8: The Tomato Thief

8: The Tomato Thief

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

The Tomato Thief

Not-so-fun fact: The ripe tomato fruit is generally okay for dogs to eat in moderation, but the tomato plant, which contains tomatine and solanine, is highly toxic to dogs.

I was about to give up trying to grow tomatoes. I had dreamed of delectable tomato sandwiches, bruschetta and more. I planted and fertilized three beautiful plants of the Better Boy variety. But there was nothing delectable about my mostly fruitless plants. I saw flowers… and then nothing!

By season’s end, I had what my husband described as three of the “area’s most expensive tomato sandwiches” and not much more.

So what was happening to my sweet, beautiful fruit? I’d always been good at growing plants. In fact, I still maintain a now twenty-two-year-old aloe plant.

What I didn’t know is that I was competing with another gardener.

Our five-year-old Pug had been rescued from a North Carolina puppy mill. She was abused and frightened of everything. We adopted her after two previous placements — one foster, one adoptive — proved she needed more.

We knew the moment she made it through our door that she would spend the rest of her days with us, and an unlimited supply of hugs, love and protection. My husband, son and I took special care to speak softly and not drop any pots or pans. It took months, but finally Dora untucked her tail and displayed its signature curl. That was a teary, joyful day for us.

Dora had over a half-acre of fenced-in yard as well as our home in which to find peace and security. She also had three defenders whose mission was to make sure that no one would ever hurt her again and that her days of abuse would become a distant memory.

We watched her blossom, but maybe a little too much! We had a lot to learn about her breed, including the fact that Pugs have no food filters. She was ready to eat at all times of the day and night. At ten pounds overweight, she was now struggling in a different way.

We researched and realized she could maintain her lust for food with a healthier option: carrots! She lost all the weight and looked like a brand-new, healthy dog. But our Dora is still always on the hunt to find food, and the mischievous nature of her breed has her wanting to find things her humans know nothing about.

So, let’s get back to the tomatoes.

Feeling a little deflated about what looked like a sad end to my annual attempt at tomatoes, I left my husband in charge and went to spend a long weekend with a dear friend, who has the ultimate green thumb. I bemoaned my garden, and she tried to assure me I was doing the right things.

Back home, my husband made a discovery. He was finding half-eaten tomatoes all over the yard. We have woodland creatures, so maybe they were the culprits.

Then again… maybe not.

Something flashed in his peripheral vision, and he looked to see where Dora was. He walked toward the flash and stopped dead in his tracks.

Our beautiful, innocent Pug had dashed behind the box garden so she wouldn’t be seen and then hopped into the box. My husband could only watch and laugh as she went after one of the few remaining tomatoes.

He most certainly had a dilemma. He didn’t want this Pug that we had nursed into happiness and security to get in trouble, but he didn’t want his wife to continue thinking she was the worst gardener ever.

He had to be sure it wasn’t a fluke, so the next time he was out, he was armed with the camera on his phone. It didn’t take long to get the evidence proving our sweet Dora had an alternate career as a tomato thief!

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard or been so relieved to solve a mystery.

Dora, who maintained a face of innocence through it all, suffered no major consequence.

My husband did.

The very next year, he had to help me fence in the box so we could keep the criminal away from Mommy’s tomatoes!

The result: I have a bumper crop, Dora stands no chance of tomato poisoning, and my husband can no longer claim he is forced to eat the most expensive tomato sandwiches ever!

~Carol Andrews

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