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Don’t try this at home

Now can I have my sheep toy?

Now can I have my sheep toy?

Some of you may have read my post from October of 2012, Next Year’s Garden.  My confident manifesto that I could have a dog AND a garden.  If you do a little sleuthing, you’ll notice that I only posted once in 2013.  That is because I could barely have a dog and a LIFE.  Poppy is what lay people call “a handful” and professionals call “a persistent gambler.”

My intent had been, on the demise of our beloved golden retriever to hire friend C., is a dog trainer, who knows me and about such things to come and consult with me, look at our home and property and recommend a dog breed.  She was more than happy to do this, she said.  Then I started reading.  And looking at the seductive internet.  And voila, I decided an English Shepherd was the perfect dog for me.  For all good reasons, I thought – a bit smaller, smart, fun-loving, good with children, likes to stick with you.  And doggone it – she looked just like the dogs my grandparents had.  I hope my cousins are reading.    What I pushed to the back of my mind were the things herding dogs love to do – run, chase and boss things. My grandparents dogs herded cars down the driveway, biting the tires all the way.  How could I have forgotten?  My friend, the professional would have known this and cautioned me about it or at least prepared me.  2013 would have been a much easier  year if I had stuck with my idea to consult with her.

Well – hindsight, right?  I figured out pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to train this dog using do it yourself methods and so talked to everyone I could this year about Poppy.    I also read everything I could get my hands on.  Much of the advice was helpful and seemed up to date to me – at least much different than when we trained our golden retriever.  But Poppy is wicked smart, complicated and  determined and  things were not going well.   My dog trainer friend C. referred me to  an awesome  animal behaviorist and in one session  I see Poppy in a  new way.   A whole new world of dog training that I never knew existed has opened up to me.   People who love and live their subject matter tend to know the latest and best stuff.

Of course, some professionals know more of the  latest  and best stuff.  Gardening seems like a do it yourself project.  Most of it probably is.  But sometimes you need an expert.  How do you go about finding one?    Ask a neighbor with a beautiful garden.  Ask the owner of a business with a beautifully kept landscape.   Ask the local nursery.   Look at the professional’s website – do they have a philosophy that you are comfortable with?  Ask for references – ask to see their gardens in person.  Certainly ask about price.  But in my experience, cheaper is usually not better even when it comes to garden maintenance help.  Do you really want your expensive perennials pulled up as weeds? What training and background does the professional have and what continuing education does he or she take part in? What professional organizations does this person belong to and does he or she have certifications?  Does the professional return your call quickly?  As you interview this person, take special note of not only the  advice, but how well he or she takes the time to find out about you, your garden  and your specific needs.

We had a good day, Poppy and me.  I’ll keep you posted.  Or Poppy will – she’s taking note of how to use the computer.

 

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Next Year’s Garden

Today I raced outside during an all too brief sunbreak to clean up the vegetable garden.  But before I did that, I cleaned out our old dog crate.  It has been a year and a half since our Golden Retriever, Bunter left us and I was surprised at the tears that welled up while I was scrubbing with hot, soapy water.    I recalled the first night she spent in it, crying most of the night and how Mr. and I took turns opening the door, tucking her 8 lbs of sweet-smelling puppy fur into our sweatshirts for a trip outside to potty.  We used this crate in the back of our pick up to ferry her to and from the park for a walk when we lived in Kirkland.  The neighbors swore that every time we took her out of that crate, she was bigger than when she went in.    Once,  my sister-in-law opened the crate door to let her out and Bunter knocked her on her keister.  The last time we used this crate was when we moved her to Whidbey Island.   Here she is with her, “I’m so hurt” look.

Bunter’s first day on Whidbey.

I cleaned the crate because we are hoping to get a new dog.  I say hoping because we are in line to get an English Shepherd and since these dogs are bred to be working dogs, most of them go to ranches where there are cattle, sheep, or poultry to herd.  We don’t have animals yet.  We are planning chickens sometime soon.  We are also hoping to train our new dog to chase deer and rabbits out of the garden, to keep an eye on the property and the grandkids.  Most importantly, I want this dog to keep me company and remind me to get outside and enjoy nature.  Maybe we’ll even try agility . . . . .  But for the next seven weeks, all we can do is wait to see what the breeder observes in the litter.

Can I have a garden AND a dog?  In my mind, yes and I don’t want to be without either of them, thank-you very much.  My grandmother once told me that at two years of age I wanted to follow the sheep on their ranch, and that she encouraged my mother to let me do so.  Did the ranch dog supervise?  I like to think so.   The first birthday present that I can remember is my dog Tippy being carried through the front door by my father.   All through my childhood there were dogs in our neighborhood.  Some regal like the German Shepherd Teddy Moe and some Scooby-do-esque, like the slobbery mutt Spike who reliably showed up when you had an ice cream cone or were trying to hide from somebody.   In those days, we had few fences and dogs just roamed the woods with us kids.

Bunter gradually learned where in the garden she was allowed and where she was supposed to stay out of .  (She also learned to pick her own raspberries and pull her own carrots.)   My friend, D. has a garden AND a Great Dane.  I will likely be consulting her next spring when I wonder what the heck I was thinking and I’ll pass along her wisdom. Can I have a perfect garden and a dog? Obviously not.   But what is a perfect garden anyway?  Is it a garden without weeds?  If that, then a garden without the song of birds, who drop salmon berry seed all along the fence line.  Is it a garden without deer or rabbits?  If that, then a garden without fawns or bunnies.   Is it a garden where everything I plant succeeds?  If that, then I miss the powerful sound of the wind and the quiet of the snow.  It would be a place I hardly recognize as a garden.

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