Monday, January 11, 2010


I haven't figured out yet why my dogs are shedding in the middle of winter. I mean, I would think they'd still need as much fur as possible, considering all of the cold weather we've been having lately and probably will continue to have until at least the middle of June.

As a result, my house constantly looks as if I'm trying to insulate it with fur. By the end of each week, I probably could stuff a mattress with it, or at the very least, a pillow or two.

But I've been fighting a neverending battle with fur ever since I've had dogs, about 35 years, which is the reason why I went to Sears and bought a turbo-suck vacuum cleaner three years ago. I also bought the service contract to protect my purchase, a major investment.

Prior to that, I had a vacuum cleaner that cost about $59.95 and constantly struggled to suck up anything. I'd have to run over the same piece of lint a dozen times until it finally just surrendered and climbed up into the hose by itself.

So last week, because a houseful of company was coming over on Saturday night, I decided to do a thorough vacuuming – not my usual "vacuum only the areas that show" kind of vacuuming, but underneath the beds and behind the sofa.

I dragged out my trusty Sears vacuum cleaner, plugged it in and pushed the "on" button. Nothing happened. I tried again. Still nothing. I plugged it into a different outlet. It was deader than dead.

I shouted for my husband.

He checked the vacuum cleaner and noticed that a permanent ring around one end of the hose had broken off. Unfortunately it was on the part of the hose that connected directly into the electrical part of the canister. No connection, no power.

Just a few weeks before, I'd received a call from Sears, telling me that my service contract was about to expire. They asked if I wanted to renew it. I said no.

Naturally, as it happens with all appliances, computers and even cars, the minute they hear the words, "No, I don't want to renew my service contract," they cackle maniacally and plot ways in which to explode, leak, catch fire or commit suicide.

I phoned the parts and service department at Sears and asked them if they had a new hose in stock, and if they didn't, if it would be possible to order one before my company arrived.

I had visions of my guests sitting in our living room and trying to enjoy their cups of tea while clumps of dog fur savagely flew up and clung to them until they all looked like cavemen. A sense of panic overcame me.

The service technician told me to bring in my vacuum cleaner and he'd see what he could do.

I never realized how heavy that vacuum cleaner was until I had to lug it halfway across the mall parking lot and all the way through Sears. That's when it dawned on me that maybe if I'd taken out the bag with 10 lbs. of dirt in it, it might have been a little easier to carry.

I also wasn't aware that the service department closed at 5. I got there at 4:47.

The news wasn't good. The part had to be ordered…and it was expensive. Labor was even more expensive. And even worse, nothing could be done before Saturday. I was doomed to have fur-covered guests. I figured I'd better call them and tell them not to wear anything black.

The service technician must have sensed my panic because he suddenly said, "I can get you a loaner if you'd like."

"You'll actually let me borrow a vacuum cleaner?" I asked, surprised.

"Well, if you go to the vacuum-cleaner department and tell them I personally sent you to get a loaner, you'll get one," he said, smiling.

He didn't have to tell me twice. I was off and running (mainly because it was 5:00 by then and I had no choice but to leave the service department anyway) to the vacuum-cleaner department.

The lady gave me a really spiffy-looking vacuum cleaner that had a lot of fancy features, such as a signal that lit up when it located dirt. She even threw in three spare bags. The price tag on the machine was over $400, which made me uneasy.

"Um, if I break it, do I have to pay for it?" I asked, fearing that the machine would choke and die from a giant fur ball.

She shook her head. "All we ask is that you tell us what's broken. Otherwise we'll never know the difference and it won't get repaired."

So I carried the loaner vacuum all the way through the store and across the parking lot to my car. I swear it weighed about 50 lbs. more than the one I'd brought in…and it didn't even have a bag in it. I was hoping that meant it contained about a 100-horsepower motor that was so strong, it could suck the wallpaper right off my walls.

As it turned out, my company called and canceled until next Saturday night.

I won't even need the vacuum cleaner by then…because at the rate my dogs are shedding, both of them probably will be completely bald.