Saturday, May 2, 2009


When we go out, we usually leave Sherlock in the backyard.

The backyard is a mess and completely overtaken by weeds. We tried to hire some help last year, but the guy was a disaster. He usually showed up 30-40 minutes late, stoned, and pretended to do some work by hacking away some healthy plants while never dealing with the weeds. When I told him that it wasn't working out, he said, "Yeah, I find you difficult to work with too."

We interviewed another company, but the lady who stopped by said she couldn't deal with dog poop and would fine us if she stepped in any poop. Unfortunately, shit production happens to be Sherlock's specialty, and the odds of us cleaning up all of the poop before she showed up each time seemed unlikely.

Since then, the backyard has had to fend for itself.

But in the midst of the chaos, there are some lovely plants that have managed to withstand the weeds. I have roses in bright yellow, deep pink, white, and red -- all the size of large navel oranges -- growing in the front right corner. I also have some lovely calla lilies and fuchsia to the left. And an abutilon megaptamicum that I picked up at a flower show a couple of years ago.

The most visible is a row of poppies growing in the front tier of the yard. The side of our house facing the backyard is all windows, and whenever we have guests, the first thing they notice is the yard. The poppies rest eye-level when we sit on our couch, and their bright colors in various shades in the forefront of the yard command the most attention.

The couple of weeks ago, we had a few friends over for a friend's baby shower. As we were cleaning the yard a few days before they showed up, I thought, well, at least the poppies will be in bloom by the time they show up. Most of the poppies had buds on the verge of blooming, and I figured by the time people showed up, their beautiful colors will be adorning our yard. I pruned all the leftover stems from the prior bloom and watered them thoroughly.

The morning of the event, Jeff and I went out back to clean the dog poop. All of a sudden, I noticed that all of the poppy stems were budless. They were standing straight up, as if the flowers should have been on their end, but they were naked. All 20 or so buds appeared to have been bitten off. I wondered if some bird ate them, although that had never happened before. I mentioned it to Jeff, and he asked if there were bits of the bud that were left over. Nope, they were bitten off clean.

He paused, then looked at Sherlock, then back at the flowers.

"Sherlock, did you eat them?"

Sherlock, eyes popping wide, tilted his head to the side and wagged his tail.

Sherlock has had his heydays of attacking the yard, but that was before I met him. As a pup, he had a list of offenses on his rap sheet, including tearing apart the drip system, flooding the backyard, and swallowing a malibu light bulb that came out intact on the other end. But now, at the mature age of 6, we figured he had outgrown such dalliances. When we leave him outside these days, he seems to spend most of his time either sleeping in his little house or sunbathing on the steps.

About a week ago, I saw a slew of new poppy buds growing.

Yesterday morning, as I was eating my cereal, I looked out and suddenly realized that all the buds had been bitten off again. I called to Jeff to come look. There were about 30 stems, sticking straight up, holding nothing.

We wondered why these buds were attacked when all the other plants were left intact. Then we wondered about the day before when Sherlock had been unusually sluggish.

Could it be that we have an addict in the family?


  1. I love that story about your dog Sherlock! It reminds me of the time we had a dog named Angel. She stayed in a fairly large fenced in yard along with some raspberry plants. Everyone now and then I would see her chomping on the nice and juicy raspberries! (She also liked to chew on our wooden back porch steps.

  2. As with your post about your first day at journalism school, you made me laugh out loud. Good luck with Sherlock, and the garden. And congratulations!


  3. You may want to call your vet and talk about this - poppies can be poisonous to dogs (causing respiratory and neurological problems). As someone who almost lost a pet to a flower I didn't know was toxic, I urge you to look into this today. Call your vet and tell him/her the variety of poppy you have, as well as approximately how many buds Sherlock ate. Please.

  4. Hi, Anonymous, thanks so much for your comment. We'll look into it today.

  5. Hi, Anonymous at 9:41,

    We checked with our vet, and they said they don't have poppies on their list of poisonous plants. Do you have specific information that says otherwise? We googled it, but we're not finding much specific information. Thanks.


  6. See the following:

    Google search string: poppy toxicity in dogs

    The fact that you mention he was acting sluggish is concerning to me. If you've noticed any other changes in Sherlock's behavior - any disorientation, excess drolling, vomiting, weakness, diarrhea - it's worth a trip to the vet to have some tests run.

    I hope everything is okay and that there's no cause for concern. Sometimes it's hard to notice symptoms emerging until you look for them, if that makes sense. Honest to g-d, my pets were saved because a stranger replied to a tweet of mine he saw in the public twitter feed.

  7. There was a lovely article by Gene Weingarten in the Washington Post about dogs:


  8. Neeter,

    What a lovely article! I really enjoyed reading it. He's a great writer. I'm going to look up his other articles now! Thanks for the link.


  9. I adore Gene Weingarten. Let me know what you find!


  10. Sherlock must be trying to get your attention.... wants you to know he is child No. 1.