Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Man's Best Friend?

Throughout history the dog has always enjoyed the lofty title as “man’s best friend.”  Always glad to see his master, always ready to protect him, always faithful.  A friend no matter what.

Last summer we had dreamy visions of how a puppy would bring our family such enjoyment.  A cute little female yellow lab mix would be perfect.  Our family would give her plenty of attention, and she would be the faithful family dog for many years to come.  And we would all cry and be devastated when she was no longer with us.  With these ideal images in our heads, Yeller became part of our family.

It was hard for the kids to play with her at first because she would bite and chew on them.  But it was only the “puppy stage” we were sure.  We got chew toys and bones for her to chew on, but that didn’t seem to make much difference.  She will grow out of it we told ourselves, and the kids would just need to be firm with her.  It would be fine.

Soon the kids were too boring for her, and she set her sights on things like the dryer vent, a drain cover, siding, pipe insulation on the air conditioner, the grill brush, the grill cover, the swing, any toys left outside, or any random arms or legs that came close to her.  A child’s ear was once the target as well.  Putting hot sauce on the items worked for a little bit, but you can’t put hot sauce on a child’s arm.  Her chew toys she left alone.  I would give her bones, but those she would bury in the garden or flowerbed, then re-bury them over and over again so that no one would steal them.  These activities led to much sighing and exasperation on our part.  She would grow out of it we kept saying.  We would be able to train her, we were sure of it.  It would be worth it.

Yeller is now one year old, and looks just like a miniature version of a yellow lab.  Except she is missing the brains.  About twice a week I tell my wife that the time has come for us to give up on her, and admit that she (Yeller) is just plain stupid. Mercy has prevailed so far, and she has stayed here despite my threats.

My wife’s grandma gave us a beautiful rose bush; and after much debate and head scratching about where to put it, we planted it in the backyard, close to the deck. One morning, I looked out the back door and asked her if she had decided to move the rose bush. She assured me that she had not moved it from the designated spot. The spot was dug up as if someone had used a shovel to remove the bush.  I decided to investigate.  My theory was that Yeller had dug it up, dragged it out into the yard, and left it somewhere.  I expected to find the bush lying around after Yeller discovered the thorny qualities of the bush. A quick scan of the premises did not show any rose bush lying around.  Surely it would be behind the playhouse, or under the deck where Yeller likes to cool off on the hot summer days.  Nothing.  I did find a couple of small leaves in the grass close to where she had dragged the bush out of the flowerbed.  The plastic tag describing the missing plant lay there too as evidence of foul play.  After walking through the yard searching diligently, I found the story.  What I found was about a foot in length with half of it being the root. Yeller had eaten the rose bush. The whole thing. Flowers, thorns, leaves, branches, everything.  Except the tag and the root.

The snack had not been without sacrifice. The right side of her mouth had a large area of dried blood. It was of little consolation. I stuck the remaining root/branch through her collar, so she could think about it for a while.  With the seemingly small quantity of brain in her head, I doubt the stick in her collar did much good.

I still hold on to the hope that Yeller will eventually respond to our efforts of training her.  She will grow out of it.  I am sure that she will become “man’s best friend.”  Or maybe it will be like the old saying, “With friends like this, who needs enemies?”

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Frugality of Gardening

Plant a garden they say.  Or raise chickens in your backyard.  Compost, re-use, recycle.  Preserve your own food.  Be green and save money.  Thriftiness and frugality are in style.  There is advice everywhere on how to do these things.

And so I have bought into it; partly to save money, and partly because I enjoy it.  Last year, I decided to build a raised bed for a garden.  Of course, it had to be just right, and the materials were not cheap.  But I forged on with thoughts of baskets full of vegetables at harvest.  The most frugal thing about the garden was the free tomato plants I scored.  Those tomato plants did very well.  I had also purchased two other tomato plants from a greenhouse, and only one survived.  The pepper plants I bought died too.  The cucumber plant produced five small fruits until it gave up, and the carrots, lettuce, and spinach didn’t even make an appearance.  The garden became the neighborhood litter box for all the local cats (there are lots of them).  I tried Critter Ridder, fertilizer, regular watering, prayer, encouraging the plants, yelling at the plants, and various other proven growing methods.  Nothing seemed to help, so we had a garden full of tomatoes. Very expensive tomatoes on free plants.

So this is a new year and hope springs anew.  We have acquired a dog since last spring, and she is quite effective in keeping the cats out of the yard.  I need to learn to be equally effective in keeping the dog out of the garden.  I am thinking that keeping one dog out of the garden may be easier than keeping 20 cats out of their old litter box.  Last year I saved seeds from my favorite (free) tomato plants.  I am trying to start my own plants inside this year instead of buying them at a greenhouse, but my hopes are dwindling since I keep forgetting to water them.

In my experience gardening and frugality have not gone hand in hand.  I think I could save money by just buying produce locally.  It gets frustrating when things don’t grow and produce as planned, but the hope that comes with the warmer weather, the joy of working outside, and dreams of a bountiful harvest, will keep me trying again each year.  I have a feeling though that this will be the year…