Battle of the Flying Fur

The true renewable resource
By Jeffrey Shaffer, June 2009, Updated February 2015

I think I’ve found the solution to our national energy problem. All I know for sure is that I’m in possession of a remarkable renewable resource. What I desperately need is for someone to evaluate my data and then advise me on how to proceed in order to bring the greatest good to the greatest number of Americans.

Our collective future could be determined by a yellow Labrador Retriever named Lottie. She not only has a wonderful disposition, she also grows a completely new coat of hair every 18 to 24 hours. I know this because the physical evidence accumulates throughout the house, day after day, regardless of how often I fight back with my broom and vacuum cleaner.

Some dog owners may read these words and dismiss me as a wimp. A typical response came not long ago when I met a friendly couple at a highway rest stop. They had two canine pals in their car, and after some cheerful small talk, I began to tell them about my endless battle against the shedding enemy. They just grinned and said, “In our house we think of dog hair as a condiment.” Very funny, but my situation is way beyond the laughing point.

Two factors keep me in a state of consternation and confusion. Once the individual fibers have launched themselves from Base Camp Lottie, they can travel great distances and circumvent any physical barrier. They’re in kitchen drawers, in the shower, in all sorts of places the dog has never been and never will be.


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The other tendency I’ve noticed is truly ominous: The hair may have developed the ability to self-replicate. I realized this was happening after returning from a short vacation. Lottie was at a kennel, and I had performed a robust cleaning of all the floors prior to departure. And yet, upon my return, replacement hairs had stationed themselves in various nooks and corners, sometimes forming alliances with balls of dust and other particulates.

My daughter occasionally brushes the dog, and this appears to cause replication to occur instantly. Birds used to retrieve some of the output for their nests, but lately they seem to have given up. I’m half-expecting to find a note in the backyard, scrawled in finch script, saying, “Enough with the hair! We need twigs too, you know!”

But one man’s problem is an entire nation’s opportunity. George Washington Carver created myriad new products from the peanut. We need someone like him to tackle the Lottie Phenomenon. Has any scientist researched the practicality of replacing coal-fired power plants with new versions fueled by a never-ending supply of dog hair?

Other promising possibilities include: (1) automotive fuel additives—a great opportunity for catchy brand names such as Petkinol, Labrodiesel or PetroK-9; (2) compressed pellets for use as mail padding to reduce Styrofoam production; and (3) wall and attic insulation, with the marketing slogan, “Turns your home into your second-best friend.”

I envision an army of Lottie-like canines leading us into an era of energy independence.

In the meantime, my ongoing battle against the onslaught of surplus shedding continues. It’s a hairy variation on that famous short story, Stephenson’s Leiningen Versus the Ants.

Lottie is asleep on the sofa as I write these words. The house is quiet, but I can still hear tiny noises. It’s the sound of little dog hairs, talking amongst themselves. And I know they’re plotting against me.

Article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 50: Sept/Oct 2008

Jeffrey Shaffer is a contributing columnist for The Christian Science Monitor and author of It Came with the House (Catbird Press 1997).