Nadia was a German shepherd mix who was 10 months old when she came into our lives in March 2002. At that awkward age, she was full of nervous energy, dashing around the house and trying to understand her new environment. She’d been sent back to the shelter by her first family, who said their children hadn’t kept a promise to take care of her.
Nadia seemed to have had a good life before her four scary days back in the shelter. She liked humans and knew how to live with them. Our family of four went to Jamaica Plain to meet her and brought her home in our Subaru wagon. We imagined she’d stay in the far back while we sat in the seats. Instead, she leapt into the back seat and then the front to nuzzle us excitedly.
|She liked to sit up front|
Once we got home, she explored the backyard. She loved to play tag but couldn’t see the point of retrieving anything. She buried bones in the compost piles. She designated a digging spot next to the side porch, where she excavated a hole three feet deep. I always imagined she was chasing a chipmunk that was desperately extending its burrow a few inches ahead of her.
We fell into a routine: three walks per day, including a visit to a park where she could go off-leash. That meant I got to know some beautiful conservation land at all seasons. As she enjoyed the scents and greeted the other dogs, I had a chance to observe the landscape around us. My sustainable gardening approach was born partly from that daily time outdoors.
|Sampling the breeze at the dog park|
Although our yard was completely enclosed by fences, I think Nadia was just humoring us by staying inside them. One day she left the dog park without me when two big wolfhounds frightened her. I searched frantically. When I got home, she was inside the fenced yard, and the gate was closed. We never found out how she got inside.
While I gardened, Nadia kept me company, lying on the porch surveying her domain or strolling around the yard, occasionally checking on my progress.
|Nadia helps with a study session|
Rabbits frightened her, but she loudly repelled any dogs or cats attempting to breach our perimeter. At first the sight of me digging would inspire an irresistible desire to join in. As she got older and calmer, I was able to persuade her that I’d rather she didn’t help.
Nadia enjoyed zestful good health until age 15. Then she started to slow down and developed medical problems that afflict older dogs. In her last few months, she had little appetite and lost 15 pounds. It was so sad to see our old friend confused, anxious and uncomfortable. Now I picture her young again, playing in Elysian fields. Her spirit is still very much with us.