Selected Writing - Features

Public Relations  ~  Media  ~  Creative  ~  Scripts  ~  Corporate  ~  Web
Published in People, Places & Plants magazine

(or, great paw-prints)

“What’s a hand-basket Mummy?”

“It’s what my garden’s gone to hell in, darling.”

As I gaze out of the window the look of horror on my face is not that normal end-of-March/beginning-of-Spring look on most gardeners’ faces as they survey the winter damage to their gardens. Oh no! Mine is one of abject despair. One that speaks volumes about the lack of attention paid to a garden for one full year in favor of the new family member. And that addition to the family sleeps peacefully at my feet - worn out from all the damage he’s wrought on my garden. Yes, my love-child - my one-year-old Golden Retriever, Toby.

First, let me say that getting Toby was one of the best things I’ve done for myself in years. Second, I’ll add that it’s been disastrous for my garden. None of the dog-training books - at least the many I’ve read - say anything at all about bringing a new puppy into a much-loved and well-established garden. Well, actually, the more precious of them do urge you to train your pooch to perform all the bodily functions in specific places but that didn’t work! The day I brought Toby home was, I think, the one and only day we had snow last year here in Rhode Island. The book I was reading at the time said I should train him to pee & poop in one chosen place so, an hour before driving to pick him up, I was outside shoveling a path through the snow from the deck to the chosen spot (which of course later turned out to be right in the middle of where the Invisible Fence would run, thus rendering it utterly useless for that purpose - but I didn’t know that then). The moment of truth came when I took him out for the first time down the deck steps to the yard and softly, lovingly, carefully, caringly, as any studiously good dog-owner would do, “walked him” up the shoveled pathway to the place of great-choosing. I placed my little bundle on the ground for the first time, expecting who-knows what, and he took off like a bat out of hell racing across the frozen wastes rolling and frolicking in the snow, then pee-ed somewhere in the nether regions of the garden. So much for that, and after a few days of this unruly behavior I gave up on that aspect of training. My entire garden shows this lack of fortitude on my part. In fact my lawn right now is showing that lack - it’s a delightful polka dot pattern of bright green and yellow. Would that I could say it was by design! Maybe a few variegated chartreuse Hosta ‘Emerald Tiara’ strategically planted might tie it all together?

“This year’s spring gardening chores are not outlined in the 'Idiot’s Guide to Dog Training.'”

The lawn suffered yet more damage when Toby got a girlfriend, and this relationship certainly did not meet my approval. This “perky” little black dog of no particular breed, whose owners do not keep her confined in any way, skids full tilt in to the garden to taunt and tease young Toby. This neighborhood slut clearly has the upperhand and leaves Toby exhausted. The two of them tear - literally - around the garden taking the lawn with them. I canceled my account with the lawn care company who had, to date, done a superlative job of bringing my lawn to verdant organic green. What a waste of money, paying to maintain a churned up mash pit!

This year’s spring gardening chores are not outlined in the “Idiot’s Guide to Dog Training.” So, I guess I’m the idiot who has to make up for paying more attention to my puppy than to my garden. I was in complete horticultural denial for a year and now I have a great dog and a seriously messed-up garden.

I cruise the garden daily with my plastic bag and hand-shovel to do the land-mine pick-ups, and that’s the easy part! Now not only do I have to repair the damage - fill in the pot-holes, and so forth, but I also have to figure out how to return to gardening with Toby alongside sharing my tasks with me. Just this past Sunday, which was unseasonally warm, I got a taste of what’s to come. I was busy cutting back the buddleia with my back to Toby. When I straightened up and turned around I discovered the shrub littering the lawn as Toby gaily tossed the cut branches around, grinning from ear to ear. I pulled a few weeds - and Toby pulled a few more, except that they weren’t weeds - but my favorite white Thalia miniature daffodil. A few fragile crocuses went flying too!

“I have to figure out how to return to gardening with Toby alongside sharing my tasks with me.”

Oh yes, and I noticed the Cherry Laurel ‘Otto Lukyen’ looking more forlorn than normal after the winter, so I fell to my knees to inspect it only to discover how Toby had kept himself cool throughout the summer - amongst the exposed roots in the deep hole underneath.

I watered my baby Katsura, a sapling from nearby Blithewold arboretum, on Sunday, or at least I thought I did. But when I came back to the house to turn off the hose I found Toby lazily chewing through it. At least he was chewing the hose and not the tree - there’s always an up side, right?

How can I end this by saying anything other than Toby makes me laugh. I understand that laughter increases endorphins, which increase your energy level, which I’ll need if I’m to put my garden back into some semblance of gorgeous.

Yeah, yeah, woof, woof - I love you too...