Guest Writer Honors Deceased Pup and the Fall 2006 Gardens Finale

Guest Writer Michelle honors Tracker who awaits her at Rainbow Bridge.

And the Fall gardens. The frost came and went and the final pictures are in.

Pic of the Day
cute baby cougar

Quote of the Day
Classic Quotes by Claude Monet (1840-1926) French landscape painter

"Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love."
"For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life - the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value."
"I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers."

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The Killing Frost

And so it happens every year and yet when it does I am still saddened.

A whole garden full of happy flowers bloom happily the evening before, and the next morning the gardens resemble boiled spinach.

The killing frost descends upon us but this year I captured the gardens in full bloom on a timely enough basis that I avoided the frost and can remember, not the boiled spinach, but the flowers and plantings I’d lovingly tended at the full breadth of their bloom.

Fall 2006 garden montage

Thus I remember the successes, the failures, the wonder of the planting season just past. The plethora of the herbs in the whisky barrels continue to grow and thrive. With a smile I recall how I eagerly offered passersby some sage, perhaps some catnip? I mean, how much sage and oregano can one person possibly use, even if an eager cook?

I will remember the beautiful chrysanthemums that I’d hastily planted from a purchased pot the prior year for decoration only. Eventually I decided, why not? So I stuck them in the ground and this past year they rewarded me threefold again with a beautiful bloom, double the size of their original purchased size.

Carnations were a new addition to the gardens this year and they grew so well that I intend to make them a permanent garden flower.

Giallardias, or “painted blanket”, were added this past season and while the Delaware nature society warns that they are invasive, I say, let them invade. These are daisy-like flowers but bloom in a bright orange tipped by a yellow fringe. They make great cut flowers and hey, they grow.

I could never grow marigolds in my former gardens shaded by ten massive oak trees. Here in Serendipity Shore marigolds grow to an exuberant profusion, peaking in September to cover the landscape with yellow, gold and variegated beauty.

Of course the staples of my gardens grew, bloomed and fed the bug and bird critters. The hummingbirds, as always, adored the red sage and petunias of every color poured out of the new hanging planters in my container garden. Impatience and begonias grew in an orderly fashion in front of the porch, pretty and perfect in that shady spot.

This past year I actually grew Gladiolas, that ubiquitous flower generally surrounding caskets at funeral homes. My gladiolas were not as tall and filled with bloom as those around dead people but it was their first year. The gladiolas are guaranteed to survive the winter so we shall see.

All in all 2006 was a successful garden year as I struggled to re-create new gardens in my home in the swamps of Delaware. I’ve now lived here three full gardening seasons and perennials generally take three years to settle in before taking off. I’ve had to spend thoughtful gardener time studying the lot’s eco-system and consider what plantings needed to be added where, what sort of sunlight is provided over there as opposed to over here, whether I could get some lovely Rose of Sharons to bloom along the fence line.

The dull of winter will soon settle in and then I must begin to plan the 2007 planting season with the hope that springs eternal in every gardener.

I end the 2006 planting season with the pic below, the view from my front porch, as the trees change color and bid us goodbye for their long winter rest.

Fall views of garden 2006 from front porch

More Gardens and Bird posts HERE
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Some Lives Goes On

Even when we feel like it most assuredly won't, life continues. The sun rises and sets, the seasons change, the cat box needs to be emptied, and bills must be paid.

With Tracker's death, I felt empty. The day to day doings felt useless. Who cares if the phone bill gets paid? What use in eating dinner? Yet habits and duty called, and those things continued to be done.

With every task came its associated thoughts. Dinner brought memories of the care with which we'd not fed Tracker table scraps at his young age (both for learning not to beg, and for his growing body's health). Shutting things down for the night brought a quick reminder to "put the dog out." Working on our still-evolving house brought memories of Tracker's comical and pathetic howling outside the back door during that last painting party.

So many good and painful memories, attacking me at every turn. Tracker's daintiness when eating, his good-natured acceptance of being handled, his hearty nose-thrust when teasing you with a toy. His race to the printer stand whenever the printer was turned on (how did he know?), his tendency to jump in the shower before you could, his stoic obsession to the duty of harassing the cat at every opportunity. His way of being a ham when it counted, and his excellent beginnings in obedience class.

