It’s always a 3-dog night at my house.

Dogs.  I like dogs.  I own three.  That’s a lie.  They own me.

What do dogs have to do with gardening?  Well, quite a lot actually at my house.  I only ever wanted two dogs, but I “guilted” myself into three, which was one of the best decisions I ever made.

You see, last summer, I was being a good dog owner by walking my two dogs every evening.  This is when I ran into a mama dog and her five puppies living under a vacant building close to downtown.  All of them were feral.  The pups were about 5 weeks old and being that it was over 100 degrees outside during the day, I began bringing them water and feeding them.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch them and well….I called animal control who did catch them…and took them to the humane society, where you probably think everything ended happily ever after.  If you want to believe that, stop here.


The mama dog was euthanized.  (I didn’t know they would do this. I’d offered to adopt her.) Next, the puppies contracted Parvo, and they were all euthanized two weeks later.  I felt terrible. I felt responsible.  I felt like a killer.  I felt betrayed.  I’d given them a $100 donation, and they’d put MY puppies to sleep.  At the time, I didn’t know why.

I also talked long and hard with the mayor, a humane society board member, and one of the shelter workers regarding this incident.  Finally, I decided I would begin volunteering at the humane society despite everything.  Maybe I could personally make a difference at this high kill shelter? Maybe I could bring a few animals some joy, and relief to the over-worked staff.

Of course, they put me to work in “cat adoption” cleaning litter boxes and cages.  Ha!  Another story for another time.

After cleaning at the shelter, I would walk dogs.  Many of these dogs didn’t get out of their pen, and they had LOTS of energy.  Some even knocked me down.  And this is where I met Elly, a black lab puppy mix.

Elly came to the shelter at 3 months of age.  Those who surrendered her said she was found wandering the streets, abandoned, but there’s a lot of doubt about that story.  Anyway, when I took Elly out to walk, she walked like a pro and was extremely attentive to every move I made.  Sadly, when it was time to put her back into her pen, her paws wrapped around my neck, and it was obvious she didn’t want to let go.  My heart was torn. This happened more than once.  It didn’t help either that she had “Bette Davis” eyes or that I was well aware of black dog syndrome.

I mentioned to the staff that I might consider adopting her.  The staff immediately placed her on ‘hold’.  Notice, I only said I MIGHT consider taking her, but the staff knew a sucker when they saw one.

Well, anyway, that’s how Elly Belly Munchy Mouth came to live at my house last September.  No, I still don’t NEED three dogs.  Who does?

Now, I read about other dogs in garden blogs.  These dogs are referred to as “my gardening buddy.” For example someone might write, “My dog, Eliza Honeycutt Fart Bubble, helps me in the garden.”   Well, that’s NOT Elly.  Elly NEVER helps me in the garden.  She lays in the holes I’m trying to dig.  She sticks her face in my face whenever I’m on the ground. She digs holes of her own where I don’t want them, and worst of all, she puts her mouth on everything I touch.

Elly Belly Munchy Mouth does like plants but not in a nice way.  You see, Elly has a stick agenda, a wood fetish, a crunching vocation that she takes seriously, AND all sticks ALWAYS taste better if I’ve touched them.  To Elly, newly planted trees (sticks) are caramel candy with a chewy green after-taste that should be, but aren’t, followed by a dog treat appetizer

So this morning when I picked up a decent size stick, about 24” long with a few side branches, I couldn’t hide it from Elly.

My goal was to place this stick on top of my hugelkultur berm where it could rot with good cause.

Elly’s goal, on the other hand, was to get THAT stick and chew it into 10,000 pieces.  Now, there are sticks all over the yard, and the dog has endless choices from which to pick.  Instead, she fixates on MY stick.

I hide it behind my back.  “Go away, Elly,” I say in an annoyed tone.

She goes behind my back.

I turn around so the stick is away from her.  She turns around and follows the stick–Hey, she’s not stupid.

I plead with her, “Come on, Elly! Go away!” She’s stubborn.–All labs are, and all reportedly like to chew until they are 2 years old. Finally, I give in and give it to her, and the joy she expresses from the receipt of this gift is indescribable.  She frolics around the yard, stick in mouth.  Crunch, crunch, crunch.

If I were to have placed it on the berm, Elly would have helped herself to it when I wasn’t looking.  It’s happened before.

When she finished chewing the stick and has moved on to chasing butterflies and squirrels, I pick up the stick pieces, as best I can, and place them on the berm.

Did I mention cayenne pepper is my friend?

Come to my house and you might think my plants have an orange fungus.  Fortunately, once a plant has been in the ground for a while, and Mz. Elly can’t smell me on that plant, she leaves it alone.  Elly’s only eaten a Cecile Brunner rose, a small dogwood, a small lantana, and two amaryllis, which required an emetic to make her throw up.  Lately, she’s gotten much better.


Side Note:  You may think it’s not smart to allow my address to show online.  I gave it a lot of thought before putting up the link; however, I’m not worried.  I have a house alarm, three dogs (two of whom are large and not especially friendly to strangers), and finally, I never go anywhere.  In the age of travel, shopping, movies, etc., I’m home most of the time.  Further, if I did actually go anywhere, I wouldn’t post it online.

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