A Garden Variety

During the work week, Chase spent the warm days lounging in comfort at my parent’s pool. It was a perfect puppy paradise: safely fenced with the shade of the cabana, the swimming pool to cool his paws, soft grass to roll in and the tiered garden boasting blooms, vegetables and lizards to chase.

My mother would garden in the morning and I would drop off my dog before leaving for work. He would join her among the plants, offering his excavation expertise. My mother made the mistake of introducing him to the wild strawberries growing among the ivy and oleander. Chase had a way of knowing when they were ripe and would carefully pluck the juicy berry from its leafy home between his tiny front teeth. Soon, all of the berries were harvested.

Tomatoes also grew on one of the top tiers. He observed my mother staking vines and mulching the soil and his curiosity about the plants grew. For weeks he added tomato plant inspection to his routine in the morning. Sneaking casual glances at me or my mother, Chase would brush his nose up against the ripening green and red streaked fruit. My mother would check the plants throughout the week to determine the best time for collecting them. Several days before she was ready to pick them, the tomatoes would vanish. The possibility of a rabbit or deer grazing on the tomatoes seemed unlikely. The area was completely fenced and my parent’s aggressive cat was always on patrol.

To combat the mystery of the disappearing tomatoes, my mother began picking them days before they were ready and placed them on the window ledge in the kitchen to ripen in the afternoon sun. The tomatoes began departing from the ledge, too. My mother accused every two-legged body in the house of eating her tomatoes until we discovered dried tomato pulp and seeds on the Oriental rug in the dining room and the focus was directed at a small white and orange-spotted thief.

Ta-may-to, Ta-mah-to…however my English setter preferred to pronounce it in his devious brain; we were no match for his determination in his favorite outdoor treat. My mother no longer plants tomatoes in her garden – they are now in large pots under careful guard from the garden variety tomato bandit.

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