Though I tried not to, I often found my thoughts returning to his last hours. Why and how did he get out of the backyard? The dog he was staying with was still there, the gates shut. Did he climb the fence or was he let out? I could envision either one happening - he suddenly learns he can get over a six-foot fence (Shelties do it all the time in agility trials) or someone thinks they can get into the yard so they open the gate. Out comes Tracker, all wiggles as he wags his tail at his rescuer. Then comes the other dog, all snarls and teeth. The gate is slammed shut, leaving one dog in and one dog out.

Why did he travel? Where did he think he was going?

Tracker didn't know about cars.

By the time we got the call and were out looking for him, his body had already been picked up by Animal Control. By the time I asked God to watch over him, he was already gone.

Last November, when we made the decision to put Sindar to sleep, we were braced for the absence of a dog. Even ready for it, it was hard. The silences and the emptiness of the house were strange, unfamiliar things. We agonized over the decision, and we agonized over whether to get another dog. It took us a couple of months to decide to get Tracker. When we did, we geared ourselves mentally for another twelve to eighteen years of having a dog around.

Suddenly that was gone. Vanished, in the blink of a driver's eye, the squeal of brakes. What happened to my twelve to eighteen years? Cheated, I felt. Robbed. And I began to think of getting another dog. Not as a replacement, as someone told me so profoundly, but as a distraction.

Guest writer TRACKER

When I remembered to put the dog out, there would actually be a dog to put out. When I saw the "nuclear cow" that was Tracker's favorite toy, there would be another dog around to whom it belonged.

I think I talked Harry into it, since I don't think he was quite ready. Still, he's very patient with me and we began to search for another dog.

Enter Tyler.

We saw and decided against a puppy in Stockton. At six and a half weeks old, it was very cute, but we felt that was too young for the little guy to be sold and while the house was immaculate, the yard the pups were in was dirty and the mom smelled like crap. Literally.

I looked online for Sheltie breeders and found Mystic-Isle. Located in Sebastopol, she had a pup who was almost five months old. A beautiful pup, she said. So we drove to Sebastopol, about two and a half hours away.

Tyler, the "five months old Tuesday" pup, is short. Since we'd been used to tall and lanky, he looked very short. But he immediately came to both of us and demanded to be petted. Tracker never really liked petting. Tyler's markings are different. He has a lot more white in the collar area, and less on his face. He's also a lot stockier than we're used to.

We spent some time getting to know Tyler in his environment. He was alert, attentive, playful, and very, very determined that if there was an unoccupied hand, it should be petting him. We took Tyler home with us.

We have, however, changed his name. "Tyler" wasn't something we were too keen on, but if he'd answered to it, we might have kept it. Repeated usages elicited no response. Even using "Ty-Ty" which was the affectionate version, didn't get an answer. Not even so much as a cocked ear.

What to call him?

We were warned: Tyler gets carsick. Okay, we can deal with that.

Well, yes, in the two and a half hour drive home, Tyler got sick. A lot. (Since then, we've found his limit is about 15 minutes.) We stopped twice to pick up paper towels. Poor Harry had to drive the entire time (I had intended to share the chore) because he'd rather do that than catch vomit. (I don't blame him.)

Tyler's new name? Bounty... after the yards and yards of paper towels we used.

Today, Bounty is an energetic, bouncy baby boy. He hasn't been in a car since Tuesday (when he was five months old). He pretty much ignores the cat (who also ignores him) and he's learning to negotiate walking/running/jumping on newly refinished hardwood floors.

He doesn't react at all when the printer is turned on, and he doesn't race us to the shower. He doesn't understand the commands "heel," "sit," "stay," "floor," or "mine."

He does understand "no," so it's just a matter of learning which parts of the house are "no" and which aren't. And growing up enough to jump up on to the bed.

He's a lover, and an explorer. And he's got the most endearing habit of coming up into your lap and collapsing sideways against you, as if to say, "Here I am. Pet me."

Some people say it's too soon. They're wrong.

We haven't stopped grieving for Tracker. We've simply started loving Bounty, too.
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