My dog Sam eats purple flowers.
My dog Sam eats purple flowers.
We ain't got much but what we've got's ours ...
Funny, but I always assumed Tommy James sang that lyric because it rhymed. I never dreamed it described real-life canine eating habits until my husband brought up our particular problem: Our dog Pip eats purple flowers.
I don't know why it took us so long to make the connection. Pip has been eating purple flowers ever since we planted coneflowers in the yard. He leaves daisies and daffodils alone, but no coneflower is safe when Pip is at large.
An entire blossom disappears into his mouth and when he releases his jaws, a naked stem springs back to its upright position. Though now that I think of it, he doesn't actually eat the flower, or at least he doesn't eat the whole thing, because that's how we know he's been at it again: We see purple coneflowers all over the grass.
Incidentally, I looked up this song about Sam eating flowers -- it's called Draggin' the Line -- and you wouldn't believe how heated Internet discussions are over what this song is about.
Some people insist it's an idealistic paean to the agrarian lifestyle; others think it has to do with fishing; still others say it's obviously about religion. Or surfing. Or computers, even though Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak didn't demonstrate the first Apple computer until 1976.
"You're all wrong. It's very clearly about the life of an off-shore oil rig worker in the Hibernia gas fields of Canada's east coast," another writer said.
I'm trying to believe that these commenters are competing for the most hilarious song interpretation award, but they might be deadly serious. I mean, we are talking about the Internet here.
But back to the purple flowers. Why Sam ate them in the song is never explained, and why Pip eats them is anyone's guess.
Why does Pip do anything? Why does he get into his bed each night only to get up five minutes later and crawl under our bed? (In fact, only his head is under our bed; the rest of him is fully visible on my side, next to my night table, but he thinks he's under the bed, and I'm not going to be the one to tell him he isn't.)
Five minutes after that, he comes out and goes back to his own bed. We have no idea what drives him to do this, but he does it every night. He may be neurotic, but he's reassuringly consistent about it.
We wouldn't care about the beheaded coneflowers either, except we have few enough flowers in the yard.
The coneflowers grow in what we call our wildflower garden, though it was a wildflower garden in the sense of being full of wildflowers for only one season. Then the weeds rose up and engulfed the flowers, which disappeared like Atlantis under the waves.
Since then, only a few wildflowers appear each spring, mostly around the garden's outer edges, and these are the blooms Pip carefully decapitates, one by one.
It's all pretty sad, though we tend to look on the bright side: If we didn't have this weed-filled wildflower garden, we'd have that much more yard to mow.
As it is, the wildflowers were at their best the spring our older daughter and her husband were married in our yard. The garden was new that year, and if years later it looks more attractive at a distance, well, don't we all.
In that respect, the garden matches the lawn itself, which looks terrific, like a carefully tended English abbey, when freshly mowed and viewed from the highway, but which loses something when examined up close.
I say "something," but I may as well admit that what the grass loses is grass. It's mostly creeping Charlie, a weed I both love and hate. That is, I love pulling it out of the garden beds in huge stringy handfuls, but I hate to look up and realize that the garden I'm working in is now way over there and that in my enthusiasm I've pulled up half the so-called lawn.
I suppose that's where the "creeping" comes in: because how bad the situation is creeps up on a person.
The real question, though, has to do with why dogs are drawn to purple flowers, if in fact they are.
I found an answer on, of all things, the Internet, where a "Home Guide" site explains that coneflowers are in fact the herb echinacea. Dogs like echinacea and it isn't toxic, the site says. It adds that people who want to keep their coneflowers attached to their stems might consider tethering the dog where he can't reach the flowers.
You see? This is why we're so grateful to people such as Jobs and Wozniak. Without their contributions to computer work, we wouldn't have this vast worldwide network to tell us stuff such as "tie up your dog if you don't want him to eat your flowers."
I, for one, am ever grateful.
Write to ThisWeek News columnist and copy editor Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.