Sunday, June 16, 2013

carrot digging and family literacy


We have two dogs, both labradors.  One is named Sirius, and he is enormous and all black with a white spot on his chest.  The kids named him for the North Star and for Sirius Black, of the Harry Potter series.  Despite his 80 pounds?  He is afraid of everything.  Including his tail.

Our other labrador is named Millie, after Emily Dickinson.  And she is brown and small.  The runt of the litter, a pocket lab if you will.  And she is in charge, fearless, and a very bad influence.


She likes to destroy things.

Despite this, they are both extremely lovable and gentle and the best dogs you could imagine for young children.



This is a picture of them, where they belong.  Outside the garden gate.


They belong outside the garden gate because they have a thing for digging holes, in this case, near the hosta.  I think they are chasing long gone chipmunks but I am not sure.  Perhaps they just really hate hosta.  Hosta makes them hostile?  Me, too.

They are both very, very naughty.  I am aware that we have only ourselves to blame for this.  But please forgive us.  We were raising newborns during their formative years.  We believed strongly in the gift of having dogs in one's life for young children, and for ourselves.  But these dogs endured our sleep deprivation and blundering through our parenting of three young children.  And were lucky that we remembered to feed them, too.

The other night, Jonathan went to call them in from some time outside before we went to bed.  Millie appeared at the door.  But not Sirius.  Jonathan called and called, but Sirius did not come.  We both went out running, knowing that Sirius is a strong bodied and strong willed dog.  I have found him many times outside of his Invisible Fence area.  This dog, who will bark at 4:30 AM to be let out, chooses this moment to wait for me silently to come find him, wherever it is that he decided that chasing that squirrel, or eating that crab apple, or visiting the graveyard was worth the shock delivered by his fence collar.  He has the fence company scratching their heads.  The fact that we live on a busy street terrifies me that he is going to end up out there one of these times.  And he is large, like a moose.  Here in Maine, we brake for moose but I worry about Sirius, antler free and less likely to charge.

We both ran out into the night calling to him.  I listened for rustling, as I know he sits silently, waiting for me to come to him.  Staring at me, tail wagging.  And looking quite apologetic.  And then I realized it was pitch dark.  No moon.  So I turned to run back inside for a flashlight, passing Jonathan who was looking irritated and worried, running toward the graveyard  -- one place we definitely don't want him to dig.

As I sprinted back toward the house and past the garden, I saw a bit of movement and heard some rustling next to me.  On the wrong side of the garden fence.

And relaxed.  Because no groundhog, skunk, fox, raccoon or possum, all of which we have seen here, was this big.  It was either a deer.  Or Sirius.

He had let himself in through one of the garden gates that I had apparently left open.  And was nosing about.  I was thinking ripe strawberries were what had been his seductress of the night, but who knows.  It could have just as likely been the compost I had spread, given what I know of his taste.

We let him out the garden gate and then back inside the house, chastizing him while petting him with relief, and all went to bed.

The next day, I was working in the garden trying to get a handle on the weeds.

I came to the carrot patch.  And smiled as I saw the sign Elliott had written in Sharpie on a rock the other day.


I worked my way down the row pulling a weed/plant that was so densely sprouting that it looked like it had to have been seeded intentionally.

And came, midway down, to a very large hole.  It was 3 feet deep, I kid you not.  And as wide.  I would show you a picture, but it turns out I have been taking beautiful pictures, some of my best ever...for the past four days...on a camera without its memory card installed.  

So just picture it in your head.

I was perplexed.  Had I done that?  Late night sleepwalk potato digging?

Then I remembered the Sirius incident the night before.


Here lies the remains of the hole that, before I weeded the area and scooped the dirt back into the void, demonstrated one labrador's prowess.  I've since reseeded that section of the row of carrots.

Elliott's sign had been moved, as all the nonrooted items in the garden seem to be.  During the course of each day, small hands make the inanimate animate and aid in the migration of otherwise sedentary objects.


So I am thinking, either Sirius got really anxious when he heard me calling and could not get me to find him...his intense eye gaze not working in the dark...and started digging nervously...

Or he was struck with a fit of cleaning frenzy and decided to help me weed in order to offset the time I was spending looking about the yard for him...

Or I have completely underestimated his canine intelligence.  And, in fact, he can read.


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