Gardeners seem to welcome every kind of life into their own. Well, ok, maybe not snails, Japanese beetles, deer, aphids and woodchucks-who loves these creatures? A gardener”s distaste for certain pests doesn’t necessarily result in weapons; many gardeners tolerate the wildlife, as we have to share our planet. But some creatures live in our gardens, and our lives, by invitation. We do a good job, looking after them, and they reward us with their unconditional love and friendship. My Jojo (formally known as George) so enriched my life. He appeared at my front door one day from a home across the street that he apparently did not like, and never left. He suffered children, carrying him around in his favorite brown paper bag. He bossed around any dog that came to visit. He lived to be 22; I lost him too soon.
He loved the outdoors. Most days he was in the garden; he would protest if I didn’t let him out to prowl the night. He never, ever, had a bath, by the way.
Some wildlife comes to me, inexplicably. This toad made himself known one day in 2004, and lived in my greenhouse until 2008-at which time he walked out the front door one morning, and moved on. As I know that any environment that has healthy toads speaks to a healthy environment, I had great affection for him. Why did he decide to leave? I prefer to think he went looking for a girlfriend.
Victor and Agnes were at home in the garden, but their favorite places were my drafting table, any open drawer, or anyplace I had the New York Times spread out. I inherited her along with the house and 5 acres I bought-she was the best part of the deal. Victor I did not have long, but my memory of him has been long.
Cosmo was as fine a dog as ever was. He lived to be 14, and was a fixture at the store for the last 7 years of his life. Kids loved him; I watched a child lean over into his face-and blink his eyes open and shut three times. “Do this, if you love me”, he said; he insisted to his Mom that Cosmo blinked at him. This I choose to believe. People still come in and ask for him. The last few years he actually lived at the store. Though he was deaf by then, he would start barking when my car would pull up in the morning-how did he know?
These creatures have been much a part of my gardening life, each one of them, a part of my landscape. Each of them had strikingly different personalities, but they shared the space well with me, and with each other.
My orange Maine Coon cat was named Roscoe, but I always called him Babyhead. He was incredibly shy and reserved-but when he was old, he decided he liked people. It was pretty charming, watching him say hello to strangers at 13.
Jack and Libby belonged to Rob. I thought to surprise Rob with a gift of a mini-schnauzer; no, he wanted two schnauzers. So fine, 2 schnauzers it was-brother and sister, the only two in the litter. Those two dogs were never far from Rob for the better part of 15 years. They grew up in the back of my work truck, and graduated to retail store duty in 1996. Until May of 2008; Jack was almost 14.
Libby was the last of a group that spanned some 24 years of my life. I think the last year she spent without Jack was tough, but Rob loved her up plenty and she loved Rob fiercely in return. The last 6 months of her life she mostly slept on a bed next to my chair in my office; I knew I did not have long with her. She was the last of a very fine group; her passing is the end of an era. Libby Yedinak, Sept 1994-June 2009. No matter the grief, I was very lucky indeed to have each and all of them. Any gardener knows that to everything there is a season, and the seasons turn sooner or later. But knowing this does not make it much easier; how I loved them all, and how I miss them.