Hagebak: The adventures of puppy life

Published 10:00 am Saturday, May 13, 2017

I was so excited one morning this week that I could hardly work. I kept looking at the clock to see if it was almost time to go home for lunch. I even danced a little, now and again, trying hard to contain myself but failing miserably. I was hoping for the most wonderful thing, and I knew that I had a fifty-fifty chance that it would be waiting for me when I pulled into the driveway. And it was.

It wasn’t a cardboard box. It wasn’t an envelope peeking out of the mailbox with “Pay To The Order Of Pepper” just visible inside the cellophane window. And it wasn’t a really cute pink kayak, either. I stopped begging for one of those when that video of the alligator sliding into West Point Lake came out about a year ago.

It was a beautiful, velvety front lawn, shorn into submission and manicured to within an inch of its life.  The Lawnmower Man had come! He does three houses in a row on my street, and mine is in the middle. He was at my neighbor’s when I left for work, so I knew that he’d probably bite the bullet and do my yard too, but I’ve been through a couple of lawn services, and so I was overjoyed when I drew even with my yard and saw how pretty and fresh everything looked.

I pulled into the carport and ran into the den and right out onto the patio to check. Yes! The back yard was, well, not pretty exactly, but at least the grass was short. It’s not the Lawnmower Man’s fault that the back yard is kind of odd-looking, lumpy and with several large bare spots.

My back yard used to be a lawn. I had a beautiful border garden and the grass was so lush that it often bogged up lawnmowers and whoever was mowing would have to stop and turn the machine over and clean out the blades before they started again. Our dogs and cats pranced around, frisky but well-mannered, and I spent a lot of my time hanging out amongst the Dogwoods and the dogs, enjoying my lovely little corner of the world. Then I got a border collie.

My older border collie, Mac, is a dream. He’s a little territorial, but he wouldn’t dream of digging a hole or creating a Zen garden by dragging his toenails across the sod until there are rows of nicely fluffed up runnels in the dirt, and not one single blade of grass. He begged and begged for a little brother and when I brought Scottie home, Mac immediately set about showing him the ropes. Poop outside, sleep inside, get in the back of the line for Mama cuddles. That lasted about a week, and then I noticed that Mac had started spending a lot of time trying to let me know that it wasn’t he that ate the hose or started an excavation project.

I prided myself on my hose, you know. It was seventy-five feet long, and I could reach any area in my back yard to give plants or birdbaths a nice fill-up. One day, the hose shrank to seventy feet, and a couple of days later, it was sixty. Scottie chewed the entire hose into little inch-long bits that turned up underfoot when I went out without shoes, and caused a lot of colorful language until I figured out that they weren’t what they looked like.

Then, Scottie learned to turn the spigot on to make himself a swimming hole, but he just didn’t care a thing about turning it off, so when he came inside for the day, he just left the water running, and there went another chunk of back yard, drowned and bare. We finally nixed that by moving the baby pool that was on the patio for them to frolic in, beneath the spigot.

Scottie’s biggest claim to fame, and the reason that we’ve given up on “Southern Living” showing up for a backyard photo-shoot, is his ability to create artistic excavations in the most unlikely spots. He digs when he’s bored and he digs when he’s happy and he digs when he hears a mole wondering its subterranean domain. He might just knock the top layer of dirt off a spot and move on, or he might decide to see if the center of the Earth really is molten.

The Lawnmower Man charges a little extra for my back yard, and he deserves it for sure. I keep waiting for him to say, “Ma’am, I think we need to talk”, but for now, I’ll just enjoy my lovely front yard, and even the crazy backyard. I gave up one kind of beauty for another- the smiling, dirt-covered face of a pup I love more than any old flower.

Pepper Hagebak is a resident of LaGrange.