Puppy versus garden

The prospect of a quiet, kid-free week sat deliciously within view, like a chocolate éclair in a cake cabinet. A chance to catch up on my garden to-do list, plant out the new front native garden and perhaps lie in the hammock with a book.

Then I bought a puppy.

In considering whether a dog would be a good idea, my concerns centred on toilet training and chewing household furniture.

My distinct inexperience in dog ownership meant I failed to conceive the garden-terrorising capabilities of a rambunctious Border Collie pup.

Thanks for that

The learning curve was steep and rapid.

An early lesson was that we should have named the 12-week-old firecracker Digger. Or the Garden Terrorist, which seems infinitely more apt.

Like many youngsters learning through mimicry, the Garden Terrorist simply adored helping in the garden.

I’d dig a hole, she’d make it bigger. I’d plant something, she’d dig it back out. I’d heave the sharp-edged shovel into the soil mound, she’d make a kamikaze game of trying to get there first.

She also showed a natural inclination towards untimely pruning. Appearing out of nowhere, she’d launch herself across a garden bed and emerge the other side with a branch between her teeth. Our nectarine sapling halved in height thanks to her.

Her herding instinct was directed at weeds. While this seemed good in theory, it was less helpful when the weeds were snatched from my hands or bucket and returned to the garden.

This might all sound terribly cute with the benefit of impartiality and distance. But it really wasn’t. There were expletives.

Mind the plants

She enjoys water; more specifically trying to catch it as it comes out of sprinklers. Once again demonstrating her gazelle-like ability to launch, she rushes at sprinkler heads, snapping at the spray and crushing everything in her path.

And then there are her rescue instincts. Like the time she saved a seed I’d sown in the ridiculous hope of actually growing something. Intent on doing the job right, and living up to her reputation, the Garden Terrorist created an impressive crater where the seed once lay. And don’t bother putting a plant protector around seedlings because they are apparently way more fun than any other chew toy on offer.

She has attempted to rescue the solar lights staked beneath the ornamental cherry and has made a fair attempt at freeing a medium-sized fig tree from its spot in the garden.

These are just some of the reasons why I questioned my timing and sanity in bringing home a puppy. But there are of course plenty of reasons why I didn’t follow through with my heated threats to take her back.

As a long-time cat lover, it is novel to have a pet that actually cares you exist outside of feeding time.

Every morning, her tail thumps a happy beat that could well be saying, “I’ve missed you soooooo much!” She flat out refuses to go anywhere until she’s had her dose of good-morning cuddles.

Her determination to make friends with our unimpressed 14-year-old cat is both endearing and amusing.

I love watching her play soccer with a ball that is one-third her body size, rolling over with it in the momentum of her game. Similarly when she tries to carry a Frisbee and the wind flicks it up over her face, blocking her view but not her enthusiasm.

And while the vet suggests it could be an early sign of obsessive behaviour, her penchant for nesting is an endless source of fascination (and occasional injury) as the collection of sticks, pebbles, lost golf balls, strips of bark and weathered tennis balls build up at our back door.

smiley dog
All smiles

The Garden Terrorist always looks as though she’s smiling, which means you can’t help but feel all smiley, too. What a gift, right?

Finally – and I’m sure every dog owner says it – my dog is really smart. Or, at least, she has the potential to be.

Like the garden, she’s a work in progress and she’s here to stay.


“Whoever said you can’t buy happiness forgot little puppies.”

-Gene Hill

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