Sunday, January 8, 2012

Who Has Known the Mind of the Corgi, and Who Has Been Her Counselor? Act Two

And now round two with the corgi musings: as my preceding posting about our corgi mama Flora and her two half-breed boys Crispen and Valentine suggested, a corgi and its progeny can be, to say it mildly, somewhat destructive of a garden.  Why the corgi needs to dismantle shrubbery and tear away at the roots of flowers and trees by scrabbling in the earth around them is beyond me to say, since who has known the mind of the corgi and who can be her counselor?

But there it is, incontrovertible scientific fact because it incontrovertibly happens.  And therefore provides interesting theological fodder for those of us who natter on about natural law and how the divine will is revealed throughout the mysterious workings of nature.

The mysterious workings of nature, which include corgis and the acts of corgis.  Who clearly function according to a logic patent to themselves, even when it strikes us as wildly beyond comprehension.  Particularly when the corgi is as delighted as corgi can be with the newly dug hole and the shredded plant, a delight that can only betoken a corgi belief that the corgi has fulfilled a command of the corgi rulebook, written into its corgi nature by the divine Creator, when it completes the task of digging its hole or demolishing its garden habitat.

And so the task of the corgi companion who believes in natural law and divine rulebooks written into nature is to understand the following: in the past several weeks, we have come to the horrifying recognition that (dare I put this humiliating fact boldly into print?) one of our lot, Valentine the half-breed, is intent on destroying not only our own garden, but the gardens of every neighbor around, if and when he can gain access to said gardens.  Here's how it began.

It began with disappearing plants, not to put too fine a point on it.  It began with disappearing plants and disappearing bits of plants in our own garden.  We had wondered, this past year, why the row of shrubs, many of them graceful and with flowing branches, that we'd planted along the foundation of the house on the north side had, systematically and methodically, been shorn.  Roughly trimmed.  Deprived of all of their flowing branches, so that where once was a beautifully flowing row of forsythia, glossy abelia, aucuba, deciduous native azalea, winter honeysuckle, calycanthus, and Virginia sweetspire, there are now ugly clumps denuded of all their lower limbs.  And all this with no help from either of us and our pruning shears.

We had our suspicions about what was going on, though, and who was responsible for the goings on--while the whys and wherefores of the goings on eluded us (as they still do).  My suspicions began when I observed Valentine, several times over the course of the past year, jumping straight from the ground around the two pear trees at the fenceline on the east side of the house, with the seemingly crazy intent of grabbing the lowest of the branches on the trees.

Val weighs 18 pounds.  He stands less than a foot high and is perhaps a scant two feet long, nose to long flowing tail.  We're not talking about a big dog, in other words.  But we are talking about a determined tiny dog with an astonishing ability to destroy things, and a tiny dog who is seemingly (and apparently happily) conscience-free, since the systematic dismantling of our garden, and now, insofar as he has free rein, of the gardens of neighbors, seems to give this tiny dog never a moment of untroubled sleep.  To the contrary: the more the garden-dismantling proceeds apace, the happier and more self-satisfied the little monster appears to be.

About Val's interesting ability to lift himself suddenly and with no announcement several feet from the ground, I've known since he was a little pup, because I'm often the unhappy object of that talent.  I can be peacefully sitting in my usual chair in the sunroom, my computer on my lap, and suddenly find a tiny dog has sprung straight up from the floor with no warning and has launched himself into my lap and onto the computer--with no regard at all for the havoc wreaked by the pouncing, bouncing, and cavorting across the computer keyboard.

Irrepressible is too mild of a word for this determined little half-breed corgi, when he is of a mind to have his way.  Demonic comes closer to the mark.  But demonic with an angelic grin that makes the demonry impossible to deplore as much as all dark arts deserve to be deplored.

So there were the scenes of the jumping-at-pear-trees.  Crazy jumping, because the branches are too high for him to reach.  And what did he intend to do if he reached one, I'd ask myself as I shook my head at the craziness when I caught sight of it out the back window.

