How Fido almost hurt our FICO score

by | Mar 28, 2024

This is a twist on a common ploy people use when they’re trying to sell their house: bake cookies so buyers will be greeted with the aroma of warmth and sweetness. Hopefully, the smell will linger in their memories and they’ll come back with a sweet offer. Today, first time buyers are confronted with historic challenges for getting a home, high interest rates being just one obstacle. The current high mortgage rates got me thinking back to when my husband, Dave, and I bought our first home in 1978 when interest rates rose to 13 percent! We were new to the home-buying experience and anxious to invest in our first home, and we risked over-extending our budget.  We hired a realtor who showed us a modest block house that was a retiree house, or a starter house and it wasn’t too far outside our budget; we made an offer and, poof, the house was ours.

first house

Our first house. It had jalousie windows in the front door!

Reality hit whenever we had an unexpected car repair or any other unplanned expense. We sometimes resorted to saving spare change to make the mortgage payment. We lived from paycheck-to-paycheck forcing us to dramatically reduce our pizza budget. Gradually, things got better. We both made a little more money and interest rates started coming down.  A few years later, we heaved a sigh of relief when the rates dropped to around eight percent and we joined the rush to refinance our mortgage.  We found a broker and set up an appointment to meet him at our two-bedroom one-bath house.We wanted to be sure our house “showed well” for the broker. We didn’t know what that meant; we were young, and the idea of buying a house to flip it wasn’t a thing back then and nobody “staged a house” for sale. The term hadn’t even been invented yet. So, looking good meant vacuuming our green 10-year-old living room carpet, neatly stacking the magazines on our second-hand coffee table, and making sure we threw a tennis ball for our black and white springer spaniel puppy.

Our Springer Spaniel puppy Rufus

Our goal was to knock the rambunctiousness out of our dog who was guaranteed to jump on our guest when he arrived. Our huge, unfenced yard was perfect for the twice-daily games of fetch we played with Rufus. This routine was a tried-and-true method to exhaust him and he would immediately fall asleep on the floor at our feet. So, when our mortgage broker arrived, we were ready. Rufus was quiet, the magazines were stacked, and the carpet was crumb free.

Most people don’t remember the loan officer who flips papers and points to the line where you’re supposed to sign. But we remember this guy not just because he came to our house, but also because he was so stoic in the face of adversity. The man wore a rumpled white shirt and slacks that had deep creases where they bunched at the top of his thighs, indicating that he sat in uncomfortable chairs in hot rooms most of the day. He wore wire rim glasses that he pushed up on his nose with his middle finger. He didn’t want to waste too much time making small talk at 7 pm. He wanted to go to his own home. I suspect we were the last people on his list of that day’s visits.

The broker stepped into our small house and walked toward our second-hand butcher-block dining room table where he placed his briefcase and proceeded to spread out the magic papers that were going to lower our mortgage payment. We were anxious to get started and pleasantly surprised that he didn’t inspect our house at all. He was all business as he went through one document after another and explained the terms we were accepting. The process was going as expected, Rufus was asleep under the table as we signed our names on page after page. As the time passed, I noticed an increasingly rotten smell. I wasn’t sure where it was coming from. Could it be the broker? I glanced at my husband and raised my eyebrow. He glanced at me. We both locked our gaze on the broker who didn’t seem to notice, at least the expression on his face hadn’t changed. The three of us continued to work our way through the stack. But the smell was getting stronger and more rancid. By now, there was no mistaking it – a putrid smell was coming from somewhere close by.  Our suspicions now focused on Rufus, not the broker.  We both prodded our dog with our feet hoping he would get up and sleep somewhere else. But, we had thoroughly worn him out and he was in a deep sleep. We waved our hands fanning the air under the table to try to move the stink bomb away. The broker, being polite, trained his focus on the paperwork. He rubbed his nose once or twice, but maintained his professional persona. Meanwhile, Rufus slept like a baby. As soon as the air cleared a little, a new wave of sulfur gas rose from under the table.  I reached behind me to crank open our old Miami window. It was a cold night, but the stench had gotten so bad we were tempted to hold our noses. As we worked our way toward the bottom of the stack, the broker worked faster, clearing his throat once or twice. I think I saw his eyes watering too. After we signed on the last dotted line, he collected all the papers and stuffed them inside his briefcase. By now, the smell was pretty overwhelming, but no one acknowledged it.  The broker thanked us for the business and practically ran out the door. You’d have thought the man was an about to miss a flight, he was in such a hurry to get out of our house. By then we knew Rufus had been silently farting for over an hour while he slept under the table.

rufus lake

True to his breed, Rufus loved water and playing fetch.

I’ll take all the blame for his horrible gas leak because I had fed him our taco dinner leftovers that night. There was more meat than usual and I didn’t want to waste all that good ground beef smothered in chili sauce with hot peppers. Rufus got a double helping. When my husband and I realized what had happened, we burst out laughing. The broker never said a word and neither did we. Those were the days when people took their professionalism very seriously. No one broke character, we all acted oblivious to the smell for fear of drawing attention to it, and the broker was a businessman who had a job to do and didn’t want to engage in small talk. He must have realized Rufus was the culprit. A week later, we found out that our new mortgage went through at the lower rate.  We were relieved that our smelly house didn’t cost us thousands of dollars. But, I wonder if the broker remembered the smell and made us a less favorable deal? Nah. Decades later, we still think back on that incident and it still cracks us up.