My Garden Companions

By Teo Spengler | July 10, 2022
by Teo Spengler
July 10, 2022

I never feel alone in my garden. I think of my plants as friends and family, talk with them as I’m weeding, and sooth them after a strong wind or scorching sun. However, it’s always nice to have another kind of garden companion, a helper in the garden who finds it as delightful as I do to spend time in the afternoon sunshine surrounded by green leaves and happy trees. 

So, who has been my most loyal helper in the garden this last long year? Not my daughter, who was working hard at the university. Not my upstairs neighbor who considers a garden a waste of water. It’s been my foster dog, a series of foster dogs actually, who accompanied me into the garden for work sessions and were enchanted by the hose water and the afternoon sunshine.

Foster Dogs

My best buddy was a King Charles Cavalier spaniel named Dilly, a charming, happy, and silky little girl who traveled with me to France many a time, visited Notre Dame in a backpack and, generally, had the best life of any dog I know. She died in my arms of heart valve issues about two years ago.

I couldn’t think of getting another dog right away, the loss was too painful. So, I decided to help a San Francisco dog rescue by fostering pit bulls. When you foster, you take a dog out of the shelter and help it to relax, to trust again, and to get ready for a forever home. It’s rewarding as anything I’ve ever done. I fell in love with each foster dog and in turn, cried a river when they got adopted. Every one of them loved our time in the garden together.

Helper in the Garden

Perhaps “helper in the garden” is carrying it a bit too far, since none of my wonderful foster dogs actually did anything to assist the plants. Yet each of them – Lola, Scooter, Bonny Blue, Ryder, Roxy, and Buddy – did a lot to support the gardener. 

Nobody could have been more supportive than my foster dogs, lying happily in the afternoon sunshine, chasing a tennis ball up the paths between garden beds, practicing the “come” command when I called them by running at top speed from the far corner of the garden by the compost pile to the patio to sit, tail wagging furiously, right in front of me. 

In the Afternoon Sunshine

Why were the dogs so thrilled to be out in the garden? Perhaps it was the comparison of their former noisy, fear-filled shelter cells with the dirt and grass and love in the backyard. Or perhaps every dog loves to be outside with their person. 

Whatever the reason, their joy in the garden helped to get me out there even when I was feeling blue or under the weather. I know that each of them found wonderful forever homes and I get regular photos of them, happy in their new homes. When I think of any one of them though, I see them in my San Francisco garden, helping me make it through the long winter of the pandemic.  

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