My dog, my landscaper

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By Sarah Mansheim

Ask any of my neighbors, and they will agree, we are the Bumpuses of the neighborhood, and our dogs, Max and Ruby, are the Bumpus Hounds, gleefully barking, humping and digging at anything that comes within smellshot of our home.

While most of our neighbors spend hours tending their gardens, we Mansheims are out driving our kids all over the county and drinking beer on various decks and patios. They prune; we belch. They weed, we smoke weed – don’t.

Luckily, our lack of landscaping expertise and energy is largely obscured by the woods that surround our house. In the summer, lush ferns fill the hillside, and wildflowers (or “weeds” as some of my more sophisticated friends call them) fill the spaces between the house and the parking area. It all lends itself to a lush vision of Almost Heaven West Virginia.

Just don’t look too close.

There are three major road blocks obscuring our landscaping visions: first, the aforementioned lack of time and interest; second: the lack of gutter on the front of the house (the carpenter’s wife has no gutters), and three: Max and Ruby, our trusty canine companions.

At first glance, Max is a charming little thing, a cairn terrier with bright eyes and a sweet snout. Upon closer inspection, it is revealed that his wheaten coat is badly in need of grooming and he likely has squirrel guts on his breath.

He can also run about 40 miles an hour, which is pretty impressive given that his legs are about three and a half inches long. This tremendous speed helps him catch squirrels, chipmunks, rats and, most often, his “sister,” Ruby, whom he likes to grab by the ears.

Ruby is a kennel hound. Maybe Pomeranian around the face, looks a little bit boxer in the rear. We got her from the animal shelter a couple of years ago, when we realized Max desperately needed a pack mate. She has proven to be excellent in her role.

Their energies match each other’s perfectly, meaning that their games of chase are so fast and furious that we seldom let them in the house.

After an incident the winter before last that left our neighbors’ rooster and one of their hens dead, we opted to invest in wireless electronic collars which deliver a nice blast of electricity to the dogs’ throats when they try to wander too far. This has proven to be both a blessing to the neighborhood and a curse to my yard.

You know how you and your brothers and sisters used to run circles around the kitchen table? Max and Ruby do that around our house. Let’s call it the Fido 500. Anyway, after two solid years of running circles around our home, they have managed to carve out a nice trail. This would be fine, and honestly, it is fine, just as long as you don’t mind what looks like a dirt bike trail encircling your home.

Which I do.

Kind of.

Look, I’m the kind of mom that believes kids make messes, dogs are dirty and almost everything comes out in the wash. I’d love for my home to look like one of the houses I’ve pinned on my Pinterest page, lush with flowers and flagstones surrounding a well-manicured lawn. One where my dogs lie on monogrammed beds and the ferns hang from baskets above the balcony.

But in reality, the house needs gutters, the dogs have dug a trail around my house and the ferns grow on the hill. My kids have skinned knees, the dogs need baths and the flower garden? Well, it needs weeding.

But I think, if you were to ask Max and Ruby if they were happy, they’d wag their tails and lick your face. That is, just as soon as they dropped the dead squirrels from their mouths.