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A Butterfly Bush

 

The other day, when I was looking through pet blogs, as I always do, I came across a wonderful idea for how to honor Miss Butterfly: plant something beautiful with her ashes. Mom loved the idea, because she’s a gardener, and she immediately envisioned a pink Butterfly Bush as the appropriate tribute, and found the perfect spot for it, with enough sun, and drainage, and space to grow.

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My Butterfly

I had to research Butterfly Bushes, of course, and at first I was overwhelmed with articles about the negatives: how Butterfly Bushes are non-native plants, and invasive, and kill off native plants, and kill off insects, and on and on. But I persisted in my reading and found other views, and Mom was adamant that the positives outweigh the negatives.

But I’m still reluctant. I’ve been struggling to figure out how to say goodbye to Butterfly, or when. I don’t want to scatter her ashes too soon, because then I could never get them back. As if I still have her with me, because I still have her ashes. And scattering Miss Butterfly’s ashes here means that she can’t go with me if I ever choose to leave. And if the Butterfly Bush doesn’t survive well, then I won’t have the chance to replant her ashes somewhere else.

I didn’t feel this way when Dina, my black lab mix, died, at sixteen years and two months old. I’d had her for her whole life, minus the first eight weeks, and I saw her through every complicated stage of her development. I had Butterfly for less than five years, and it just wasn’t enough, even though she herself was ready to go.

I think the Butterfly Bush may be the right answer for us, because Miss B loved the backyard here. She loved running up the hill, through mounds of rotting leaves, and then racing back to our front door with her tongue hanging out and her eyes shining. This was her safe place. And she knew it from the first day, when two white butterflies greeted her with their fluttering wings.

butterflies

I know that I need to have some kind of marker, and ceremony, to say goodbye to Miss B. I know I need to make peace with the loss of my girl. But I still don’t want to say goodbye.

Butterfly's bush

The Butterfly Bush resting at home

 

If you want to see the post that inspired me:

https://doodlemum.com/2018/04/17/home-coming/

 

The Plant Cozy

 

For some deeply scientific reason, beyond my understanding, Mom has decided not to bring some of her plants indoors for the winter, but she also didn’t want them to remain unprotected from the elements, and therefore she made a plant cozy. It’s like a cross between a sleeping bag and a snow suit, filled with warming materials and wrapped around the outdoor plants. She chose bright colors, in case someone failed to notice that the plants were protected, or because the plants have their own unique fashion sense.

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The famous plant cozy!

The plants inside of the cozies are sweet potato and dahlia tubers that need to be kept at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally they would be kept in the refrigerator, Mom said, but she assumed that I would not appreciate the plants taking over the shelves and replacing, you know, the food.

It seems unfair, though, that only one set of plants get a cozy. Where is the sweater for the raspberry bush? Or the stocking cap for the paw paw tree? Could none of the maple trees use mittens for their branches? For that matter, the poor car must be freezing overnight. Couldn’t she at least have a scarf?

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Maybe fifteen hats for the Hydrangea?

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A few thousand mittens (and a ladder?)

I have tried to put the dogs into their own cozies, or jackets, but this has been largely unsuccessful. They shake off what they can shake off, or roll in the mud if possible, and then glare at me until the offending garment is removed. I do not have a death wish, and therefore have not tried to put boots on either of them (though they would look adorable!).

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They wore their jackets, once.

The dogs prefer not to get dressed at all before going outside. They like to feel the wind in their hair as they run across the yard, without any impingement on their freedom of movement. And neither of them is especially sensitive to the cold. They don’t seek out hot spots on the floor, or curl under available blankets, though Cricket is a big fan of cozying up with her people.

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“I’m free!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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“Who needs freedom?”

Generally, I do not get too involved with the gardening. I hear stories about stunted carrots, and ground cover, and I sneak raspberries from the yard when they are in season, but that’s about it. The plant cozy, though, keeps drawing my attention. It reminds me of an especially embarrassed ten-year-old girl (AKA me), wearing her enormous new winter jacket to school for the first time, while everyone else chose sedate black wool coats that year.

