A Yard of His Own (#123)

Redondo Beach sunset — South Bay Staple

We moved because Andy wanted a dog. I mean, we might have left our townhouse less than a year after we got married because avoiding the neighbors we’d seen naked was exhausting. Or possibly because the two small bungalows next to us were slated to be demolished and turned into apartment building that would block our view and light.

But really, I’m pretty sure it was the dog. Don’t get me wrong, Andy liked my cats. Not enough to clean the litter box, but he said very complimentary things such as, “I love seeing them sit in the kitchen window.”

Me: “Really? Cuz they are so cute lying in the sun?”

Andy: “No, cuz they scare away the pigeons and I don’t have to clean pigeon crap off the glass.”

Andy’s still working on the art of smooth compliments. Pretty sure that’s a long-term project.

Even though my cats were okay, Andy really wanted a dog. And our townhouse wasn’t exactly dog friendly. It had a yard, yes. A square yard. Literally. No more than three feet on each side. Just enough for a few flowers a chair.

Definitely not big enough for a dog. Well, not the kind of dog Andy wanted.

This is a Dogue de Bordeaux or French Mastiff. Otus weighed in at about 150 lbs.
This is one of Andy’s favorite big dogs — a Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff) named Otus. They run about 120-150 lbs.

Andy wanted a BIG dog. No ankle-biters for him. The man even dragged me to the Big Dog Parade in Santa Barbara. We met some English Mastiffs, some Great Danes, and even a dog sled team. (They pulled a wheeled sleigh down the street.) Andy was in heaven.

I didn’t really mind. I’d grown up with dogs (also cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, turtles, etc.). My favorite dog was our chocolate lab. She was stubborn, high energy, and difficult to train, but she was also a sweet dog who lived to chase tennis balls until she died at age 17. Her eulogy:

I think that I shall never see
A ball marked “Penn”
And not think of thee.

When I saw two Labrador/ Dane mixes at the parade, I knew exactly what kind of dog I wanted. But there was no way I was getting a purebred. While my father’s Labrador and my mother’s Standard Poodle came with pedigrees, I thought that a) It’s insane to pay hundreds of dollars for a dog when millions need homes, and b) mutts are less likely to have health problems.

I checked out rescue sites and put out the word to various dog-loving friends – we wanted a Lab/ Dane rescue.

But first we needed a house with a yard. A Mastiff might lie around all day, but a lab? No way. They need space to run. A lawn to dot with drool-covered tennis balls.

The housing market in LA has always been good, especially in the South Bay. After all, they’re not making any more land by the beach. I knew we’d have no problem selling the townhouse, and there were plenty of houses for sale.

The problem was Andy.

Turns out that Andy was far pickier about houses than he was about spouses.

I scoped out over a hundred houses while we painted, sanded, stained, and staged the townhouse before officially putting it on the market. I showed less than a third of those to Andy, after nixing any on tree-less streets. (You can take the girl out of the tree-laden East Coast, but you can’t take the East Coast tree-lover out of the girl.)

According to Andy there was something wrong with every single house:

“The addition looks ugly.”

“The yard is tiny.”

“It’s another poorly designed addition.”

“The street is too busy.”

“This family room was added and it looks like shit! Seriously, does no one consult an architect?!”

I apologized to the realtor more than once for wasting her time.

She waved me off. “Oh, don’t worry about it. I’ve worked with Andy before.”

“How long did it take him to pick out the townhouse?”

“A year, I think.”

I groaned. “We’re NEVER gonna get Damn Spot.”

The realtor said, “I beg your pardon?”

I explained, “That’s our future dog’s name. Damn Spot. So when he misbehaves I can say, ‘Out, Damn Spot! Out I say!’”

Our realtor laughed like that wasn’t the worst abuse of Shakespeare ever. She was cool like that.

I finally found an adorable little house on a corner lot, complete with tree-lined sidewalks. It had been built in 1954, and amazingly, none of the previous owners had put on an addition. Instead, beautiful used brick landscaping had been added in the front, and a brick patio looked out on a huge (for Los Angeles) backyard in the back. The backyard was enclosed by six-foot cinderblock fences. Even a big dog wouldn’t be able to escape. (Or SPOILER ALERT so we thought.)

