Wisteria. Fragrant, lovely, and a source of shade. Fond of all those qualities and seduced by a cool arbor at the nursery one sweltering day, we planted a wisteria in 2006. Over the next few years, it grew bigger and taller and sprawly, but never bloomed.
Finally doing research, we learned it can take several years to mature and flower, it is a member of the pea family, its blossoms can grow 20 inches in length, and its branches can grow 100 feet long.
Last year, the first blooms appeared. The plant, now the size of a VW bus, produced just two small blossoms.
Then, around Halloween, we found our two teenage puppies chomping something in the house. They had found the only two pods that giant plant produced, and they commenced eating them.
We called the vet. Wisteria is toxic to dogs. They referred us to poison control. Poison control suggested the ASPCA Poison Hotline. While we waited our turn on the hotline, an online search mentioned hydrogen peroxide as a remedy, so I ran off to the store, leaving Chris to enter his credit card number on the $65 hotline and get some advice.
Returning home, I found a crisis had been averted. Since we knew the plant only produced two pods, and since Chris had located most of the seeds, the vet felt they couldn't have ingested enough, based on the dogs' weights, to be dangerous. Feed them, he said, so the poison would be a smaller percentage of what was inside them, and keep an eye on them that evening.
We stayed in that night (sorry, Salt Lake Acting Company) and laid low with the dogs, who were just fine. The whole episode cost us several hours of our Saturday, and $65, but had a happy ending.
The next day, Chris went out and hacked the wisteria down to a sad, naked trunk which was too big to remove easily. That night, after errands, we were puttering at home. I put groceries away while Chris called his mom. As he regaled her with the wisteria tale, I noticed our dog Jojo chewing on something and trying to hide from me. I caught her and pulled grape stems out of her mouth. Then I saw Conchi, the other one, eating grapes under the dining room table.
In the kitchen, a four-pound container of washed grapes left to drain lay forgotten in the sink. Only now there were maybe three pounds, maybe less. Grapes can cause acute renal failure in dogs, by the way.
When the ASPCA fellow answered, I told him we are competent humans who've never had to call the hotline before, except that we called it yesterday, and now here we are with a brand new poisoning crisis. (No chance yesterday's $65 fee is still good, heh heh?)
First thing he asked: Do you have any hydrogen peroxide?
I will not detail Task 1: Induce vomiting in two dogs. I will not describe Task 2: Count the grapes that are produced by Task 1 and keep track of which dog and how many.
Soon we were driving the poor darlings to the 24-hour emergency veterinarian where the two of them spent three days on IVs, costing $1,700, which made us feel better about the two $65 phone calls.
Yesterday, Chris and I pulled the trunk of the wisteria out, roots and all. It put up quite a fight, but we still had all that pent-up rage from the vet bill.
Spring is nearly here and we are now in the market for a less expensive kind of shade.
Barb Guy is a regular contributor to these pages.