Lena – Design Inspiration


Lena garden

Lena in the vegetable garden 2010

January 2003-June 2015

Lena, the primary inspiration for “There’s a Dog in the House” and Home Design for Dogs, died in June. It’s taken me this long to gather my thoughts.

My father died nearly 20 years ago after a prolonged illness due to a type of dementia known as multi-infarct dementia. It isn’t as well known as Alzheimer’s and while both have dementia in common,  Multi-infarct dementia is quite different. Like any dementia, it progresses relatively slowly and can last many years. In my father’s case it was about 8 years total. In the end, he had changed so much from the person I knew that by the time he died, it was extremely difficult to remember him otherwise. Over time though the person he had been became more clear to me.

The same has been true for Lena. Her life had been full of trials and tribulations.  When she was 6 years old,  Lena required spinal surgery due to severe compression in her neck.  The surgery left her temporarily paralyzed – read about it here. While she regained full mobility, within a few years she started to move a little more slowly. When she was 9 we discovered a lump on one of her forelegs. It turned out to be a soft-tissue sarcoma. After the tumor was surgically removed Lena was treated with radiation at Cornell Veterinary Hospital. She did very well through the treatments and continued with fairly normal mobility for another year and a half. She was often slow, but she was able to take daily walks with us. Gradually she became worse. At first she had difficulty with stairs. Occasionally, on walks, she would just stop and want to go back. Her appetite and attitude always remained strong, so we just kept going. We moved in the summer of 2013 and that helped because the new house does not have any stairs. She was able to get in and out of the door and get up and eat. After awhile though she was not able to do either of those things and I found myself carrying her in and out of the house so she could relieve herself. She could still stand, but walking was quite difficult. Veterinary advice suggested that she might be able to continue for quite some time and she did okay for awhile. Throughout this period we had taken her to several different vets and tried many different things. In the end nothing seemed to help. After two years, her mental attitude, as well as her physical condition had really gone downhill and as hard as the decision was, we decided it was time. Lena was 12-1/2 years old.

It was very hard for me to remember her as the healthy, active dog she once was and I am only now starting to see glimpses of that dog.

After she died, a friend wrote to me and reminded me that Lena had been the primary inspiration for both the book and this blog.  That was true, but she was just a wonderful dog who made us happy, and that is how I would really like to remember her.


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Happy New Year


Quinn and Lena

Happy New Year.

I have taken a break from Home Design for Dogs but will be back soon with some new posts. Much has happened this year: I retired from teaching Interior Design at Rochester Institute of Technology and we moved from our home of 21 years and will soon be creating our next dog friendly home!  

So here’s to a great new year!

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This is a very short podcast that I did last year as part of an author spotlight but the link had been removed so you may not have heard it!

Nancy Podcast

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Dog Play Rooms

Original Dog Play Room with modular carpet (from There’s a Dog in the House: a Practical Guide for Creating Today’s Dog Friendly Home).

Dog Room with EVA foam tile flooring over carpet

The official start of Winter is rapidly approaching and soon many of us in colder areas of the world will be spending more time indoors. No matter where you live if it’s too cold, hot or wet outside, an indoor dog room is an ideal place for you and your dog to interact. Professional dog people are familiar with this concept but this is still a relatively new trend for most dog owners. The spaces range from separate areas to groom, train, exercise or just play with your dog and store all of the accessories associated with these activities.  Professionals often go one step further and build, buy or rent a space large enough for their chosen activities. If you can’t afford to create your own space many dog-training facilities rent spaces for an hourly fee.

Designing the perfect Dog Room for Play, Training and Fitness

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The Dickens

Artist Father John Giuliani of the Benedictine Grange monastic community in Redding, CT.

Dog lovers, particularly those of us who love terriers, will love the new book and exhibit at the Bradford Brinton Memorial & Museum in Big Horn, Wyoming.  The art exhibit features artwork of a Wire Hair Fox Terrier named Dickens. 28 artists participated in the exhibit. Continue reading

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Convalescent Support for Your Dog

If your dog has had an injury, surgery or illness it can be a major disruption in your life.   The condition itself or treatment of the condition may cause other side effects, such as pain, neurological deficits, fatigue, urinary incontinence or physical disabilities. Most of these are temporary while your dog recovers, but sometimes the side effects can be permanent.

Lena wearing a sock over her bandaged leg

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Respect Your Dog’s Needs

What does your dog need?

It’s very tempting to create “cool” design solutions in our home that make it easier to hide unsightly items or because they use “wasted space”. One good example of this is a trend to place dog bowls in drawers under kitchen cabinets or in walls. The idea seems brilliant at first glance – when the dog is through eating the drawer can be closed and the bowls are out of the way.  But, is this really a sound solution for your dog? Continue reading

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Cat and Dog Vacuum Cleaner

Yes, there really is a vacuum cleaner called the “Cat and Dog” and it’s made by Miele.

A common question I get asked from dog owners is “what is the best vacuum cleaner?”. The answer is that there is no single “best” vacuum cleaner. People purchase a vacuum cleaner for many reasons and sometimes it has nothing to do with how well it cleans! Some people love their vacuum cleaner because it is lightweight and easy to carry up and down the stairs. Others like theirs because it is quiet or easy to empty.

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Author in her own words

April 12, 2012

The RIT Athenaeum posted an article as part of their monthly feature “Author Spotlight” about “There’s a Dog in the House”.  Listen to Nancy talking about the book and dogs in a podcast.

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Misspent Youth

Artist Andrea Pettito

"Boon" Courtesty Andrea Pettito http://www.pettitostudio.com

A creative life came naturally and early for Cape Cod artist Andrea Pettito. Her father was a sculptor and her mother a painter. Both of them had gone to art school.  She can’t recall many children’s books in the family home, but from the age of 3 on she spent a lot of her time pouring over the pages of her father’s books of Michelangelo and Rodin sculptures. Those sculptures fascinated her. Her favorite childhood “toy” was plasteline, a greasy gray clay that her father used. She made all kinds of things, including people, animals and objects. She also loved to draw. Continue reading

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