Chapter VIII



       A good dog can be a lot of help in the garden. If you can just train your owner to like gardening, you can have company in the back yard almost every day. And if you learn to stay in the front yard and not chase the neighbor's cat too far down the driveway, you might even be allowed to help garden in the front yard once in a while.
     Unfortunately, most of us have owners who are at best "Sunday gardeners." They buy lots of new plants at the nursery once every few months and then forget to take care of them.
     One of the ways I've learned to teach them to replant small plants for instance, is to pull up newly planted or just watered Marigolds. They're a cinch to pull out, even for a small dog. What you do is bring the whole plant (try not to shake too much dirt off the roots) and lay it at the back door or in a conspicuous place. This will bring even an avid television-viewer-owner outside to replant it. While they are doing this, you can point out several other things that need their attention. It is also a good reminder that they forgot to fence off any newly planted things they don't want you to walk on, or dig up. It's difficult to teach owners that newly cultivated garden plots are ideal for dogs to dig in. You have to keep reminding them to block off areas they want you to avoid.
     Of course you must train them to leave your bone burying ground alone and to leave certain pathways open that you've established for the quickest cat-chasing procedures.
     Then there's the drip system. This alas, is not a foolproof watering system. Even with a careful owner's atention these little black hoses and spray ends have a tendency to spring a leak, sometimes. The fastest way to get them repaired is to investigate them thoroughly yourself. This usually involves getting at least your front paws and your face full of mud. Then you run into the house and confront your owner. They will yell at you at first, but in the end, they'll be grateful to know that one of the drip sprays was going all over cement instead of the vegetables.
     Weeding is an on-going garden problem known to all dogs and owners. The best you can do with this is let your owners pull up what they think are weeds. They'll be right about 50% of the time. Then if they are sloppy enough to just set the weeds down beside the bed, instead of immediately putting them into a trash container, you can train them quickly by picking up the pulled-up weed and running off iwth it.
     Of course all gardening need not be that active. You can sit quietly next to your owners when they work in the garden and offer moral support. Wag your tail occasionally if you see them doing something really productive and try to make their outdoor time as pleasant as possible. Then they'll add a little ball playing time while they're there, or at least give you an extra pat on the head.
     Keeping other animals out of the garden is one of our main chores. With a little practice you can scoot out your dog door at night as soon as you hear an intruder and bark - just enough to alert your owner. Train him to either put on a big outside light or yell out the door or window. This will scare that cat, raccoon, or heaven forbid, a skunk, while you stand on the back porch and look important. If you're unfortunate enough to get too close to a skunk, be sure you teach your owner to bathe you with tomato juice.

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