Dog people versus garden people


Yes, I know the debate is typically are you a cat person or dog person, but I’ve found in reality is more often are you a pet-lover of plant-lover. And where do you draw the line if you are both?

My husband and I both grew up with pets. At various ages they ranged from dogs, cats, fish, lizards and even a calf, named Augie Doggy. So we were in agreement that our life would include children, station wagon and pets.

Our first was a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Fanny. She was a little small for her breed at 10 inches tall and about 24 pounds. But typical of working breeds she liked to be busy, was very protective of the children and always acted like she had important things to do. Her two favorite jobs (self-inflicted) were herding the children (toddlers at the time) into a single room and patrolling our tiny back yard. She wore a path in the grass at the edge of the fence line in her endless march to secure the perimeter from unknown threats.

Our first house and yard were incredibly small. Between new jobs and new babies there wasn’t much money or time to spend on gardens. So trying to do a lot with little I bought a flat of the biggest, fluffiest yellow marigolds I could find.  I planted them in a crooked line along the back of the house. I was in a hurry but they looked so happy and nice.

When I got home the next night my husband greeted me with a “don’t be mad” (never a good sign). He took me out into the backyard silently. I looked out and it looked like it had snowed yellow confetti. Fanny had annihilated the head of each plant. The stems were all standing there straight and tall with no blossoms. She must have bitten them off and then shaken and run with each to get that much coverage.

Our second dog was Lily, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. She was the prettiest and smartest dog we’ve owned to date. She won dog shows and agility shows, and learned hand signals so well that when she went deaf in old age continued to fully understand us.

Her only garden problem was that as a Canadian, she got hot. Her fur was meant to keep her warm in cold winters and even in frigid water. It was not intended to be comfortable in a Wisconsin summer. She’d come outside to keep me company while I gardened but quickly wandered off to find shade which usually meant she was lying within a garden bed. Her favorite spot (wait for the irony) was my lily of the valley bed in the front yard. All those cool deep green leaves under the shade of our elm tree was just perfect. Of course all the plants in her favorite spot were broken and smooshed, but that was okay.

We now own two cocker spaniels. My husband told me he didn’t want little, yippy, foo-foo dogs. He said he was more of a hunting or working dog kind of guy. I told him I had found the perfect hunting dog for old people like us who work way too much, called Flushing Spaniels. They were bred to make the birds fly up and be shot. Okay, only in England are Cocker Spaniels called Flushing Spaniels, they are small (20-25 pounds) and they bark a lot. But I got the puppies in the house and Dave fell in love with them before all the negatives became entirely apparent.

Harvey, the 3-year-old, is a good boy outside. He stays in our yard, rousts rabbits and chipmunks out of the garden, and comes when I call him. Nigel, the 1-year-old, eats plants and mulch indiscriminately, prefers to do his “daily duty” in the neighbor’s yard, and runs into the street to greet any neighbors taking a walk. Did I mention he eats my plants! (photo)

Nigel is convinced that if I touch it that it must be good and it must be edible. So he eats the weeds I pull. He pulls out and eats the new plants I’ve just put in. He chews on sticks from pruned shrubs. It doesn’t matter if they are safe, tasty or particularly easy to reach. He walks all over everything helping himself by the mouthful. If he kept it all down it wouldn’t be so bad but usually he shares the content of his tummy as soon as we get inside the house.

Late last summer he discovered the vegetable bed. Nigel loves green cherry tomatoes and strawberries. He’s less excited about zucchini and beans, but he’s game to give them a try too. He does not like chives and sneezes his disapproval if he accidentally wanders into that part of the bed. My little fence doesn’t particularly impress him.

I love my dogs. Every one. And I have a million more stories about my gardens and the dogs, but this is enough for now. Maybe you have a cat or dog story you’d like to share?

About Kary Beck

Mother and wife, gardener, wine enthusiast, avid online bargain hunter, and owner of two black-and-tan cocker spaniels.
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