The difference between the almost right and the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. — Mark Twain
In spite of appearances to the contrary, my standard poodle Max is inspired to action by the right words.
And aren’t we all?
Like today, for instance. Today my right words were Curly Dock — which I learned was the name of the mystery plant growing in my east garden for the past year — the very one I watered when it wilted in last summer’s triple digit temperatures, the one I was so happy to see survive our mild winter intact, the one I’ve been observing every little bit this spring, waiting to see how it would develop and what it would become.
Today I learn it’s a weed. The perennial kind, hard to remove, because it has a long, thin tap root that snaps apart when handled. It lives in the east garden where nice hollyhocks and feathery cypress vine and forever four o’clocks thrive. No way did this resemble a weed to my eye, since its form was almost fern-like. It was only a few days ago I became suspicious, when she sprouted an ugly set of flower stalks. Enough so that I decided to take time to identify her by name this morning. And dig up what I could. And to walk away, knowing I will only be able to remove it, once-for-all, with help of chemicals.
“Chemicals are our friend,” my chemical engineer husband tells me all the time. Though I try not to use pesticides in my gardening, he’s right about chemicals, when it comes to Max. Finally, after months of searching for the just right cocktail of medicines, Max is growing like a weed. Last November’s scary scarecrow look — when he reached a low of 36 plus pounds — is gone. I pray for ever. Today, thanks to the just right dose of chemicals, he carries close to 50 pounds on his princely form.
To say he carries does not imply an overly active dog however. That would be his sister dogs Maddie and Cosmo. No, Max prefers to carry his heavy load why lying around. Like this morning. When I was attempting to remove Curly Dock from my garden, this curly dog of mine was far removed from dirt and bugs and weeds – lying high up on the back porch, under the comforting cool shade of the Cherry Laurel.
But speak the right word and this prissy poodle of mine will move like a bolt of lightning. No lazy lightning bug flittering about , mind you — when he hears the word “hungry?”, it’s better to get out of the way fast to avoid being mowed over. I don’t know why we burden the word, hungry, with a question mark. But this I know: while it’s good to mow down most weeds, it’s better to be mowed down by at least one.
It’s the difference between Curly Dock and curly dog.
That’s one of my favorite Mark Twain quotations you choose – and to good effect, I might add.
I hadn’t heard of curly dock, but now I’m all up to speed. You have to know that clove oil is a good treatment for it, too, being broadleaf and all. That’s one of my very few bits of gardening knowledge, right there.
It’s a great photo of Max, too, and if my eyes don’t deceive me, quite a bit of work stacked up behind him. He looks like he’d be the perfect supervisor dog for someone digging dock. 😉
Yes, Max sees his role in the garden as one of moral support — or perhaps one who doesn’t mind enjoying the fruits of my laboring. Cosmo on the other hand was right beside me in the dirt. Being a terrier and all, that girl likes to get dirty — she coats herself with dirt, like last Wednesday, as soon as we brought her home from the groomers!
Should have taken a photo of Mrs. Curly Dock before the digging — she was big. Two and half feet tall and about the same wide. But with those flower stalks loaded and Oklahoma wind stirring madly, I never thought once to shoot a photo. I’m guessing there will be future opportunities — though never will she resume the size she had. Clove, huh? I need to check that out. I’m sure Cosmo would like a new scent in the garden…
The Mark Twain quote was given me by my Hemingway professor — I’m not sure what I said in class — I think we were discussing A Farewell to Arms then — but he came back with this Mark Twain quote which I’d never heard. It’s a good one. Not surprised it’s one of your favorites.
It rained last night which means the 450 pounds of cotton seed hull will wait until another day, until the soil dries out some. You are so observant. You’d make a good gardener on a larger scale — if you ever want to trade in your patio garden for something a little larger… 🙂
Dee A. Nash said:
My husband always says, “Better living through chemicals.” Yes, to medicines, but I dislike chemicals in the garden. I have curly dock in my rose bed. If I wet the area well and make sure I have all the leaves in hand when I pull straight up, the dock comes out tap root and all.
Just something to think about.~~Dee
I’ll try this next go around. Being such a large specimen — I really should have taken a photo — the tap root disappeared thin into the soil, which at the time, was damp, not wet.
Beautiful rain yesterday. It was good to be out of the garden and cooking in the kitchen. This time of year it’s hard to do both.
With the right words, I’m sure we can teach animals our language… whether it’s your dog, or Pavlov’s. Just imagine dogs from various cultures would respond to different languages. Interesting post you have here, Janell.
Last night, while watching a movie with my husband, Max instigated an intermission — it was time for his ‘meds,’ and being the smart dog he is, he knew it was time, even as I was lost in the story of another time and place. When he came up to me, his need was expressed openly in soft eyes — so much so, that, when I asked, “Is it time for ‘meds?’ — he bounded off to the kitchen, to wait for me to give him his life-supporting pills. Of course, it’s not the pills he’s interested in — but the soft treat that surrounds them!
Though Max has a small vocabulary of words he responds to, he communicates needs well enough with soft eyes and silence — even placing his muzzle into my hand for a few loving strokes. My bit part is to pay attention — a good lesson for Holy Week and all the days of everyday life.