Does it really suck?

Buying a vacuum cleaner when you own pets, especially long-haired dogs or cats, is a big deal. Normal people go to a store and buy a vacuum cleaner.  Almost any reasonably good machine will do the job and last for years.

NanFor pet owners and especially for those of us who have more than a few pets, in our case dogs, buying a vacuum cleaner is a major life event, potentially a life-altering event. For us, pet hair is not a sidebar: it’s the central theme of life. During shedding season, which for long-haired breeds is all year — though much worse from late summer through autumn — the house looks like someone slashed open a cushion and spread the stuffing everywhere. Vacuuming is a massive undertaking performed daily. Failing to vacuum for a couple of days might make the house a candidate for condemnation and/or a Hazmat team.

When our Australian Shepherd is blowing his coat, no amount of vacuuming is enough. Everything is covered in fur. Note the main difference between purebred and mixed breed dogs is that purebreds “blow their coats” while mixed breeds simply “shed.” The results are identical, but it sounds classier for purebreds.

Nov 2012

Many long-haired breeds are bred to have huge coats and most owners who aren’t showing their dogs clip them.  Even clipped, there’s still an awful lot of fur. We adopted our Aussie; he had been a show dog … and the absolutely heaviest coated Aussie I’ve ever seen. All of that coat falls out annually. You can comb and brush him daily; there’s always more. The volume is astonishing. No mixed breed dog could generate such a gigantic mess. I always swore I would never own a dog with that much fur. I’ve turned down free pups and full-grown show dogs because they had too much fur. I had a breeder beg me to take one of her Samoyeds. He was gorgeous and a champion, only 8 months old … if I was willing to bathe and groom him myself.

I was young and hardy then. But I looked at him and I said, NO. A large (he was bigger than most Samoyeds), snow-white dog with a coat designed to withstand an arctic winter? I love dogs, but not that much. Yet despite more than forty years of dodging that particular bullet, I still wound up with a dog that sheds enough fur to carpet the world in hair. Somehow, I lost focus long enough to adopt him … and here we are, up to our eyeballs in fur.

If you happen to own (for example) a Great Pyrenees, a Sheltie, an Australian Shepherd (think Collie without a tail), anything that looks like Lassie, a sled dog (any sled dog including mixes), an Old English Sheepdog (possibly THE worst of all, being triple-coated), a long-haired St. Bernard  (the list goes on), you are permanently in search of a better vacuum cleaner. It’s a mission.  

Thus the purchase is an event requiring consultation, discussion and complex negotiations. What are the parameters? First and foremost, that baby has to suck. You want a machine that will pull the wall to wall carpeting off the floor, pull the cushions off the sofa and try to eat the draperies.

You have to balance the percent of carpeting versus hardwood flooring, number of stairs, weight, portability, how hard is it to clean it out because pet hair really clogs the works and finally, price. If you don’t keep clearing it, no vacuum will survive long. You quickly learn that small, light machines are a waste of money. If it doesn’t have a bag, anything other than a small hand vac will die in short order. You need power. You need a bag. You need strength of character, the understanding that you are going to have to deal with filth and lots of it. You need amperage, determination and above all, you need sucking power. Nothing can be too powerful. Your budget determines the limit, so within what you can manage, you try to get the best sucker available.

Bagless machines are weenies. We multiple pet owners need bags. Big ones.

The terriers don’t shed much. The short-haired dachshund doesn’t shed much. The Aussie sheds enough for 10 normal dogs and in the fall, it’s indescribably awful. Every morning, the house is covered in fur, great gobs of is. Huge piles of it cover the rugs, floor, and sofas. It infests the upholstery, adheres to the drapes, forms giant cobwebs that make your house look like the Adams family redux.

We’ve burned out two vacuum cleaners in less than a year, both bagless. This time, we bought a Hoover Commercial Portapower Vacuum Cleaner, 8.3 Lbs, Black. Typical five-star reviews say stuff like “This little commercial vacuum cleaner is one of the best buys out there. I can clean up Great Pyrenees hair with ease and empty out the bag and start over again without clogging up the vacuum like other machines I have killed with dog hair.” This customer understands our needs.

AmberWill will also need an upright to deal with rugs? Probably, but affording ONE machine was hard enough. A second will have to wait until next month at the very least.

I really hope this machine seriously sucks.