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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Summer Camp for Doggies

Is there a doggie summer camp somewhere close to Madison?  I want to send my Irish setter, a nice young female, to camp in a rural area with lots of rolling hills and woods to play in, nice young doggies to run with, and a good camp leader to walk through basic discipline with her.

I thought of this yesterday, when I was home in the afternoon with a headache, trying to get a blueberry bush planted. So my headache may be influencing this, but I got the great idea as Singer tried to get my attention as I looked online for information on amending the soil and where to plant the blueberry bush. She was excited and impatient that I was home in the early afternoon and kept pawing my laptop (both she and Dakota hate my laptop—it takes so much of my attention!) I found what I was looking for and went to the garden center to purchase the soil amendment ingredients I needed. One of them was cocoa bean shells, the kind that smell like chocolate.

I got my gardening done, and spread the rest of the cocoa bean shells around my Vanderwolf pine because it loves acidic soil. Something about this, though, didn’t sit right with me as I put away my tools so I went back online to see what else I could learn. Bingo. After just a quick search, I found out why.

I finally remembered reading about cocoa bean shells being toxic to dogs when several links popped up. So, knowing Singer loves to munch on inedible items, like dirt and cat poop, I decided to send Jeff to the garden center again to get some wood chips to cover the cocoa bean shells. Husbands are good for things like this—they run errands when you’re making dinner, or feeding the animals, or when your headache just won’t quit. And mine wasn’t.

After dinner, we spread the cedar mulch over the cocoa bean shells, and then just to be safe, I put a plastic fence-like material around the drip line, weighing it down with sticks. And put an actual rabbit fence around my blueberry plant, which, by the way, was a Mother’s Day present. And so, Singer is watching me, trying to contain her excitement, waiting for the moment my attention lapses. I can see her out of the periphery of my eye. She prances like a young girl, practicing ballet. My headache seems to worsen and I can intuit what will happen next.

When the moment is right, she moves in and starts to nibble some of the beans around the edges. Both Jeff and I catch her, yell at her, and she runs away, duly cowed. But then she sneaks back, again and again, to try to eat that enticing chocolately yummy stuff Mom has spread for her to eat. She knows it’s for her, why would her mom put it out in her backyard if it wasn’t?

We spent the better part of the evening watching her try to sneak the shells, stopping her as she approached. She’s very obedient when someone is watching her. But I worry she will dig up the treats when we’re not looking. That’s when I got the bright idea that this young dog needs a summer camp—a place where she can run and play and tire herself out, learn some discipline and come home all relaxed and happy. Just like Nathaniel did when he was eleven or twelve. He learned a thing or two. We missed him terribly for a week, but knew he was having fun. And he grew up a little bit, too!

We probably won’t be sending Singer to summer camp this year, or next. Instead, I will probably dig up the cocoa bean shells and throw them away, using only cedar mulch. I just don’t want to chance it that Singer will eventually learn to keep away. Sigh.

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