Garden Forever
Sandy - A Golden Gardener

She came to us a little ball of fur in the summer of 1988. The first time we put her outside she tore around the yard and immediately bit off the first bloom from a rose bush that I had been anxiously caring for since I first put it in the ground in May. We were both new at gardening and had a lot to learn.

We learned together, spending many hours in the garden. Over the first year she learned to do her business in a sandy spot we put in the back for her. She was always careful to avoid the flower beds and never again ripped off a single bloom.

When we moved in 1992, she was an experienced gardener, anticipating my every move. If I reached for the watering can by the kitchen door she headed for the front door, knowing that it was time to water the hanging baskets. Gardening in the front was her favourite activity because she could sit majestically on the front porch and watch over the street. Our neighbours all got to know her and she greeted each one enthusiastically.

There was more work for her to do in the back. Her job was to make sure the squirrels didn't dig up the bulbs and tender plants. Because the yard backed onto the park, this was very demanding work as the squirrels consider our yard a mere extension of their park. Sandy took her job seriously, spending many hours patrolling the back yard or sunning herself with one eye half open, watching and waiting. She would immediately spring to action when a brave little squirrel thought she was asleep on the job.

The last couple of years she started to slow down. She had arthritis in her hips and getting up and down the front stairs proved too much for her. We rebuilt the back stairs with gradual deck steps so she could manage them pretty well. Sometimes there would be squirrels running along the fence and she would pretend not to see them. As soon as I came into the yard, though, she would start to bark at them, looking a bit embarrassed that she had indeed been snoozing.

Last week we discovered that she had liver cancer. The vets felt that if they operated she might not survive the surgery and we decided to treat her with a special diet they recommended and give her a happy summer. She had a very good day on Friday, jumping around like a puppy, greeting her favourite neighbour and family friends. Then she fell ill that night and died at home early Saturday morning.

We are moving to a new house in a couple of weeks and there is a lot of work to be done in the garden. Sandy had been over to the new house. I think she would have liked the new yard quite a lot.

On Victoria in May, her official birthday when she would have been 12, we'll plant a magnolia tree at the new house in her honour. It will be difficult to garden this summer without my special golden gardening companion. I'll look at the tree and know that she is still there guarding the yard.

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