Thursday, March 07, 2013

We Don't Even Have to Have a Reason

Sandy: I want you to kill every gopher on the course!
Carl: Check me if I'm wrong Sandy, but if I kill all the golfers, they're gonna lock me up and throw away the key...
Sandy: Gophers, ya great git! The gophers! The little brown furry rodents!
Carl: We can do that; we don't even have to have a reason.
 - Caddyshack (1980)

My puppy is a vizsla and it turns out that besides low self-esteem and separation anxiety, one major characteristic of this breed is that they like to dig. And by dig, I mean using her webbed feet to gouge a hole deep enough to put her entire upper body inside and then to continue digging the leading edge of the hole thus making a meandering trench that can exceed 10 feet in length. We affectionately call it digging to China, even though if you dug directly beneath my front yard through the middle of the planet you would actually end up in Afghanistan.

Thanks to a colony of gophers, my front yard used to look like a miniature scorched WWI battlefield complete with craters made by small bombs, and the dirt thrown up around them by the impact. The good news is that since we got a dog, the gophers that have pretty much taken over the neighborhood, have moved to greener pastures. The bad news is that now my front yard looks like a miniature example of a once-pristine mountain somewhere in West Virginia, with great swaths of brightly blooming oxalis separated by tracks of excavated barren ground gouged out by a strip mining machine the size of an apartment building.

As she digs, the dog more or less fills in the trench behind her with the dirt excavated from the front. The finished product looks like it had been plowed with a rototiller operated by a drunken blind man on speed. The front yard is continually being re-graded and re-planted by the dog who can do this until her lovely pink nose turns black and she’s snorting and coughing from the dirt she’s inhaled. Charming.

The other day though, things took a darker turn: she caught something. I’d figured that the moles inhabiting the front yard had long since all evacuated the area. I may have been wrong. I don’t know if the mole she generously delivered to my feet was a corpse abandoned months ago by gopher refugees fleeing for their very lives, or whether the happy puppy had just murdered it. I was not in a mood to conduct an autopsy.

To be clear, while I am an enthusiastic gardener who enjoys almost all the flora I have in my yard, I have a rather uncomfortable relationship with fauna. Bugs are yucky, those tiny ants are demons from hell. When it comes to anything bigger like gophers, ground squirrels, tree rats and mice, the sound I make upon encountering such fauna can best be described as that of a little girl in a lace encrusted gown hosting a tea party for her teddy bears, who is suddenly interrupted by a pack of ninja warriors silently wielding those sticks connected by a short chain.

So imagine my reaction when being presented with such a lovely gift by my enthusiastic dog who only wanted to offer me a token of her unconditional love. My instinctive theory, formed in an instant of blinding clarity, is a corollary to the ten-second rule about food dropped on the floor. Clearly, the quicker I could dispose of this thing, the less likely I was to be infected by yersina pestis.  After using one of the many hopeless commands to drop it that she apparently understands to mean “let’s play”, I finally managed to work the prize from between the puppy’s beautiful white teeth and toss it outside the fence and across the driveway into the deep ground cover of the unfenced part of the front yard. I may have broken the sound barrier in my haste to make the yucky dead thing go away.

This heroic action was, of course, followed by a complete breakdown of all pretense of control, and a very long sentence consisting mostly of vowels, while compulsively wiping my hands on my pants. At the same time though, the small part of my lizard brain capable of a more nuanced and reasoned response was slightly proud of my heroic initial reaction. It makes me confident that should ninjas ever crash my tea parties, I will save the teddy bears first. 

(The first picture is from the cherry tree in my front yard. The second picture is the western redbud in the Water Conservation Garden.)


Martha in Michigan said...

I empathize. I used to have moles—well, at least A mole. Near as I could tell, its den was under my garage slab, but its favorite trails were through my raised garden beds, They were ever so much easier to tunnel through than the native clay hardpan. In addition to the havoc wrought on my veggies, there was the problem of the tunnels used to get to the garden beds, which I would sink into unpredictably while mowing the lawn. I was raised on TV Westerns and knew that, just like horses encountering prairie dog holes, it was only a matter of time before I broke a leg and would have to shoot myself. So, I got a trap and put it into the most-trafficked access tunnel. It worked. Then I had to retrieve it and empty it. EEEWWW! But the problem was solved.

Nelson said...

Indeed gophers is the one responsible for ruining lawns, killing trees and destroying gardens, but they can also be an important part of the local ecosystem. They increase soil fertility by mixing plant material and fecal wastes into the soil.

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