And then there were the disappearing Texas star hibiscuses.  We had such a nice stand of these for a number of years.  They were in the hottest part of the garden, on the east fence line down from the pear trees, where the western and southern sun beats down on the garden through the hot period of summer, and little else blooms.  They were planted next to the pomegranate bush in the northeastern corner of the garden, where their dinner plate-sized bright scarlet blossoms looked so handsome beside the orange handkerchiefs of the pomegranate blossoms as the summer sun began to be intense.

And then they were gone.  One day, we looked out, and the stand of hibiscus, which had stood some six feet tall and was several feet wide, was just not there.  But on closer inspection, it was there.  There was now little bits of shredded hibiscus stalks and leaves spread all around the ground where once noble scarlet blossoms held forth.  And it has not returned after that act of systematic demolition several summers ago, soon after Flora, Val, and Chris made our garden their own.

And then the Louisiana irises, beautiful purple and yellow, met the same fate in the same part of the garden.

And then came the rose of Sharon trees.  A cousin kindly gave me a slew of these, seedlings culled from her garden, a year or so ago, and I had the bright idea of planting them on that same east fence line of the garden, to fill out the row comprised by pear trees, Texas star hibiscus, Louisiana iris, and a pomegranate bush.  My incentive to put them there--in addition to the fact that rose of Sharon is indestructible (or so I had always thought, erroneously as it now turns out) and tolerates heat and drought--was, I'll admit, to see if we could create a barrier between our corgi, her two half-breed pups, and the two full-blood corgis who live in the yard behind us, Angel and Beau.

There's this to be noted about corgis: both Flora (her pups along with her) and our previous corgi, Braselton aka Brassie, have shown us the interesting trait of being able to distinguish between fellow corgis and all other breeds of dogs.  We realized this in Brassie's case when, any time we'd pass another corgi as we walked her, she'd lunge viciously at the corgi competitor, while she never did anything of the kind to any other dog she passed.

And with Flora, Chris, and Val, there's this: though our back garden is surrounded by dogs on all sides, and our three do definitely like to supervise and interact with the dogs in each contiguous garden, none exercises control over our dogs' fascination to the extent that their cousins Angel and Beau do.  Those two have only to come into their yard, bark, and ours begin clamoring wildly to be outside, barking with a loud corgi I'm-here-I'm-here bark they use only for communicating with the back-fence neighbors.

Our dogs' interest in the corgi neighbors is so pronounced that they have worn the wood of the fence on our side of the yard as smooth as silk with their nails in their attempts to jump the fence and somehow make their way over it to mix with Angel and Beau.  Flora has found a little rock-perch against the fence that has a knothole above it, and she spends many happy hours of the day engrossed at the hole, stretched as tall as she can stretch her tiny self, watching the corgis on the other side play.  (That is, watching Angel dominate the hell out of Beau, since corgis are a dog breed in which the female definitely rules it over the male--another story altogether, but one with pertinence for Flora, Chris, and Val . . . .)

So the rose of Sharon: I gladly accepted the gift of them from my cousin, carefully planted them, and up they came, as reliable as althea always is.  They sprouted back and grew and grew in one season, until they were some eight feet tall, ready to bloom.

And then they were gone.  In a single day, they had become neat little piles of scraps surrounding the splintered remains of small tree trunks.  Dismantled tree is precisely what they were.  The fenceline I had thought I could be clever enough to secure against F., C., and V. remained as accessible to them as ever--and that surely had to have had something to do with the motivation of whichever of the three carefully took the trees apart.

Whichever of the being Valentine, we're certain: he of the pear-tree leaping habits, of the lap-leaping habits, of the demonic disposition masked by the angelic smile, so that friends who meet him say, "That little dog has the sweetest disposition and sweetest face I've ever seen."

