As soon as I turn the calendar page to March, I start spinning a fantasy of my backyard garden this summer, lush with vegetables and flowers, alive with flavor and color. I see tomato plants sunbathing in fat red pots on our patio. Neat rows of snap peas, carrots, spinach, arugula, broccolini and heirloom lettuce, for a seasonlong salad bowl. Two dozen pumpkin seedlings, snug in their peat pots and ready for transplanting. An herb garden with rosemary, basil, lemon thyme, oregano and Italian parsley. Fragrant sweet peas climbing a latticework trellis. Pansies and alyssum edging a raised bed, where tulips, delphiniums, Southern Charm mullein and Iceland poppies bloom.
I manage to create at least a few scenes from my daydream every year. Now, though, a 35-pound Bernedoodle puppy named Duffy has joined our family. I can already tell that this fluffy, black and brown baby dog, roughly the size of a bear cub, has a natural talent for impetuous gardening. He gallops through our house, clamping a nylon bone between his teeth and leaving big, muddy paw prints on the hardwood floors. After his morning walk, I unlatch the gate, unclip his leash and turn him loose in the backyard for his daily, high-speed nut-out, running laps around the raised beds, past the hawthorn tree, and along the fence, until he’s panting and grinning. The raised beds are still empty, occupied only by a flock of polka-dotted tin chickens, but when the garden wakes up, Duffy could easily flatten an entire lettuce patch with his oversize feet.
Towels, especially clean ones, are annoying creatures that must be pounced on and shredded. An old white sock is the tough guy in Duffy’s world. No matter how many times the fierce puppy shakes it, tosses it high above his head and traps it between his front paws, that sock survives to fight another day. I fear for the safety of my garden gloves this summer.