It was at the very edge of our price range, and only in our price range because it was right across the street from a middle school. Generally people willing to live near a school have kids, lots of them, and this house only had two bedrooms and a tiny office. The owners had been forced to lower the price. Only one offer had been made – by a teacher who worked at the school. (Then she realized that it was probably better that her students and today’s helicopter psycho parents didn’t know where she lived. She withdrew her offer.)

I loved the house. I KNEW that was my house. But I tried not to get too excited about it, because I was sure Andy would hate the school’s proximity.

The realtor and I brought him to the house on Good Friday. Andy said nothing as he checked out the yard and the hardwood floors.

I didn’t dare say anything.

After we closed the door behind us, Andy paused on the brick steps, looking up at the trees, then back at the porch. Despite the lunchtime shrieks from the school kids across the road, he announced: “I really like this house.”

Sometimes, even an atheist gets an Easter miracle.IMG_0396

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Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

39 thoughts on “A Yard of His Own (#123)”

  1. And…sold?! It does sound like a charming house, and school doesn’t go on all year round. So for at least about a third of the year you won’t hear too much from the kids at the middle school. I sense a part two to this story…

    On the subject of dogs: I prefer dogs to cats any day. But I’ve never had a pet. One, my parents didn’t allow it and two, I can barely even take care of my self these days 😀

    1. Yeah, cats are much lower maintenance. You have to really love walks if you get a dog. And it’s smart not to get any pet unless you REALLY want one and are ready to handle the responsibility. So many get dumped when people get tired of them. 🙁

      1. You are right. Some people treat pets like toys. If you don’t want it anymore, time to give it away…that I find very sad. If I were to ever get a pet, it would be something like a turtle or fish. Easy to keep and maintain 😀

        1. Turtles are harder than you think — gotta clean their tanks and handle them with gloves. Also the feeding is sometimes gruesome. One of my sisters fed hers crickets. Live ones. 🙁

          Also, turtles are notorious for being terrible at cuddling.

  2. This reminds me of when mum tried to talk to me about getting my own place. She had this idea of getting me a big house, cause where would my spouse live then?! I can’t stay single forever, right? (I actually could, and already told her not to expect any grandchildren from me for that matter, ahahah.) But that’s besides the point.

    I also like small houses. This is what I was going to say.

    As for the dog, how is he getting along with the cats? Commando Cat? I haven’t read about him in a long while, I think.

    I can’t wait for the next update!

    1. Ha, that sounds like Andy’s parents. His parents insisted that he get a townhouse. Even though there was no marriage looming on the horizon. Turned out to be an excellent business choice, at least in this market.

    1. Why, thanks! I guess I’d better be, since my life is a lot less interesting than your adventures on Reunion Island, Cappadocia (did I spell that right?), and tours of Johannesburg. I have no pictures of zebras or entire towns of rock.


      1. That totally came out wrong! I am an idiot. But anyway all I meant was, you’re really good at writing about conversations with your realtor and you make me want to go buy a house myself tomorrow.

        1. You are not an idiot, not even close! It was quite a compliment and I did take it as such. Apparently my envious-of-your-adventures-and-snarky side snuck out. 🙂 So tell you what — I’ll go to England this weekend and pretend I am brave like you and you make a cardboard house for MC and be domestic like me. (I expect curtains, hahahaha.)

  3. I second 2summers up there, I have never been so entertained by a house hunting story! What a cliffhanger… do you get the house? The dog? What happens? Ahhhh!!

    This neighborhood sounds like my aunt’s neighborhood in Culver City. Really cute houses and right across the street from a middle school…..! I really love her neighborhood and I think she lucked out (she bought the property in the 70’s so now it’s worth $$$$$$$$$$ now, especially with Culver City becoming an up and coming neighborhood).

    Can’t wait for the next chapter of this story!

