Let me tell you about my hardworking new companion.
Officially, iRobot refers to him as Model 690. I call him Roomby.
Roomby was a Christmas gift from my wife.
I know what you’re thinking.
“A gift from your wife? Shouldn’t it have been the other way around?”
No, I’m the gadget person in our house. I’d been interested in acquiring a robotic vacuum cleaner for several years, but two things had held me back.
The biggest obstacle had been the gift-giver herself, who made it very clear that she would not find a Roomba to be an acceptable present on any special occasion. The second had been the height of our couch, which sits about a half-inch too low for a Roomba to access.
So, opening my “big gift” on Christmas Day to reveal a Roomba was a great surprise.
Model 690 is about in the middle of the Roomba cerebral spectrum. Roomby is no freethinking artificial intelligence destined to recruit the other “smart” devices in our home and organize a rebellion. He cannot “map” a room, then clean the floor with marching band precision.
Roomby’s strength lies not in his mind but in his tenacity. His standard operating procedure is to randomly bump and spin throughout the room on the theory that he will eventually cover every available square inch of the floor. He apparently succeeds.
Watching Roomby move so blindly about, pity compelled me to attach a pair of eyes to his face. These did nothing for his vision, but they have given him a bit of personality.
Whenever Roomby has knocked off an eye during a cleaning frenzy, I’ve recovered it in his collection bin. He’s very meticulous that way.
Please do not think that Roomby is a complete dummy. I can communicate with him via my phone to schedule his weekly cleaning duties or to send him home to his charging station early as a reward for a job well done. If my phone is not handy, I have the option of asking Echo (AKA Alexa) to modify Roomby’s behavior.
Roomby’s operating instructions stressed that, although I might feel a need to watch him work, it is not necessary. When Roomby feels that he has completed an assigned job or that he is running out of energy, he can decide to return home on his own for recharging.
This autonomy soon proved to be only mostly true. On Roomby’s maiden unsupervised outing, he sent a sad message to my phone. He couldn’t finish his work because he had encountered a cliff.
Rushing to Roomby’s rescue, I found that the cliff in question was, in fact, an electrical cord I had carelessly left accessible. Bad daddy.
Roomby has also more than once reported that he is stuck and needs my help. As it turns out, my reservations about our low-slung couch were not without merit.
Although his body is too chubby to get under the couch, his nose is not. In his zeal to do his job, he powers himself under the first inch or so but lacks the traction to pull himself loose.
Surprisingly, our two dogs adapted to their new brother rather quickly. They don’t bark at, run from or chase him. They don’t react to him at all unless he bounces off a foot.
Prior to Roomby’s arrival, our living room and dining room were beset by what seems like several pounds of dog hair shed daily. I had many times sat on the couch, sorrowfully handicapped by my acute fear of housekeeping, as I watched my poor wife pursue dog hair tumbleweeds throughout the house.
Now, with Roomby hitting the floors on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons, the living room and dining room are immaculate.
Just don’t look under the couch.
My wife, Mary, and I have been privileged to serve the canine kingdom for more than a decade.
Each of the three Puggles who have graced our home arrived as puppies. We had no idea what was in store for us when we brought our first baby, Mugsy, home from the pet shop.
Raising a puppy, it turned out, was every bit, if not more, challenging than raising a child. Why was it, for example, that an otherwise adorable creature had the chewing urges of an industrious beaver?
When we got our second puppy, Izzy, we thought that we had amassed such wisdom from our experience with Mugsy that parenting this puppy was going to be incredibly simple. We were wrong. Very wrong.
Chalk it up to failing faculties, particularly our memories, but when the time came to get our third pooch, Ziggy, we again went the puppy route. We never suspected that his iron will might be more than a match for our puny human resolve.
Several months into his residency, Ziggy had grasped the basic concept of housebreaking. He would go to the door when the urge struck, However, if we were not present when he made his announcement, or if we delayed for even a short time, he had no problem with taking care of business indoors.
Our agitated reactions to these acts eventually made an impression, so Ziggy became a little less blatant about his transgressions. Whenever he was unable to immediately get outdoors, he found a remote, out-of-direct-sight, area of the living room or dining room to relieve himself. Finding his offerings became something of a daily treasure hunt, but we soon learned the most likely places to look.
Just when we might have thought our boy had lost the power to amaze, I was shown otherwise late one morning.
I had left the Zigmeister and his well-behaved sister, Izzy (aka the Normal One) upstairs while I got the latest bill-paying efforts in order. Upon my return upstairs, I found Ziggy with what appeared to be a cork protruding from his mouth. Following the standard exchange food for the unknown foreign object, I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that the object he had dropped was, in fact, a turd.
It didn’t look like anything fresh. When I picked it up with a napkin, I learned that it just as solid and quite possibly lighter than a cork of that size would have been, plus it was completely free of fragrance. It was a very, very old turd. To Ziggy’s credit, the turd bore no teethmarks. Apparently it did not register as “treat” in that all-inclusive compartment of his doggy mind.
I took it to the bathroom and sent it on its merry way to the city treatment plant. When I went back to the living, lo and behold, another turd had appeared between the couch and the coffee table.
It looked fresher, so I gave Ziggy the customary scolding about not pooping in the house as I retrieved the latest lawn log. I found that, despite its right-from-the-factory appearance, the second turn was of the same vintage as the first.
I could not fathom where he was getting these new playthings. I looked behind the couch as well as along the front window and found nothing. So, I sat down to watch the perpetrator, reasoning that he had not yet exhausted his stockpile.
Sure enough, he soon made his way toward a glass shelving unit in the corner. I intercepted him before he could get behind the shelves and observed that one full-sized turd and a miniature turdlette remained in that location. Both were retrieved, and the mystery was solved.
Now approaching his second birthday, Ziggy seems to have become an upstanding citizen of the household, capable of keeping things on hold until the appropriate times and locations. I have, however, written myself a note and sealed in the envelope labeled “Puppy?” The note contains two words “rescue dog.”