Friday, April 28, 2006


The loss of a family pet can have a major impact on the entire family. It is like losing a member of the family. Recently, our family experienced the death of our beloved dog, Pebbles. Although we have lost many pets over the years—mice, hamsters, fish, gerbils, iguana, cats—losing Pebbles was the first dog Christine had ever lost and she was taking it very hard.

Pebbles was adopted from the Mercer County Humane Society over ten years ago—Christine was about three at the time, so the two of them have grown up together. Pebbles was a Sheltie-mix and she was approximately one year old when she came to live with us. Keith had seen a picture of this cute dog in the Harrodsburg Herald and the next day he and Christine went to check it out. It was love at first sight and they adopted her on the spot. He took a picture of Pebbles to bring home and show the rest of the family because it would be two days before she was ready to come home.

Christine picked out the name Pebbles after the Flintstone’s Pebbles and Bam-Bam. Amber and Marie were also excited about the new addition to the family; they had been wanting a dog and we just kept putting it off because we had an indoor cat. Pogo was Keith’s cat and she didn’t warm up to new people or animals easily. After Keith and I got married, it took a long time before Amber and Marie were able to even get near Pogo to pet her, much less pick her up. We were afraid a dog would throw her into shock. We lost Pogo over four years ago—she was over 18-years-old.

It didn’t take Pebbles long to become one of the family. She was most attracted to Marie, although she loved to be around all of us. After the first few weeks, Pebbles was not the same skinny dog we had originally brought home. She was happy and healthy and had put on some weight. Apparently, Pebbles had come from an abusive situation, because she had a tendency to “cow down” whenever anyone raised their voice.

I could never get Pebbles to come to me when I would call for her—she always seemed to run in the opposite direction when I would call her. But she would always come to Keith’s call or whistle. Pebbles would do almost anything Keith would tell her to do, with the exception of getting her to stay down at meal time.

Pebbles loved table scraps and she was not above begging everyone for a bite. We knew table scraps were probably not good for her, but she loved them so much. We also had a hard time keeping her out of the cat food, even though she always had food in her dish—she would always sneak back and finish up whatever the cats had not eaten.

Even though she would not come to me when I called her, Pebbles would follow me around the house like a shadow. Whenever I was home she would slept at my feet or follow me from room to room—even the bathroom. Pebbles could be a nuisance at times, but we all loved her and we could tell that she loved us.

Pebbles would get so excited when it was time to go outside. She would jump and prance around the door waiting for someone to open it. Then she would charge out the door like the Calvary coming to the rescue. She would run several laps around the front yard just as fast as her legs would let her. She would sometimes bark and root her nose into the ground. We still have a few bare spots in the yard from where Pebbles got so excited.

Pebbles was a wonderful guard dog because she would bark at any noise she would hear outside. Once she became used to friends or relatives coming to visit, she would become excited to she them—running to the person or trying to jump up on them. The jumping up on people was something we were still working on with Pebbles, but we weren’t having much success.

Over the past few years, Christine and Pebbles became the best of friends and you could tell they loved being with each other. Sometimes Christine would but the leash on Pebbles’ collar and take her for a walk, other times they would just run and romp in the backyard or the back field. I can still see Christine rolling around on the lawn with Pebbles jumping on her, trying to lick her face.

Although we still have three indoor cats, Christine misses Pebbles and she has started to talk about finding a replacement dog. Although there is no substitute for Pebbles, it would be nice to have another guard dog. We are trying to put Christine off—we want her to get over the initial shock of losing her first dog before we try and become attached to another one.

Pebbles is buried in our pet cemetery, along with Pogo the cat, Tully the bird and Snowball the rabbit. I will occasionally see Christine near the pet cemetery and my heart aches for her sadness. Although we all miss Pebbles and I know one day we will have another dog, there will never be a replacement for Pebbles. She will always remain in our hearts.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, April 2006

Monday, April 3, 2006

April Showers Bring May Flowers

After a mild winter and a stormy spring, flora is springing to life all over my gardens. Since I normally leave flower heads and seed stalks un-pruned during the winter to help the birds survive, spring chores are never ending.

As I prune off the thick stems of my Autumn Joy sedum, I have been rewarded with the new growth emerging from the heavily composted soil. These wonderful plants are a staple in my gardens, mainly because they are so maintenance free. Sedum requires very little attention during the growing season and it is very drought tolerant. There is lovely foliage all year long and then the flower heads start to form in late July—starting out green then turning to pink before finally reaching the deep red color that I love.

