Every week, when I’m trying to decide what to write for this column, I write down a few notes for potential topics. This week, there are two words on my list: “visit” and “poop.”

The first pertains to the lovely time we had when my mom and Peter visited us last week. They arrived late Tuesday, stayed until early Sunday, and in that time, we rarely left the house, enjoyed hilarious happy hours, ate simply, watched hockey and the Royal Wedding, and entertained ourselves by watching the dogs play.

I always enjoy hosting houseguests, but when the guests are my parents, I especially love it. There is something so reviving about being around family, something that brings you back to your whole self, reminds you what you came from and even directs you where you should go. My mom always gives amazing, gentle advice, and my stepdad Peter is pretty much the most interesting, supportive man in the world. If being with them had a sound, it would be ocean waves landing. If a visit with them had a scent, it would be lilac in the spring.

Poop, on the other hand, does not dredge up such pleasing connotations. Especially when you’re on your hands and knees in the kitchen picking it up and all you can see is weeks and weeks ahead of you that involve a whole lot of it.

That’s because our new puppy Tilly, as perfect as she is, seems to be vigorously challenged in the potty-training department. We expected as much the first few days she was with us. However, since my parents’ visit, things have steadily gone downhill. In fact, pooping to spite us seems to have become a kind of game. She runs away and positions herself in a remote corner, where she unloads with serious dispatch.

Same goes with pee-pee, I’m afraid, with mini puddles lining our kitchen floor like a chain of hot springs. No amount of taking her outside, no amount of bribing her with treats, seems to be making a hoot of difference. Instead, this girl does what she wants. And what she wants is to do her business in the privacy of her own house.

All the while, Fitz is looking on, witnessing the indiscretion.

One of the most interesting things about having a second dog is it allows you to more clearly evaluate your first one. What I’ve realized is Fitz, while feisty, generally follows the rules. He was showing promising potty signs by the end of week two. And he is sensitive to punishment. He will reverse course if the tone of your voice has a warning in it. He’s never gnawed on a cord, on wood, on furniture. And if you correct him while he’s playing with Tilly, he will back off immediately.

Tilly the Brave is a whole other personality, bounding up steps, powering through gates, and unabashedly waking up (often) in the night just so she can be cuddled back to sleep.

I’m telling myself that these differences make me appreciate their strengths. I’m also thankful they are getting along so well.

Poop, however, is poop. I’ve never had such an intimate relationship with Clorox wipes. Same goes for Nature’s Miracle Stain & Odor Remover, which is now nearly empty. And my affection for Swiffer Sweeper Wet Mopping Pads has strengthened, which is impressive because I was already pretty fond of them. In fact, the other morning, I caught myself smelling the Swiffer juice just as a huffer would inhale paint.

But I know even this phase, as all phases, is one that I’ll eventually look back on with a modicum of attachment, as it will be a time in our lives when we were at the beginning of a new thing, which is much better than being at the end of an old one.

Until then, I’ll just keep wiping and looking forward to the next time I see my mom and Peter.

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