For now, most of the plants and flowers are coming to life in quilt designs and photos on the computer. The vegetable garden is in sleep mode for the winter, with, appropriately enough, a blanket of leaves to keep it warm. The flowers are gone, and the leaves are mostly scattered under the snow, waiting to become rich soil. We don’t have the yearly seedling nursery in the dining room, yet, but there is a pile of seed catalogs growing on the coffee table, biding their time.

I think retirement has finally allowed Mom to relax into her creativity. She spends hours and hours playing with color and shape, trying to learn new skills in quilting and photography, and whatever else seems like it could widen her creative vision. I wish she’d been able to pursue all of these things earlier in her life, but having kids, and having to work to feed said kids, got in the way for a long time. I think Miss Butterfly has been able to remind her Grandma that play deserves just as much of your time and energy as other disciplines, and Miss Cricket has taught Grandma to be stubborn and stick to her own way of seeing things. I think the plants secretly appreciate Mom’s new way of seeing the world, even if the other plants on the block look at them askance for being colorful over the winter.

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Butterfly loves to oversee Grandma’s quilting projects.

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And Cricket is more paws on in her approach.

The Neglected Cricket

 

Cricket has been giving me the evil eye more often lately. She sits in her dog bed and rests her chin on the edge and stares at me. She jumps on my bed, climbs on my chest and stares. She especially crawls under her couch, looks up at me, and stares.

"Harumph."

“Harumph.”

I have started to imagine the letters Cricket would send me, if she could write.

 

Dear Mommy,

            You have been using too much of my blog (The Cricket Pages!!!!) to talk about Butterfly. I am cute too. I am exciting and interesting and doing lots of great stuff. So, stop being a doodie.

            Yours truly,

            Cricket

 

I’ve tried to explain to this imaginary Cricket that early on, the blog was entirely about her, but I’m afraid this would not go over well, and she would begin to reminisce about the good old days of being an only dog.

The fact is, with all of the health stuff Butterfly and I have been going through lately, we haven’t been focusing enough on Cricket’s need for adventure. We’ve almost entirely given up on training. Cricket hasn’t been to the beach or been able to run full out or even been able to go on her long walks. Her resentments must have been seething under the surface for quite some time.

"I'm not tired at all!"

“I’m not tired at all!”

 

            Dear Mommy,

            Have you seen how high I can jump? And I don’t need shots or blood tests and I only bark at really important stuff, like dangerous intruders trying to kill my family! Write about me!

            Your neglected puppy,

            Cricket

 

I’ve been trying to think of potential blog posts that would be all about Cricket. Maybe a post about her tiny stump of a tail, and how she uses it to communicate alternate messages to the looks on her face. She can’t send mixed messages verbally, the way humans can, so she has to make do with mixed body language.

But that’s not a whole post, and it might lead to rhapsodies about Butterfly’s long plume of a tail, and the way it dances in circles and swings like a fan dancer. Clearly a danger zone.

If I had more energy, I could take her on some adventures just for her. Cricket would love to go on another car trip, or to fight with seagulls at the beach, or to a lake to meet some frogs or turtles. She’d love to go to the duck pond and chase the geese, as long as she wouldn’t fall into the water. She’d like to go on long walks and sniff new things. But she would not like to go to a training class, or to the vet or the groomer. She’d love to go to Petco to find treats and toys and other doggy smells, but not if it meant trying on outfits. She especially likes to poop on the floor there.

I would love to be able to send her to school for half a day. She could have gym class and meet new dogs and learn to read, of course. And that would be a rich source of new blog topics, about her athletic triumphs, and social anxieties, and public speaking disasters. And then she could come home exhausted and not give me so many dirty looks for the rest of the day. This is a very good idea. This is the next thing we should be doing in America: public school for dogs.

