Gardening with a Canine Companion

Gardening with a dog can be a trying experience.

Lucy in her domain

Lucy in her domain

I have a 7 year  West Highland White Terrier-Poodle cross,
affectionately known as a Westie-poo. She’s 18 pounds of pure energy
and she patrols the back yard like it’s her own personal domain.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING gets by her.

In the spring she watches me closely as I clean up the yard, following
behind to sniff any new smells I’ve inadvertently unearthed. She
joyfully chases my rake but runs terrified from the leaf blower.

She enjoys the days when I dump compost from the bin to sort and dry
it out. There are always a few bits of partially rotted potential food
she can try to steal before I chase her off.

Lucy patrols the perimeter of the yard with military precision and
regularity. She’s aware of which cats may have crossed the perimeter
under the cover of dark. Nose to the ground, she traces the path of
any mice that might have come looking for seeds or hidden nuts.

Some days I’ll find her barking deliriously at the squirrel who sits
high above on the phone line chattering away. It’s a standoff that
often lasts until I intercede, chasing the squirrel away with some
harsh words or a carefully tossed pinecone.

Lucy’s one great love is hunting. Although the yard isn’t large by any
standards it seems to attract birds in droves in the spring. I like
birds. I don’t do anything to encourage them to my yard because I know
that they risk their lives when Lucy’s around. Still, they love one of
my trees and they enjoy nibbling at my pea sprouts, so there isn’t
much I can do to chase them off.

So every year Lucy gets a half dozen or so birds. Usually she takes
down those unfortunate birds that aren’t paying particular attention
to their flight path as they show off for a potential mate. Courtship
can be dangerous.

Preying on the weak, Lucy targets the poor fledglings as well. More
than once I’ve raced her to a baby bird while the parents chirp out an
alarm call from above. Fortunately I usually win.

When she is successful in hunting, she likes to bury her conquest in
the garden somewhere for later inspection and possible consumption.
That means from time to time I may happen upon a partially decomposed
featherless bird or tiny mole among my tulips.

All that wouldn’t be so bad, but Lucy is also aware of the vegetarian
delights of the back yard.

She is a big fan of green beans, and to be honest I grow them just for
her. Since she discovered how to pick them herself I’ve found little bits of
stem stuck in the fur surrounding her mouth on a regular basis.
And peas? Yup. There are no peas for me to harvest lower than one foot off
the ground. Carrots? Thankfully she doesn’t dig those up…at least not

Lucy enjoys her back yard as much as I do, perhaps more. I find her at
this time of year lying in the warmest south-facing flowerbed with her
belly pointed towards the sun. She would spend every day there if I’d
hang out with her.

And that’s just what we like to do; we both enjoy spending our summers languishing in the tiny green oasis I’ve created in the middle of the city.

When we are both ready for a nap we crawl into the hammock and close our eyes. Or at least I do. Lucy only closes one eye, because she’s always on duty.