PERSONAL ESSAY

The Tomato Thief

It was impossible to grow a garden with my rambunctious dog

L.A. Strucke
Aug 26, 2020 · 5 min read
Photo by Chalaphan Mathong on Unsplash

I headed home one summer day, looking forward to picking my huge beefsteak tomato, that had been ripening on the vine in the sun. It was my first garden ever and I couldn’t wait to pick that special tomato. Little did I know what was in store for me that day.

That past Spring I dreamed of growing my own Jersey red tomatoes. After much badgering, my parents had finally consented and allowed me to plant a vegetable garden by the backyard fence. I spent hours preparing the soil and sprouting the seeds in containers on our back porch. I planted corn, peas, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, carrots and radishes. But I was most excited about my tomatoes. I could just taste how fresh and juicy they would be. I prepared the soil and planted my seedlings. It was hard work, but my garden prospered. I couldn’t wait for the harvest.

While I was weeding early one evening, I watched my Dad throwing a ball to Tanana in the yard after work. Tanana was a shepherd collie mix with a lively personality. We’d adopted her a few months before from a friend who wasn’t allowed to have a puppy in her new apartment. Every evening when Dad came home from work, he spent hours with this growing puppy. He’d throw her a ball and she would retrieve it. This could go on until sundown. They never tired of the game.

I felt a little wistful. Tanana and I hadn’t really connected. I guess I was still missing my favorite dog. Lassie had died two years before and I still missed her. She was the perfect dog. I had trained her to do many tricks and she impressed all my friends. My sweet girl was calm and well behaved. I remembered our long walks and the admiring glances from strangers. She was a beautiful, well-groomed lady. No dog could ever replace her. Especially a rambunctious one like Tanana.

Photo by Taylor Grote on Unsplash

Tanana was not well behaved. She was a crazy canine who was way too excitable, nothing like our calm, classy Lassie. Tanana refused to listen to us, and only obeyed my Dad. She jumped fences and terrorized the mailman. We had to chase her down the street many times to bring her home. I wanted nothing to do with this dog.

Lassie had been my pal. When Mom forced me to finish my soggy cereal in the morning, Lassie was always waiting under the table to clean the bowl. When strange people wandered in the street, Lassie barked loud and protected our home. When I was sad, Lassie would nuzzle my cheek. I loved that dog. No dog, especially this silly mutt, was going to replace my Lassie.

Besides, how could anyone ever take a dog seriously with such a silly name? Lisa, my sister, thought Tanana’s name was hilarious. She nicknamed her Tanana Banana. The name stuck. And every time I called her into the house, that silly name made me smile. But still, I never felt like she was my dog.

I decided to ignore Tanana and focus on my beautiful garden. By mid summer, I had some beautiful tomatoes on the verge of ripening, peppers, carrots and radishes. I was so excited. My parents were impressed with my garden. Tanana would come up to my vegetables and sniff around.

“Go away, I’m busy.” Tanana would turn and look at me for a moment, then gallop off, tail behind her.

Photo by Bozhin Karaivanov on Unsplash

Mid summer, I was coming home from a friend’s house thinking about my lovely garden and how I was going to pick a juicy tomato I’d been eyeing for a while. It would be perfectly ripe now for Mom’s salad. I headed into the garden to find my giant red tomato. It wasn’t there. I was confused. Had Mom or Lisa picked it?

I looked up and Tanana came running to me, with my huge beefsteak tomato in her mouth.

I screamed. “Give me that tomato!” I chased Tanana around the yard. She wouldn’t slow down. She thought I was playing with her.

“Drop that tomato,” I yelled. “Drop it right now Tanana.” But she ignored me, silly smile on her face, running around with her tail wagging.

I wanted to cry. Those tomatoes were my pride and joy. Tanana was ruining everything. Lassie would have never done that. If I asked her to drop something, she would drop it on command. She was calm and intelligent. I missed Lassie so much. I wanted to cry. I plopped down in the grass, and cradled my head in my hands.

Tanana bounded over to me and nuzzled my face. I looked up and she was staring at me, wagging her tail. She dropped the tomato right in front of me. I peered down at my prize tomato with huge teeth marks in the middle. It was infuriating. Tanana wagged her tail faster. She looked like she was smiling at me.

“You naughty dog, Tanana.” I said. “You ruined my beautiful tomato. I worked so hard to grow this garden. ”

Tanana tilted her head to stare at me. She wagged her tail again.

“A tomato is not a ball,” I scolded. “Don’t you ever touch them again! “I was yelling. “Do you hear me?”

Tanana wagged her tail again. Then she licked my face.

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

It was impossible to stay angry at a dog licking your face. “You better be sorry,” I said. “Now go fetch your ball and leave my tomatoes alone.”

Tanana raced off and returned with her soggy ball. For the first time ever, I played fetch with Tanana. We both loved it. And for the rest of the summer she stayed far away from my tomatoes.

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A Home for the Homeless Voice

L.A. Strucke

Written by

Writer and songwriter. Interests include music, poetry, art, and all things creative. Editor of The Creative Project.

Contemplate

A Home for the Homeless Voice

L.A. Strucke

Written by

Writer and songwriter. Interests include music, poetry, art, and all things creative. Editor of The Creative Project.

Contemplate

A Home for the Homeless Voice

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