Puppy Training: Who’s Training Who?

I am determined to house train my new puppy. I take him outside several times a day, my pocket
heavy with treats. I say “Hurry up!” like my training manual suggests so that
he will learn to relieve himself immediately upon hearing that phrase.

On a mission, I walk him down the path to my garden. So far he is in no hurry at all, despite
my suggestions. Instead he sticks his nose in a clump of bee balm and sniffs. I
pinch off a red fringed blossom and squeeze it in my hand, breathing in the
sharp fragrance.

“Hurry up!” I coax as he meanders along the path, smelling the carmine-red spiraea and
the tips of the lavender and the frothy yellow yarrow that spills over the path.
Finally I give up and take a seat on the wooden bench my husband gave me a few
years ago. It is the perfect accent piece for my garden, but to my knowledge,
has never been used. I am glad to have a spot in the shade to wait. “Hurry up!”
I say again as he wanders further down the path.

I have spent countless hours in this garden, but I am always working on a
project. I weed constantly. I keep the bird feeder full and the hydrangeas
watered and I spread pine straw on a regular basis. When I look at my backyard
it is to see what needs replacing and what needs to be added.

This is the first time I have ever sat down and looked at my garden without
criticism. I am still. Right beside me an oversized bumblebee trundles over a
violet butterfly bush bloom. The bee clings, now upside down, to the conical
blossom that has rolled over under the insect’s weight. Undeterred, he
continues his mission, frantically eating pollen with what appears to be six

There is a butterfly on another bloom, methodically opening and closing his brown and
orange wings.  I lean in closer and peer at his busy whirl of antennae as he vigorously sips up nectar. He seems
completely unaware of me.

I am still. There is another bee so close to me I could touch him, but he looks
different. His tiny body is a soft mossy green and he has a fan tail.  Suddenly I realize it is not a bee at all,
but a baby hummingbird. His whirring wings make no noise and I wonder if the
motorized hum grown hummingbirds make comes with age. I don’t move as I watch
him immerse most of his little torso in a single bloom of a vivid pink phlox. I
listen hard to see if I can hear him. I can’t.

Instead, I hear the trill of a bird from the woods, then a repetitive chirp-chirp-chirp
of another, and then a frenzied twitter of what must be a flock of the same
bird. I cannot see any of these birds, but know I am hearing different ones.

A goldfinch glides in for a perfect landing on my full feeder. He is bright
crayon yellow and pops out against the black sunflower seeds. I drink him in.

My puppy comes barreling down the path and jumps up on my lap, joyfully licking my
chin. He has sniffed every flower and chased every bee and noticed every single
thing in the garden. I glance at my watch and realize almost half an hour has
passed and I have no idea if my mission was accomplished or not. Still, I do
not tell him to hurry up.

I feel the vibration of the baby hummingbird just behind my ear, but I never hear a sound.
The leaves rustle and there is a late summer breeze on my face and I think what
a lovely spot I have in the world. I am thankful my little dog has not learned
how to ‘hurry up’. I gaze out at the garden and think of all I would have
missed if he had. I stroke my little dog’s ear and wonder if that was his
mission all along.




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