And here's what we now begin to realize he has been doing for some time as we take our daily walks, but so swiftly that we hadn't even noticed what was going on until recently: up the hill from us, on the street that leads to the park where the dogs have their daily romp, there's a house with beautiful old roses and ivy hanging over a stone wall.  The house belongs to a distinguished gerontologist and his wife, who's a very capable gardener.  We have a rose, a Mme. Isaac Pereire, from one of her cuttings, in fact.  She generously offered it to us one day as we walked past and she was trimming her roses.

The house prior to this house on the path we walk belongs to a Rockefeller family who also have a beautiful garden behind stone walls.  And they have two beautiful elderly golden retrievers who enter the garden-demolition story in this way: because the two retrievers are behind a wall, and our dogs can see them only through two iron gates as we walk past, Valentine becomes absolutely furious that he is unable to reach and play with (or attack?) dogs that he can plainly see with his own eyes, as we pass the Rockefeller house daily.

And so when he reaches the next house on the way, with its beautiful roses and ivy hanging over the walls, this is what takes place: he first comes to the roses, and in the blinking of an eye, he lunges for one of their branches.  If we don't anticipate this and pull him away in time, a piece of the rose cane ends up being his mortal enemy.  He takes it into his mouth and shakes it vigorously like a caught rat, bites it off and victoriously spits it out with satisfaction written all over his face.  Ditto for the overhanging ivy vines, when he is able to attack them.

And now the aggression is extending to gardens before and after the beautiful, sweet golden retrievers who seem to be the object of the hostility he's directing to plants--or the frustration he's venting on gardens because he can't reach and play with the retrievers.  Just past the roses and ivy there's a streetside garden with a clump of pampas grass.  That clump of grass is now missing several of its blades, due to the ministrations of Valentine as he passes it on our daily walks lately.

And then last week he started on a garden beside the house across the street from the Rockefellers, a block up the hill from us.  This is a beautiful garden that runs down the hill beside a townhouse.  It's an amazingly well-tended garden full ofA juga reptans, ferns, hosts, creeping phlox, azaleas, daffodils.  Something is always blooming in the garden, and someone is always working in it.

Lately, that someone is a very nice lady who apparently now lives in the townhouse, and has been carefully planting some small shrubs around the stop sign at the top end of the garden, on the corner across from the Rockefeller garden.  Flora, Chris, and Val have watched this nice lady at work in her garden, since we often stop to chat with her as we pass, and she praises the three dogs and tells them what sweet puppies they are.  What adorable little dogs.

And here's what Valentine got it into his head to do to the nice lady in recompense for her kindness and praise: two days ago, as we walked past her garden and he heard the goldens across the street begin to bark, before we could even begin to suspect what he was about, he lunged to the end of his leash, grabbed one of the shrubs she had carefully planted only days before, yanked it from the ground, shook it mightily and tossed it down.

And then pranced on towards the goldens as if he'd had a mighty victory over them.  He'd shown them who was boss.

I was mortified.  I wanted to crawl into the hole he'd made in the newly planted ground.  I understood exactly what my mother meant when she'd come home from a shopping expedition with one of us in tow and say to the rest of us, a sob half-hidden in her voice, "He pitched a fit in the middle of the store*/knocked over a display of cans**/turned over an entire rack of clothes***, and I just don't know what in the world I can do.  How did I ever raise a child capable of this kind of behavior?"  

How did we ever raise half-corgi pups capable of uprooting the garden of a neighbor?  And capable of taking obvious delight in their acts of vandalism?

Beats the heck out of me to explain.  Since who has known the mind of the corgi, and who has been her counsellor?  I'll let the real theologians--the ones who understand the mind of God better than I do, and who like to explain that mind to the rest of us--decipher what this is all about.  For my money, the mind of the corgi will remain singularly unfathomable, and if in any way it points to the mind of its maker, that divine mind will remain equally mysterious, as long as corgis hang around to convince us of the inscrutability of the divine plan for the world.

The photo is one I took just this morning with my cell phone--blurry, because the phone doesn't take clear shots.  On Steve's lap are Crispen and Valentine the Foe of Gardens.  Val is the angelic little dog with his white foreleg draped elegantly down.


** All three of us.

*** Me.

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