I Hate My Dog: A Gardener’s Confession
I hate my dog. There, I’ve said it. Ok, maybe hate is too strong of word, but then let me just say that I am really, really, more than momentarily p***d off at her.
Now, please know that I am an avid dog lover. In fact, I have three dogs – Maizy, Doug and Lucy. Maizy is a beautiful 9-year-old grey Pitbull we adopted from the Berkeley animal shelter about 4 years ago. She is incredibly calm and gentle, and minds us very well. Doug is a somewhat goofy, not-too-bright 12-year-old Pug I’ve had since he was a puppy, who likes to bark at things that aren’t necessarily there. He takes his walks very seriously and marches like he’s out on a scouting mission (his nickname is Gen. Douglas MacArthur). Then, there is Lucy. Ah yes, Lucy. Lucy is a brown deer Chihuahua, whom I adopted about 4 years ago. She is the youngest of the pack at 5 years old. She is overall very sweet and you can tell by the bounce of her little walk, that she is always having a good day. Lucy does not know that she is small, and sometimes, I am not sure she knows that she is a dog. Her nicknames are Princess, The Queen and, at times. . . Lucifer.
Because I’ve had Doug since he was a puppy, I know everything about him. And, although we adopted Maizy from a shelter, she wasn’t a stray, so I knew some of her history too before she came to live with us. Lucy, on the other hand, is a mystery. She was found running loose in a field somewhere in Southern California, scooped up by Animal Services and then shipped up to Oregon, where I adopted her. By the time Lucy and I met, she had a year of life already behind her.
I don’t know what Lucy did during that year, but I’ve come to suspect that it might have involved Military Special Ops. Of course, it’s also possible that she could have received some clandestine paramilitary training. After all, she was found wandering in a field without an I.D. and with no real credible backstory.
My first inkling she was not as she seemed was her ability to stare intently at us for hours at a time without blinking. I’d begun to wonder if she had a retinal camera implanted and was sending a live stream back to SOCOM. I adjusted my behavior accordingly.
Later, when I planted my winter garden. I noticed small paw print impressions in my raised beds where the seeds had been sown. Once, I found Lucy by the bed. She looked at me as if to say “nothing to see here, move along” and then sauntered away. I matched the prints, and dog-proofed my beds with PVC pipe rails. Problem solved. Right? Think again.
Further evidence of her possible paramilitary, or perhaps Ninja (?) training came about when I propagated seeds for the upcoming planting season. I started four types of tomato seeds, some marigolds and some basil. Once watered and covered, the seeds began to germinate unmolested up on a sofa table behind the couch by a window. Things were progressing splendidly. Then, I removed the cover. For a few weeks the seedlings continued to grow nicely. Then, I noticed that a few of the seedlings were pulled out by the roots, (just one or two), and there was a smidge of planting mix on the top edge of the couch. “Hmm. How odd, “I thought, because the seedling tray is not that easy to get to and I hadn’t noticed the dogs up on that couch (which is a good thing because its against house rules). So, I cleaned the planting mix up and kept an eye out for any suspicious activity. This happened a few more times; not every day, but every few days – sometimes there would be a little planting mix on the back of the couch, but sometimes there was no evidence at all of disturbance except a few more plants pulled out by their roots. I began to worry that there was something not canine in the house roaming around during the night that was eating and pulling my seedlings.
Then one day, a few weeks later, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted her. Lucifer!!! While my back was turned she had snuck up onto the back of the couch, contorted herself somehow partly onto the sofa table, and pulled the last of the seedlings out of the tray. When I ran at her, she leapt off the back of the couch and disappeared. As I said: possible prior Ninja training involved. In the end, there were three small seedlings left barely alive out of the entire tray. Suffice it to say, I purchased my tomato, marigold and basil plants this year.
The final “evidence” of her special ops training (I’m leaning towards the Israeli Krav Maga) was her ability to infiltrate the dog-proofed raised beds and partake of all of the arugula and lettuces that had sprung up. I had planted the seeds prior to my trip and when I came back, I was happy to see the lovely green leaves that would be ready for eating in a short time. I thinned the leaves out a bit, and then left them to continue to grow. A little while later (you guessed it), I found Lucy loitering around the beds and even poking her head under one of the guardrails. She gave me that “nothing to see here, move along” look. A little shiver went down my spine as I slowly walked toward my bed of lettuces and arugula. There, I found seedlings pulled out and some completely gone. How was it possible? I had installed two guardrails on all sides of the raised beds. In order for Lucy to gain access, she would have had to jump up on the 2 x 12 wood frame, and keep her balance while at the same time, flatten out and limbo under the guardrail. Oh, and also make sure not to get stuck or knock the guardrails down on top of her. I didn’t want to believe that she had been so brazen. I I tried to chalk it up to birds or varmints. However, I couldn’t shake the sense that Lucy was behind it.
Another week went by. I saw Lucy, with studied nonchalance, walk over by the beds, sniff a bit, look around and then walk away. I held off replanting the arugula and lettuces, and surreptitiously kept an eye on her movements. Sometimes, when she was outside, I would call her to come in, but not find her right away; she would suddenly appear from the direction of the beds. She was up to something, but I had no proof. In the meantime, I held off planting the carrots, beets and radishes in the other bed. The garden I had envisioned this season was not shaping up to my expectations. Instead of beds full of wonderful vegetables sprouting up, I had fallow soil.
Lucy and I played this cat-and-mouse game for a while. She knew I was on to her, I knew she was on to me, but who would blink first (metaphorically speaking, of course, because Lucy doesn’t blink – see paragraph 5 above)?
Perhaps Lucy got a little cocky or sloppy. After all, I’m just a human untrained in any form of recon-ops. But, I don’t care about the why of it, I only care that I finally caught her. It happened one morning as I was doing dishes. I could see my raised beds from my kitchen window. There was Lucy, over by the beds, sniffing and looking around. Here was my chance. I walked out to the corner of the house where I could see the beds clearly, and called for Lucy. No movement and no Lucy to be seen. I called again, while moving closer to the beds, but still no movement. I called one more time while standing 20 feet from the beds, knowing that if she was hiding, she wouldn’t be able to get by unnoticed. That’s when she shot out from the theoretically dog-proofed bed of Tomatoes and Basil, racing past me for freedom and away from trouble. She was so fast; I didn’t even try to catch her. As mad as I was, I was more relieved to have incontrovertible proof that she was, in fact, the culprit behind the missing/pulled plantings.
My suspicions confirmed, and feeling vindicated, I now knew what to do. I took a trip to the garden store, purchased bird netting, and modified the guardrails to include netting around the perimeter of the beds. I am happy report that the netting is working, and there have been no further incidences of doggie espionage.
With any luck, I might still be able to enjoy some arugula this season.