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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.