluffy has marked a silk rug. The good news is that you can have the quality and beauty you desire with smart decisions. Here are some tips to extend the life of your home if you have pets:

Charlie waiting for her dinner. Photo Credit: Tim Coy

  • Make safe purchases. Opt for dark floor coverings. There are rugs made of recycled bottles that look and feel like cotton – yes, such things exist – and they clean easily. Choose wool, tightly woven fabrics, or performance leather, which is wipeable and cleanable.
  • Cats scratch when they feel anxious, but it’s also a natural instinct. It’s how they mark their territory, and it simply feels good. The best foil is to provide cats a place to scratch that is more appealing. Double-sided sticky tape on furniture corners can deter damage. Even though cat towers can be quite the eyesore, you can do as my client Maggie does, and stash the tower in a side room when she’s throwing a party. Her cat can lounge in its cat apartment happily, and scratch to its heart’s content whenever the mood strikes. This makes Maggie – and her designer – very happy.

Custom cat nook for Pele. Photo Credit: Mo Saito

  • When pets relieve themselves indoors, there are generally clear causes for this. Sometimes, it’s a puppy who isn’t trained yet, or a dog getting back at you for something you don’t know you did. A visiting pet trained at home might not see the wrong in marking a new territory. Or, as in the case of my Harvey, they are sick. Regardless, if you plan on welcoming pets into your home, the best bet is to make sure you select cleanable materials. You can’t beat wool. It behaves like hair and washes up well, as long as it’s not over-stripped with stringent cleaners.
  • Treat your fabrics and furniture, using organic whenever possible. Often, manufacturers can pretreat furniture for you. For retail items or furniture already in your home, DetraPel is a great, non-toxic option that repels liquid and staining. We especially like it because it’s friendly to the planet.

For your enjoyment, we’ve included photos of a few pets enjoying customized features designed to include them, plus one of our dearly departed fur baby Harvey.

A version of this article appeared in the Piedmont Post