In the meantime, I did find something fun for Cricket to do closer to home that fulfills her need for excitement and lends itself to pictures for the blog. Her favorite poopy area in the backyard has been getting crowded out by weeds, and Cricket loves to battle weeds. All I have to do is pull one or two weeds up to show her the way, and she sticks her head in the ground and searches for more roots and digs and bites and steals the weeds and runs around in a frenzy. She especially likes the tall fat weeds that look like juicy green sticks.

Criket, guarding her treasure.

Cricket, guarding her treasure.

"Mine!!!!!"

“Mine!!!!!”

"Don't interrupt me while I'm weeding, Mommy."

“Don’t interrupt me while I’m weeding, Mommy.”

For minutes at a time, Cricket is unbelievably happy, and distracted. She comes back in the house with a smile and dirt all over her face and a light in her eyes. It’s a good thing we’ve been getting so much rain lately so that the weeds can keep growing and taking over the yard. The longer this Cricket happiness can last, the better life will be, for everyone in Cricket’s house.

"Shh. We're sleeping."

“Shh. We’re sleeping.”

Gardening Puppy

Cricket has her paws on the red handled trowel

Cricket has her paws on the red handled trowel

 

            Cricket loves to dig. She has adopted a small red handled trowel as her own and whenever her grandma is using it, Cricket goes over to bark at it and try to steal it. She hasn’t figured out how to make it dig, but then maybe that’s not her intention. She’s angry at it for taking her job.

"You can't have it, Grandma!"

“You can’t have it, Grandma!”

            When she’s out with Grandma, doing the gardening, her job is to pull out roots and weeds. She’ll dig first with her paws and then grab with her teeth and pull. Then she runs back into the house, with four black feet and a black chin with a little bit of her original white hair showing through, and then she spreads the dirt around, leaving her water bowl muddy and her face smiley.

            She was getting impatient with the long winter this year and decided to dig random holes in the lawn. I had to watch her carefully to catch the crazy digging before she was a foot down into the earth. And then we had to replace the divots and stomp them down, like we were at a polo match.

            Ideally, Cricket would have her own garden, or a sandbox, to play in. But the endless baths that would result wouldn’t make mommy or puppy very happy. And she doesn’t just want to dig aimlessly, she wants to accomplish something.

Cricket's after-bath twist

Cricket’s after-bath twist

            Cricket and Grandma have different ideas on gardening. Their aesthetics are in opposition. Cricket likes holes. She likes digging through the top layer of grass to explore the rich, meaty underbelly of dirt. She likes to remove things from the ground, rather than add them. We have to keep her at a distance from anything freshly planted, because she will unplant it with relish.

            When we moved recently, we lost a full lawn of gardening space where Mom had planted berry bushes, and pawpaw trees, a full vegetable box, and sunflowers, and lilies, and hydrangeas, and strawberries, and on and on.

            In our new place there isn’t as much space and it has to be shared, which means, most of all, that gardening puppy does not get to participate. I’d love to be able to put her on the long lead out in the yard, but I’m afraid that would bother my new neighbors and I’m not ready to alienate anyone, yet.

For Mother’s day we went to the gardening store and bought four different kinds of tomato plants, and a purple pepper plant, to plant along with the things we brought from our last home. But Cricket keeps trying to climb into the new vegetable plot to “help.”

Butterfly likes to sniff the flowers, but she’s delicate about it. The only time she likes to dig is when she’s standing next to her food bowls, scratching at the wood floor as if she thinks more food is hidden underneath.

Butterfly, considering the mysteries of the universe

Butterfly, considering the mysteries of the universe

Hopefully, Cricket will be able to find an outlet for her gardening passions, one that doesn’t include unplanting the tomatoes, or rolling in the patches of poison oak the way the local cats like to do. But I think, for now, she’s happy that her Grandma is gardening again, getting excited about new vegetables and flowers, as long as Cricket gets to sniff each and every one and give her bark of approval.