Who knew a hole in the ground between the back yard lilac bushes was so important?
Greta dug the hole not long after she came to live with us in 2006. It was not too deep, not too wide, just the right size for a long-bodied, 70-pound dog. The excavation exposed a few lilac roots, which she had to chew off so they wouldn’t be in the way. She used the hole as an air-conditioning system for hot weather. It was perfect for pressing her fur against the cool earth, lying still and panting.
“I told you, she’s a digger,” my husband said when he saw Greta’s landscaping work. “She’ll dig under the fence and run away.”
“No, because I’ll be out there with her and I’ll know if she starts digging. I can stop her before she goes too far,” I pledged.
Ron was right that Greta would do a little exploratory digging under the fence, but wrong about her escaping the yard. She abandoned the project after a few firm “no!” commands. She now digs under the fence only if she has a good reason, such as the need to retrieve a toy that has rolled beyond her reach. Or the need to reach a toy she has shoved under the fence so she could practice problem-solving to get it back.
Ron didn’t get the hole filled before he died. The winter of his death fell away into spring, and the hole stayed. Summer came, and Greta lay in it, panting. Somehow, in the four springs that have come and gone since then, I never filled the hole. The lilacs accommodated themselves to the new reality and continued to grow. Greta used the hole on hot summer days.
This summer, as I was engaged in dumping clippings from freshly mowed grass onto the weeds in a futile attempt to smother them, I looked at the hole between the lilac bushes. It was ugly. It’s pretty tough for exposed clay soil mixed with stones to look good.
I had some extra grass clippings. I would have to add topsoil as they gradually decomposed, but they would fill the hole and it would look better. I dumped in the clippings.
Greta paid no attention to the filled hole for several days. Then, during a toy toss game, her squeaky toy rolled into the hole. She emerged with the toy, a mouthful of grass clippings, and a disgusted expression. I did nothing, and we continued our game. At the end of the game, Greta went over and pawed experimentally at the clipping-filled hole. But she did not dig the clippings out.
It rained. Again. It has rained on 20 of the first 28 days of September this year, dumping 11.84 inches of rain on us in a month when the average is 3.73. Texas, if you need help ending your drought, come tap our saturated ground and overflowing streams. Please. And if you can find a way to take the clouds south for a couple of weeks, that’s fine too.
When we went out during a break in the rain, the grass clippings were soggy and yucky. Greta pawed at them and looked at me. I stood firm on the principle that the former hole looked better filled with soggy grass clippings than it did as mud.
I left Greta in the yard while I went into the kitchen to combine spices and broth in the slow cooker, brown the meat and add it. When I returned to check on her, Greta had been busy. Her paws were covered with dirt and clumps of grass were flung onto the lawn.
The new hole is at the opposite end of the yard from the former hole. The location is not as desirable as the original, because it is not sheltered from the sun. The earth isn’t going to be refreshingly cool if it’s sunbaked.
I was going to scold her, but, you know, she has a point. Instead, I dug the grass clippings out of the original hole, restoring it to pristine mud. I filled in the new hole and stuck clumps of grass back on top in the hope they will re-root.
It’s been too wet recently to know whether the restored hole is going to work out. But if we get a warm, sunny day, Greta will test it out. She’ll let me know.
(c) 2011 by Donna Engle