I've been logging in to my email with just a little more than the usual measure of trepidation these days.
Will today be the day I receive the missive? Will it be a general note to the whole group or something written directly to me? Will I be named, described? No one really knows me at the community garden, but if they said "girl with off-leash black dog who got into the barnyard" it would be pretty clear they were talking about me.
So far, nothing. But I'm not about to bring my dog back to the garden anytime soon. Though dogs are allowed, unruly dogs are not. And 'unruly' would have been an understatement in describing my dog's behavior.
I had the best intentions. I headed down to the garden at 7 pm to plant a few more tomatoes, acquired for half-price at my local farm. Lula, my dog, insisted (as she usually does) on riding shotgun. She's an unusually well-behaved dog . I can leave her in my car, windows completely rolled down, and not be concerned that she'll jump out. I usually find her, upon return, hiding just below the steering wheel. Considering she's a 50 lb dog, this is a feat of remarkable pretzeling.
I left her, windows open, and made my way down to my plot. I smiled at the other gardeners as I walked my plants and trowel down the hill, my bag slung across my chest. And then I felt a sudden wind approaching and watched with horror as that wind, created by the blazing figure of my animal-chasing labradoodle, blew past me and headed for the rabbit hutch. "She doesn't usually do that!" I called out to no one in particular as I dropped my plants, trowel and bag and ran toward her, screaming her name.
She's not difficult to subdue; I merely need to get within 10 feet of her and call in name in deep, rumbling baritone. It makes me sound like a death metal vocalist and has an almost magical effect. She drops to the ground, head down, and, as quickly as she flew out of control, is again obedient and deferential. I'm able to lead her without a leash exactly where I need her to go. But usually, when she bolts, I'm more than 10 feet from her, and my voice becomes too distant to have any effect.
In about 10 seconds I was next to her and she was down. I pointed at her insistently (I do this instead of making any physical contact - it seems to upset her as much) and directed her toward my plot. She came along without looking back toward the barn.
My plot is completely fenced in by plastic green mesh and has the appearance of a pen. Lula wouldn't go in first so I stepped through and beckoned her in. I closed the mesh 'door' after her, which provided the illusion of closure without actually securing her in with me. She wandered the plot and, to my horror, stepped on - or stepped perilously close to - my baby cucumber plants. After pacing each row in the plot, she finally settled into eating the weeds.
I found locations for my new tomatoes. I think I have about 30 plants now, though they look rather pathetic at this point in the season. I dug them in and then watered all the plants. It has been dry in Eastern Mass for the last few weeks, so I've been obliged to water a bit more than I'd like, though I try to avoid using more water than I need. Lula started lapping up the water that pooled in the rows (one of the major problems with my plot is that it sits on the part of the field that floods in the spring and doesn't drain well) and then, once it drained a bit more, she took a seat on the still-wet ground.
After I had finished the watering and weeding, I inspected my neighbors sprouted sunflower bed. It was doing better than I hoped. So I did the unthinkable. Or perhaps, a favor. I thinned the row to just a few plants. It was audacious, but so was the locating of their sunflower row so close to my bed, a practice expressly forbidden by the garden committee.
Satisfied with my act of sabotage, I headed back to the car with the dog. I pulled out my camera to take pictures of the gardens - everyone there approaches things so differently, I thought it would make an interesting blog post. As I focused on the photos, I became aware of a movement in my peripheral vision. I saw, as if in slow motion, my dog suddenly turn and dart back down the hill toward a pack of piglets that had emerged from the barnyard and were making their way toward the gardens.
It was one of those moments. I dropped everything, again and ran screaming down the hill. I could hear the piglets, shrieking. The gardeners dropped their tools to watch the spectacle. My dog made her way around the first barn and I saw her approach the pig pen. The mother pigs are huge - easily over 500 lbs. The last thing I wanted to see was a face-off between an angry mother pig and my 50 lb dog with more bark than bite.
The piglets, shrieking bloody murder, ran into their pen as their mothers and aunts dashed toward the fence, ready to take on whatever was threatening their progeny. From the farm house, where the Red Sox game was blaring, two young farmers materialized, running and screaming at the dog, who, I presumed they presumed, already had her incisors tearing into one of those spoiled, crop-stomping piglets.
I knew the farmers wouldn't catch my dog. My dog has successfully eluded baggage handlers at Logan Airport, causing me to miss my flight. She doesn't particularly like men, either, so I knew the farmers would struggle to contain her but would be successful in driving her away from the pig pen.
When she came back into my view, she was followed closely by the farmers. "Do you need help grabbing her?" they yelled.
"No, no, that's okay." I stuck a finger out and contorted my face into a mask of anger. I was more embarrassed than angry, but I had to give the appearance of anger. "LULA! SIT! NO!"
She immediated crouched down. She turned, fearfully, to look at the farmers. I couldn't even make eye contact with them.
We turned and made the walk of shame up the hill. I could hear the gardeners talking to each other about it. Instead of consternation, they were actually pleased. "She did us a favor," I heard. "Who left the door open to the pig pen? They were coming out to the garden and they shouldn't be out here."
I avoided making eye contact with anyone as I left.