Dogs, Cats and Other Phenomena

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

We Want A Pool! We Want A Pool!

Chant and maybe we'll get it, right?

It's decided. Nikki and I want a full-blown, in-ground pool installed in the backyard now! Yes, the idea has always been simmering in my head since I was a little girl, but now Nikki agrees whole-heartedly with me.

See, it all started today when Nikki and I went on our walk. I had been hoping that we'd run into a neighbor who lives around the corner from me. He saw me walking Nikki a long time ago (when she was still quite the young pup) and he told me that he had two golden retrievers and it was too bad that he was leaving right at that moment, otherwise they could play. Well, today must have been our lucky day.

Nikki and I were walking and she kept turning to look behind her. Finally, I turned too and there they were - the two Goldens and the neighbor, Bill. The dogs, Molly and Lacy, were well trained and stayed on their front lawn until Bill told them that they could greet Nikki. They ran towards us and the sniffing commenced. Molly, a blonde Golden who was heavier than Nikki, growled a bit, but Bill assured me that that was just her way of showing she was dominant dog. I was surprised to see that Lacy looked just like Nikki, only much thinner.

Bill invited us to his backyard so the dogs could play. I knew he had a pool, so thought this would be interesting for Nikki. Bill had a cover on the pool, which meant that Nikki didn't realize that this was not solid ground so she plunged right into the pool within a minute of entering the yard. She was very surprised, plus she was in the deep end, so I was a little concerned. She somehow made it over to the edge and Bill pulled her out.

Molly and Lacy kept diving into the deep end to retrieve the tennis ball that Bill threw into the pool. Nikki wanted to play too, but wasn't sure about this pool. She even had to learn how to walk around the side of the pool as she kept slipping. Bill and I coaxed her to go into the pool but finally, since his shorts were already pretty wet, he pulled off his shirt and went into the pool. He dragged Nikki into the pool with him and held her. Then we kept showing her the steps to teach her where she could get out. It helped guide her when I stepped on the first step ... my sweat pants were soaked anyway, so it didn't matter.

Nikki had to learn how to swim but it sure didn't take her long. Besides, Goldens love the water! She got to be a pretty good swimmer and got over her anxiety rather quickly. She even got the ball several times and paddled back to us. Naturally, she didn't want to give up the ball easily. True, her splashing was pretty noisy - she didn't glide through the water like Molly and Lacy - but that will come in time.

Nikki, Molly and Lacy had no problems adjusting to one another. In fact, the adjustment was rather seamless. I wonder if they somehow recognized that they were all the same breed, so that trust was pretty much built-in. That's my explanation for it anyway!

We had such a great time! I sure wished I had my video camera on me to record Nikki's first swimming lesson. But I'm serious here. Nikki and I want a pool. What fun we'd have together!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour

The Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour is an annual Southern California garden tour which is made up of exhibitors that are Real Gardeners. Jan and I visited eleven out of 25 gardens on the self-guided tour today. We had hoped to visit gardens in Old Towne Orange and Long Beach, but we ran out of time. One garden in San Juan Capistrano boasted a 350-400 year old oak tree, which we didn't get to see, as it was too far away. As it was, we started on the garden tour around 11 a.m. and kept going until 5 p.m. We didn't even get to stop and eat lunch; we had to eat Del Taco in the car!

As you can see, the gardens were lovely, so I took lots of photos—90 pictures to be exact! Unfortunately, my digital camera settings are not the best, so I am trying to color correct each photo in Photoshop in order to bring out the proper contrast and colors. I hope you enjoy my photos. Be sure to click on each of the photos to enlarge them; you'll be sure to enjoy the gardens that much more.

I'd describe the gardens on the tour as cottage-style gardens with lots of whimsy and water fountains. Some had secret garden rooms. This back yard garden in Fountain Valley has swings for their grandchildren covered with bower vines, which was a lovely touch, while the English garden-style plants are designed to attract birds and butterflies.

The ladder being used as a plant stand doesn't take up much space so can be used to great effect in this small side yard. Seeing this painted ladder gave me an idea for my parents' old ladder. I have left over exterior paint - maybe I'll paint the old ladder and use it as a plant stand! I have lots of potted cacti that I must put up and out of the way, since I have Miz Pup now and have to keep her out of harm's way. However, now that I think about it, all of the cacti are pretty big, so will have to get another Baker's Rack to hold them instead, I'm afraid! But I may try this idea anyway and put small pots on it.

The gardener, Virginia Sheen, has this to say about her garden in the newsletter, "There is serenity in this yard that comes from the water and the trees .... The yard is anchored by magnolia, redbud and crepe myrtle trees. They all bloom at a different time of year to provide us with beautiful color."

This is the Radecki residence and in their own words, "A mixture of roses, daylilies, perennials and annuals brighten the front garden of our home, which is anchored by mature trees, a crepe myrtle grown from seed, and a large potted plumeria."

I liked the stonework at the Delange's home used to create terraces in both the front and the back yard. In the gardener's own words: "The Challenge: Creating a did-it-all-ourselves Japanese woodland garden in a desert climate. The Result?: You be the judge."

