Pet in Room

by John Delach

Owning a vacation home is like owning a boat; it’s both a luxury and a burden. A happy house leads to great times with friends and family, a place to experience precious moments. Yet, it’s still a house where things go wrong usually at the most inopportune times. These random crises remind me of the boatowner’s slogan: “The second-best day in the life of the owner is the day he bought his boat. The best day is the day he sold his boat.”

Since we purchased “Little House” in the fall of 1984 it has been a treasure but not without problems. For many years I opened and shut down the plumbing system all by myself following detailed instructions I wrote down from the first owner and its builder, Joe C. Joe and his wife had built it ten-years previously and for us it was love at first sight.

That first opening in late November 1984 brought with it our first crisis. Little did we know the consequences of winter conditions. I turned on the power to the hot water tank before it had filled destroying the heating element. This led to our first plumber’s visit. That happened a second time several years later but even when winter openings went well, they were still a bitch.

 When Joe C. built the house, he decided to go with electric heating assisted by wood burning stoves. Our power provider is New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, (NHEC) whose rates were only second in the nation to Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO,) our provider in Port Washington. Both had been players in nukes that failed to open, NHEC is Seabrook and LILCO is Shoreham. Their customers were left to pay off the debt and lucky us, we drew both.

As we aged, weekend trips to Marlow over the Martin Luther King birthday holiday became too much of a burden to open and close the house. Our season evolved into ending our visits after the Christmas holidays without re-opening until late April.

This didn’t prevent its own list of crises culminating in the closing of 2017 and the opening in 2018. Just our luck, a Polar Vortex enveloped Marlow, a town that already had the reputation of being, “The icebox of Cheshire County.”

It was so cold that even with the fireplace and wood stove blazing and the electric heat cranked up we could feel the cold seeping through the walls. We bailed and shut it down as best we could. Our plumber did his best and yet, that spring one toilet was lifted six inches off its base by a frost heave and the water pump quit. $3,500 later we were back in business.

This year, our opening was uneventful. We made three trips, two in May and one in June and Little House hummed. Our first extended stay would be for the 4th of July and for the first time in a long time everyone planned to be there.

Mary Ann and I arrived on Saturday, June 29. We brought our two granddaughters, Marlowe (yes, named after the town but with an “e”.) and Samantha. Sam’s mom, Jodie, met us there having deposited her son, Matthew at a rugby camp at Dartmouth. We picked Matt up on Monday and settled in awaiting the onslaught of our other family members late on July 3rd and early on the 4th.

About noon on Tuesday our collective experiences with using the two toilets forced the realization that they were not emptying. “Houston, we have a problem!”

Two possibilities; the septic tank was full, or we had a blockage. Better to go down both roads, call our plumber and the septic company. We couldn’t contact, John, our plumber either by phone or text, but the septic company dispatched, Dan, their technician to evaluate the problem. Dan discovered that a coupling on the sewage line had slipped crippling the line. He couldn’t fix it, his service couldn’t fix it and recommended we call a plumber. Since John was unreachable, we tried a local firm only to be told their wait was three weeks.

Time to pull the plug but Mary Ann and I couldn’t leave until tomorrow to shut off things, take home that which spoils and dispose of garbage accumulation. Jodie headed home with the three kids, and I decided to call the Days Inn in Keene for a room in suite. When the clerk answered, he tried to sell me a package, but I cut him off with: “Do you allow dogs?”

“Yes,” he replied, “No more than two, twenty dollars per pet and you are responsible for all damages.”

I had heard all I needed to know. Reservation made, we headed to Keene for dinner then checked in to what was obviously a pet room, perfume and all. We opened a window and put on the a/c to make it bearable. Max and Tess looked at us like we had lost our minds. But when we turned out the lights, Tess jumped into my bed, Max into Mary Ann’s. Tess stayed with me the entire night.

Early wake-up, coffee, clear the room, feed and walk the dogs and check-out. I looked at my receipt; the room charge was $98.62.

Listed separately was this surcharge: Code: PET, description: PET IN ROOM: $40.00

While heading for the City of Keene waste transfer site where we prepared to pay $2.00 for each bag of garbage by check, (no cash or credit cards accepted,) John the plumber called Mary Ann. He apologized for a breakdown in his answering system and confirmed he was away on vacation with his family but that he would fix our broken line first thing next week.

We returned to Little House after the drop off to clean and pack before returning to Port Washington.

Crisis resolved; life is good.

“On the Outside Looking In” will not appear next Wednesday and will resume on July 24.