    1. Well, I left out all the boring house hunting parts. So I guess the magic is in the editing! But thanks.

      Oh, yes, Los Angeles has discovered that there is such a thing as a city that is too big and commuting sucks. But like New York City, the expansion is limited because of the ocean. So, yeah, most real estate here is a good investment. Especially long term. And near the water.

  4. Thus far we only had apartments and somehow we never went and searched for them, they basically fell into our hands :p
    Now for the future we want to live in a house however my wife does not like the standard houses here in Germany at all so I guess we will need to build one as soon as our business is working more smooth/ stable.
    Btw, few hundred dollars for a dog? Wish it would be so cheap in Europe (Finland and Germany) as well. For a pure bred Samoyed you have to pay minimum 1500-2000 Euros!

    1. You know, Timo, you are probably more accurate with the cost of a purebred dog than I am. When we got my childhood dogs, they were only hundreds of dollars. They probably do cost thousands now. Even rescue fees here are in the hundreds. But it goes to a worthy cause and the dogs usually come without too many parasites and prescreened.

      What does your wife not like about houses in Germany? Is it a cultural difference?

          1. I also love these kind of old houses but the money to get them into a good condition is usually just too much. Here in my town you can by such old villa for roughly 500-700k Euros when it is in a poor condition and then you have to invest about the same for restauration work. We will just later build some nice house fashioned after our ideas and it will be much cheaper 🙂

  5. Andy is so funny! And OMG that dog is so big! Mine is like half of the one in the picture!

    I suppose the last picture is of your new home’s patio? (I hope this is the right word. Tired brain won’t think much)

    Oh and what’s a townhouse? Is it like a really big house? (It makes me think of the town hall, haha)

    1. A townhouse is called a semidetached in some places, I think. Usually they are rows of houses that share walls and are multistoried.

      That’s a picture I took of the front steps, actually, but the patio in the back of the house was made out of the same brick.

    1. Hmmm. I thought the greatest miracle of all in Christianity was Jesus rising from the dead? But you’re probably right. A virgin birth is undoubtedly more miraculous. 😉

      Maybe the house was great, or maybe Andy was just glad no one screwed it up with a crappy addition. (Perhaps also known as “marking” a house in male territorial terms.)

  6. I am so jealous that you have pets. I’ve always wanted a dog again, and a big dog! But I move too often to get one.

    I can’t wait to hear more housing and doggy adventures!

    1. Well, if you stop moving, let me know. I have become big dog expert. 🙂 Do you know which big dog has the least drool? A Leonburger! But prone to genetic conditions. 🙁

  7. Our first house choice was easy. It was built by my dad and designed by us. (We also helped build it.) Then we moved overseas and rented for almost 20 years. Also easy. (When you get fed up with the house, you just move.)

    Andy probably has a better method for choosing a house than I do. It seems I always choose a house that’s “good enough.” Then, after living in it a while, I realize it’s not “good enough,” and I get involved in the expensive, painful process of remodeling it. Groan! That’s what I’m doing right now.

  8. Hahaha “Our realtor laughed like that wasn’t the worst abuse of Shakespeare ever. She was cool like that.” I also enjoyed Andy’s “compliment” about the cats and the pigeon poo. Peter gives similar “compliments”. Sometimes I wish he could just say something nice for the sake of it, like a normal person, but at least this way when he does say something good I know he means it because to him everything is just an “observation” not a criticism or a compliment.

  9. You guys are awesome – moving just because Andy wanted a dog!! 🙂 The house sounds really cool though.

    My husband also had the notion to get a dog once. However, when I informed him that he would have to feed, bathe, and walk the dog all by himself, he opted for some gold fish.

    And as a side note, my husband wanted to buy the first house we looked at [which was still under construction and near completion], but I insisted on looking at more. After looking about 30-40 houses, guess what house we ended up buying. Yes – the first one. My husband got his way and for once, I am so glad he did. 🙂

    1. Well, at least you made absolutely sure that you had the right house. No regrets, then!

      You are very smart about the dog — if the woman in the house doesn’t want to take care of a dog, it’s best not to get one.

      How did those goldfish work out?

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