"The garden is now some thirty-five years growing. It’s undergone several incarnations. The hardscape is notable for its water elements and some 300 run feet of unmortared flagstone walls hand laid by the gardener herself. Those flagstone terraced beds are home to some fifty Japanese maple cultivars. Given that it doesn’t chill enough here for fall color, the maples were selected for their new leaf colors. If you’ve never seen a collection of acer palmatum cultivars leafing out in all their springtime glory, now’s your chance."

"Some of the highpoints include a sedum tapestry bed (think the botanical version of a watercolor quilt), a leaning tree of pear, a mini and dwarf conifer tapestry (sort of like Alice in Coniferland miniaturization), and a Schefflera."

This Huntington Harbour home had a pool in the front yard and the channel for its back yard. When you first enter the enclosed front garden, the first thing you become aware of is the wonderful scent that fills the air. The owner also likes to fashion tussie mussies (beautiful nosegays), which she had for sale.

I'm not sure where I took this photo, but this close-up came out just right. Isn't it beautiful? Actually, I think the photo was taken at Mary Blagg's home where she has over 92 rose bushes and 8 climbers. She also uses an old ladder as a plant stand; however, hers isn't painted.

The gardener of this lovely Rossmoor home, Cindi Samuelson, states, "Our very active family (three boy children and two young Australian Shepards) makes low maintenance a must! I use perennials and foliage contrasts, both color and texture, to create interest. And just in case you wonder, yes, I am the Real Gardener here. Did it all! The front garden carries a mountain theme, with 15-year-old Liquidambar trees, a meandering rock river and a colorful display of perennials and annuals. But the back garden is my baby, our own Tropical Paradise. The fifteen year old creeping fig “wall”, huge Orange tree with trumpeter vines, and bougainvillea create privacy while a large crepe myrtle shades several tree ferns, variegated ginger, agapanthus, hosta, bromelia, purple flax, nandina and bloodleaf. And don’t miss the cutting garden!"

"But the focal point, and by far the most popular, is the secluded “sanctuary” approached via a sandstone path and through an arbor covered by two passion flower vines. Inside the sanctuary is seating around a fountain, a lounge chair for reading, and a spa, cleverly concealed by a privacy screen of Egyptian papyrus grass and bamboo. Take a moment to sit, breathe deeply, and – ahhh, share our bliss."

This Rossmoor house was not even on the garden tour, but it was so nice, that I had to take this picture out of the car window anyway!

I really enjoyed the gardens on this tour and am now longing to rip out my poor old back yard and plant away! I came home and tried to visualize my yard with a secret garden like the one above, complete with spa and water fountain. I am going to do that! Now if I can just win the lottery....

A fun little Guide to Garden Etiquette straight from the Mary Lou Heard Newsletter ...

• No matter how sincerely your neighbor says "help yourself" to his prize roses, it is not polite to dig them up after dark and plant them in your own garden.

• Even if you are desperate for a date, it is considered gauche to spell out your phone number in decorative shrubbery. (Now they tell me!)

• If a guest's bratty kid is stomping on your prize perennials while his parents look on passively, it is considered rude to pull up a stout plant stake and render him unconscious.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Max and Nikki

Max's cone came off Tuesday, but I don't think I'll put it back on. He washed himself all over but didn't tear at the stitches - and he's SO much happier with the cone off. He's healing nicely, so all is well on that front. That is, until I have to take him back in to the vet to remove the stitches! I'm hoping that I can hold him and that they can take the stitches out that way. I don't want them to put him under again.

The first photo of Max was taken a few days after he came home from his surgery. He sure didn't feel too good! For two days he hid out in the den. By the 3rd day, he was feeling braver and joined the rest of the cats in the bedroom. The funny thing was that Max felt insecure with the cone on and stayed away from the other 2 cats. Callie didn't want anything to do with him when he had the cone on; she'd stare at him and not come near him! Guess she didn't realize that she looked like this herself a year ago after her surgery! The 2nd photo was taken today as Max was napping. Doesn't he look much improved?

As for Nikki, I took her to training on Tuesday. Could not get Missy into the car. She balked and then laid down on the ground. I almost gave up. Treats didn't work. She got out of her harness (Miz Houdini.) Finally got her in to the car through a different door - the passenger's side in the front. After I got in, she hopped into the back seat all by herself, which surprised me.

When we finally got to class - late, thanks to her - she was very excited and wouldn't sit still so I could put her harness back on. Then she kept laying down on the ground! First time she ever did that! What's with that??

One of the ladies in the class told me it was all about my attitude when I take her leash. (You know me, I'm too nice.) So she took Nikki's leash and told her very business-like to sit. She did. Then she tried to get her to walk - and she laid down on her too!! Now I didn't crow and say, "See!! Told you so!" It was more, "Why is she even doing that with you?" I mean, normally she responds better with others. If it had been a firm man though, I bet she would have listened better.

But seriously, I have a nut on my hands, I swear. Couldn't get her back into the car after class. Talk about dangerous. Dark parking lot, at night. Dog laying down on ground. I tried different doors, etc. Didn't work. I finally got her through the door she normally uses by shoving her butt in - somehow had just the right amount of leverage.

If anyone has good advice on how to get a big, huge dog into the car without a fuss, please let me know. I thought she was afraid or something, but it's not that. It's all about who is boss.

Guess it's back to the Gentle Leader for her. And yes, I have lots of fodder for a book - or at least an article - so I guess getting Nikki might finally get me started on that writing career I've always been contemplating! :-D