Asters are one of my favorite “wildflowers”, but they have a tendency to leave tall airy stems that need to be removed before you can appreciate the new greenery. Through experimentation I have learned that if I keep the new growth pruned back until the first of July, then the stems will not be so tall. I have some that I prune and some that I leave natural. There is just something about those tall graceful white flowers floating above all the over the flowers that makes September a spectacular month in my back gardens.

Of course the daylilies and Irises are growing inches every day and it won’t be long before they will burst into bloom. After the daffodils and tulips fade away, the daylilies and Irises will be ready to replace the garden with new colors of orange, yellow, purple and pink. I am attempting to have some type of flowers blooming all through the seasons, so when one flower have past bloom, another type is ready to take over.

The redbud trees are absolutely beautiful this year. Our first redbud tree is the most extraordinary—the tall airy branches are just hanging full of pink blossoms. We also have about eight other redbuds which are much younger than our first, and they are all blooming this year. I was lucky I didn’t lose any because of the drought last summer.

However, I wasn’t so lucky with one of my river birch trees. Even with watering during the long hot summer last year, a newly planted river birch has died. I also lost my large weeping cherry tree in the front yard. I actually cried when I realized the cherry tree did not survive the drought or winter. We plan to remove the tree and replace it with a redbud.

The hostas in the Rabbit Hole garden are up about six to eight inches, each clump looking much bigger than last year’s plantings. All my ferns seem to be reemerging after a short winter’s rest. My anticipation for this garden is very high this year; this will be the fourth year of really hard work and I’m hoping it will reward me with a spectacular display. I still have lots of bare spots in this garden, but I must wait for my plants to mature so I can divide and transplant some more. I will eventually have this type of garden surrounding three sides of my yard; even if it takes my twenty more years to get there.

I already have the lettuce bed and potatoes planted and my rhubarb and asparagus are coming on strong. This will be the first year that I will be able to harvest any asparagus; I have been patiently waiting three years for it to mature enough to used. It is very exciting when a vegetable or plant becomes “of age” under all the care you have given it. I have started some other seeds in the house, but it will be a few more weeks before I can transplant them into the garden—tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins. Gourds also can’t go into the ground until the soil temperature is a constant 78 degrees—hard to obtain in Kentucky’s finicky weather.

I am expanding our front garden this year. With a one acre lot, it takes a long time to finally get enough plants, time and energy to completely fill the property. My goal is to only have to do maintenance on my gardens during my retirement years. I enjoy maintaining, pruning, trimming and shaping plants into unique forms and shapes. I want the formal lawn to be completely removed and be replaced with native wildlife and flowers.

Speaking of wildlife, I think we have a fox that lives in the field behind our home. I saw the red bushy tail a few times, always late in the evening. I believe it may be one from the litter that was found near McRay Feed; McRay’s is just behind our house. I have not intentions of bothering this fox; unless he bothers me first.

I haven’t seen any snakes yet, but the bees are working overtime and I have seen an occasional butterfly. There are now so many pairs of Robins in our garden that I have lost count of them. When I was trimming the English ivy from the front garden, I found a nest way up high in the tangle of vines that is growing up the guide line for our utility post. There are four bright blue Robin nests happily resting in the nest. Through out the day, Mommy and Daddy Robin can be seen taking turns watching the nest and sitting on the eggs. There is also another nest in the jungle of English ivy that has grown up the rod iron post near our front door. It too, has four bright blue eggs.

The mourning doves are nesting in the large pine trees on the north side of our house, although I have not seen any eggs yet. Doves have a tendency to make flat nests on the branches of the trees, and they appear very fragile. However, with the population of doves in our yard, I’m not complaining.

The rabbit population has exploded, but I’m not complaining. There is enough native vegetation in our yard that the rabbits don’t tend to bother my vegetable garden. Nothing is more calming than sitting in the backyard near twilight and watching all the rabbits venturing out. Old Mr. Groundhog is still living under my old shed, but as long as he stays out of my veggies, I’m not going to complain. But the first time I catch him destroying some beloved plant, he will be history in my garden. We had to get rid of one about ten years ago because it was eating the veggies; so far this one is leaving things alone.

Spring as finally sprung for 2006—I am just praying that 2006 turns out to be a better year than 2005. Go outdoors and enjoy the scenery—after a long winter’s rest, there are some new friends waiting for you in the garden.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, April 2006