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.

7 thoughts on “Does it really suck?

  1. Tip: SAVE your dog hair (shed or clipped), find a handspinner (not too difficult in New England) and have the hair spun into yarn. Pick a dog with soft, rather than coarse hair, and the outcome will be lovely. I saved two years’ worth of Cavalier hair and the yarn it became was just out of this world. It was too itchy for a hat or scarf, so I asked a dear friend to weave it into a wall hanging. Double benefit: memories, woven together, of two dogs that I loved and of my best friend from childhood (we met on the bus stop on the first day of Kindergarten).


    • I live in the middle of nowhere and right now, I actually can’t walk. I know about the spinning thing, but never met anyone who has done it or knows anyone who has. That includes breeders of Great Pyranees who certainly have enough hair. I know the Samoyed folks tried this for a while, but stuff made of dogs’ hair made everyone itch. Our two terriers don’t shed: it’s just Bishop the Aussie. I always wished there was something useful to be done with all that fur, but I can’t see it happening especially because with my back as bad as it is and Garry doing all the clean up, asking him to do one more thing would probably send him over the top … perhaps rightfully so. But I sure could use a powerful yet inexpensive upright for the carpets!


  2. Yes, I am both “vic” and “perp” in this story. I’m the one who is tasked with cleaning up the doggie hair every day. EVERY day!! There’s no way of avoiding it even when the body aches suggest ignorance or blindness. Today is one of those days as we deal with the plague of bad backs in our house. The doggie hair, dirt, droppings, shredded napkins, and other remnants of the kids’ hard day’s night are formidable. I am also the person responsible for killing at least two vacuums. Thanks Marilyn for not ratting me out. It’s not intentional. I try to diligently clean out the vacuum bags, filters and compartments but obviously haven’t been completely successful. I know the jokes about the vacuums sucking ability are funny and are not lost on me — but — having to deal with this stuff on a daily basis mixes the laughter with groans from my creaking and aching back. I await the newest vacuum cleaner, hoping it REALLY SUCKS!!!


    • Truth is, the kind of stress we put on vacuums, they probably would have burned out anyhow. Dog hair is a vacuum cleaner slayer. So no need for “mea culpa.” Blame the dogs.


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